How Do Dishwashers Work?

Cleaning dirty dishes and scrubbing food residues off your utensils is a chore we all tend to hate. That’s when a dishwasher comes in handy. Dishwashers are essentially robots that have changed how we keep everything in our kitchen clean. But have you ever wondered how this shiny box works?

How does dishwasher works featured photo

Dishwashers are more hygienic and efficient when it comes to cleaning. They may require you to prepare an upfront cost, but they are worth investing in. A dishwasher is cost-effective in the long run, saving you time and money. According to studies, a dishwasher essentially uses less water than when you hand wash, letting the water run through your dishes.

But just because it does much of the job doesn’t mean you won’t need to load it, add detergent, and set the right washing cycles, and then turn it on. You still need to do all these things, then the dishwasher will do the rest.

Who Invented the Dishwasher?

In 1886, Josephine Cochran, an American socialite, invented the modern dishwasher. On August 19, 1887, she petitioned for a patent with Jacob Kritch. It was then approved on October 30, 1888. Cochrane was a wealthy socialite whose expensive crockery was constantly chipped while being hand-washed by her maids. At the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, she demonstrated a rack and water jet system.

Josephine Cochran photo

She drew out the blueprint for the world’s first commercially successful automatic dishwasher. Her concept used water pressure to clean the dishes. Very much like today’s dishwashers. The dishes were stored in wire chambers that fit into a wheel within a copper boiler.

While soapy water splashed onto the dishes, an engine-turned the wheel. The machine was functional. But Cochrane had to find someone to build her device the style she likes. In 1886, she worked with George Butters, and the Garis-Cochran Dish-Washing machine was patented.

Cochrane hoped that her innovation would be appealing to many other housewives. But it proved to be more renowned among restaurants and hotels. She then established her own factory in 1897. Then, she sold her devices alone until before her death in 1913. Hobart bought her company in 1926. It eventually became the KitchenAid, the modern appliance powerhouse we all know today.

Dishwasher Basics

Now that you get an idea of how a dishwasher works, know that these appliances aren’t overly complicated. Let me walk you through the basic components of a dishwasher.

Control Feature

You can find your dishwasher’s control function inside its door hidden behind its control panel. It has a timer that specifies the duration of each phase of the cycle. And it switches on the right operation at the correct interval.

For instance, if it needs to activate the detergent dispenser, spray arms, and drain at a certain time. This is the kind of system used in certain models.

Higher-end models may use a computerized control mechanism. They often cost more. In addition, modern units feature a latching mechanism that you’ll need to close in order for your dishwasher to function. Certain models even feature a child safety lock.


The pump unit is situated near the center of your dishwasher, below the basin. It’s an electric motor that pumps water through the arms while cleaning. During the drain cycle, it directs the water into the drainage. To ensure that the water flows in the appropriate path, the dishwasher’s computer unlocks and shuts the valves at the correct intervals.

By reversing the orientation of the engine, reversible pumps shift from pumping water to the spray arms to drawing dirty water to the drain hose. Such pumps are typically mounted vertically.

With direct-drive pumps, the motor only works in one way. A solenoid shifts the flow pattern from spray arms to drain by opening and closing the proper valves. Or, switching one hose hookup to another. Such pumps are typically mounted horizontally.

Heating Element

The heating element within your dishwasher does all the heating functions. From washing to drying process. These are metal components that turn electricity into heat. Once the cold water is pumped into your dishwasher, it heats the cold water to the specified, correct temperature for the selected program.

Keep in mind that this component is highly susceptible to lime-scale throughout time. This is because it’s in direct contact with dirty water, and you use it regularly.

Spray Arms

The spray arms are hollow, so the water pressure pushing through forces them to rotate. This guarantees in keeping your dishes clean. But food, grease, and other filth can clog the spray arms. Especially if you use it for a long time.

Cleaning them regularly could lessen this problem. Using a dishwasher cleaner once a month can effectively eliminate any limescale that forms and food residue that might jam up the hidden portions of your dishwasher.


The intake valve is where your appliance gets its water from your home’s water supply. Its pump system doesn’t pump the water into your dishwasher’s basin. Instead, once the valve opens, the pressure from the water forces it into your dishwasher.


Dishwashers are available in both portable and fixed models. Portable models are polished and you can use them on your countertop. When it’s ready to perform a cycle, you simply roll the appliance over to your sink. Then, hook it up to the faucet and plug it into an accessible outlet. The dishwasher is bolted in position beneath the countertop in a fixed installation.

Water hoses integrate straight to the hot water supply and the drainage pipe beneath the kitchen sink. The appliance is also commonly plugged in below the sink. You’ll need a 120-volt grounded line for either type of installation.

How To Use a Dishwasher

Dishwashers are a hardworking kitchen tool that still needs a little help from you. To maximize your appliance, there are some general rules you can follow.

Use a detergent.

Avoid using regular dish soap as the froth will flood your dishwasher. When using a dishwasher, use a detergent, instead. Detergents help combat mineral deposits in the water since they have solvents that could break down food and greases. They also contain abrasives that scrub off trapped gunk.

Keep in mind that you can’t just use any detergent. Only detergents designed specifically for dishwashers work. Some may ruin dishes or produce excessive suds, causing the dishwasher to flood. You can decide on whether to use a tablet form, powder, or liquid detergent. You can use slightly more detergent if your house uses hard water.

Don’t overload.

You must provide enough space for the water jets to spray the dishes.  The dirtier section of your dishes should be facing the spray jets. They are typically located in the center of your dishwasher.

Also, mixing steel and silver is not a good idea. Corrosion is a foregone conclusion when two distinct types of metal come into touch in a humid atmosphere. Another tick you can do is separating bowls, cutlery, as well as other dishes that have the same shape. They would cluster together, preventing the water from reaching every part of the dishes.

You also shouldn’t throw wooden dishes, cast iron, fine china, as well as hand-painted dishes in your dishwasher. Handwashing these items is a preferable option.

Run your dishwasher at night.

The water pressure is at its highest at late night. So, when you’re not using lots of water for anything else, your machine will clean more efficiently. But you don’t have to do this if you prefer doing all the cleaning during the daytime.

Don’t pre-clean dishes.

Dishwashers rely on the food particles that stick to dishes to keep the ph level in the dishwasher at a safe degree. Large chunks, on the other hand, must be tossed into the trash.