Most dishwasher cycles are pretty self-explanatory. Even without looking at the manual or following our guide, you can probably figure out when you should use the Normal, Heavy, and Light cycles.
But many mid-range dishwashers also offer a Rinse cycle (sometimes called "Rinse Only" or "Rinse and Hold"), and its purpose isn’t so immediately obvious. This cycle tends to be quick (10-15 minutes), but it doesn't use detergent. That means it won’t actually clean food off your dishes, so what’s the point?
As it turns out, a cycle that simply splashes water on your dishes can be extremely useful.
Most households don’t generate enough dirty dishes to justify running their dishwashers every night. On the one hand, it would be wasteful to run a cycle if the dishwasher isn’t even half-full, but letting dishes sit inside is a great way to grow bacteria.
The Rinse cycle is your solution. It’s quick and uses very little water and power compared to a full cycle, but it keeps your dishes fresh enough that you won’t find a stinky mess the next time you open the door. Running it between full cycles will save you more water than filling your sink and letting your dishes soak. It also looks a lot neater.
There are also some situations where washing dishes without detergent is a good idea. If you need to break out some extra place settings that have been gathering dust, Rinse is perfect. Similarly, freshly purchased glasses and plates that have been sitting on store shelves for who knows how long should probably go through a quick Rinse before you use them for the first time.