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Why Does My ‘Efficient’ Dishwasher Take 10 hours per load?

OMG, Joe Biden's tenticles are reaching all the way into my dishwasher! You don't think she's the son of Ursula?

Why Does My ‘Efficient’ Dishwasher Take a Zillion Minutes for a Load?

Austen Hufford ( with inputs from The Wall Street Journal )

Energy and water rules make machines slower and have consumers questioning the cleaning power. Many are devising hacks.

Why Does My ‘Efficient’ Dishwasher Take a Zillion Minutes for a Load?

For months, Donna King experimented with the various settings of her washing machine, trying to get her clothes to stop coming out covered in detergent residue. In the era of tightening water and energy standards, King thinks the machine just doesn’t use enough water, with clothes emerging nearly dry to the touch.

She regularly runs her T-shirts through the machine a second time. The hairstylist in Oak Ridge, Tenn., sometimes brings laundry loads into work to use the heavy duty setup there.

“I’m all for saving the environment but this ain’t the way to do it, if you got to do something two or three times," the 59-year-old said. “The standard is great on paper, but when it comes to practical and real life situations, it’s a bunch of s—."

King hacked her machine with a water pitcher—she now adds seven or more pitchers filled with water to the machine, both at the start and midway through the cycle. That extra water tricks the machine into thinking there is a bigger load, so the washer adds even more water.

King says her clothes now come out cleaner. “There is nothing convenient about any of it," she said.

Other consumers are also MacGyvering workarounds for their modern home appliances, as planned and current regulations make it harder and slower to wash pots, clean pants and boil pasta.

The Biden administration has proposed tightening federal water and energy use standards further for numerous home appliances, including refrigerators and ovens, in an effort to combat climate change and save consumers money. Under a proposed rule, dishwashers would be allowed to use around 3.2 gallons of water a cycle, down from 5 gallons currently. Appliance makers and environmental groups have put forward a joint proposal for less stringent efficiency increases.

The public has posted hundreds of comments in support or opposition to efficiency rules on a government-run regulation site, including one person who sent in a photo of his dirty spoons.

The rules make some appliances significantly slower.

“It takes water plus time to equal a clean product," said Christian Korosec, the general manager of an upstate New York retailer, Morehouse Appliances. “If we are going to use less water, it’s going to greatly lengthen the time of the cycle."

The average standard cycle time for a dishwasher has increased from around 70 minutes in 1983 to 160 minutes this year, according to research by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank that opposes the efficiency rules.

Elderly customers who replace old appliances with new ones regularly call and complain about their slowness, said Donna Goodrich, the owner of furniture and appliance seller Top Furniture.

Her New Hampshire-based customers say things like “Mine didn’t run like that before," and “There is something wrong with it. It ran too long," she said.

Goodrich has to explain that the speed is normal and it’s part of the way machines are now more efficient.

Manufacturers have been coming up with new features to meet the requirements. Some dishwashers automatically open at the end of the cycle to allow dishes to air dry. Some Bosch models use an absorbent mineral compound called Zeolith to help dry dishes. Many new machines also have quick wash cycles.

Frank Schroeder thought his washing machine wasn’t doing a good job on his laundry, even compared with the machines he remembered back in Europe, where he’s from. The dental technician in Southern California started playing with different settings and used a bucket to add water after the initial rinse. He also started doing research on appliance forums and YouTube.

He eventually made a key discovery: The amount of water his machine used could be adjusted through a hidden switch inside the machine. He waited for its warranty to expire and then went in with a screwdriver. About an hour later, his machine was back together and the water level was much higher as he ran a load.

He warned you need a soft touch, though. “They make this little screw out of a soft plastic," he said. “If you are not careful you could mess up that little screwhead."

Owen Perkins has been fascinated with home appliances since he was a teenager—often just as annoyed with the oddities of old models as he is now. The 35-year-old owner of Naperville, Ill., repair store Central Vacuum saved up money in high school and bought a second clothes dryer for his parents’ home, because the dryer took double the time to dry as the washer took to wash.

More recently, Perkins decided to add a commercial dishwasher to his renovated basement bar that takes about 90 seconds to clean a load of dishes instead of hours.

He found a used one on Facebook for $1,000. He had to upgrade home electric lines and plumbing to accommodate the high-powered machine, which has no settings, just an on-off button. Perkins uses his for coffee mugs and glasses because it isn’t designed to clean dried-on food.

“That dishwasher comes in very handy for parties," he said. “In order to keep them drinking, you got to have a way of getting fresh glasses all the time."

Write to Austen Hufford at

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