Here’s Why Your Dishes Are Still Wet After Running the Dishwasher Cycle

Do you hate running the dishwasher because your dishes come out wet? These are the top reasons why your dishes are still wet after a dishwasher cycle.

wet dishes in a dishwasher

You’re not alone. In fact, most people don’t know how to properly load a dishwasher and end up with wet dishes. But it doesn’t have to be that way! We can help you figure out why your dishes are still wet after they go through the dishwasher and give you tips on how to avoid this problem in the future.

The most common reasons that dishes are still wet after running the dishwasher are that the heated dry function was not selected, the dishwasher not loaded properly, there are too many plastic items, or there was no rinsing aid used to help dishes dry.

If you want to learn more about why your dishes aren’t drying or what could be causing them to stay wet, keep reading! We’ll tell you everything we know about why your dishes are still damp after going through the wash cycle so that next time, they will dry completely.


How a dishwasher dries dishes after washing

Once a dishwasher’s wash cycle is done, a traditional dishwasher’s heating element gets hot and a fan blows very warm air around the inside of a dishwasher, similar to the way a convection oven disperses heat to cook food.

This heated fan evaporate water quickly, but it requires a lot of energy.

So newer dishwashers that are sold in the North America and Europe typically rely on heated condensation to dry dishes.

Here’s how the condensation method works: The final dishwasher rinse cycle uses very hot water, which in turn heats your dishware and utensils. The stainless steel walls of a dishwasher don’t hold heat as well as your dishes do, and moisture from the heated dishware evaporates and condenses on the lower temperature walls of the dishwasher, and then the condensed water falls and drain out the bottom of the dishwasher.

This is more energy effective – and quieter – way of washing dishes, however it’s not as effective. So oftentimes factors like the type of dishes you’re washing (plastic) or how you’ve filled your dishwasher will determine if dishes are actually dry when you open the dishwasher, or if they’re still wet with condensation.

Condensation drying is problematic with plastic dishware because plastic doesn’t heat up the way glass, metal, and ceramic do and doesn’t evaporate water as effectively as those materials.

So if you think your older model dishwasher dried dishes better than your new energy-saving appliance, you’re probably right!


Common problems with dishwashers that leave dishes wet

utensils, plates, and cups inside an open dishwasher

Dishwashers use many parts and processes to clean and dry dishes, so it’s no surprise that dishwasher malfunctions can leave your dishes wet after a wash cycle.

These common dishwasher problems can include:

Not turning on the heated dry function. This is probably the simplest answer, but often the most overlooked. Many times you have to press an additional option to turn on the heated dry function of your dishwasher. If you don’t choose this option, your dishes will still have water on them after washing.

Not loading the dish washer properly. If your dishwasher isn’t loaded correctly, dishes may not be able to circulate through the dishwasher for an even wash.  Since dishwashers rely on water circulation between each dish/rack, this can cause dishware to have unevenly cleaned surfaces.

Washing plastic or other dishware that doesn’t hold heat. If you’re only washing plastic dishware in your dishwasher, there’s a good chance that these dish items won’t have enough heat to dry completely after the dishwashing cycle. Since dishwashers use heated air to evaporate water from dishware, this can lead to condensation spots on your dishware if they don’t get hot.

Not using a rinsing aid. Dishwashing detergents remove food from dishware, but dishwasher-safe dishwashing detergents won’t completely rinse all the soap from dishware. If you fail to add a dishwasher rinsing aid, dirty dishwater may stay on dishware after each wash cycle and leave your dishes wet with soapy water.

High-limit thermostat issues. A dishwasher’s high-limit thermostat is used to prevent overheating. When the dishwasher gets too hot, this safety device will automatically shut down so that your dishwasher doesn’t get damaged by excessive heat. This will mean the dishes themselves don’t get hot enough for condensation to evaporate.

Motor and pump issues. Some dishwashers rely on a motor and pump to remove dirty water from the dish tub after each wash cycle. When dishwasher malfunctions cause this equipment to break, dirty water can remain in the dish tub between cycles. This causes dishes to appear dirty after they go through the wash cycle because of leftover debris or food particles that are stuck on your dishware, which can trap water.


What to do if your dishes are still wet after using the dishwasher

You can try these dishwasher troubleshooting tips if your dishwashing appliance is still leaving dishware wet after a wash cycle:

  • Add a dishwasher rinsing agent. This will help clean dishware more efficiently and remove dish soap from dishware between each wash cycle to prevent water from being trapped on dishware.
  • Use the heated dry dishwasher cycle. Add dishware to the dishwasher at night before bed, and run dishwasher on a heated dry cycle overnight. This will allow dishware to heat up enough for steam to evaporate water completely.
  • Empty dishwasher completely between each wash cycle. If you only run dishwashers with full loads, dishwashers will not be able to clean dishware efficiently or dry dishware completely.
  • Clean dishwasher filter regularly. If dishwasher filters are dirty or clogged, it can cause dishware not to dry completely after dishwashing cycle. Regularly clean dishwasher filter with mild dish soap and water at least once a month to allow dishwasher components like the heating element to better warm dishware between each wash cycle.
  • Replace dishwasher parts that are broken. If dishwasher components aren’t working properly, dishwashing cycle times can become longer or dishwashers may not be able to reach the optimal wash temperature needed for complete dish drying. Replacing dishwasher components like water inlet valves and heating elements on dishwashers will help your appliance run more.

After dishwashing, dishware should be completely dry.  However, dishwashers can cause dishes to appear wet after dishwashing if the dishwasher doesn’t dry dishware efficiently enough or if water is still trapped on dishware. If you’re still having issues with your dish washer, leave us a comment and we’d love to help you troubleshoot!

UPDATE: This post was originally published in August 2021 and updated with new information in January 2022.

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