I use my dishwasher almost every other day, but lately I’ve noticed it’s not drying the dishes and the heating element doesn’t appear to be working. I have a bit of experience fixing appliances so I looked into what could be causing it. So, today I thought I’d share with you what causes it and how to ensure it dries your dishes.
Generally, this is caused by improper stacking of the dishes, not using Rinse-aid, the water temperature being too cold, and not using the hottest drying option. The heating element does heat the dishes, but it requires the water temperature to be 120°F (48.9 °C) or it won’t dry them completely.
In this article I will explain how to check for each of these issues. And after that there are some more advanced steps to take that require using a multimeter, and a screwdriver which may require you to have a repair technician out.
Dishwasher Not Drying
At the end of a dishwashing cycle, the dishes will generally almost completely dry. Save for a few drops here and there. But, when they are still completely drip dry you need to look into what’s causing the issue and here’s what you should do.
Bowls and cups should be stacked upside down and placed on the top rack. The plates stacked vertically should also be stacked in a way that they aren’t touching each other. Rinse-aid should also be used as it causes the water to sheet off the dishes.
Finally, the water temperature should be checked, and the hottest drying cycle should be selected. Generally, a lower drying setting will save power. However, it should be turned up when the dishes are drying completely.
I’ll provide step by step instructions below for how to do each of these troubleshooting steps from easiest to hardest. And after that explain some steps to take if none of these work. However, these additional steps require a few tools that not everyone has. And a bit of handyman skills.
1. Check that you’re stacking the dishes correctly to allow them to dry
This is one of the easiest steps, but can often be overlooked. Plates are stacked on the bottom rack vertically. But, if you’ve got a lot of dishes you may stack them too close together. Especially when some of the plates are thicker than others. Or, they have different shapes and thicknesses.
When two dishes are touching each other the air and hot water can’t circulate and the dishes can remain dry even though the drying cycle is working properly. Bowls and cups are curved and will hold water when stacked on their side in the bottom rack. Or, the wrong way up on the top rack.
Cups and bowls should be stacked upside down on the top rack. It’s common that the design of certain cups and bowls has a lip for greater stability when used. But, these pool water. And a dishwasher is generally not powerful enough to dry the top of upside down cups and bowl 100%.
It’s often necessary to remove all of the other items and then turn them the right way up. Then let the water drip off naturally, and dry the rest with a tea towel.
2. It’s impossible to completely dry plastic items as they don’t retain heat
Plastic is different to other materials because it doesn’t retain heat. Dishes made from glass, metal, and ceramic/porcelain retain heat. So, as they get hot from the hot water, and the heating element they dry well. However, plastic never dries completely because it doesn’t retain heat.
And there will always be droplets of water on the surface regardless of any changes you make to your dishwasher. Luckily, they dry fairly well and it is fairly easy to give them a quick wipe with a tea towel/dish towel.
3. Use Rinse-aid and ensure the Rinse-aid compartment isn’t empty
Many of the top dishwashing manufacturers such as Kitchenaid, and Maytag recommend using a product called Rinse-aid. Dishwashers will also commonly have a Rinse-aid compartment that holds the Rinse-aid. Rinse-aid is a liquid that modifies the water so that it slides off the dishes much more easily, and improves the drying performance of dishwashers.
A full Rinse-aid compartment will last 2 to 3 months on average. So, you should see that it isn’t empty. If you don’t have a Rinse-aid compartment there are dishwashing detergent tablets and pods that have added Rinse-aid. But, using the Rinse-aid compartment is better as it will release it at the right time during the washing cycle to make it more effective.
4. Turn the setting of your dishwasher cycle to the highest heat option
Each dishwasher has different options. But, for the most part they’ll have low setting, and a super heating, or high setting. The lower setting is good to save energy, and can work well especially for smaller loads. However, if it’s not drying your dishes completely, set it to the highest drying option it has.
It should be fairly self explanatory by looking at the available options on the control panel of your dishwasher. But, sometimes it can require you to press the buttons in a unique order. If you’re having issues turning the cycle to a higher setting then look at the owner’s manual.
How to get an online version of your owners manual
The owners manual for most dishwashers is also generally very easy to find on the official website of the brand your dishwasher is. You’ll generally need the model number of your dishwasher. On brands like Kitchenaid, Maytag, and Whirlpool it’s on the left side of the door, which you can see when you open your dishwasher. For other brands, where the model number is generally explained on their website.
5. Reset the internal computer of your dishwasher
There is an internal computer on dishwashers that can be reset by disconnecting the power for 5 minutes and then reconnecting the power. This can be done by removing the plug at the wall outlet. Or, if you don’t have access to it, then you should switch it off at your fuse box.
6. Ensure the water from the water inlet valve is at 120°F (48.9 °C)
The water temperature for your whole home is controlled via a hot water cylinder or a gas powered system. In general, it should be at about 120°F (48.9 °C). This is the hottest it can be without being scalding hot and causing burns. The heating element does some work to dry the dishes.
But, the temperature of the water is the main thing that causes the dishes to dry completely. It can be verified yourself using a thermometer. To do that, run the water in a sink as hot as it will go for a minute, then fill a cup with the water. Stick a thermometer in the water and see how hot it is.
If it’s below 120°F (48.9 °C), then you may need to get a plumber in to see what’s causing the issue. The water temperature can sometimes be turned up yourself if you have access to it, and know how to turn it up all the way up to 120°F (48.9 °C). But, if it’s already at the temperature, you can try turning it a little bit more.
And then check if your dishwasher is now drying correctly. However, you don’t want to go too far past 120°F (48.9 °C), as there is a risk of scalding when using the shower, or using the hot tap for grooming, cooking, etc.
These are all of the options that are fairly simple, except for the last one about checking the temperature of the hot water. The following troubleshooting steps require the use of a multi meter also called a voltmeter.
This is used to check components for what’s called continuity. Meaning power runs through them. You’ll also need a Phillips head screwdriver, and flat head screwdriver. Depending on your individual dishwasher you may need screwdrivers of a few different sizes. Here’s what the steps are, I’ve also ordered them from easiest to hardest.
7. Check the air vent gasket is not damaged or warped
Some models of dishwashers have an air vent. This allows steam to flow out of the dishwasher as it heats up and the water turns to steam. When it’s damaged or broken, not enough steam can escape, it turns to droplets on the roof of the dishwasher, and then drips back onto the dishes.
It’s generally located on the front near the control panel, and can be a small rectangular opening. Simply inspect for any signs of damage. Some models have a flap that opens and closes, which you can test with your hard to see if it moves freely.
Certain dishwasher models have a vent gasket that is located on the door but on the inside wall. If it is damaged or warped, then you should replace it yourself by ordering a replacement part online. Or, have a repair technician replace it for you.
8. See if the vent fan component rotates and has continuity
The is also a vent fan motor that blows the steam and hot air out through the vent gasket. It’s located on the inside of the door and the front door panel needs to be removed to access it. Once you’ve located it, check that the rotors turn freely and easily. And that the fan assembly isn’t damaged.
The wires should also be disconnected to check that a current passed through the fan component using a voltmeter.
If it’s defective or damaged in a way that the fan won’t turn, then it should be replaced by ordering a replacement part online. This is done by searching for it online using your model number.
I explained how to find your model number above in step ‘4. Turn the setting of your dishwasher cycle to the highest heat option’. Your owner’s manual can also be very helpful in locating the vent fan, if it has one. As well as, for the next step.
9. Inspect the heating element to see if it’s faulty
The heating element is located at the base of a dishwasher. It’s a long piece of metal about ½ an inch (1.25 cm) in diameter, and is bent in the shape of a ‘U’.
Visually inspecting it can reveal signs that it’s burnt out. It can be broken completely. Where it’s split into two pieces. Or, the surface can have blisters. Which appear as small bubbles on the surface of the heating element. A heating element that isn’t burnt out will be smooth along the whole element.
If you don’t see any signs that it has failed, you should also remove it, and test it using your voltmeter to see if it has continuity. Where it has failed or doesn’t have continuity you should replace it.
Finally, if you’ve tried all of the steps above, and you haven’t identified the issue, then it’s best to have a repair technician take a look at it. And assess what the issue is.
You might be interested in a specific dishwasher that’s not drying:
Dishwasher Not Heating
One of the main conveniences of a dishwasher is that it virtually dies the dishes completely. It does this by using a heating element at the base of the dishwasher, but the temperature of the water used to wash it also plays a key role. When it’s not hot at all when you open it at the end of a cycle here’s what causes it and how to get it working again.
Generally, this is caused by a faulty heating element, which is located at the base of your dishwasher. But, it can also be because there is an issue with the hot water inlet valve. Both issues should be inspected to verify what’s causing the issue.
I’ve covered step by step how to check for these issues. Refer to the steps above, and look for step ‘5. Reset the internal computer of your dishwasher’, as well as, step ‘6. Ensure the water from the water inlet valve is at 120°F (48.9 °C)’, and step ‘9. Inspect the heating element to see if it’s faulty’. Do each of these steps one by one.
You might be interested in a few more specific dishwasher that’s not drying:
Dishwasher Dry Cycle Not Working
A dishwasher can still function perfectly well, and simply not dry them at the end of the cycle. This is generally caused by a fault with one of the components. This is what components can cause it and how to troubleshoot this issue.
Overall, the heating element, internal computer, vent fan, or the fan gasket causes this issue. These components can have failed, or need to be inspected to verify what is causing the issue. This type is a medium level of difficulty for someone with DIY skills.
For exactly, how to check each of these components I’ve provided step by step instructions above near the top of this article. But, not all of them apply to this issue. Only do the following troubleshooting steps: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.
Dishwasher Not Drying Plastic
Certain dishes such as glass can be completely dry. Whereas, others like plastic cups, bowls, and utensils can still be wet after the drying cycle. Here’s why this happens.
As a general rule, plastic will never completely dry in a dishwasher. This is because plastic does not retain heat. Unlike other materials such as metal, ceramic, and glass. There will always be droplets of water left on plastic dishes put through a dishwasher.
It’s possible on the very highest setting they can be completely dry. But, generally this isn’t worth using unless other dishes that aren’t plastic are also still wet. Because it uses much more energy.
Dishwasher Not Drying All the Way/Completely
When I open my dishwasher door soon after a wash cycle, I’m always greeted with a warm rush of steamy air. But, sometimes I notice that the dishes aren’t dry completely. I figured out what causes it and here’s what I found.
There are a range of potential causes that include the dishes not being stacked correctly, not using Rinse aid, a higher heating setting needing to be used. Also, plastic dishes won’t completely dry in the dishwasher as they don’t retain heat.
There can also be a range of mechanical issues with the dishwasher that can cause it not to dry the dishes all the way. I’ve covered step by step what to do near the start of this article. It’s a matter of going through each of the steps until you find what’s causing the issue, and it begins to dry correctly.
The causes are that Rinse-aid needs to cause more water to slide off the dishes, or the water temperature is too low. Also, improperly stacking the dishes, or one of the following components can be faulty: the heating element, internal component, fan gasket, and/or the fan.