Can You Run a Dishwasher Half Empty?
After buying and installing a new dishwasher, there’s that familiar moment where you’re sat on the floor with the manual, thinking “how the heck do I work this thing?”
If you’ve been there, then you might have found yourself wondering ‘what does “half load” mean on a dishwasher’.
And since you’re reading this post, we can probably assume that’s what’s happened.
The half load cycle means that you only need to fill either the top or bottom of your dishwasher before using this cycle.
The water jets will turn off for the unused basket.
However, the basket that you need to fill will vary for each specific dishwasher model.
So if you are going to use the half-load program, make sure you know which basket to fill by checking the manual or manufacturer’s guidelines online.
In this post, we’ll explain:
- What the half-load setting is
- How it works
- And whether or not it’s worth it. (Spoiler, it isn’t.)
We’ll also talk about alternatives to using the half-load cycle and how to maintain your dishwasher when you’re using it less frequently.
What Does “Half Load” Mean on a Dishwasher?
The half-load setting means you only need to fill either the top or bottom basket of your dishwasher before running a cycle.
During the cycle, the dishwasher will turn off the jets to the un-used dishwasher drawer.
Whether you have an integrated, freestanding, or slim-line dishwasher, it will almost definitely feature a top and bottom basket or drawer.
The cutlery storage tends to vary, but dishwashers are almost always split in half.
Appliance manufacturers claim that this is all to save time, money, and energy.
How Does the Half Load Setting Work?
In a normal cycle, there are water jets above the bottom and top basket that operate at the same time. But in a half load cycle, only one of these will operate so you only need to fill either the top or bottom before running the dishwasher.
This is designed to save time and money.
However, tests have shown that the half-load program doesn’t clean as well, and only saves about 10-25% of the water on each wash.
Plus, if you use dishwasher tablets you won’t make a saving there either as you’ll still be using the same amount of detergent.
Can You Cut Dishwasher Pods in Half?
You can cut dishwasher pods in half to save money during a cycle without losing the cleaning power.
Rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher to help get dishes properly cleaned on half a tablet.
If you’re using less detergent, cleaning your dishwasher regularly, once every two weeks ideally, will ensure your dishwasher is performing at its best.
Is it Bad to Run a Dishwasher Half Empty?
Running the dishwasher without it being fully-loaded with dishes isn’t necessarily bad for the machine but it does waste water, and risks breakages from dishes freely moving around.
Does This Function Save Money?
If you’re constantly running the dishwasher without it being completely full, the half-load program might (in theory) help to reduce water usage.
In this video from Samsung, they state that their clever dishwashers save you time and money.
However, according to Which?, the half-load dishwasher setting can use up to 90% of the water and energy used by a full load.
This means that the water and cost-savings of a half-load cycle are almost non-existent.
If you want to conserve energy, wait until you have a full dishwasher and use the energy-save or Eco cycle.
Regularly running a dishwasher cycle without filling it probably means that your dishwasher is too big for your household’s needs.
Consider choosing a slim-line model the next time you’re appliance shopping.
You could also switch to running the dishwasher cycle every few days, but dried food on dishes is harder for the dishwasher to clean.
Are Half Load Dishwashers Worth It?
You can probably already guess our answer – no, buying a dishwasher with a half load cycle isn’t worth it.
It’s one of those settings you try out when you’re excited about your new appliance, and then after a week or so you never use it again.
Essentially, the half load cycle doesn’t save time, money, or energy, and it also might not clean your dishes very well.
We think the best alternative to using the half load cycle is to decrease the number of times you’re running your dishwasher.
If you’re doing this, be sure to soak dishes and rinse away food debris so that it doesn’t dry and stick to your dishes while they’re waiting to be washed in the machine.
And to prevent the build-up of bad food smells, make use of your dishwashers maintenance wash.
How Often Should You Clean Your Dishwasher?
Clean your dishwasher at least once a month to prevent a buildup of germs, bad smells, and maintain the efficiency of the machine.
If you leave dishes standing in the dishwasher for more than a day, you may need to clean your dishwasher once every two weeks to keep it smelling fresh.
If you were wondering what half-load means on a dishwasher, and whether or not it was worth using, we hope this article has been useful.
Essentially, the half load setting is pretty pointless.
But, there are some scenarios where it might come in handy.
We do appreciate that appliance manufacturers are trying to create options that save money for us on detergents, water, and energy.
Unfortunately, it’s just not enough of a saving to make using the cycle worth it.
The cleaning standard of the half-load wash isn’t quite up to it either.
The most economical way to use a dishwasher is to run the eco cycle with a full, but not overloaded, dishwasher.
Using the eco cycle does take longer, but pretty much guarantees clean dishes.
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