How long is a dishwasher cycle?

Person switching a dishwasher onto a cycle length
(Image credit: Getty)

Whether you're hosting a party with many dishes or simply want to get to bed quickly after dinner, you might wonder, 'How long is a dishwasher cycle?'

No one has infinite time to wait for your dishes to be clean, especially if you have a busy daily routine. Sometimes, dishwasher cycles last longer than usual, and it can be tricky to pick the proper cycle length when faced with confusing symbols. It's essential to understand the different options your dishwasher has so that you can customize your cycles either for the depth of cleaning dishes required or based on the amount of time you have spare. Whether you've chosen one of the quietest dishwashers or one of the largest dishwashers, you want to ensure you're getting the most out of your money, so it's vital to understand precisely how your machine works. 

Alternatively, an extra-long dishwasher cycle can have you wondering whether there's a more sinister issue. Knowing how long cycles will take will help you pinpoint when there's a potential problem so that you can act fast and call in a professional to help. Or, it might be time to start exploring the best dishwashers to replace your faulty machine. 

How long is a dishwasher cycle?

The short answer is that it depends on the cycle you select. However, most can last anywhere between 1.5 to 4 hours. A handful of factors can affect how long the cycle continues, such as how dirty your dishes are, sensor readings, and how long it takes to heat water between cycles. 

Many may think that newer dishwashers should run faster than older models, but the opposite is true. Advances in technology mean that dishwashers now use less energy and water, which means they need to run for longer to get the same level of cleanliness. 

Here's a list of the most common dishwasher cycles and time lengths to help you choose the right one for your needs and routine. It's important to remember that different brands will affect which cycles you have to choose from, so it's always best to check the user manual. 

• Standard wash: approx. 1 - 1.5 hours

Eco wash: approx. 3 - 3.5 hours

• Quick wash: 30 - 60 minutes

Sensor wash: approx. 2 - 3.5 hours

• Sanitize cycle: approx. 3 - 3.5 hours

Reasons why a dishwasher cycle could be taking a long time 

• Wrong cycle selected 

We've all been there, wondering why the dishes are taking ages to clean without realizing it might be a user error. If you're finished hosting a dinner party and want to get your washing up done quickly, it's wise to select a speed setting as opposed to an eco-setting that could take longer. Day-to-day eco washes are better for your energy bills and the planet, so always think before you automatically select a cycle. 

• Dirt or limescale build-up

Limescale build-up is one of the most common reasons your dishes might come out unclean. A dishwasher needs to be cleaned so that it can clean everything in it. If the sensor gets dirty, then it will trigger a longer cycle because it thinks the dishes are dirtier than they are.

What the expert says...

Gene Fitzgerald, Head of Content at BOS, says, "Keeping your dishwasher clean is vital for making sure it's operating efficiently. Running a rinse cycle, cleaning the filter and drain, and cleaning the machine with warm water and soap will help to prevent any issues."

• Weak water pressure 

Water pressure is one of the biggest things that can impact a cycle length. A dishwasher requires significant water pressure to perform properly. If the water pressure is too weak, the machine will take longer to get started, making the overall cycle length longer. 

• Dishwasher is clogged

Rinsing your dishes before putting them in a dishwasher can seem counter-productive, but it will help to prevent any large bits of food from clogging the filter. Removing food from your dishwasher isn't a pleasant job, so it's always best to ensure that you are scraping your plates into a bin properly beforehand. 

If it's blocked, this can cause the dishwasher to stop draining water, taking longer for water to get in and out of the machine, so overall, the cycle will last longer. 

• Hard water

Gene Fitzgerald, Head of Content at BOS, says, "Most dishwashers work best with soft water as hard water makes washing powder and tablets less effective and can also cause a build-up of hard deposits which can damage the machine. If you live in a hard water area, use a water softener along with your detergent to keep your washer running the way it should."

Holly Cockburn
Former Features Editor

Holly is the former Features Editor at Top Ten Reviews where she focused on creating informative, how-to advice. She has a degree in English Literature and previously worked as a copywriter at Howdens, specializing in kitchens and trend-led interiors. When she’s not reading or writing, you can find her exploring the best London bars and brunch spots, or planning the next budget-friendly city break. 

With contributions from