This is what all those buttons on your dishwasher do

Here are some of the most common dishwasher settings and when to use them.

Alina Bradford CNET Contributor
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
Alina Bradford
3 min read
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Do you just hit the normal button when you start a load of dishes and hope for the best? It's time to take advantage of the other buttons on your dishwasher. Here are each of the more common buttons and what they do.

Heat dry

Heat dry is exactly what it sounds like. The dishwasher uses its heating elements to dry the dishes. This option is hit-or-miss. On some dishwashers it works really well, and on others not so much.

A better way to dry dishes is by cracking the dishwasher door as soon as it stops. Your dishes are super warm at the end of the rinse cycle and the water will evaporate quickly and escape into the air outside of the dishwasher. Use this button only when you won't be around to open the dishwasher door when it stops.

Air dry

Dishwashers that have this button have an automatic drying mode. If you're planning on doing the door open drying technique, press this button. It will prevent your dishwasher from going into automatic drying mode and can save 15 percent to 50 percent of your dishwasher's energy usage, according to the California Energy Commission.

Rinse and hold

If you only want to run your dishwasher when it's full, then the rinse and hold button is your new best friend. Press it and your dishwasher will spritz the dishes with small jets of water to prevent the food from drying out until you fill it up and start a load.

Quick clean

Yup, it's just a quickie wash for items that just need to be sanitized, like dusty dishes you got at a flea market or wine glasses after a party.

Hi-temp wash

When you choose this button, the temperature of the water is boosted just a little higher than normal to make cleaning tough grime a little easier.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Sani-rinse, SaniWash or sanitize

These buttons simply boost the temperature of the rinse water to a point where it will kill germs (around 155 degrees Fahrenheit or 68.3 degrees Celsius). If someone in your home is sick, then use this setting to stop the spread of germs.

Control lock

Control lock is used when you need to unlock the dishwasher in the middle of a load. Pressing it will stop the wash or rinse cycle and will drain the tub before unlocking the door.

Delay-start or overnight

This button is used to delay when your dishwasher starts the washing process. If your dishwasher is loud, then you may want to use the delay so that it washes your dishes while you're not home, for instance. On many models, when you choose the delay or overnight button, the dishwasher will spritz the dishes occasionally to keep them from crusting over until the actual washing begins.

Rinse only

If your dishwasher doesn't have a delay button, use the rinse only mode to keep your dishes moist until you want to start a full load.

Heavy load

Only use the heavy load button when you're washing pots and pans that are pretty gunky. It'll get off the hard-to-handle grime.


This button is for (did you guess?) delicates! What are considered delicates? Wine glasses, fine china and other items that need extra care.

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