Can You Leave Dishes in the Dishwasher Overnight? Find Out Here

The answer to this question is yes, you can leave dishes in the dishwasher overnight. You’re allowing the dishwasher to run its full cycle and clean your dishes thoroughly without any interruption.

For a lot of people, the evenings and nights can get really hectic as they prepare for the next day.

For families with school-aged kids, there is homework to do, baths to get, brushing of teeth, reading of bedtime stories, and so much more. 

This leads many people to question whether it would be okay to offload the dishes another time.

Leaving Clean Dishes in the Dishwasher Overnight

  • It is perfectly safe to load the dishwasher and set it to wash the dishes before heading off to sleep.

  • Most dishwashers also have a “sanitize” setting that will rinse your dishes at a very high heat setting in order to ensure that bacteria and germs are dead.

  • This is especially true for dishwashers that have a “heated dry” setting as well saving you from drying the dishes outside the dishwasher.

Can You Safely Leave Dirty Dishes Overnight?

It is a bit more concerning to leave dishes overnight that have not been washed. The safety of this really depends on the type of dishwasher that you have in your home.

  • All dishes should be scraped of food before being placed into the dishwasher.

  • These dishwashers use extremely high heat and distribute the water evenly in order to make sure that all dishes have been thoroughly washed and rinsed.

  • According to some sources, you can leave dirty dishes in the dishwasher for as long as four days if you have a newer dishwasher. Any longer will allow bacteria to breed, spread, and possibly compromise your kitchen.

After all, you don’t need to monitor the dishwasher as it carries out its job. You simply need to remove the dishes once the job is done, and you have some time to do this.

Skipping the Scraping is a Bad Idea

You want to make sure to remove any leftovers or bits of food from all dishes and cutlery before placing them into the dishwasher. Here’s why:


While most modern dishwashers will clean away any food that is left on dirty dishes, it will eventually cause gunk to accumulate in the filter. 

This type of buildup will cause the dishwasher to drain too slowly, which can allow bacteria to grow.


This type of bacteria can lead to illnesses. Especially if your dishwasher doesn’t get hot enough, this could be dangerous for everyone in the household.

Wear and Tear

Even if the dishwasher is able to sanitize the bacteria away from the dishes, the buildup will cause extra wear and tear on the machine. 

This could cause you to need a new dishwasher much sooner than you would have otherwise.

Because of these issues, it is better to scrape as much food residue as possible off of your dishes immediately after each meal. 

You might scrape the leftovers into the trash, or use them in composting.

It Is More Sanitary to Leave Dirty Dishes in the Dishwasher

The truth in answering whether you can leave dirty dishes in the dishwasher overnight is that it is actually safer than leaving them stacked in the sink. 

There are several reasons for this.

  1. Bacteria will multiply on the dishes no matter where you put them. If they are sealed in the dishwasher, however, it won’t be able to spread around your kitchen as quickly.

  1. If dirty dishes are left just sitting around in the kitchen, there is a strong possibility that rodents, roaches, ants, and other pests will be drawn to the food and bacteria on them. You could quickly end up with an infestation of these pests.

  1. It can cause the dishwasher to smell. If food bits are left exposed to air for too long, they will begin to rot. The rotting food will ferment and once placed into the dishwasher, the machine will start to develop a really bad smell.

  1. Leaving dirty dishes out on the counter or in the sink to wash later uses extra resources. The longer these dishes sit out, the harder it will be to remove hardened food and stains, such as watermelon stains.

This could mean that you need to put them through more than one wash cycle once you put them into the machine.

Loading dirty dishes into the dishwasher and shutting the door will eliminate most of these issues. 

Is Pre-Rinsing Still a Thing?

Many dishwasher owners ask if they need to rinse the dishes before loading them into the machine. 

This was necessary with older machines because they really did not thoroughly wash and rinse dishes like the newer ones do. 

However, you no longer need to pre-rinse your dishes for several reasons.

  • The technology of newer dishwashers allow them to be much more effective in sensing soiled dishes, and spraying them away with high pressure spray jets.

  • Rinsing dishes before placing them into the dishwasher wastes a great deal of water. 

  • You can save around thirty minutes of that precious, after-dinner time with your family by skipping the pre-rinse step. 

  • Dish detergent is designed to work with food. The manufacturers created this cleaning product to stick to the food residue that is left on dirty dishes.

Clean Dishes Should Also Be Removed by the Fifth Day

You may find this information surprising, since some experts suggest that dirty dishes can stay in the machine for up to four days. 

This would make you think that clean dishes would be safe in the dishwasher for much longer. The truth is that even clean dishes are probably not safe in the machine any longer than dirty ones. 

Here are a few reasons for this.

  1. Bacterial colonies and specks of dust can begin to accumulate on clean dishes after they have been in the machine for over four days.

  1. If dishes are left inside of a dishwasher in a damp environment, it could be conducive to growing mold. 

This happens in machines where the door stays tightly shut after a wash cycle and the steam is unable to escape and dry away. 

In order to freshen your dishwasher after such an occurrence, you can simply run a quick, “rinse only” cycle with a bit of white vinegar in it. 

This will help eliminate odors and sanitize the dishwasher.

Five Most Damaging Dishwasher Mistakes

The top five things that could damage your dishwasher are as follows.

  1. Power surges.

  1. Overloading the machine.

  1. Washing items that are not dishwasher-safe.

  1. Using cheap detergent that doesn’t cut grease.

  1. Leaving grease and food on the dishes.

FAQ’s On Can You Leave Clean Dishes In The Dishwasher Overnight

Should The Door Be Opened or Left Closed After a Wash Cycle?

The door of the dishwasher should remain open once the wash cycle has finished to discourage the damp environment needed for bacteria and mold to grow.

How Long Does The Drying Cycle Last?

On newer dishwashers, it should only take from two to ten minutes for your dishes to dry if you set the heated dry function to perform. Save about 15% of the machine’s energy consumption if you open the door slightly and allow them to air dry.

How Often Should Dishwashers Be Cleaned?

Dishwashers should be cleaned at least once a month in order to prevent the gunk buildup. Pour two cups of white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe cup or bowl and run the machine with the cup sitting upright on the top rack.

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