Dishwasher Cycles and Settings Explained

Your dishwasher helps you get your cookware fresh and ready for your next meal. Understanding your dishwasher settings and how dishwashers work helps ensure that you’re getting the most out of each wash cycle. Use the following guide to learn more about dishwasher cycles and settings so you can get your pots and pans clean and ready for making. Dishwasher cycles vary depending on the make and model of your appliance, so be sure to consult your product manual for model-specific information.

Person closing a stainless steel top control dishwasher Person closing a stainless steel top control dishwasher

Dishwasher Washing Cycles

Different wash cycles and settings offer varying cleaning features to get the right clean for your dishes. Explore the common dishwasher cycles to learn more about their functions and cycle time.

Dishwasher detergent dispenser

Prewash Cycle

Prewash cycles soak dishes in addition to running a wash cycle, cutting out the need to scrape and hand wash dried or baked on food before placing cookware in the dishwasher.


This cycle is best for dishes that may require a little more elbow grease to get a complete clean and can have extended cycle times depending on the model of your dishwasher.


CYCLE TIME: 6-8 minutes

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Sanitize Cycle

The sanitize cycle raises wash and rinse temperatures to sanitize dishes and glassware and clean off bacteria. Use this cycle for cleaning baby bottles and dishware as well as cutting boards, knives and other utensils that have come into contact with raw meat.


Select KitchenAid® dishwashers offer a Sani-Rinse cycle that raises water temperatures up to 146ºF to eliminate food soil bacteria by adding a high-heat final rinse to the wash cycle. 


CYCLE TIME: Can add up to 1.5 hours to normal wash cycle time

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Normal Wash Cycle

A normal wash cycle generally cleans average amounts of leftover food residue without using extra water, heat or extended cycle times. Typically, this cycle washes dishes in water heated between 130–140°F. 


Use the normal wash cycle for daily, regular or typical use to wash and dry a full load of dishes that don’t have baked on messes.


CYCLE TIME: 2.25 hours

Dishwasher spray arm spraying water

Rinse Cycle

Rinse cycles simply spray your dishes with water to prevent food residue from sticking to dishes and utensils. Do not use detergent when selecting the rinse cycle as the cycle only spritzes dishes with water and does not completely clean them. If you are selecting the rinse cycle in combination with another dishwasher setting, you can add detergent as normal.


You can select this cycle to rinse dishes, glasses and silverware that won’t be washed right away to prevent buildup.


CYCLE TIME: 30 minutes

Person selecting a wash cycle on a top control dishwasher

Quick Wash Cycle

When you select a quick wash cycle, your dishwasher typically uses more water, energy and heat for fast cleaning results. This cycle is helpful when you need to quickly clean up lightly soiled essentials so you can get back to making faster.


The Express Wash Cycle on select KitchenAid® dishwashers cleans dishes in less time, so you can keep the dishes you need on hand while prepping, cooking and entertaining.


CYCLE TIME: 1 hour

Woman loading dishes into a dishwasher

Heavy Wash Cycle

A Heavy Wash or Tough cycle uses extra water and higher temperatures to break down substantial stains. You can select this cycle when washing heavily soiled tableware, pots, pans or baking dishes.


CYCLE TIME: 2.75 hours

Zoomed in image of a control panel on a top control dishwasher

Hi-Temp Wash Cycle

Hi-Temp Wash helps remove baked-on or greasy food residue by washing with higher water temperatures. This cycle is a good choice for dishes with hard-to-clean stains.


CYCLE TIME: 3-3.5 hours

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Sensor Wash Cycle

Sensor cycles automatically select wash and dry settings based on the soil level and load size of your dishes. This cycle is helpful when washing a variety of items with mixed soil levels.


Select KitchenAid® dishwashers offer the ProWash™ Cycle that uses sensors to measure the soil levels of your dishes throughout the wash cycle to adapt wash time and temperature as needed for lighter loads and tough messes alike.


CYCLE TIME: Cycle times vary depending on the load and soil amount

Dishwasher Drying Options

Specific drying cycles tend to vary depending on the model of your dishwasher, but generally dishwashers typically have two different dry settings. Discover which dry option may be best for your dishes below.

Dishes inside a KitchenAid® dishwasher

Heat Dry

Heat Dry dries your dishes using a heating element that generates hot air and circulates the air around your dishes to evaporate any residual water. This setting helps speed up the drying process of your wash cycle, but can add additional time to the overall length of the cycle.


CYCLE TIME: 30–40 minutes

Hand touching a stainless steel KitchenAid® front control dishwasher

Extended-Heat Dry

The Extended-Heat option either increases the final rinse temperature or extends the Heat Dry cycle time. This option can help provide better drying performance and reduce water spots on glassware and dishes. If your dishes aren’t drying in the dishwasher, learn more about possible causes and fixes.


The Fan-Enabled ProDry™ System with Extended ProDry™ Option offered in select KitchenAid® dishwashers combines a heating element and fan to give dishes a thorough dry.


CYCLE TIME: 35–50 minutes

Open dishwasher filled with dishes and utensils

Air Dry

The Air Dry setting allows your dishes to dry without the use of a heating element. Dishwashers with Air Dry typically draw in room temperature air and circulate it around the dishwasher.


CYCLE TIME: 60-90 minutes

Woman loading dishes in a three rack dishwasher Woman loading dishes in a three rack dishwasher

Dishwasher Cycle FAQs

Read the following frequently asked questions about dishwasher cycles to learn more about your appliance’s cycles and settings.

How Many Cycles Does a Dishwasher Run?

Typically, dishwashers of any make and model have at least 3 wash cycles: pre-wash, main wash and final wash/rinse. Some modern dishwashers offer more cycle choices to give you more options on how you clean your dishes.

The pre-wash sprays warm water on your dishes to loosen up soils and stains, while the main wash washes your dishes with hot water and detergent. The final wash rinses dishes with warm, clean water to remove detergent residue and any left over food particles.

How Long is a Dishwasher Cycle?

Cycle times vary depending on the wash cycle and any added cycle settings you have selected, but a typical wash cycle can last about 2–4 hours. Some cycles and dry settings can add length to your cycle time while others, like Quick Wash, can shorten it.

Why Are New Dishwasher Cycles So Long?

Generally, modern dishwashers are more energy efficient than their predecessors. They use less energy and water to run a single cycle, but this efficiency typically increases cycle times.

How Much Water and Electricity Do Dishwasher Cycles Use?

Modern dishwashers typically use about 3–4 gallons of water and 1200 watts of electricity per cycle. The precise water and electricity usage of your dishwasher varies depending on the make and model of your appliance, consult your product manual for specific information.

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Explore KitchenAid® Dishwasher Features

KitchenAid® dishwashers offer loads of flexible features to get the clean you need to create your next dish. With features like the FreeFlex™ Third Rack, Fan-Enabled ProDry™ System and Advanced Clean Water Wash System available on select models, you can find a dishwasher that’s ready to match your making.

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*For J.D. Power 2023 award information, visit

Learn More Dishwasher Tips

†KitchenAid received the highest score among dishwashers in the J.D. Power 2022-2023 U.S. Home Appliance Satisfaction Studies of customers’ satisfaction with their home appliance. Visit for more details.