Dishwasher Buying Guide: how to buy a dishwasher that fits your needs
Read the following dishwasher buying guide to learn how to find the best dishwasher for your home.
With every good meal comes the inevitable cleanup. Luckily, appliance manufacturers design top-notch dishwashers to take the chore out of cleaning pots and pans.
If your dishwasher is in need of replacement, rest easy knowing that new dishwashers clean better and run quieter than those of the past. Ready to buy a new dishwasher? Roll up your sleeves and dive into our buying guide to determine the right dishwasher for your lifestyle.
How To Measure for a New Dishwasher
Take the following measurements when determining the size of dishwasher you need:
- Height of space under the counter
- Depth of space
- Width of space between cabinets
- Distance to nearest obstacle (to ensure space for opening the dishwasher fully and loading/unloading dishes)
- Space under counter to floor
In general, dishwashers come in two width options: standard (24 inches) and compact (18 inches). Compact machines fit up to eight place settings and six serving pieces, whereas standard dishwashers clean 10 to 12 place settings and six serving pieces.
Dishwasher drawers can be purchased as single drawers, and installed individually or side-by-side. Single drawers can be particularly useful for kitchens with limited space or in those that require handicap accessibility. Double dishwasher drawers can usually be installed into a standard 24-inch dishwasher opening without any plumbing, electrical or cabinet modifications. This configuration can be especially useful when a traditional dishwasher door interferes with a walkway or extends into a kitchen island when open.
When a consumer wants a dishwasher but does not have the facilities for a built-in model, some manufacturers offer portable dishwasher models. Portable dishwashers plug into a standard 110-volt electric outlet and include a built-in fill hose connection that adapts to most kitchen faucets.
Dishwasher prices range from under $300 for a basic model to roughly $1,300 for a model with all of the latest features, including a built-in water softener. Expect to pay more for dishwasher drawers or dishwashers with custom panels to make them blend in with the existing cabinetry.
Dishwasher Finish Options & Styles
Dishwasher Exterior Finishes
The most popular exterior finishes for dishwashers are black, white, stainless steel and black stainless steel. However, some manufacturers create more unique finish options. To learn more about finish options and choose the right one for your dishwasher, check out our Appliance Finishes Guide.
Dishwasher Interior Finishes
Most high-end dishwashers feature a stainless steel tub (interior), while many of the basic models feature a plastic tub. Stainless steel is less porous than plastic, and therefore less likely to absorb odors or stains. A stainless steel tub also helps dishes dry faster since it retains heat longer.
Many dishwashers feature electronic control panels on the front of the dishwasher door. However, an increasing number of dishwashers now offer hidden controls for a more seamless appearance. These controls are located on the top edge of the door, so you can’t see them when the door is closed. Some hidden control dishwashers offer small indicator lights on the front of the door to display how much time is remaining in a cycle. Other models shine small infrared beams on the floor or chime when the cycle is fully completed.
Dishwashers come with myriad handle options. While recessed and pocket handles offer convenience when it comes to cleaning, some consumers like bar handles, so they can hang a towel onto the dishwasher. Some panel-ready dishwashers come without a handle and include the option of push or knock to open. It ultimately comes down to the aesthetic and functionality you need in your kitchen. Take a look at the available handle options and talk to your salesperson about which is right for you.
How Dishwashers Work
The most common dishwasher cleaning configuration includes three separate spray arms, located at the bottom, middle and top of the machine. Some entry level models only have one or two spray arms.
Most dishwashers need a mechanism to dispose of any food that passes through the system. A few basic models feature soft-food disposers to eliminate small particles, but the majority of dishwashers utilize a hard food disposer. Typically, this disposer system features a blade that spins at several thousand RPM, pulverizing any food particles into easily disposable particulates. These particulates are then flushed out by a burst of hot, soapy water to prevent them from being re-deposited onto the dishes.
European-style models, such as Bosch, Miele and Electrolux, employ a slightly different approach to cleaning. These models use high wash temperatures (30-40 degrees more than comparable models) and increased water pressure. The increased water temperature and pressure offers a more effective wash cycle, able to cut through even the toughest baked-on grease. Due to the added heat and pressure of the European wash cycle, a hard food disposer is not required as food waste is emulsified into small particulates and washed away at the end of the cycle.
Most dishwashers include a few standard wash cycles: normal, heavy and rinse & hold. Normal is the default cycle for everyday dish-washing needs. Heavy offers a longer wash time with higher temperatures – ideal for removing hard-soiled pans. Rinse & Hold is simply a short rinse designed for dirty dishes that will likely sit in the dishwasher a while prior to the wash cycle.
Aside from the standard wash options, models offer several specialty cycles to enhance the performance and energy efficiency of the dishwasher, including the following:
- Quick Wash: Handles lightly-soiled dishes at lower temperatures conserving time, water and electricity.
- Half Load: Uses a fraction of the water and energy resources to efficiently clean a small load.
- Auto Wash: Utilizes either a turbidity or pressure sensor to determine how dirty the wash water is throughout the wash cycle, then automatically shortens or lengthens the wash time accordingly for maximum cleaning results.
- China/Crystal Care: Lowers water pressure and uses cooler temperatures for delicate cycles.
- Sanitize Rinse: Based on NSF certification, the water reaches 160 degrees or higher for several minutes, providing a truly sanitizing environment for the dishes.
- Steam Clean: Incorporates steam into the cycle for more cleaning power. Steam cycles can also be used for fragile loads.
What Is dBA?
Depending on your home’s floor plan, you may be concerned with the noise level of your dishwasher. Dishwasher manufacturers use A-weighted decibels (dBA) ratings to measure how quiet (or not) a dishwasher is. DBA is an expression of the loudness of sounds as perceived by the human ear.
Dishwasher dBA ratings range from approximately 37 to 64. Here is a decibel scale for common sounds to help you interpret the noise level of a dishwasher.
As technology changes, appliance manufacturers continue to find ways to streamline the cleaning and drying processes within dishwashers. The following features are just some examples of what today’s dishwashers can do.
With a smart dishwasher, you can monitor cycles, use remote smart or even set notifications for when you need to buy or fill detergent and rinse aid. Many dishwasher manufacturers have phone apps, which connect to the appliance.
Anti-Leak Safety Feature
An important feature to look for when shopping for a new dishwasher is a safety drip pan. In case of an internal leak, water will be contained within the pan, shielding hardwood floors from damage. Many models feature sensors within the safety pan that, when activated, shut down the wash cycle of the dishwasher to prevent further damage.
Internal Water Softener
An internal water softener reduces fogging and etching to glassware. It also makes dish soap substantially more potent, resulting in better cleaning results.
Automatic Detergent Dispenser
Load and go! Some dishwashers allow you to fill a reservoir with detergent, which is dispensed automatically depending on load size. Never guess how much detergent is needed again!
Many models include a heating element for drying, while others use a fan-assisted dry or simply air dry. Bosch dishwashers use a new solution to ensure perfectly dry dishes – a mineral called zeolite, which naturally absorbs moisture and emits heat.
The majority of dishwasher racks are now constructed of metal and coated with nylon. The nylon-coated design is most durable against chipping, scratching and peeling. In some upgraded models, an extra coat of nylon is applied to the rack tine tips to minimize wear and tear. Vinyl-coated racks, though commonly used in the past, are now found only in the most basic of dishwasher models
Consider the types of dishes you use most. Do you need tines that fold down to fit pots and pans? Or bottle jets? Dishwashers come with adjustable rack configurations, and many manufacturers now include third racks in their dishwashers, which are great for silverware, cooking utensils, measuring spoons and other small items that don’t quite fit in the regular racks.
When dishwasher shopping, talk to your appliance specialist to figure out what dishwasher features are right for your household.
We hope you have found this dishwasher buying guide to be useful and informative, and we appreciate the time you took to read through it. If you have questions that were not answered by this guide, please feel free to contact us.