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Your Bosch dishwasher can have anywhere from 4-6 cycles, with 1-3 options depending on the model you’ve opted for. “What exactly do each of them do?” you might wonder. Let’s find out.

MAIN CYCLES VS “FRILL” CYCLES

We’ll start by dividing the cycles into 2 categories. The main wash cycles, and what I refer to as the “frill” cycles. It’s an important distinction to make, and you’ll see why later.

Note: While the times/temps/volumes below correspond to *most* Bosch models, note that some models (many 800-plus series for example) tend to use less water, lower heat, and slightly-different wash times.

MAIN CYCLES:

These include:

  • Heavy Wash (135 min, 6.1-7.2 gal, 151-162 F wash, 162 F rinse)
  • Auto Wash (95-119 min, 2.7-5.9 gal, 126-162 F wash, 156-162 F rinse)
  • Normal Wash (115 min, 2.4-4.8 gal, 122-156 F wash, 113-156 F rinse)

These are the standard wash cycles, common to virtually every Bosch model. In any case, EACH cycle uses varied water ranges and temperatures. For example, that means if you do 2 “Normal Wash” cycles, one may use less water than the other, and one may use different temperatures, based largely on the soil level the dishwasher detects.

“FRILL” CYCLES

(note: whether these options exist varies by model – for example, the Bosch 300 base model only contains “Rinse & Hold”)

These include:

  • Delicate Wash (80 min, 3.5 gal, 122 F wash, 156 F rinse)
  • Express Wash (30 min, 3.5 gal, 113-162 F wash, 122 F rinse)
  • Rinse & Hold (9 min, 1.2 gal, no wash, incoming water temp rinse)
  • Half Load (99 min, 3.7-4.8 gal, 126-162 F wash, 162 F rinse)
  • Glass Care (70 min, 3.4 gal, 122 F wash, 140 F rinse)

As mentioned, these “FRILL” wash cycles vary between models. Note that the “half load” cycle mentioned above is NOT THE SAME as the “half load” option which I’ll mention later. They operate differently (and Bosch probably should have named them differently to avoid confusion).

 

 

CHOOSING A CYCLE:

NORMAL WASH – I’m virtually certain that this is the wash used to obtain the ENERGY STAR rating, and you should treat it as such – a wash with an extreme emphasis on energy savings, perhaps even at the cost of a less-thorough wash. With a minimum of 2.4 gallons of water, it has the potential to use less than every other wash (only the 9 minute Rinse/Hold uses less water). If you look at the minimum water temperature it’ll use, you’ll find it’s among the lowest there too.

I’d suggest using NORMAL WASH if:

  • you’re very energy-conscious
  • your dishes aren’t terribly dirty to begin with (or you don’t mind if all your dishes don’t get perfectly clean)
  • you’re running very light loads
  • you don’t mind if your dishes might be a bit wet when the cycle’s finished (the lower rinse temp means that the dishes won’t dry as well via the Bosch’s condensation drying). If you don’t find clean to be a problem (just dry), you might get away with cranking up the “Rinse Agent” setting, or enabling the “Extra Dry Heat” setting mentioned later.

I’d compare it to the “economy” wash of previous dishwashers. It saves energy. It might do well enough to clean your dishes, but if your dishes are filthy when they went in, don’t expect miracles. Your dishes might be dry enough, or you might have to use a lot of rinse agent, keep the door open after the wash to let it air-dry, or towel-wipe.

AUTO WASH – this is the “go-to” wash for just about any typical load. Consider it the primary wash. Or a “set and forget” wash. It’ll handle light loads, it’ll handle heavy loads, it’ll do a mix. The rinse temperature is high and can hit the max, which means the dishes should be fairly dry.

I’d suggest using Auto-Wash for:

  • just about everything from fairly-light loads to fairly-heavy loads
  • mixed loads (mix of very clean, and very dirty dishes)
  • if you’re pretty energy-conscious, but don’t think Normal Wash would be enough to do-the-trick
  • if you have a few really-dirty items, but not enough to warrant a heavy wash
  • again, just about everything.

Auto Wash will be as efficient as it can (utilizing the soil sensor to use less water and heat if it can get away with it), but without compromising cleaning/drying ability. This is the wash you probably want to use 90% of the time.

HEAVY WASH – If you know your dish has half a cup of gravy baked into it, you found a pepsi glass that’s been hidden for a week and now has a layer of syrup stuck to the bottom, and you’re looking at your dishes, thinking “I wouldn’t want to be the one to try to hand-wash these“, heavy wash is the cycle for you.

I’d use Heavy Wash for:

  • Anything ridiculously dirty
  • If you don’t care about energy savings at all, and are willing to spend the extra money in water & electric heating if it ensures everything’s as clean and dry as it can possibly be.

Heavy Wash never heard of this newfangled “energy efficiency” all the other washes talk about. It doesn’t care. It’s all about brute cleaning. Even at the minimum, it uses more water than any of the other washes. It’s guaranteed to heat the water to the highest levels. And the rinse is pegged at max temp for the dishwasher (162 F). Oh, and it also uses more wash time than any other cycle is willing to commit to.

Unless hand-scrubbing was really your only option to begin with, Heavy Wash should get your dishes clean. It’s commonly believed that in washers with the Variable Spray Pressure feature, the pressure might be even higher in the heavy wash cycle. And with the top heat setting for the rinse, dishes should also come out as dry as possible.

FRILL WASHES – I call them “frills”, because they’re generally not considered necessities. You won’t use them for the majority of your washes. The dishwasher won’t even use the soil-sensor for most of them. The amount of water it’ll use, the duration, the temperatures… those are determined by you the moment you hit the “on” button.

  • Express Wash – 30 minutes. This is the shortest wash-cycle available. I won’t ask why you need your dishes done fast… maybe you’re serving lunch for 20 people and only have 10 sets of dishes. Maybe the guests are coming for dinner in 45 minutes and you just realized you don’t have enough place settings. Or maybe you’re just impatient. Regardless, it does have it’s value. Note that it doesn’t use a whole lot of water, and there’s a reason it’s short – it’s meant to clean dishes that you’ve just used. Stuff that doesn’t have baked-on food. Maybe even stuff you quickly pre-rinsed in the sink.
  • Delicate Wash & Glass Care – these are both really similar. Anything that is truly delicate (which let’s be honest, is probably also made of glass) you’re probably hand washing. But if you’d rather rely on the dishwasher to handle things, the cycle time, amount of water, and temps should be roughly ideal for these items. Note that dishwashers with “Variable Spray Pressure” probably use less water pressure for these cycles – Bosch doesn’t actually come out and state it in quantifiable terms, but it seems to be the common belief, and it would make sense.
  • Half Load (cycle) - As a cycle (for models that have this as an actual cycle rather than an option to apply to another cycle), this seems to be a rather silly cycle. Auto-Wash *can* use less wash time & less water than half-load. And Auto-Wash has the exact same temperature range for wash & rinse. I’d only use this if I had a half-load AND didn’t have faith that “Auto Wash” will really be willing to go down to it’s minimum.
  • Rinse & Hold – not found on every model (but found on the base 300-series models), this is a 9-minute rinse with just over a gallon of water. It’s meant to keep food from crusting/drying on your dishes if they’re sitting in your dishwasher a long while before you run it. It might be useful if you slowly load your dishwasher over the course of a few days before filling it enough to actually run a wash.

CHOOSING AN OPTION:

Virtually every Bosch dishwasher has at least 1 option. Some have more. Here they are:

  • Delay Start – this is incredibly unexciting to most. It’s rare that you’ll have a loaded dishwasher and decide that you’ll automatically run it later. The only frequent exception is for those who have a time-of-day-discount on their electricity and may want to run it at night when electricity is cheapest. In any case, there are 2 variants here. A fixed choice of either 3, 6, or 9 hours into the future, or in the case of the LCD-display models, more commonly anything up to 19 or 24 hours.
  • Half Load (option) – when it exists as an option (rather than it’s own cycle), it reduces the wash time by about 5-20 minutes. At some point I recall coming across information that stated it would use something in the neighborhood of 30% less water/energy, but for the life of me, I can’t verify that in the documentation right now. Regardless it’s supposed to use the sensors to dramatically reduce the water and electricity consumption. And a 30% reducton would seem like a reasonable amount. Note that this can not be applied to *every* cycle. You can apply it to the main cycles (Normal, Heavy, Auto), but it can not be applied to Express, Rinse&Hold, etc. You may be able to apply it to one of the other “frill” washes.
  • Sanitize – As mentioned in the terminology section, most (if not all) of the current Bosch dishwashers have a Sanitize light, which will illuminiate if the temperature AND duration of the wash were both high enough to meet certain Sanitization standards. Some models include the “Sanitize” feature as well, to make sure the wash does reach those times & temperatures. It will typically increase the wash duration by 10-15 minutes, and enforce the upper water temperature scale to ensure 99.9% of the bacteria/etc was killed as per the “NSF standards for cleanliness”. A side-benefit is that the higher rinse temp will aid the dishes in drying more quickly afterwards.
  • Extra Dry Heat – Sadly, you won’t see this as a selectable button – there’s a “trick” to turning it on or off in each of the models, found in the manuals. I mention the “trick” for the 300-series model in the terminology section (a secret series of button presses to get into it’s programming mode), but for other models, take a peek at your manual.
    –The purpose of Extra Dry Heat is to simply increase the temperature of the final rinse, and when the rinse itself is complete, to wait longer for the water to evaporate from the dishes before informing you that the cycle is done. This works because when the dishes are hotter, the evaporation/condensation drying method works better.

Hopefully, the above explains the functions enough that you feel confident enough to choose what to use when. As was mentioned, most people are probably best using the Auto-Wash setting most of the time, and allowing the dishwasher to figure out how much water and what temperatures to use based on how dirty the sensor determines your dishes are.

Beyond that, Extra Heat Dry may be worth setting if you find your dishes don’t dry enough (plastics in particular don’t dry as well), assuming you can find your manual and determine how to enable Extra Heat Dry.

Other cycles/options tend to be for uncommon loads. If you have them, expect to use them infrequently. If you don’t have them, Auto-Wash will suffice for most of those loads anyway.

 

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