What Does Sanitize on a Dishwasher Mean

Understanding the Sanitize Feature on Dishwashers: A Deep Dive

In our fast-paced lives, household appliances have become indispensable time-savers, and dishwashers are no exception. Modern dishwashers come equipped with various features that cater to our convenience and hygiene needs. One such feature is the “sanitize” option, which often leaves users wondering about its purpose and significance. In this article, we’ll explore what the sanitize feature on a dishwasher means and why it’s an essential aspect of modern dishwashing technology.

Dishwashers have revolutionized the way we handle our kitchen chores. With advanced features like energy efficiency and versatile wash cycles, they’ve made our lives more convenient and hassle-free. Among these features, the “sanitize” option stands out as a specialized cycle designed to ensure impeccable cleanliness and hygiene.

The Importance of Hygiene in Dishwashing

Maintaining hygiene in the kitchen is crucial for our health and well-being. Hand washing dishes might not always guarantee the elimination of harmful bacteria and pathogens. This is where the sanitize feature comes into play, offering a higher level of cleanliness than traditional washing methods.

What Does “Sanitize” Mean on a Dishwasher?

The “sanitize” setting on a dishwasher is a high-temperature wash cycle that reaches temperatures above what you’d typically find in a regular wash. These elevated temperatures play a vital role in killing off germs, bacteria, and other microorganisms that may be present on your dishes. It provides an extra layer of assurance that your utensils, plates, and glassware are not just visually clean but also microbiologically safe.

How Does the Sanitize Cycle Work?

During the sanitize cycle, the dishwasher’s internal heating element heats the water to around 155-160°F (68-71°C) or even higher, depending on the dishwasher model. This intense heat effectively eradicates stubborn residues and harmful microorganisms. The high temperature also aids in dissolving and removing grease and food particles that might have been missed during the initial wash.

Benefits of Using the Sanitize Feature

Using the sanitize feature offers several benefits:

  • Enhanced Hygiene: The primary advantage is the elimination of up to 99.9% of bacteria and germs, reducing the risk of cross-contamination.
  • Allergen Removal: The high heat can help remove allergens, making dishes safer for those with allergies.
  • Food Residue Removal: Sanitization ensures that even the most tenacious food particles are removed, preventing redepositing on dishes.
  • Odor Reduction: The process helps eliminate foul odors that can sometimes linger on dishes.

Myths and Misconceptions

There are a few misconceptions about the sanitize feature. Some users mistakenly believe that dishwashers use chemicals to achieve sanitation. In reality, the high water temperature is the primary factor responsible for the effective sanitization.

Comparing Sanitize with Regular Wash

While the regular wash cycle is suitable for everyday cleaning, it might not be sufficient for eliminating all harmful microorganisms. The sanitize cycle offers an added layer of protection, making it particularly useful when cleaning dishes that have come into contact with raw meat, eggs, or other potential contaminants.

Factors to Consider When Using Sanitize

Before using the sanitize feature, consider the following:

  • Material Compatibility: Not all dishes are suitable for the sanitize cycle. Delicate items like fine china or plastic might warp or crack due to the high heat.
  • Energy Consumption: The sanitize cycle uses more energy due to the higher temperatures, so it’s advisable to reserve it for heavily soiled or germ-prone loads.
  • Duration: The sanitize cycle is usually longer than regular cycles, so plan accordingly.

Understanding Dishwasher Safe Items

The sanitize feature can be used for items labeled as “dishwasher safe.” These items are designed to withstand the high temperatures of the sanitize cycle without getting damaged.

Maintaining Your Dishwasher for Optimal Performance

To ensure your dishwasher functions optimally, regularly clean the filter, spray arms, and door gasket. This maintenance prevents debris buildup and mold growth, contributing to cleaner dishes.

Energy and Water Efficiency

Modern dishwashers are designed with energy and water efficiency in mind. Despite the higher temperature of the sanitize cycle, these appliances are still engineered to consume minimal resources.

When Not to Use the Sanitize Feature

Avoid using the sanitize cycle for delicate items, plastics, and items that are not heavily soiled. The cycle’s high temperature might damage these items or waste energy unnecessarily.

The Future of Dishwasher Technology

As technology evolves, so does dishwasher technology. Future innovations might include even more efficient sanitization methods and improved energy conservation.


The “sanitize” feature on dishwashers offers a heightened level of hygiene and cleanliness, making it an indispensable tool for maintaining a healthy kitchen environment. By utilizing this feature correctly and considering its benefits and limitations, you can ensure that your dishes are not only visually appealing but also safe for consumption.


Q1: Can I use the sanitize cycle for all types of dishes?

A: No, delicate items and plastics might not withstand the high heat of the sanitize cycle.

Q2: Does the sanitize feature replace the need for pre-rinsing dishes?

A: While pre-rinsing helps, the sanitize cycle can handle some residue left on dishes.

Q3: Is the sanitize cycle water and energy-efficient?

A: Modern dishwashers are designed for efficiency even during the sanitize cycle, but it does use more energy due to higher temperatures.

Q4: Can I open the dishwasher immediately after the sanitize cycle?

A: It’s advisable to wait a bit before opening the dishwasher, as the items inside will be extremely hot.

Q5: Where can I find the sanitize feature on my dishwasher?

A: The location of the sanitize feature varies by model; consult your dishwasher’s manual for guidance.

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