What Does Half Load Mean On A Dishwasher?

If you’ve been looking to buy a new dishwasher recently, you’ve probably already encountered the half load option. Many dishwashers have this feature but what is it, is it worth having and how does it work?

In this article we look into the half load function on dishwashers and answer all of the above questions and more.

What Is The Half Load Function In A Dishwasher?


The half load function is designed by dishwasher manufacturers in an effort to save water, time and energy. It allows you to wash less dishes by using only one of the two areas in the dishwasher.

The arrangement differs from brand to brand and model to model so you’ll need to check the user manual to find out whether you have to load the top or bottom basket when using the half load feature.

How Does The Half Load Feature Work?

Whether you own a freestanding, integrated or slimline dishwasher they are all set up in a similar way. Which is a top and bottom basket, there are some variations on where the cutlery rack is situated but apart from that the set up is very similar.

When using the half load function, all of the dishes and utensils are loaded either on the top or bottom rack (depending on the model’s design) and once the half load button has been selected, a diverter valve only allows water to feed one of the two spray arms (ether the top or bottom depending on the model).

So only one area of the dishwasher gets washed and rinsed because the diverter valve stops the flow of water to one of the baskets.

Is It Worth Buying A Dishwasher With The Half Load Function?

loading a dishwasher

Dishwasher manufacturers claim that using the half load feature saves time, water and money. And whilst this is true, the savings aren’t that great.

Experts agree that you only save between 10 to 25% on water and electricity. This works out as only a few pence per wash load and when you consider the fact that you will still need to use the same detergent pod or tablet whether you use the half load function or wash a full load, it’s not really that much of a saving.

Another factor to consider is the cost of replacing the diverter valve if it malfunctions. The average cost of a diverter valve for a dishwasher is around £100 and if you’re using the half load function regularly, it’s likely to need replacing at some point.

How Clean Are Dishes When The Half Load Function Is Used?

In a number of random tests, it has been found that washing dishes using the half load function results in them not being, or not appearing to be as clean as when washed in a full load.

Are They More Likely To Break?

Another consideration is the way the dishes are loaded, during those same tests, it was discovered that there were more breakages of dishes when using the half load function. It was concluded that this was because those dishes were loosely packed which allowed them to bang into each other due to water pressure.

What Is The Most Economical Way To Use A Dishwasher?


If you really want to get the most out of your dishwasher, you’re better off waiting for it to be full before using it. However, as this often means leaving dirty dishes in the dishwasher for a couple of days, there are a few things you should be doing. These include;

  • Having A Large Selection Of Dishes
    If you’re going to leave dirty dishes in the appliance until it is full, you’ll probably need extra dishes to ensure you always have a few clean and ready to use.
  • Regularly Cleaning Your Dishwasher
    Your dishwasher should be cleaned regularly anyway, but it’s even more important if you intend to leave dirty dishes in the racks for days on end. You need to regularly clean the filters and run a cleaning wash every two weeks to ensure the hoses etc are flowing freely.
  • Not Overloading The Baskets
    If the baskets are overloaded or not loaded correctly it will lead to poor cleaning results. This can often mean having to rewash the dishes for a second time.

Have You Considered Eco Mode?

If your aim is saving energy, you’ll be better off selecting the eco mode or energy saving setting on your dishwasher. This function works by washing and rinsing the dishes at lower temperatures.

This uses less energy because the main energy usage is due to heating the water and not operating the sprayers.

Should You Buy A Dishwasher With A Half Load Option?


As we have seen, the half load function won’t save you much money and definitely won’t save as much water or electricity as we are all led to believe. 

Plus in a number of tests, dishes weren’t as clean when washed using the half load function (although this does vary from brand to brand). 

Which leads to the question: is it worth buying a dishwasher with a half load option? We would say that it’s not worth buying a dishwasher just for the half load feature.

However, if the particular model you have your eye on happens to have the half load feature, don’t let it put you off. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to use it. 

There are some dishwashers that have effective half load features. Plus there are some models that work using sensors that automatically adjust water flow etc when a smaller load is detected.

If you’re looking to buy a new dishwasher and you’re considering getting one with a half load feature it’s probably because you don’t use your old model to full capacity. If that is the case, you might do better considering a slimline model which can only take smaller loads.

SEE ALSO: Is It Worth Getting A Dishwasher For Just 1 Person?

Frequently Asked Questions

Does half load dishwasher save water?

Selecting the half load option on your dishwasher will save water. However, that saving is not as great as you might think. In fact you will save between 10-25% of the water used on a regular cycle.

Is it better to run the dishwasher with half load?

Experts advise that running the dishwasher using the half load feature is not better because it uses nearly as much water and energy as running a full load and creates extra wear and tear on the appliance.

Which setting on the dishwasher uses less electricity?

The setting on the dishwasher that uses the least electricity is the eco mode. However, you should always use the correct programme for the level of dirt on your dishes.

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