Why Are Dishwasher Cycles So Long?

Dishwashers require a fair bit of time to complete their washing cycles. Sometimes, these appliances will automatically extend the duration of those cycles to clean heavily soiled dishes. But how do you know if your dishwasher is taking more time than usual? That’s what this article is here to help you understand.

Depending on the brand and model, an average dishwasher cycle can take 1.5 to 4 hours to complete. A dishwasher might automatically extend that cycle for non-problematic reasons, such as when it detects heavily soiled dishes inside. However, problems with clogs, a failed heating element, or faulty wash sensors can also cause the dishwasher cycle to last too long, much longer than it is designed to.

Let’s take a closer look at how to troubleshoot a dishwasher cycle that takes a long time.

Related: Does A Dishwasher Need Its Own Circuit?

How Long Is An Average Dishwasher Cycle?

If you’re trying to understand whether or not your dishwasher is taking too much time to complete a cycle, you must first establish a point of reference. Dishwasher cycles can differ significantly depending on the brand, model, and the specific wash cycle that you choose.

With that said, the average dishwasher cycle can take as little as an hour and a half and as long as four hours to complete. 

Throughout that cycle, the dishwasher will heat up, spray, filter, and recirculate the water inside several times. Towards the end, it will drain all of the used water out of the appliance. It will then dry all of your dishes thoroughly, making them fresh and ready to use again.

Suppose you’re in a rush. If that’s the case, many dishwashers also offer a quick wash cycle that cuts down the cycle time by half or more. For example, a quick dishwasher cycle could complete in as little as 20 minutes.

Of course, that kind of cycle will not wash your dishes as thoroughly as a regular one. So, it’s suited for only lightly soiled dishes.

Why Might A Dishwasher Cycle Take Longer Than Usual?

Like most people, you probably have a rough sense of how long a dishwasher should run. That could be based on your personal history of using dishwashers. Or, you might already be very familiar with how your particular dishwasher brand and model operates. 

Still, it’s essential to understand that certain conditions could cause your dishwasher to operate longer than you’re used to. When this happens, it is not necessarily a sign of a problem but just your dishwasher acting according to its design.

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Let’s look at a few non-problematic reasons why your dishwasher might be taking longer than usual.

  • New Efficiency Standards: Modern household appliances are continually being designed to keep up with new efficiency standards to become more environmentally friendly. Those standards typically restrict how much water and power your dishwasher can use at any given time. While that’s great for the environment, it also means that your appliance needs much more time than older models to clean your dishes thoroughly.
  • More Intensive Dishwasher Cycles: Not all dishwasher cycles are made the same. Some are designed to be much more intensive. They require more time to complete, spraying water at higher pressures and for more extended periods and using higher temperatures (which require more time to heat). All of these qualities can make a dishwasher cycle run for longer than you might be used to.
  • Excessive Soiling: Many dishwasher manufacturers now include sensors in their appliances that can measure the level of soiling on your dishes. Suppose you were to put excessively soiled dishes into the appliance. The dishwasher will sense that it needs to spend more time cleaning them and automatically extend the dishwasher cycle duration.

How Do I Know If A Dishwasher Cycle Lasts Too Long?

As you’ve seen in the previous section above, there are several common and non-problematic reasons why your dishwasher cycle might last longer than usual. Still, how can you know if your dishwasher cycle is running for too long, to the point that it does become a problem?

Well, there are two general methods you can use:

  • Check The User Manual: When troubleshooting your dishwasher cycles, your first step should be to check the user manual. The manufacturer will tell you how long the cycles should take and give you a time range if the duration is flexible. That way, you will understand if the dishwasher cycle is happening as it is meant to or if a problem needs fixing.
  • Measure The Cycles: Once you’ve referred to the user manual, you can then start timing your dishwasher cycles. Use a timer on your smartphone to measure the cycle from start to finish and see if it is still within the acceptable time range.
  • Contact Customer Service: Don’t be afraid to contact the manufacturer’s helpline. After all, their purpose is to provide after-sales service. If you suspect that your dishwasher is taking too long to complete a cycle, you can consult the manufacturer to see if it is typical or a sign of a problem.

What Problems Cause Dishwasher Cycles To Take Too Long To Finish?

Of course, if your dishwasher’s cycles are running far beyond the expected time, then the appliance likely has one or more problems that need to be solved.

Here are some dishwasher problems that can cause its cycles to take too much time.

Clogs Or Blockages

Dishwashers rely on smooth water flow to get the job done. Of course, that includes clean water flowing into the appliance and dirty water successfully draining out.

Related: Troubleshooting Bosch Dishwasher E09 Error Code

But more important than that, water must also circulate within the dishwasher compartment and spray from one or more spray arms.

That way, the sprayed water jets can remove food bits and clean all of the dishes loaded into the appliance.

Why it fails:

Wherever there’s water flow, there’s always the chance of clogs or blockages. That’s especially true throughout a dishwasher, as food bits can quickly saturate the filters and reduce the smooth flow of water.

GE dishwasher choper blade area clogged

Worse yet, those food bits could also get stuck in pumps, hoses, and the spray arms mentioned earlier. When that happens, your dishwasher will need a long time to clean those dishes thoroughly, assuming it can clean them at all.

As a result, the dishwasher cycle will last longer than it should.

How to fix:

To fix this, you must clean all of your dishwasher’s traps and filters regularly. That way, they can remove more significant food bits from the recirculated water and prevent clogs from happening.

However, if any spray arms, hoses, or pumps get clogged, you will need to remove the part from the dishwasher and clean them thoroughly.

Faulty Heating Element

Dishwashers also feature a heating element. In this context, the purpose of the heating element is to raise the temperature of the water, making it more effective at cleaning food stains from your dishes.

When the heating element is in good working order, the dishwasher will give it some time to raise the water temperature before the washing cycle begins.

Why it fails:

Like the heating elements on other kitchen appliances, the one in your dishwasher can also fail. This problem could happen if it breaks or if the metal corrodes after being in use for many years.

Whatever the reason, a faulty heating element will not be able to heat the water efficiently. That will add a lot of time to the dishwasher cycle because the appliance will not begin cleaning dishes until the water reaches a pre-set temperature.

How to fix:

Faulty or damaged heating elements cannot be repaired. Instead, they will need to be replaced entirely. That involves disconnecting the heating element from its electrical connector and unscrewing any brackets holding it in place.

Related: How Much Does it Cost To Replace Heating Element in The Clothes Dryer

Then, a replacement heating element is mounted in its place and reconnected the same way as the old one.

Problematic Sensors

Plenty of modern dishwashers also rely on wash sensors. These sensors are designed to detect food bits and particles on your dishes that have not been dissolved. 

As long as those sensors tell the dishwasher that the dishes are still dirty, the appliance will continue washing for however long it takes to clean them thoroughly.

Why it fails:

Dishwasher wash sensors are electronic components operating inside a hot and humid environment (i.e. your dishwasher compartment). Over time, it will experience plenty of wear and tear to the point that it stops working correctly.

When that happens, the sensor will mistakenly communicate to the appliance that the dishes inside are still heavily soiled, even if they are immaculate. As a result, the dishwasher will extend the washing cycle for much longer than it should.

How to fix:

Wash sensors are another example of dishwasher components that cannot be repaired when faulty. So, the only solution would be to replace them with brand new sensors entirely.

Once you’ve done that, the dishwasher can accurately sense whether or not the dishes inside are clean and end the wash cycle at an appropriate time.

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