Dishwasher Not Drying Dishes? Try This

You open the dishwasher and the dishes are still wet. Who has time for that? If your dishwasher is not drying dishes, put the towel down and try this.

Rinse Aid for Drying Dishes

Woman Loading Dishes in Beko Dishwasher
Photo courtesy of Amanda Paa

Don’t write off rinse aid because you think it’s just made to prevent water spots on your dishes.

Dishwashers are actually designed to use the rinse aid to sheet off the water on dishes to assist in the drying process. So without it, you’re handicapping your dishwasher’s drying performance.

Buy a bottle of rinse aid, and keep your reservoir full, checking it every few weeks.  Your (dry) dish towels will thank you.

Dishwasher Drying Tips

  • If you have a new, plastic tub dishwasher, be patient. Its drying performance will improve over time as the tub “seasons.” Don’t prewash your dishes, as this impedes the seasoning process, manufacturers say.
  • Run the tap next to your dishwasher until the water is hot, ensuring that the water entering the dishwasher can get as hot as possible. 
  • Limit the amount of plastic items. Plastic doesn’t retain heat as well as say, ceramic, which is why you’ll notice that it’s generally the wettest of all your wet dishes. Because it doesn’t retain heat, it doesn’t condensate the water.
  • Load your dishwasher properly. Load items, especially plastic, at an angle so water can sheet off.

What tips do you have for when the dishwasher isn’t drying dishes? Share them in the comments!

Dishwasher troubleshooting: Dishwasher drying tips

If your dishes come out of the dishwasher looking like this...

If your dishwasher isn’t drying, just know that your dishwasher drying problems might be completely fixable.

The No. 1 cause of wet dishes is lack of rinse aid, or drying aid as I like to call it.

Most think of rinse aid’s aesthetic benefits, because it helps water “sheet” off dishes rather than forming water droplets that cling and leave icky  spots.

But modern dishwashers are designed to use rinse aid for drying, so without it, your dishes and dishwasher interior will have excessive moisture. Also, the heated dry option will not perform as well without rinse aid.  (Now is a good time to check if your dishwasher includes a Heated Dry – or Extra Dry – option you might not be using.)

Once you fill your rinse aid dispenser, don’t forget to refill it. A full dispenser will last about a month, but I top mine off every couple weeks.

Proper loading also ensures good drying performance. Load items, especially plastic, at an angle so water can sheet off. Plastics have a porous surface and tend to collect droplets, so they take longer to dry and might not dry completely in a normal dry cycle.

For best results, the water should be 120 degrees F as it enters the dishwasher – not lower or higher by much. If your water heater is located far from the dishwasher, it may be necessary to run the hot water at the faucet closest to the dishwasher to minimize the amount of cold water in the water line.

Hard Water Wastes Your Energy and Detergent

If you’re not ecstatic about the performance of your dishwasher and/or washer, don’t immediately blame your machine. There could be something in the water.

Using a water softener can cut detergent use in washers and dishwashers by more than half and lower washing machine temperatures from hot to cold, as shown by two independent studies released in the last two years.

Less detergent and cold water achieved the same stain removal in washing machines using softened water as double the detergent and hot water in hard water. And dishwashers using softened water needed less than half the detergent if used in areas having very hard water (Minnesota is among areas with the hardest water), while achieving the same results.

Plus, the study showed that untreated hard water can cause significant efficiency losses and added costs in water heating – up to 48% in some cases. In addition, hard water was found to rapidly lead to clogged shower heads, in some cases possibly as soon as a year and a half.

After just one week of constant testing with hard water, more than three-fourths of shower head nozzles became clogged, according to laboratory results. Shower heads using softened water, meanwhile, performed nearly as well as on the day they were installed.

If it sounds like you have hard water, our local guys, Water Doctors, can diagnose your water and if necessary, customize a water treatment system for your home.

Help! Dishwasher Not Cleaning Dishes

Gloria Steinem said that the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

Well, here’s some truth if you find your dishwasher is not cleaning the dishes properly. A lot of your problems don’t have anything to do with your appliance – they have to do with you.

No other appliance operates with so many variables, many of which you can affect:

  • the amount of dishes
  • how dirty they are
  • the amount of detergent and rinse aid
  • dish placement

Dishwasher Problem: Water Isn’t Hot Enough

Before you get all huffy because you spent X-hundred amount of dollars on the darn thing, understand that little, tiny changes to the way you do things will improve the cleaning results of your dishwasher immensely.

If you do nothing else differently,try this hack: just before you turn on your dishwasher, run your faucet until the water is steaming hot.

Otherwise, the water pumped into your dishwasher will be cold from sitting in your copper pipes. This way, you start with steamy water that has the best chance of reaching the high temperatures necessary for cleaning and drying completely. Water needs to be heated to 140-degrees Fahrenheit to dissolve food messes and disinfect dishes.

Dishwasher Problem: Too Much Soap

Despite what you might think, too much soap can actually prevent your dishes from getting clean — especially on the top rack.

Use only half the amount of detergent recommended on the package. And if you have a water softener, you need only 1-2 teaspoons of powder — even less if you use liquid.

I think these people may have used too much detergent.

Too much soap causes over-sudsing. The dishwasher tries to drain as much of the soap suds and food residue as it can, but is unable to drain it all in the time allowed.

Then the soap bubbles pop inside, redepositing tiny food particles back onto the dishes, which show up most on glassware and silverware.

How do you know if you’re over-sudsing? Run a cycle without any soap. If suds are left at the bottom of the tub, you’re over-sudsing.

To remedy, we suggest a vinegar cycle:

  • First, empty any dishes and shut soap door, without adding any detergent
  • Run dishwasher until it gets to the wash cycle
  • Then, open the door and check if the dispenser flap has opened
    • If it hasn’t, run for another minute or so until the flap opens
    • If the flap has opened, add  1 cup vinegar and run through the full cycle

You might have to repeat the process two or three times to ensure you’ve eliminated the buildup of soap.

And don’t forget the rinse aid if your dishwasher isn’t drying!

Featured image via Cove

HOW TO: solve dishwasher problems on your own

Dishwasher got your goat? I'll help you tame it.

If your dishwasher isn’t working as well as you would like, that doesn’t necessarily mean it needs service or that it’s a clunker. Maybe you just need to perform some cleaning and/or maintenance. Have I already answered your problem in a previous post?

HOW TO: clean a dishwasher

Dishes not drying

Dishes not clean

Dishwasher leaving white film on glasses

Food residue left on dishes

Dishwashing detergent left in dispenser

Dishwasher won’t drain

Or, if you try all of those and you’re still not satisfied, maybe you’re not using it correctly (see HOW TO:  load your dishwasher properly) or maybe it’s time for a new dishwasher. How long have you had yours versus how long is a dishwasher expected to last?