Why is my dishwasher not drying my dishes?

Dishwasher not drying dishes
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Is your dishwasher not drying your dishes? When you open the dishwasher, do you find your dishes clean but wet? It can be annoying if your appliance lets you down, and you have to dry everything before putting it away. It can be especially frustrating if you've invested in one of the best dishwashers

However, before you call a repair person, let's see if you can fix the problem yourself before you pick up the phone. There are several reasons why your dishwasher not drying your dishes may be a problem, but don't worry – we've consulted the experts to help you troubleshoot your way through. 

Chris A. Zeisler is the lead technical expert at RepairClinic.com, a leading outlet for spare parts for electrical appliances. He explains the drying mechanism of different machines: "Many dishwasher models today utilize a ventilation fan system in conjunction with a heating element to dry the dishes. Older models use a heating element and a vent in the door.

What the expert says…

Chris A. Zeisler at RepairClinic.com says, “One tip for keeping your machine working well? Rinse aid! It sounds like a small thing, but not using it can negatively affect dish drying, as well as increase spotting and streaking on glassware.”

“New and older models can utilize a high-heat rinse cycle to improve dish drying. This is a common option through the main control system, so if you want a really thorough dry, using the Sani or High Heat cycle will help with dish drying.  

“If the element has failed, replacement heating elements are usually between $50 & $200. It’s usually better to repair rather than replace these machines; I would say only replace the dishwasher if there’s a major component failure or it’s over 20 years old. 

“You should be able to handle replacing the heating element yourself; where it gets tricky is on tall tub models, as they usually need to be pulled from kitchen cabinets and tipped over to access the element."

Why is your dishwasher not drying your dishes?

There are several obvious reasons why your dishwasher is not drying your dishes, such as:

1. The heating element is faulty
2. The rinse aid has run out
3. You have opened the door too early
4. The drain hose or filter is blocked
5. The drain pump is faulty

How to fix your dishwasher not drying your dishes

Here are some of the most common dishwasher problems and how to solve them. 

1. Loading is key
Loading your washer incorrectly can harm performance, so check the instructions to see you’re not overloading it. This can impede the spin arm.

2. Elementary:
f the heating element is not working, you’ll need to replace it. If it’s fine, check if you need to select the drying option manually.

3. Top it up
Your machine needs rinse aid to work well, so check you haven’t run out. If the reservoir is clogged and empty, then de-scale it and then run the dishwasher on a hot wash with a cup of white vinegar on the top rack. Once complete, refill the rinse aid.

4. Pick the right cycle
Your dishwasher dries through condensation, so it has to get hot in the last stages of the cycle. Make sure you’re choosing a cycle that has a final hot rinse. 

5. Open sesame
You should open the dishwasher as soon as it has finished. If you don’t, dry dishes can get damp again when it cools. However, ensure that you don't open the door too soon, as it won’t have finished drying. 

Some items may stay wet

Some cooking materials, such as plastic and Teflon, will not come out as dry as you’d like. Plastics and other manmade materials don’t get as hot as normal dishes, so the moisture on them won’t condense.

6. Hose check
If dishes are damp and there’s water in the bottom of the machine, the chances are that your drain hose is blocked. Check the hose and unclog it if needed.

7. Drains
There may be a blockage in your drain filter, where pieces of food build-up. This needs to be regularly taken out and cleaned. 

8. Pump it up
A failure of the drain pump can also leave dishes wet. It's designed to remove all water from the machine and pump it down through the drain hose to the outlet. If it fails, water may remain in the machine. You should usually hear when the drain pump kicks in, so if the sound of the machine changes, this may be to blame. 

Sally J. Hall

Sally J. Hall is an editor and journalist who has written for many newspapers, magazines and websites on a wide range of subjects within the medical, parenting, and consumer product markets; she is also the author of three books.