Turn Off the Dry Cycle on Your Dishwasher

Welcome to another scintillating edition of: Lazy and Cheap Ways to Be Green.

We almost never run the dry cycle on our dishwasher for several reasons:
  1. It's pretty much unnecessary.  The residual heat and steam in the dishwasher from the wash cycle dry the dishes anyway, as long as you leave the dishwasher door closed for a while after the cycle is over.  I should note that we do live in a reasonably dry climate.
  2. It saves energy and money!
  3. If you are prone to loading your dishwasher too full and with dishes that still have plenty of food caked on them, sometimes the dishwasher can't get the dishes completely clean.  If you use the dry cycle, these little leftover bits of food that didn't get washed off essentially get baked onto your dishes.  If you don't use the dry cycle, you can usually just rinse off any dishes that did not come out completely clean.
  4. If you are too lazy to hand wash all of your plastic dishes, skipping the dry cycle at least lessens the degradation of your plastic dishes a bit.
  5. And last but not least: turning off the dry cycle diminishes your exposure to the harmful toxins that dishwashers release.

That last one I just recently learned from the book Naturally Clean: The Seventh Generation Guide to Safe & Healthy, Non-Toxic Cleaning. I was surprised to learn that dishwashers are considered "the most toxic appliance in the modern home."  Why?
  • Dishwashers are a leading cause of indoor air pollution.
  • Because of the high water temperature they utilize, dishwashers release water pollutants and detergent chemicals to your indoor air throughout each operating cycle through their vents.
  • If you open your dishwasher before the contents have completely cooled, a large burst of contaminated steam is released into your air.
So I guess I shouldn't be opening my dishwasher three times during the wash cycle (and inhaling in a whole bunch of dishwasher steam) to add a spoon or plate, which is my usual M.O.  In addition to ditching the dry cycle, here are a few other easy steps the authors of Naturally Clean recommend following to reduce your exposure to toxins from your dishwasher:
  • Use chlorine-free phosphate-free dishwasher detergent (pretty much any eco-friendly/ green detergent fits this bill).
  • Only run your dishwasher when full.  This also saves energy and money!
  • Ventilate your kitchen during and after dishwasher operation.
  • Keep your dishwasher closed and sealed for at least an hour following a cleaning cycle.
All you have to do is push a button (probably), and you save energy, money, and reduce your family's exposure to harmful toxins.  You also make it easier to clean any less-than-pristine dishes that come out of the dishwasher.  That's what I call Lazy, Cheap and Green!

For more Lazy and Cheap Ways to Be Green, click HERE.

Photo credit: David Locke

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  1. I haven't used the dry cycle for a while now because I thought it was unnecessary -- now I know for sure! Thanks for all the great tips, too!

  2. Wow, Betsy, some good tips...I saw some people RTing this from (our former) @GreenMoms feed so I had to come read it! I did not know that the dishwasher is considered the most toxic appliance!

  3. My dishwasher is a toxic appliance? But I make my own dish washer soap! Thanks for the info. And I do hate it when the heat bakes on bits of food...

  4. I do live in a humid climate but have had very little trouble getting the dishes dry without using the dry cycle. One important trick is to pull out the bottom rack first. That way, if there is something in the top rack holding water that will spill when it's moved, it doesn't spill on dry dishes below! If the dishes in the bottom are still pretty wet, we leave the dishwasher open with bottom rack pulled out for a few hours to let them dry.

    It also helps to put white vinegar in the "rinse aid" dispenser. Vinegar helps water evaporate more quickly and leave fewer spots.

  5. Becca, good to know it works even in a humid climate. I've heard that vinegar is a good to use as a rinse aid, I just haven't figured out how to fill the rinse aid container on our dishwasher yet.

    1. I use vinegar as well, soak it in empty dishwasher, start it till water is in bottom and let soak overnight, then run it as a small load. Will eliminate build up and break up any left over food in the bottom. Works wonders. Sears repairman taught me that and I do it once a month or 2 months depending on usage.

  6. I have recently found a brand of products that can eliminate the toxins in your dishwasher as well as other household items. I originally started using due to skin allergies caused by these toxins but come to love them. It is cheaper, and in my opinion more efficient, than what you normally buy in stores. Let me know if you're interested and I can get you the info. Thanks for the great post!!


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