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The Great Dishwasher Debate: Air- or Heat-Dry Cycle?

Dishwashers today pull double duty as appliances that can both clean and dry your dishware. While the drying function isn’t necessary, it’s one of those modern conveniences that some of us can’t live without.

The drying cycle spares you the chore of hand drying all the dishes, bowls, cups, and utensils before putting them away. However, not everyone takes advantage of this feature because, well, there are drawbacks.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of automatic dish drying.

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How the Drying Cycle Works

The drying cycle on your dishwasher will work one of two ways, depending on the model.

Heat drying: This dries via forced hot air, turning the moisture to steam. Small air fans push the steam through exhaust vents. Because this is such an energy-consuming process, manufacturers have been phasing out the feature.

Condensation drying: This mode rinses dishes in hot water at the end of the cleaning cycle. The condensation then forms on the cooler surface of the stainless steel interior, effectively pulling water off of the dishes and sending it down the drain.

The Arguments Against the Drying Cycle

Most arguments against automatic drying center on the heat drying feature.

According to some estimates, this mode will add about 30 minutes to the appliance’s runtime, increasing energy consumption by at least 15 percent. In contrast, condensation drying is a feature typically found on most EnergyStar models because it uses substantially less energy (even if your dishes still come out a little damp.)

There’s a lot at work during the heat drying process. The electric heating elements and air pumps place your dishwasher under additional strain, which could shorten the lifespan.

Also, the tremendous heat your appliance produces can warp plastic dishware and wooden utensils.

The Arguments for the Drying Cycle

If you need your dishes dried fast, the heat-dry cycle is the way to go. Your dishes will also come out of the appliance spotless. That’s because heat drying rapidly removes moisture, eliminating the hazy or spotty film on glassware. Some argue that heat drying is also more sanitary. Dishtowels harbor germs and bacteria. You might as well rewash them once you’re done drying them by hand.

Striking a Compromise

Our advice: if your dishwasher has a heat-dry cycle, use it sparingly. Otherwise, select the air-dry cycle. This mode uses room temperature air to help dry your dishes. It’s more efficient and easier on your appliance.

Here’s how to maximize your dishwasher’s drying efficiency without using forced hot air.

Load it properly: That means your dishes shouldn’t touch. Allow enough space between them for water and air to circulate. Also, don’t overload your dishwasher.

Use a rinse aid: A rinse aid helps dishes dry faster. These products lower the surface tension of water so that it doesn’t cling to dishware long enough to leave unsightly spots.

Open the dishwasher door: When the cleaning cycle is done, open the door to allow the steam to escape.

Empty the lower rack first: Water becomes trapped on the concave surfaces of upside-down bowls and mugs. To avoid spilling water on the dry dishware below, tackle the bottom rack first.

What About Plastics?

Sorry, but your Tupperware will always come out of the dishwasher soaking. That’s just science.

Ceramic dishes dry because they retain heat, which makes water to evaporate off the surface. Plasticware, however, doesn’t have the mass to absorb heat, so the water droplets will just sort of sit there.

Some rinse aids claim to be effective at drying plastics. Experiment with these products at your own risk.

Your best bet: dry plastics the old fashioned way -- with a dishtowel.

For all of your appliance needs, depend on Atlantic Coast Appliance. We have more than three decades of experience and have repaired more than 100,000 appliances. We work with all major brands. Need a repair? Contact us today at (904) 479-1398.

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