Dishes that come out of the dishwasher almost as wet as they went in is one of the top complaints consumers make about their dishwashers. And Consumer Reports' tests have confirmed that some dishwashers are much better at drying than others.

The best get plastic dry, which is tough, and the worst have you reaching for a towel. In our tests of more than 100 models, very few are better at drying than at cleaning. And isn’t cleaning the harder part? Maybe not.

“Drying is harder than cleaning because dishes and glasses have areas that trap water, and the water doesn’t evaporate,” says Larry Ciufo, the engineer who runs Consumer Reports’ dishwasher tests. “Dishwashers also contain a lot of humid air. As it cools, water droplets form on the dishwasher’s interior and on the dishes.”

To find out how well a dishwasher dries, we place plastic sippy cups on the top rack and run them through our test cycle. We use plastic because it’s harder to dry than glass and ceramic. Plastic doesn’t retain heat, which contributes to the drying process, so the water doesn’t evaporate as easily. That’s where the dishwasher’s heat comes into play.

Dishwashers dry dishes in several ways. Some models rely on an electric coil that heats the air, a fan that blows the hot air around, an increase in water temperature near the end of a cycle, or a combination of all these methods. None guarantees dry dishes, or stands out as a better drying method in our tests, so we can’t recommend one type.

Some user reviews on our website complain about their dishwasher’s drying performance.

“For the price … I would have hoped for better drying,” wrote one reader. “Had to dry glasses and silverware before putting away,” posted another. Manufacturers have taken note over the years and continue to offer possible solutions.

The latest is a dishwasher door that automatically pops open in the last 10 to 15 minutes of the cycle, allowing the moisture to escape. Otherwise it’s trapped and ends up dripping down on your dishes.

In our dishwasher ratings, you can find a pop-open door on the $720 Samsung DW80K7050US and the $1,800 Miele Futura Lumen G6595SCVik20.

Five Ways to Boost Drying

Even without a pop-open door, there are steps you can take to improve drying performance. Here's what our dishwasher experts recommend.

1. Allow space between dishes. They shouldn’t touch, and don't overload your machine. The idea is to improve the circulation of the water and air, which improves drying.

2. Use a rinse aid. It prevents spotting and enhances drying. The rinse aid breaks the bond between the water molecules and dishes, causing water to form sheets and slide off. 

3. Use the heat feature. The more heat, the better the drying. Depending on your dishwasher, the heat may be added during washing, rinsing, or drying.

4. Open the dishwasher door a few inches as soon as the cycle ends. This allows the moist air to escape.

5. Empty the bottom rack first. Water collects on concave surfaces, such as mugs and glasses that are placed upside down on the top rack. Empty the lower rack first to avoid spilling any water below.

10 Dishwashers That Ace Drying

You’ll find more than 100 models in our dishwasher ratings. Almost half scored excellent in both drying and cleaning. Here, in alphabetical order, are 10 models to consider from different manufacturers and at various prices.

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