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10 Things to Know About Dishwashers

Learn more about the dishwasher -- one of the hardest-working appliances in the kitchen.

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1. Get on the bandwagon. In the United States, 93 percent of newly built family homes include a dishwasher. The recent boom in new housing has helped push overall ownership of dishwashers to 60 percent -- up from 53 percent in 1990.

2. Double duty. Dishwashers ideally share plumbing with a sink. If one dishwasher doesn't hold all your dishes, locate another near an island sink. Or choose a model with an adjustable third rack for flat items such as broiler pans and cookie sheets.

3. Tough stuff. Dishwashers are designed to do what you don't want to do: clean up even the toughest baked-on food. Many models can boost water temperature for better cleaning, and some models position wash arms and water jets strategically to target the dreaded casserole dishes or oatmeal bowls.

4. Hidden helper. If you want your dishwasher to blend with your kitchen cabinetry, customize it with cabinetry panels to match. You can do the same with the refrigerator -- the big guy in the kitchen.

5. Can you hear me now? Dishwashers have gotten much quieter, a boon for homeowners with kitchens open to other rooms. Every manufacturer's line contains models that are quiet, quieter, and quietest.

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6. Here, there, anywhere. Even if you have a small kitchen, there's a dishwasher for you. Slim models take up less undercounter space, as do dishwasher drawers. Or, you can opt for even smaller dishwashers that fit in the sink or on the countertop.

7. Green machines. Now is a good time to replace your dishwasher: Energy efficiency has nearly doubled since 1994. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates you'll recoup your investment on a midprice dishwasher in three years.

8. Yes and no. Things you can wash in your dishwasher: baby toys and pacifiers, plastic cutting boards, baseball caps, golf balls, vases, dish scrubbers and scratch pads, dish drainers, sink and bath mats, combs, toothbrushes, sponges, light fixtures, cans, and bottles. Things you shouldn't wash in your dishwasher: cast-iron pans, antique or hand-painted china, gold-plated flatware, milk glass, plastics not labeled dishwasher-safe, antique or lightweight crystal, pewter, hollow-handle knives, furnace filters, wooden items, tin.

9. Get a raise. When redesigning your kitchen, go easy on your back. Raising the dishwasher 14 inches off the floor makes loading and unloading much easier -- and gives you a countertop that's a perfect height for the microwave oven. Some manufacturers offer dishwasher pedestals.

10. All the bells and whistles. Think you don't need adjustable racks and tines, cutlery trays, half-washes, or water softeners? Maybe not. But for a little more money, they make the job a little more convenient. Isn't that what a dishwasher is all about?

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