Selecting a Dishwasher

What you need to know about purchasing a dishwasher for your kitchen.


+ enlarge image Fisher and Paykel dishwasher drawers.

Dishwashers offer a convenient way to clean dishes, pots, and utensils. Though they may be especially useful for large households, dishwashers can as easily help clean up after parties and family meals.

Dishwashers are classified as compact or standard. Although compact models use less energy, they also hold fewer dishes.

If you must run the dishwasher frequently because of the number of dishes you use, look for a dishwasher with different cycle selections. For dishes that aren't too heavily soiled, select energy-saving or light-wash cycles. These save energy by using less water and operating for a shorter time.

Here are more basic features to consider:

- Consider drying and air-drying options. The first method draws electricity; the latter method relies on evaporation.

- Size and type: If you replace a dishwasher, you may choose the same size and type; measure your space before you shop. For a new installation, measure the space available in your kitchen and take the dimensions with you to the dealer. Choose between built-in and portable, full-size, or compact models.

- Drawers: Dishwasher drawers are a high-end option offering increased flexibility. Use one drawer for small loads or set each drawer to accommodate different cycles for dinnerware vs. pots and pans.

- Noise level: If family activities and conversations take place in or near the kitchen, a noisy dishwasher is irritating. You may be able to reduce sound by adding or improving insulation around the washing tub, door, toe panel, and access panels. Or simply choose a model with an extra-quiet motor and vibration-absorbing materials.

- Energy: If you always choose the highest wash cycle, you'll use more hot water and energy. Consider cycles that use less energy and water when dishes are less soiled. A delayed-start control lets you wash during less costly off-peak hours. Read the Energy Guide label for operating costs.

Web Sites

  • Visit these Web sites to learn more about dishwashers:

www.askousa.com/

www.boschappliances.com/

www.kenmore.com/

www.kitchenaid.com/

www.maytag.com/

www.thermador.com/

www.whirlpool.com/

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  • Controls: Angled control panels, large digital displays, wide push buttons, soft-touch electronic controls, and top-mount controls are things to consider before you select a dishwasher.
  • Racks: Dish and glass racks are usually nylon- or vinyl-coated wires. (However, at least one manufacturer offers a model with stainless-steel racks.) The tops of tines wear first; check those areas. Adjustable-height racks add flexibility when you need to load large items or serving pieces. If you entertain frequently, consider models that hold more place settings than the standard 10. Also compare baskets, hooks, and special trays to hold knives, cooking utensils, and small, lightweight plastic items.
  • TIP: Take a few of your dishes and glasses with you to see how they fit. Ceramic dishes are thicker than porcelain or fine china. Also stemware and tumblers have different heights.
  • Performance comparisons: When you shop, compare the number and types of wash cycles among models and brands. High-performance dishwashers have two or three spray arms that soak dishes with water from several levels and angles. In the spray arms, smaller holes emit a more forceful spray. A central wash tower may improve washing performance, but you may lose rack space.
  • Drains and filters: A twin-pump system drains dirty water faster than a standard single pump. Wash water filters and internal food disposals are common on many models and can eliminate the need to rinse dishes. Some models include a booster that heats rinse water to help sanitize dishes without elevating the water heater temperature.
  • Exterior: If you want your dishwasher to "disappear," look for a built-in model with the option of adding trim panels to match your cabinets. Some manufacturers have moved controls from the front to the top of the door to further disguise the appliance. Higher-end models are available in the restaurant-style look.
  • Height: To minimize bending you may want to elevate the dishwasher 12 to 18 inches, however this will cut down on useable counter space.
  • Sensors: Look at models with sensors to measure the soil content of the water and adjust wash cycles to fit. Check that detergent and rinse additive dispensers are conveniently located and easy to use.
  • Double Up: If you entertain frequently or have a very large family, consider installing two dishwashers to increase convenience and load capacity.
  • Longevity: Dishwasher tubs are made from plastic, porcelain-enameled metal, or stainless steel. Plastic resists chipping and rusting better than enameled metal, but it can discolor. Stainless steel stands up to abuse, so it looks new for a longer time. Its natural sheeting action saves drying time.
  • Do your homework. Browse Web sites and magazines that compare current models and features. Consumer Reports is an excellent source for unbiased information and recommendations. Visit: www.consumerreports.org/

Selecting a Kitchen Sink

Get more ideas from Kitchen Makeovers magazine

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