Here's How Hot Your Dishwasher Really Gets When It's Running

Have you ever wondered how hot the water inside your dishwasher gets when running and if it's hot enough to sanitize your dishes? While some dishwashers have a specific cycle for sanitizing, others simply have wash cycles, but this doesn't mean your dishes aren't getting clean enough to be safe. In most dishwashers, the water is about 120 degrees Fahrenheit when the machine starts and will heat upward of 150 degrees as it runs. Since dishwashers are typically hooked up to the hot water supply, the water you hear rushing when you first begin a wash is already hot, and the heating element at the base of the dishwasher increases the temperature to kill bacteria and effectively clean your dishes. The temperature of the water can increase by about one degree per minute.

If your water heater takes a while to get hot, it can be helpful to run the sink closest to the dishwasher right before starting it, ensuring the water heats to the correct temperature.

How dishwasher sanitizing cycles work

While 150 degrees F is hot enough to kill most bacteria, you may want hotter water for some messes. Dishwashers that have sanitizing cycles heat the water to higher temperatures, and the cycles run for longer, sometimes extending the wash time by over an hour. This may seem like a good option if you want your dishes as clean as possible, but sanitizing cycles use more water, energy, and time. Note, this isn't needed for your dishes to be considered safe to eat from and it won't clean your dishwasher at the same time, so you can reserve the sanitizing cycle for extra dirty dishes.

Sanitizing cycles also aren't hot enough to fully sterilize your dishes, which would mean all bacteria have been killed. If you need to sterilize something specific, like baby bottles, you can try boiling it or soaking it in a mixture of bleach and water.

Do dishwashers actually use less hot water?

Washing dishes by hand might seem like it saves hot water, but it can actually use nine times more water than an energy-saving dishwasher. Approximately 2 gallons of water comes out of a faucet every minute, which can add up to 27 gallons or more being used to wash one load of dishes. Energy Star dishwashers, such as Whirlpool, Samsung, and GE, tend to use 3 gallons of water per load. If your dishwasher isn't an Energy Star appliance, it could use about 16 gallons of water, which is still more environmentally friendly than hand washing. And if your water heater takes a long time to heat up, washing your dishes in the sink might prevent you from finishing other chores that require hot water.

Not only do dishwashers use less water than washing dishes by hand, but they also reach higher temperatures than you would be able to stand when hand washing. Whether or not you use a sanitizing cycle, the water at 120 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit will be hot enough to ensure your dishes are squeaky clean once they come out of the dishwasher.