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How Hot Can a Dishwasher Get? Answering Common Dishwasher Questions

by Nick Evans | Last Updated: August 17, 2021

Dishwashers make cleaning dinnerware a breeze, using a combination of hot water and dishwashing soap to get the job done. But how hot does a dishwasher get, and what should you do if your dishwasher is not getting that hot?

In this article, we’ll talk about and answer common questions regarding the trusty dishwasher.

how hot can a dishwasher get

How Hot Can a Dishwasher Get?

Hot water is more efficient in removing dirt and debris on dishes than cold water, not to mention its capabilities to disinfect and remove bacteria on surfaces. Ideally, the water within the dishwasher must reach at least 120°F to clean the dishes without causing any damage properly, but not more than 150°F. Most dishwashers run at around 130°F to 140°F during the primary cycle, while some models reach up to 180°F.

Dishwashers usually rely on the home’s hot water setting for the heating process, with modern models having internal heaters to reach the required temperatures for optimal cleaning. High-temp water, partnered with strong dishwashing soap, can easily remove dirt, oil, grime, and even stains on your dishes.

Is a Dishwasher Hot Enough to Disinfect Dishes?

The answer to this question depends on how high of a temperature your dishwasher could get. According to the National Sanitation Foundation’s Standard 184, dishwashers that reach 150°F on their final extended hot water rinse can claim sanitation capabilities.

Even if your dishwasher can’t reach 150°F, it’s still a better cleaning option for dishes than standard dishwashing by hand. While most of us can’t handle heat over 104°F, hot water at this temperature can eliminate most foodborne germs like E.coli and salmonella.

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Can the Dishwasher Heat Injure a Person?

Anything above 110°F can potentially harm the human skin. With dishwashers running at a temperature of 120°F, taking dishes out immediately after cleaning could become a painful experience.

We recommend letting the dishes cool down before taking them out to ensure they’re at the right temperature for safe handling. If there’s a need to take the dishes out while they are hot, using oven mitts or safety gloves is the best bet.

Does High Water Temperature Affect the Dishwasher?

While dishwashers are made to handle high heat, too much heat is not good with the dishwasher but with the dinnerware. Partnered with poor maintenance, and your dishwasher could experience some problems that can affect its performance.

Limescale Buildup

Tap water has a natural magnesium and calcium content that can cause limescale buildup on the dishwasher over time. High heat affects this buildup, encouraging limescale growth and affecting the dishwasher’s cleaning and disinfecting capabilities.

Routine maintenance and using dishwasher cleaners regularly are the best methods to eliminate limescale on your dishwasher. This process also helps improve the performance of the machine, keeping optimal functionality through periodic checkups.

Poor Cleaning

At water temperatures higher than 140°F, cleaning enzymes within the detergent lose their effect faster. Unfortunately, this means that your dishes are not adequately cleaned, leaving the possibility of bacterial growth on the dinnerware. Glasses also appear cloudy when exposed to higher water temperatures over time, as the water agitates the molecules of the glass.

Adjusting the hot water temperature from the source is the easiest way to regulate the water coming into the dishwasher. 

What to Do When the Dishwasher is Not Hot Enough?

When the water within the dishwasher doesn’t meet the benchmark temperature of 120°F during its main cycle, it hinders the machine from optimal performance. Some unwanted effects of not having a hot enough dishwasher include:

The best way to know if the dishwasher reaches the correct temperature is by using a candy or meat thermometer. The temperature reading will give a ballpark figure on how hot your dishwasher gets when doing its job.

  1. Locate the faucet nearest to the dishwasher and turn it on
  2. Place the thermometer in a heat-proof glass
  3. Let the water run into the glass until the temperature on the thermometer stops rising

Another sign that your dishwasher is not hot enough to properly clean the dishes is by looking at the plates and glasses after drying. At the right temperature, dishes should be squeaky-clean and free from soap or food stains. Any soap residue, oil, or grime left on the plates and glasses tells you that the water’s not reaching the ideal temperature for cleaning.

If indications are showing that the dishwasher is not running as hot as it should, try some of these troubleshooting steps:

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How to Clean a Dishwasher

Keeping your dishwasher clean not only guarantees better and longer performance but also ensures that the machine is hot enough to disinfect your dishes. While thinking about it seems like a daunting task; you can get your dishwasher looking and working as if it’s brand new with a few tools and some elbow grease!

What you’ll need are:

  1. Remove dishwasher racks, utensil holders, and filters from the dishwasher

Taking off the racks and holders within the dishwasher is the best way to access the appliance’s nooks and crannies. After taking them out, place them in a bucket with a mixture of warm water and distilled vinegar and let them soak for at least 30 minutes.

  1. Clean the dishwasher of all debris

With the dishwasher now empty, it’s time to check for any lingering debris that might be hiding within the machine. Wipe off the spray arms and sidewalls, paying close attention to the top and bottom areas. Look at the filter, dispenser, and other small areas for any food particles or debris stuck there. Use a used toothbrush or a toothpick to remove any lodged materials.

  1. Run a hot water cycle with vinegar

After cleaning the inside of your dishwasher, grab a dishwasher-safe bowl, fill it with 1 cup of distilled white vinegar, and place it at the bottom of the dishwasher. Then, run the machine on a hot water cycle. The vinegar will help break down any remaining food bits, grease, residue, soap, and grime that’s stuck on the appliance. When the cycle ends, remove the bowl from the machine.

  1. Run a short wash cycle with baking soda

Sprinkle around 1 cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher, then let the machine run a short cycle. Baking soda removes stains on surfaces while giving a fresh and clean scent, leaving your dishwasher looking and smelling as if it came from the factory.

  1. Clean off the dishwasher door

With the inside looking pristine and spotless, it’s time to focus on the dishwasher door. Find the right cleaning agent for the door, then use it as directed. Additionally, mixing water, dish soap, and white vinegar works well as an effective cleaner for all surface types. Dip a microfiber cloth on the mixture and wipe off the door’s surface to remove any stains or dirt. Rinse the fabric, then make another pass on the door to get a finger-free finish.

How Often Should I Clean My Dishwasher?

Dishwashers usually need a deep and thorough cleaning once every six months to keep it at its peak performance. If your dishwasher has a self-cleaning sanitize cycle, give it a run at least once a month. This setting runs hotter and longer than a standard cycle, killing off 99.9% of bacteria that a regular cycle leaves behind.

Cooking in a Dishwasher

With dishwashers capable of heating from 120°F, many ask if cooking on a dishwasher is possible. Surprisingly, the answer is a resounding yes, with recipes concocted specifically for this beloved kitchen appliance.

How Does It Work?

Similar to sous vide machine, the dishwasher is a big container with a heating element within, allowing food to cook and reach safe eating levels. While there are several hurdles that need addressing, cooking on your dishwasher can help save time when washing dishes and preparing dinner at the same time.

Typical Challenges when Cooking in a Dishwasher

There are several challenges one must look at when deciding to use a dishwasher for cooking their meal. These include:

Low cooking temperature

With the temperature within the dishwasher not reaching the same levels as a stove or oven, don’t expect browning or color on your cooked dishes. Results are akin to those cooked in a sous vide machine, which requires a quick sear after the cook to give it color and added flavor. If searing is not an option, then preparing ad dark-colored marinade should give your dish much-needed color.

The water

Dishwashers use a lot of water to clean dishes, even relying on the home’s hot water output to reach its high cleaning temperature. As such, when cooking in a dishwasher, it’s preferred if the food items are packed in resealable bags to keep them from getting soaked during the cleaning cycle. You can also load the machine with dirty dishes when you cook in it, as a fuller dishwasher leads to a more stable temperature, which is suitable for cooking.

Fluctuating temperature

The internal temperature within the dishwasher tends to fluctuate throughout the cleaning cycle, leading to possibly uneven cook time for your food. Additionally, you can’t control the temperature and cycle times on a dishwasher, leading to perhaps undercooking or overcooking the dishes. Choose meals that are more forgiving even if the temperature and cook times are not strictly followed.  

Dishes to Cook on a Dishwasher

Do you want to prepare some delicious meals in your dishwasher? Here are some simple and dishwasher-safe recipes you can try out.

  1. Soft-boiled eggs

Preparing soft-boiled eggs the usual way is a tricky and time-sensitive experience, with the slight miscalculation resulting in either undercooked or overcooked eggs. Doing it in a dishwasher, however, gives you perfect soft-boiled eggs every time.

To do this, place some eggs in a glass container filled with water, then run the dishwasher for an hour-long cycle. After the hour is done, you’re rewarded with delicious soft-boiled eggs.

  1. Green beans, zucchini, and mint couscous

Start by frying some green beans, red spring onion, and zucchini in a pan with a bit of olive oil. Place the dry couscous at the bottom of your mason jars, then add the sautéed vegetables on top, followed by vegetable stock and salt and pepper to taste. 

Give it a quick mix, then top off with a few mint leaves. Seal the mason jars, then place them in the dishwasher with your dirty dishes. Once the cleaning cycle ends, you get crisp vegetables and warm couscous along with clean dishes.

  1. Steamed potatoes

An excellent dishwasher dish you can prepare with the kids, this potato recipe is simple to make and yummy to eat. Start by cutting potatoes onto small cubes, around a quarter or an eighth of an inch thick. Add salt, pepper, and other seasonings of your choice to give the potatoes some flavor. 

Next, pack them in an airtight container, either some tightly-folded aluminum bowl or resealable bags, then place the potatoes on the top rack of your dishwasher. Run both wash and dry cycles, and give them time to cool before pulling them off the shelf.

  1. Lemon garlic shrimp

Mix peeled large shrimp with two slices of onion, two slices of lemon, chopped garlic, salt, pepper, and paprika in a bowl. Once thoroughly combines, transfer them in an aluminum foil and create a tight pouch to protect them from the water. 

Place the pocket on the top shelf, then run through a rinse cycle. Since the recipe calls for an aluminum pouch, using soap on the dishwasher is not advised.

  1. Butter-poached lobster

This lobster dish is not only easy to make but a treat to have as well! After deveining and deshelling the lobster tail, place it in a mason jar along with a stick of unsalted butter. Pop it in the dishwasher and run on a heavy cycle.   

  1. Poached salmon

Popularized by Bob Blumer in his show “Surreal Gourmet,” this salmon dish started the trend of cooking in a dishwasher. Grab some salmon pieces and season them with your preferred seasoning. Wrap the salmon pieces tightly in two aluminum foil layers, create a tight pouch, and place them in the dishwasher. Run a wash and dry cycle, then let it cool before pulling out of the machine.

Alternatively, you can also place salmon pieces, along with some lemon, dill, parsley, and peppercorns, in an airtight food bag for a different level of flavor.

  1. Lasagna

Lasagna is a dish usually prepared in an oven, but doing it in a dishwasher is also possible. After cooking your meat sauce and cheese sauce, assemble your lasagna in several layers of aluminum foil, creating a tight pouch to avoid water penetration. 

Run the dishwasher on a regular cleaning cycle, then select ‘heated dry” and ‘sanitize’ to jack up the heat for proper cooking. Once the cooking is done, give the lasagna a few minutes to cool down before cutting and serving.

  1. Thanksgiving turkey breasts

Having tender and evenly-cooked turkey breasts is something many people want, especially on Thanksgiving. Preparing them in a dishwasher is a sure-fire way to get the job done!

To start, mince some parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and shallots and mix them with some salt, pepper, and olive oil. Rub this mixture into the turkey breast, making sure to hit every part of the meat. Put the turkey breasts in an airtight bag or place them in an open dishwasher-safe container to keep everything intact. 

Place it on the dishwasher’s top shelf and run for three complete cycles. For extra flavor, put the cooked turkey breast under a broiler to get crispy skin.

Knowing More About Your Dishwasher

Understanding the capabilities and strengths of your dishwasher lets you utilize the appliance to its maximum potential. Making sure it’s well-maintained guarantees longer service time and reliable performance. As long as your dishwasher is reaching the proper temperatures, you’re guaranteed clean and sanitized dishes.

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