How Does a Dishwasher Work [Step-by-Step Guide]

Published by Hala Zaqqout on February 23, 2022 | Last updated on July 2, 2023

When your pots and pans get dirty, they take a shower as well—in a magical machine known as a dishwasher.

You simply put your dirty dinnerware into baskets and the machine will clean it with hot, soapy water jets- Your dishes will be clean again in roughly an hour!

But how does a dishwasher work? Have you ever wondered what happens inside the machine once the door is shut? Let’s take a peek at how does a dishwasher work.

Find out how does a dishwasher work and what’s going on inside it and follow our Cleaners Advisor updated guide about how does a dishwasher work.

What are Parts of a Dishwasher?

Here we jump to each dishwasher part and learn about its function:

infographic header desktop

1. Heating Element

The heating element is located at the bottom of the dishwasher tub.

It is in charge of boosting the temperature of the water during the washing cycle and the temperature of the air during the drying cycle.

2. Detergent and Rinse Aid Dispenser

Prior to the start of a cycle, the dish detergent and rinse aid are stored in the detergent dispenser. It’s a small rectangular-shaped container with a door and a separate rinse aid chamber that’s usually found inside the dishwasher door.

Your dispenser will need to be cleaned from time to time because detergent buildup can prevent the dispenser from working correctly. Remove any residue from caked-on detergent with a moist towel.

3. Control Pad

You’ll select your wash cycle and settings from here, which is either on the top or front of the dishwasher door.

Error messages may also be displayed on this thin, rectangular console.

4. Racks

Most dishwashers, including Whirlpool® 3rd Rack Dishwashers, have two or three racks.

 They contain tines that securely retain all of your items during the wash and dry cycle.

5. Silverware Basket

For everyday cutlery, most dishwasher models include a movable silverware basket that fits in the lower rack for day-to-day cutlery. If you need to make room for large goods, you can reposition it.

6. Spray Arms

There’re two revolving wash arms in a standard dishwasher, and some higher-end models may feature a third ceiling arm. The first arm is positioned beneath the upper rack and sprays water on the dishes in the top rack.

While the second arm is located below the bottom rack and sprays water on the dishes in the bottom rack. Both activate when the water from the circulation pump pushes through into the arms.

7. Door Latch

The latch is responsible for keeping the dishwasher doors closed.

The latch, which is located beneath the plastic cover of the inner door, also switches the safety switch and informs the dishwasher that the door is closed, allowing the cycle to begin.

8. Water Inlet Valve

The inlet valve is located on the inside of the dishwasher.

It controls the amount of water used throughout a cycle by opening and closing.

9. Circulation Pump & Motor

The spray arms drive water into the dishwasher tub through the circulation pump.

While the water pressure is increased, the motor generates a rotating motion.

10. Filtration System

Your dishwasher filter is usually found in the tub’s bottom corner, underneath the lower rack.

The filter will keep the pump from becoming clogged with large food particles while also filtering out the filthy water.

Do Dishwashers Heat the Water?

Have you ever “do dishwashers heat the water?” Yes! The dishwasher’s built-in sensors will alert it when the water level has reached its maximum capacity. The water will then be heated to 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit by the heating components.

Dishwashers strive for a balance of speed, efficiency, and efficacy. The hotter water you use and the longer the wash takes, the more electricity you use and the more expensive each wash becomes.

In terms of cleanliness, the hotter the water, the less time it takes to kill any pathogens (bacteria and other nasties) on your pots and pans.

In other words, if your dishwasher is set to 60°C for 30–60 minutes, you may rest assured that it is thoroughly cleaning your dishes.

Similarly, you can see that traditional handwashing—a dip and swizzle in lukewarm water with particles of old food floating about in it, using a brush or sponge you haven’t cleaned in days or weeks—isn’t hygienic at all.

How Does a Dishwasher Work?

Monogram Dishwasher Jets

You may ask yourself how does a dishwasher work and what happens inside when you close the door to your dishwasher.

The dishwasher is essentially a robot that cleans and rinses soiled dishes. Humans must load the dishwasher, add detergent, set the appropriate cleaning cycles, and switch it on, but the dishwasher accomplishes a whole series of functions by itself.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how dishwashers work:

1. Add Water

The first step is to fill the dishwasher with water.

The water collects in a shallow basin at the machine’s bottom or base.

2. Heat the Water

The water in the machine’s basin is heated.

This is accomplished with the help of the heating element in the dishwasher’s basin.

3. Add Detergent

The detergent is automatically added by the dishwasher’s computer timer at the appropriate stage of the wash.

Dishwashing liquids are the most prevalent type of detergent, and they come in a variety of sizes to accommodate any dish load: powder, liquid, tablets, or gel.

4. Wash Dishes

The hot water and detergent are then pumped up through the dishwasher’s spray arms.

The pressure makes the dishes in the machine to rotate and blast out enough water to ensure that the utensils are thoroughly cleaned.

5. Rinse

The water in the dishwasher is heated in the machine’s basin once more.

Water is pumped through the spray arms in order to make sure that no residue or detergent is left on the dishes.

6. Drain

The water must be drained at the end of the process.

The dishwashing machine drains the dirty water after the utensils and dishware have been cleansed with detergent.

7. Dry Dishes

Some dishwashers have a feature that allows you to dry your dishes. This eliminates the need for the user to manually dry or wipe the dishes.

Dishwashers use an electrical coil to heat the air, which is then blown out by a fan inside the machine.

This video below provide information on how does a dishwasher work and offers troubleshooting tips to assist you in diagnosing and repair.

What are the Various Dishwasher Cycles?


1. Normal Cycle

This cycle is used to wash and dry dishes regularly. It will clean your dishes without the use of heavy soil, high heat, or a longer wash time.

A typical normal cycle lasts about 90 minutes.

2. Quick Wash Cycle

A quick wash cycle, also known as a 30-Minute or 1-Hour Wash, is known for using a large burst of water and heat to clean your dishes quickly and effectively.

It’s a great option when you’re in a hurry to clean a batch of lightly soiled utensils, bowls, or other essentials before guests arrive.

3. Sensor Wash Cycle

Depending on the temperature, soil level, and load size, the Sensor Wash automatically decides the wash and dry settings for your load.

It will only use the exact amount of water and energy required to clean your dishes, making it a good option for mixing items with different soil levels.

4. Heavy Cycle

This mode, also known as the Heavy Duty or Pots and Pans cycle, uses an extra burst of water and higher temperatures to deal with huge messes and stubborn, stuck-on items.

This is the setting to use for burnt messes if you have a badly filthy casserole dish, pot, or grill pan. This mode can last for up to four hours.

5. Prewash Cycle

This setting, often known as a pretreat function, will soak any dishes with baked-on food. You won’t have to soak your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, which cuts down on your clean-up time.

It may also have a separate rinse cycle that spritzes dishes immediately after any food particles have dried to the dishware.

6. Delicate Cycle

This cycle runs at a much lower temperature to protect fragile items. It’s also known as a Light or Glass cycle.

It’s commonly used for fine china, crystal, and other items that would normally be washed by hand.

7. High-Temperature Cycle

Use a High-Temperature cycle to cut through oily residue or burnt-on food remains.

This will help to increase the wash and dry performance by raising the main washing temperature to a minimum of 130 degrees.

8. Sanitize Cycle

This setting turns up the heat, even more, adjusting the wash cycle to 150 degrees to kill 99.99% of bacteria caused by food soil.

As part of the Sanitize function, you might even find an option that includes a focused blast of steam.

Why Dishwashers Need Detergent?

Dishwashing liquids are the most prevalent type of detergent, and they come in a variety of sizes to accommodate any dish load: powder, liquid, tablets, or gel. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, as enzymes and bleach are the two main elements in dishwasher detergent.

Detergent enzymes are chemicals that dissolve down stains by speeding up chemical interactions between them and water solutions. Enzymes listed may include protease, amylase, subtilisin, as well as generic enzymes.

Some liquid detergents make a lot of suds, so be sure you use the suggested amount in your wash. Excess sudding can cause overflows, which can lead to leakage issues. In your dishwasher, only liquid detergents designed for dishwashers should be used.

Top Tips for Using a Dishwasher

Even though the dishwasher does most of the tasks, humans contribute as well. If you understood how does a dishwasher work, here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure that your dishwasher runs safely, effectively, and efficiently:

1. Use tabs for the dishwasher to clean the dishes.

2. Point the dirtiest area of the dishes toward the spray jets.

3. Keep dishes of the same shape separated so that they don’t nest.

4. Wash stem glasses and hand-painted dishes by hand.

5. Use a rinse aid to avoid spots and help your dishes dry more quickly.

6. Use somewhat more detergent if your home has hard water.

7. Use the dishwasher at a time of day when water pressure is high, such as late at night. The dishwasher will clean better if you’re not using a lot of water for something else, like washing clothes.

8. Don’t put plastics, wood, cast iron, fine china, crystal, or hand-painted dishes into the dishwasher.

9. Don’t use regular dish soap. The suds will overflow the dishwasher.

10. Don’t put too much in the dishwasher. You must provide enough space for the water jets to spray the dishes.

11. Don’t pre-clean dishes. Dishwashers rely on the pieces of food that cling to dirty dishes to keep the pH level in the dishwasher at a safe level. Large chunks, on the other hand, should be scraped into the trash.

12. Don’t mix stainless steel and sterling silver (or silver plate) items. Corrosion or pitting occurs when two distinct types of metal come into contact in a humid environment.

How Does a Dishwasher Work FAQ

To Wrap Up

Dishwashers are a relatively new addition to everyday life in the house. However, they are nearly addictive: once you have a dishwasher, you are unlikely to want to wash everything by hand again.

This is why understanding how does a dishwasher work is important. Recognizing the processes that help the tub, the motor, and the door function in harmony can help you properly care for your dishwasher.

You should also clean it according to the manufacturer’s guidelines and maintain it regularly. For that, we, at Cleaners Advisor, have made an effort to answer your question “how does a dishwasher work” and provide you with a step-by-step guide about this issue.

If you have questions or would like to learn more about how does a dishwasher work, we want to hear it! Leave us a comment below!