Dishwasher troubleshooting: Dishes not drying

So you go to take your dishes out of the dishwasher and they’re completely wet. Sound familiar?


If your dishwasher has a stainless steel tub, you probably need rinse aid. Sure, your dishwasher could be the best, highest-efficiency model. It still needs rinse aid. Rinse aid helps dry dishes by reducing water droplet formation. (Note: If you have a plastic tub and your dishes aren’t drying, you might need a service call on the heating element.)

If you’ve added rinse aid to your dishwasher and your dishes still come out wet, check if you’re washing a lot of plastic dishes. Sometimes these can exacerbate the problem. Have you ever noticed that plastic dishes often come out with droplets of water while all your glass and porcelain dishes are completely dry? That’s because plastic does not hold heat the same way regular dishes do.

Why does that matter? It throws the dishwasher off its drying mojo. Here’s how the dishwasher drying process works:  The final rinse water reaches a very high temperature (at least 157 degrees on European models) — and the final rinse temperature is really important to the drying process. By now, the dishes ideally hold a lot of heat. But the stainless steel tub (hopefully you purchased a model with a SS tub) is a cooler surface, so the moisture collects on the tub and condensation naturally occurs.

Other things that throw the dishwasher off its drying mojo:

  1. Washing all the dishes before you load them. Scrape off large food pieces, but just say no to washing your dishes before you wash them! If the dishes are clean, your smart dishwasher cuts the wash time down. If this happens, the dishwasher may not have time to get hot enough. The water is heated to more than 40 degrees higher than the hot water being piped in. There are other reasons to not wash your dishes before you wash them, but I’ll save those for another post…
  2. You’re using the light or quick wash cycles for everyday stuff. It won’t usually wash or dry as well.
  3. You’re not using rinse aid (shame on you). Rinse aid is a key element in drying and it will keep everything sparkling as well.

So retire that dishtowel, OK?

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9 thoughts on “Dishwasher troubleshooting: Dishes not drying

  1. I use gel or tablets that contain rinse agent, but don’t add seperately. don’t overload, no plastic dishes but still come out wet-new dishwasher

    1. I think you have to buy a seperate rinse aid and see what happens. Let me know.

  2. It is interesting that you mention plastic dishes behaving differently from glass or ceramics inside a dishwasher. My momma always told us not to put plastic in the dishwasher, because she was scared that it might melt from the high heat, and that habit has stood by me ever since, so I’ve never really observed the behaviour of plastic items in the dishwasher.

    I always thought rinse-aid was to prevent glasses from showing streaks, so all in all today’s lesson in the functioning of dishwashers has been quite illuminating to me! The lengths that us humans will go to in order to make life easier will just never cease to amaze me.

    Here’s to that aspect of human nature that sets us apart.



    1. A lot of people think rinse aid is only for streaks, so they don’t use it and then wonder why their dishes won’t dry. It’s simply the way dishwashers are designed these days.

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