Dishwasher Running For Too Long? 7 Unexpected Causes and Quick Fixes!

by | Last updated Oct 21, 2023

Have you ever started your dishwasher only to find it chugging away hours later? You’re not the only one. The “dishwasher running for too long” issue isn’t just a one-off; it often signals deeper problems that compromise performance.

Dishwashers, essential in many homes, are resistant to glitches. If marathon cleaning sessions have become your dishwasher’s norm, you’re in the right spot. This guide uncovers reasons for such extended cycles and offers solutions to whip your appliance back into shape. Curious about the hold-up? Dive in and discover how to get your dishes spotless in no time!

Raise Those Brows! Costly Mistake!

If your dishwasher runs longer than it should, it can increase your energy bill by as much as 15%. Yes, those extra minutes really do cost you!

Dishwasher Cycles and Their Run Times

Showcasing a user selecting the Eco cycle for a dishwasher.

Alright, before we dive deep into the whys and hows of prolonged dishwasher run times, let’s get familiar with the basic cycles of a dishwasher and their typical durations. If you need a comprehensive breakdown on the topic, you might want to check out Dishwasher Cycles and Settings. This will give you a benchmark to judge whether your dishwasher is running too long or is just doing its thing.

Quick or Express Cycle

This is the go-to cycle if you’re in a hurry and your dishes aren’t heavily soiled. It usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes. But remember, it might not be as thorough as the longer cycles!

Normal or Standard Cycle

The most common choice, this cycle is designed to handle everyday dishwashing needs. It generally runs between 1 to 2 hours. It’s like the “balanced diet” of dishwasher cycles – not too short or long, just right!

Heavy or Pots & Pans Cycle

Got some filthy dishes or pots that have seen better days? This rigorous and thorough cycle typically runs for 2 to 3 hours. It’s the deep cleaning maestro for those stubborn stains and baked-on messes.

Eco or Energy-Saving Cycle

This cycle takes a more extended period, usually 2 to 2.5 hours, but uses less water and energy. It’s a choice for the environmentally conscious or those looking to save on utility bills.

Rinse Cycle

If you’re planning to run a full cycle later but want to give your dishes a quick rinse to prevent food from sticking, this short cycle, often lasting just 8 to 15 minutes, is your friend.

Cause 1: Sensor Malfunctions and Their Fixes

Showcasing the sensor component of a dishwasher.

Imagine having a tiny assistant inside your dishwasher, constantly keeping an eye on the washing process, making sure everything’s going smoothly. That’s what your dishwasher’s sensor does! But like all devices, it can sometimes misbehave.

What’s the sensor’s job? The sensor in modern dishwashers determines how dirty the water is. If it senses a lot of dirt and debris, it’ll tell the dishwasher to run longer to ensure a thorough cleaning. However, if it’s malfunctioning, it might ‘think’ that the water is still dirty, even when it isn’t.

How to Spot a Malfunctioning Sensor

The sensor might be the culprit if your dishwasher runs for an eternity, even with lightly soiled dishes.

Quick Fixes

Clean the Sensor

Sometimes, it takes a bit of cleaning. Turn off and unplug the dishwasher, find the sensor (usually located at the bottom), and give it a gentle wipe with a soft cloth.

Reset the Dishwasher

Occasionally, a simple reset can do wonders. Turn off the dishwasher, wait a few minutes, then restart.

Call in the Pros

If you’ve tried the above steps and the issue persists, it might be time to get a technician to look.

Cause 2: Overloading Mistakes – The Do’s and Don’ts

Visual demonstration of an individual efficiently loading dishes into a dishwasher, optimizing space and placement.

We get it; life gets busy. Sometimes, you want to stuff every dish, glass, and fork into the dishwasher and be done with it. However, overloading can lead to longer cycle times and even poorly cleaned dishes.

Why does overloading matter? Overloading prevents water and detergent from reaching every dish. The dishwasher has to work overtime to ensure things get cleaned, which means extended run times.

Do’s and Don’ts

Do Arrange Dishes Properly

Plates usually go in the bottom rack facing the center, while glasses, cups, and less dirty items belong on the top. It’s like a puzzle; everything fits and gets cleaned efficiently when done right. If you’re not sure about the optimal way to load your dishwasher, here’s a guide on How to Load Your Dishwasher Properly.

Don’t Block the Water Jets

Make sure your big pots and pans aren’t preventing the water from reaching the smaller dishes.

Do Check the Manual

Different brands and models have specific loading guidelines. When in doubt, refer to the manual.

Quick Fixes for Overloading Mistakes

Unload and Reload

If you suspect overloading, take a few minutes to rearrange your dishes. It’s worth the effort for cleaner dishes and faster run times.

Run a Rinse Cycle

A quick rinse cycle can prevent food residues from hardening if you can’t run a full cycle immediately but have a loaded dishwasher.

Cause 3: Clogged Filters – Cleaning Techniques for Efficiency

Visual presentation of clogged filters in a dishwasher, highlighting the need for maintenance.

You know the saying, “What’s out of sight is out of mind”? Well, when it comes to dishwashers, it’s the hidden parts that often cause the most issues. Take, for instance, the filter. This little component plays a pivotal role in catching food particles and debris. But when it’s clogged, your dishwasher’s efficiency takes a dive.

Why Worry About a Clogged Filter? A blocked filter not only extends your dishwasher’s run time but also affects the cleanliness of your dishes. Water can’t circulate freely, leaving you with dishes that are far from sparkling.

Steps to Clean Your Filter

Step #1. Locate the Filter

First, turn off and unplug the dishwasher. Then, locate the filter, usually at the bottom center.

Step#2. Remove and Rinse

Gently twist the filter counterclockwise (usually) and lift it out. Rinse it under warm tap water, using a soft brush to scrub away any stubborn debris. If you’re unsure about the process or need some visual aids, check out these Easy Steps to Clean Your Dishwasher Filter.

Step#3. Reinstall

Once cleaned, place the filter back and turn it clockwise (or as per your model’s requirement) until it’s secure.

Maintenance Pointer

Regularly checking and cleaning your filter – say, every month – can go a long way in maintaining your dishwasher’s efficiency.

Cause 4: Using the Wrong Detergent – Choosing Right

Have you ever thought that the kind of detergent you use could be the reason behind those extra-long wash cycles? Surprise, surprise! Not all detergents are created equal, and using the wrong one can have your dishwasher working overtime.

Why Detergent Matters? The right detergent breaks down food particles effectively and helps smooth cycles. On the other hand, a mismatched detergent might not dissolve correctly, leading to longer cycles and residue on dishes.

Guidelines for Choosing the Right Detergent

Read the Manual

It sounds repetitive, but your dishwasher’s manual often has specific detergent recommendations.

Homemade Options

If you’re looking for a more natural or cost-effective solution, consider making your own detergent. Check out this Easy Guide to Homemade Dishwasher Detergent for some great recipes and tips.

Powder, Liquid, or Pod

While pods are super convenient, some older dishwasher models perform better with powder or liquid detergents. If you’re new to pods or unsure of how to use them properly with your appliance, take a moment to read How To Use Dishwasher Pods for a comprehensive guide.

Avoid Overloading Detergent

More doesn’t always mean better. Using too much detergent can lead to filmy residues.

Advice for Hard Water Areas

If you live in an area with hard water, consider detergents explicitly designed for such conditions. Hard water can cause a range of dishwasher problems, so using the right detergent can help prevent mineral build-up and keep your glasses streak-free.

Cause 5: Outdated Dishwasher Models – To Upgrade or Not?

Just like that old car that starts showing its age, our trusty dishwashers, after years of service, might hint that it’s time for an upgrade. But when do you know it’s truly the age causing those prolonged cycles and not something fixable?

Why Does the Age Factor Matter? Dishwashers typically have a lifespan of about 7-12 years. If yours is approaching or has surpassed this age bracket and is frequently causing issues, age might be the culprit.

Considerations for Upgrading

Efficiency Improvements

Modern dishwashers are often more energy and water-efficient. With advanced sensors and technologies, not only do they save on water usage, but they’re also designed to cut down on electricity consumption, saving you money in the long run.

Frequency of Repairs

If you regularly call the technician for repairs, those bills add up. An upgrade might be more cost-effective.

Features Galore

New models have enhanced features – think more cycle options, better drying techniques, and even smart tech integrations.

When Not to Upgrade

If your dishwasher is relatively young, or if it has sentimental value (hey, we’re not judging!) holds you back, consider getting a thorough check-up from a professional before deciding.

Cause 6: Stuck-in Heating Element – Solutions to Overcome

The heating element in your dishwasher is like the unsung hero. It heats the water for washing and dries the dishes afterward. But when something’s amiss with this element, you might find your dishwasher running longer than usual.

What is The Role of the Heating Element? It ensures that the water is at the optimal temperature for effective cleaning. If it’s not heating correctly, the dishwasher might run extended cycles to reach that ideal temp.

Signs and Fixes for a Malfunctioning Heating Element

Dishes Aren’t Dry

If you consistently find wet dishes at the end of a cycle, it could indicate a heating element issue.

Check Visually

Turn off the dishwasher and inspect the heating element for any visible damage, like burn marks or warping.

The Multimeter Test

If you’re comfortable with DIY solutions and have a multimeter, you can test the heating element for continuity. If it shows no continuity, it’s time to replace the element. Should you decide to replace or install a new dishwasher altogether, you might find this guide on how to install or replace a dishwasher helpful.

Call the Experts

If you need clarification on any DIY fixes, getting a technician in is always best. They can accurately diagnose and remedy the issue.

Cause 7: Delayed Start Feature – Ensuring Proper Settings

Displaying an individual activating the Delayed Start Feature on a dishwasher control panel.

Ever had one of those “aha!” moments when you realize the solution to a long-standing problem was right under your nose? Sometimes, with our dishwashers, it’s not a hidden mechanical flaw but a simple feature that might have been accidentally activated: the Delayed Start.

What’s the Delayed Start Feature? This handy feature allows users to set the dishwasher to start at a later time. You might want your dishes to be freshly cleaned when you wake up, or prefer the dishwasher to run during off-peak electricity hours. However, if unintentionally set, it can seem like your dishwasher has a mind of its own, starting way later than you anticipated.

Steps to Navigate the Delayed Start Feature

Step#1. Consult Your Manual

While the basic concept remains consistent, different brands and models might have varied ways to set or unset this feature. A quick glance at your manual can guide you right.

Step#2. Look for the Indicator

Most modern dishwashers have a digital display or light indicators. If you see a timer symbol or a light labeled “Delay” or “Delayed Start,” chances are this feature is activated.

Step#3. Resetting

Typically, there will be dedicated buttons to adjust the delay time or cancel it. Press the appropriate button until the timer or delay indicator turns off.

Step#4. Routine Check

Before starting your dishwasher, make it a habit to glance over the settings, ensuring that everything’s as you intend. It takes a second but can save you hours of waiting!

Bonus Tip

Some smart dishwashers might have mobile app integrations. If yours is one of them, ensure that the delayed start isn’t set from the app, especially if you share the app access with other family members.

Other Elements That Might Be to Blame

As we navigate the maze of dishwasher intricacies, we’ve touched upon several culprits that can extend those washing cycles. But, like any multifaceted machine, there can be other issues. If you find yourself scratching your head, you might need a detailed guide on troubleshooting and repair. In the meantime, here are a few more elements to consider:

Water Inlet Valve

This valve allows water to flow into the dishwasher. If it’s partially clogged or malfunctioning, the dishwasher might not fill efficiently, leading to longer cycles.

Door Latch

If the door isn’t latching properly, the dishwasher might not start promptly or frequently pause, sensing an ‘open door.’ Encountering issues with your dishwasher door unlocking during a cycle? Check out this comprehensive guide on Dishwasher Door Unlocking During A Cycle for solutions and insights.

Software Glitches

Just like your computer or smartphone, modern dishwashers with digital controls can face software hiccups. Sometimes, a simple reset can resolve this.

Worn-Out Motor

The motor propels the spray arm. If it’s wearing out, the washing process might be less efficient, extending the cycle duration.

Can You Stop a Dishwasher in the Middle of a Cycle?

Displaying an individual opening the dishwasher door, questioning if they can stop the machine mid-cycle.

Picture this: You’ve just started the dishwasher, and suddenly, you remember the forgotten mug on the counter. We’ve all been there! Can you halt the cycle and toss it in?

The short answer is, yes, you can. But let’s delve into the hows:

Pause Button

Most dishwashers have a ‘Pause’ or ‘Stop’ button. Press it, and wait a few moments. The machine should cease its operation.

Opening the Door

Once paused, gently open the dishwasher door. Some models automatically pause when the door is opened slightly. Always open with caution, as there might be hot steam inside.

Adding Items

Toss in that forgotten dish, close the door securely, and restart or resume the cycle.

Safety Note

Avoid abruptly opening the door without pausing, especially during the washing or rinsing phase. Sudden interruptions can sometimes confuse the dishwasher’s sensors.

Rapid Recommendation

Always ensure the door is latched properly after interruption. A secure latch ensures the dishwasher resumes its operation efficiently.

Proactive Maintenance: Tips to Prevent Prolonged Cycles

Let’s switch gears for a moment. Instead of constantly reacting to prolonged dishwasher cycles, how about we take a proactive approach? Just like you’d care for a prized car or a favorite gadget, regular maintenance of your dishwasher can prevent many issues from arising in the first place. So, let’s dive into some proactive tips to ensure your dishwasher runs in top shape, cycle after cycle.

Tip#1. Regular Filter Cleaning

We’ve touched upon this before, but it’s worth reiterating. Clean your dishwasher’s filter at least once a month. A clean filter means efficient water flow and fewer chances of extended cycles.

Tip#2. Inspect the Spray Arm

Over time, the holes in the spray arm can get clogged with debris. Periodically inspect and clean these holes using a soft brush or toothpick.

Tip#3. Run an Empty Cycle with Vinegar

Consider running an empty cycle with a cup of white vinegar on the bottom rack every couple of months. This natural cleaner can help break down grease and limescale, ensuring smooth operation.

Tip#4. Check the Water Inlet

Ensure that the water inlet isn’t kinked or blocked. Good water flow is essential for timely cycles.

Tip#5. Update Software

If your dishwasher is one of the smart ones with digital controls, ensure its software is current. Manufacturers sometimes release updates that fix bugs or enhance efficiency.

Tip#6. Don’t Forget the Seals

The rubber seals around the door ensure no water leaks. Wipe them down with a damp cloth regularly to prevent any build-up and to check for wear and tear.

Tip#7. Use the Right Amount of Detergent

We can’t stress this enough! More detergent doesn’t mean cleaner dishes. In fact, overusing can lead to longer rinse cycles and filmy residues.

Tip#8. Load It Right

Properly arranging dishes ensures that water circulates freely, cleaning everything effectively and efficiently.

Tip#9. Check for Wear and Tear

Regularly inspect internal components like the heating element, sensors, and motors. While they have a decent lifespan, knowing their condition can help you address issues before they snowball.

Tip#10. Consult the Manual

Your dishwasher’s manual isn’t just a boring booklet; it’s a treasure trove of specific maintenance tips tailored for your model. Please give it a read!

Final Thoughts: Dishwasher Running For Too Long?

We’ve journeyed through the land of prolonged cycles, and guess what? We’ve nailed down those tricky culprits. How exciting is that? From sneaky sensors to those forgotten settings, we’ve got them all in check.

Remember, every machine loves a little TLC, and your dishwasher is no exception. So, next time you’re faced with a plate pile-up, you’ll know how to get things sparkling quickly! And hey, if you’re considering upgrading or buying a new dishwasher, now’s the perfect chance. With all the knowledge you’ve gained, you’re set to make the best choice ever! Treat yourself and your kitchen to a fabulous, efficient cleaning buddy. Your dishes will thank you! 

At WashDryDazzle, our primary goal is to equip you with invaluable knowledge to simplify your day-to-day tasks; to explore more, check out our central hub of Dishwasher Guides.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the optimal run time for a standard dishwasher cycle?

The optimal run time for a standard dishwasher cycle, often called the “Normal” or “Standard” cycle, typically ranges from 1 to 2 hours. This duration ensures that dishes are thoroughly cleaned and rinsed. However, the exact time can vary based on the dishwasher’s brand, model, and the soil level of the dishes. Some modern dishwashers equipped with advanced sensors may adjust the cycle time according to how dirty the dishes are, ensuring efficiency and cleanliness.

Why is it essential to have timely dishwasher cycles?

Timely dishwasher cycles ensure that the dishwasher operates efficiently, conserving water and energy. They also help maximize the dishwasher’s lifespan and provide consistently clean dishes.

How do timely dishwasher cycles impact the longevity of the machine?

Regular and timely cycles ensure that the dishwasher’s components are well-rested, which can extend the machine’s lifespan. It also means less wear and tear on parts like the motor, pump, and heating.

How much water does a typical dishwasher use per cycle?

A standard dishwasher uses, on average, between 3 to 4.5 gallons (11 to 17 liters) of water per cycle. However, newer energy-efficient models can use as little as 2 to 3 gallons (7.5 to 11 liters) per cycle. It’s always a good idea to consult your dishwasher’s manual for specific water usage information for your particular model.

Can a dishwasher be more water-efficient than washing dishes by hand?

Yes, using a dishwasher can often be more water-efficient than washing dishes by hand. Hand-washing dishes can use up to 27 gallons (102 liters) of water, whereas a dishwasher, especially modern energy-efficient models, can use a fraction. Additionally, dishwashers utilize water at a higher temperature, which can be more effective at cleaning and sanitizing dishes.



Home Appliances Expert

A. Ditta, a highly regarded authority in home appliances, contributes his expertise to With 15 years of global experience, Ditta's writings stand out for their quality, accuracy, and user-centric approach. Recognized as a reliable source for washing and drying products, his in-depth knowledge and commitment to providing clear, accurate advice make him a trusted guide for readers worldwide. Ditta’s work is a testimony to his profound expertise in the industry.