How Does a Dishwasher Work? – Read This Before You Buy!

You all know what a dishwasher does – it cleans and dries your dirty dishes rendering them to be squeaky clean. But did you ever wonder how this robotic machine does all of it? You’ll know it today!

A dishwasher follows certain steps like filling, pumping, spraying, cleaning, rinsing and drying through which it does all the work right from filling itself with water, cleaning the dishes with a detergent to air-drying the dishes. All of this process happens without your surveillance and that’s the beauty of this machine.

Through this article, we’ll tell you in detail everything that happens inside the dishwasher along with some tips to use and maintain it effectively. We have also answered some FAQ’s at the end so you get some valuable insights of the appliance.


How Does a Dishwasher Machine Work? – In 5 Steps

A dishwasher basically does multi-tasking. It fills itself with water, heats it, mixes the hot water with the detergent, sprays it at high pressure, drains the dirty water and finally dries the cleaned dishes. This process happens in 5 steps as explained below:

1. Filling

In this step, the dishwasher automatically fills water into a basin that lies at the bottom of the machine.

Right after you load the dishes and close the door, the dishwasher begins the filling process. To make sure the water doesn’t overflow, there’s an element called float that shuts the valve when the water reaches the brim of the basin.

Then, the water gets warmed with the help of a heating element to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit or 60 degrees Celsius. Once the water reaches this temperature, it is sprayed using the spray arms onto the dishes with a certain pressure.

Note: If you notice any water overflowing from the machine, it could be due to the float malfunctioning. Call the technician and make sure you rectify it when your dishwasher is under warranty.

2. Pumping and Spraying

A pump is located at the lower end of your dishwasher. Its function is to take the heated water that gets filled in the basin to the spray arms of the machine.

Once the water reaches these spray arms, it gets sprayed onto the dishes at a very high pressure. This high pressure is required to remove even the coarse food stains on your dishes.

After spraying, the water reaches the basin again, gets heated and the pump takes the water to the spray arms. It as a cycle that repeats for a few iterations depending on the washing time you set.

The removed food residue after each cycle is sent into a filter underneath so that it doesn’t get mixed with the spraying water.

3. Cleaning

After a few cycles of hot water spraying, the dishwasher releases the detergent from the dispenser. This detergent gets mixed with water to enhance the cleaning capacity.

The cleaning basically happens in 3 phases:

  • Pre-washing/Rinsing

During the pumping and spraying, only the hot water gets sprayed repeatedly on to the cookware but this isn’t the real cleaning. It can only make your dishes wet and with the spraying force, some rough stains get removed.

To enhance the cleaning power, some dishwashers come with pre-wash detergent dispensers which you can use when your food stains are really dry and dirty. This pre-washing usually lasts only a few minutes.

  • Main Washing

As the name suggests, main washing is the actual part of the cleaning process that makes your dishes clean.

The hot water spraying cycle still continues and here the detergent also gets added with the hot water. This main washing lasts for about 20 to 25 minutes. At the end of it, all the water will be drained.

Main wash also happens in cycles and repeats itself depending on the time you have set.

A dishwasher generally accepts detergents in the form of tablets, powders and gels. You can choose any type of detergent as it’s not proved which one’s better than the other.

Note: Do not add too much detergent into the dishwasher as it can cause scratches to your glassware.

  • Final Washing

In this last phase of cleaning process, the heater will be turned off while the water is still sprayed.

Here, the dishwasher doesn’t use the detergent but simply washes your dishes with water. This phase can also take up to 20 minutes and repeats multiple times throughout the cycle.

4. Rinsing and Draining

The final step in the washing routine involves rinsing off the detergent and any leftover stains from the cookware.

During the process, the spray arms will continue to spray the water that first gets heated. This process too happens in cycles and when it’s over, the dirty water gets drained through the pump. The water gets drained basically through your sink’s drain line.

5. Dry Cycle

This is an optional one and not all the dishwashers come with this facility. During the drying cycle, the heating element raises the temperature of the dishwasher and converts water into steam.

The steam passes on to the dishes and then vents out of the appliance. With this, the entire washing cycle is done and your dishes get dried and are ready to be removed from the appliance.

What are the Main Parts of a Dishwasher?

Now that you know the working mechanism of a dishwasher, it is time to know what a dishwasher machine comprises of.

It has 3 parts, the heating element, pump and spray arms which are responsible for the effective cleaning of your dishes. Let’s discuss them in detail.

1. Heating Element

It is a metal piece which converts electricity into heat and then heats the water in the dishwasher’s basin to a certain temperature suitable for washing.

If you find that food stains are still intact after the final washing cycle, it either means that the water is not getting heated properly or your detergent is not good. In such case, try checking the heating element for any damage.

2. Pump

A pump acts like a transporting agent which transfers the heated water from the basin to the spray arms. It also drains the dirty water after the washing ends.

You need to clean your pump at least once every two weeks to make sure it’s devoid of any debris. If your pump is clogged, the dishwasher doesn’t work properly.

3. Spray Arms

The spray arms are the hollow holes that twist themselves to spray the water with a certain force onto the dishes.

Depending upon the model, there can be only one spray arm located at the bottom or another one located above the top rack of your dishwasher.

Sometimes, they can get stuck with food particles and grime. So, you must clean them regularly using a tooth brush.

Tips to use the Dishwasher Effectively so it Sustains for Long:

As the dishwasher does most of your job, you just have to maintain it clean for its effective functioning. Here are some of the tips from our side:

  • Do not use a regular dishwashing soap that you use while manually cleaning the dishes. It can develop foam that overflows the dishwasher.
  • The dishwasher should not be overloaded with dishes. It needs space for the water to get sprayed.
  • If you use copper, silver and steel cookware for cooking, make sure you don’t mix them in the dishwasher as it can lead to corrosion.
  • It is a good practice to place the dirtiest part of your dishes towards the spraying jets so that they get sufficient water pressure.
  • Make sure you don’t put hand painted, wood, and cast-iron dishes into the dishwasher. These materials are only meant to be washed by hand.
  • Use your dishwasher during late-night or at a time when the water usage at your home is less. This makes sure the water flow is heavy and reaches every dish.
  • Plastic dishes are the most delicate ones and should not be placed at the bottom especially while using the hot water cycle. Sometimes, hot water can melt the plastic.
  • Know the type of water you use at home. If it’s hard water, add some more detergent.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Dishwasher useful for Indian Kitchen?

Dishwashers are definitely helpful for modern Indian kitchens as it reduces the manual effort of cleaning dishes. Dishwashers can accommodate most of the Indian utensil-shapes, however certain dishes made of cast iron, copper and plastic must exempted. As most of the Indian dishes are made of steel, dishwasher is definitely useful.

2. How long dishwashers run?

During the quick wash cycle, the dishwashers typically take 30 to 60 minutes. Meanwhile, during the normal wash cycle, it would take 90 to 120 minutes.

3. How much electricity does a dishwasher use in India?

The average power consumption of a dishwasher in India is less than 1.5 units per dishwashing cycle.

4. How hot does the water need to be?

In terms of electricity, hotter the water, higher the power consumption. In terms of hygiene, hotter the water, easier for the bacteria to be dead.
Water must be set to the temperature to 60 degrees Celsius or 130 degrees Fahrenheit for the effective removal of food stains and bacteria.
When you set your water temperature to the above, the wash time would be around 30 minutes, which is enough to get your dishes hygienically clean.

5. What is the best detergent to use in a dishwasher?

Detergent is an important part of the cleaning process as it ensures the dishes to be free from oil and coarse food particles. That being said, you can’t just use any type of detergent. There are specific detergents made exclusively for this purpose.
There are three types of dishwasher detergents:
a) Tablet
b) Powder
c) Gel-based
Any one of these types can be used based on your preference and ease. However, there are certain detergent tablets that are specifically meant for pre-wash phase as these tablets dissolve quickl


Though, Indians hardly use dishwashers, manufacturers are now coming up with dishwashers that suit any Indian cookware. If your day mostly involves spending time in the kitchen doing all the chores, it’s time to use your time effectively by purchasing a dishwasher. Now that you know the functioning of a dishwasher, go ahead and get one today!

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