Check your dishwasher

Check your dishwasher

Dishwasher isn't drying?

1. Check Your Dishes

The bottom rack of a dishwasher full of plates and a pot.

Dishwasher not drying? Before you assume the dry cycle in your dishwasher is not working, consider what and where you’re placing inside the unit. 

  • Some materials, such as glass and ceramic, dry more quickly and efficiently than others. Excess water and moisture tends to cling to dishes and utensils made of plastic. 
  • Review the dish placement: There should be enough space between your dishes to promote airflow during the drying cycle. Stacking or “nesting” multiple items, like bowls or spoons on top of each other, makes for poor air circulation and can leave some items damp while others dry thoroughly. 

2. Review Your Dishwasher Cycles

A control panel shows different dishwasher settings.

Each dishwasher is equipped with its own set of cycles and features. Some have multiple drying settings that can be adjusted to accommodate the volume of dishes being washed. 

  • If your unit has a heated dry option, use this setting to improve drying performance, although it may use more energy.
  • Additionally, many dishwashers are designed to use a rinse aid product to improve drying and promote water drainage during the final rinse cycle. 
  • A rinse agent can also prevent the accumulation of water droplets that would otherwise dry as streaks or small spots. Check the rinse aid chamber and make sure the cap opens and closes correctly to dispense the fluid. 


Tip: Open your dishwasher door when the rinse cycle is complete. This aids the drying process and helps leftover water evaporate. 

3. Check the Vent

Two people look at the electrical components of a dishwasher.

If your dishwasher still isn’t drying dishes after adjusting the placement and reviewing the cycle options, the appliance parts may be the root of the problem. 

  • Many dishwashers use a vent to release the hot, steamy air generated during the rinse cycle. If the vent does not open properly, the dishwasher will leave moisture on the dishes. Check the vent to ensure that it is functioning correctly. 
  • If the vent door is stuck in the closed position or doesn’t open fully, it may need to be repaired or replaced. 
  • The vent may also come equipped with a fan motor. Check the dishwasher manual for specific instruction on how to test the vent motor. If it’s not working properly, see if a replacement is covered in the manufacturer's warranty. 

4. Check the Heating Element

The bottom tub of a dishwasher.

The heating element is responsible for heating dishes during the dry cycle. It can warm the interior to anywhere between 110 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit. A damaged or broken element can prevent the dishwasher dryer from working properly. 

  • First, unplug or shut off the dishwasher’s power source and visually inspect the heating element for broken or burned-out areas. 
  • You may need to use a multimeter to test the heating element for continuity, a continuous electrical path. The heating element is usually located behind the lower panel, under the tub. Refer to your dishwasher manual for specific directions on how to locate the element. 


Tip: Consider consulting a professional if the heating element needs to be repaired or replaced when the dishwasher is not working. 

5. Top Dishwasher Drying Tips

A person empties a dishwasher from the bottom rack first.

Try these tips for dishwasher drying and how to fix a dishwasher. 

  • Make sure your home’s water heater is set to at least 120 degrees. 
  • When the dishwasher's cycles are completed, open the door a few inches and let any residual steam escape for 5 to 10 minutes before emptying. 
  • Unload the bottom rack first. Otherwise, water trapped in cups or glasses on the top rack may splash onto the dishes below. 
  • You may able to access the machine's drying fan by removing the control panel with a multi-bit screwdriver. Check to see if debris is preventing the fan from turning properly. Try cleaning the fan and the blades to see if this improves performance. 
  • Some units with heating elements are designed with limit switches, which activate if the unit becomes too hot. A failed switch may prevent the element from heating at all. Test the switch with a multimeter. 


Tip: Always disconnect the power when dishwasher troubleshooting. 

6. Dishwasher Drying Methods

The tub of a condensation dryer dishwasher.

Dishwashers use two methods for drying: heated and condensation drying. 

  • Heated drying involves using a heating element to raise the air temperature in the dishwasher. The dishwasher fan draws moisture from inside the unit and sends it through the vent. 
  • Condensation drying combines the properties of hot water and a stainless steel dishwasher tub. Moist air in the washer condenses into water droplets on the stainless steel surface and will then drain. Because condensation drying does not involve an exposed heating element, plastic items on the lower rack do not run the risk of melting. 

There may be various reasons why your dishwasher is not working, including mechanical failures and inefficient loading and placement procedures. Follow best practices and make sure all dishwasher accessories work properly as part of learning how to fix a dishwasher and ensure your dishes get dry. 

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