The point of a dishwasher has always been to clean dishes, pots, pans, and glasses, but today's models are doing that job more quietly, efficiently, and elegantly. All of that innovation can make shopping for a new dishwasher an overwhelming experience. To help you make sense of the dizzying array of features and options, here's our guide to the latest and greatest technologies.
Sleek designs: Dishwashers that look like drawers are becoming increasingly popular. They not only look cool, but their smaller loads are also more environmentally friendly. Another popular option is hiding a full-capacity dishwasher with a custom front panel that matches the surrounding cabinetry. Manufacturers are finally beginning to go beyond basic black, white, and stainless steel to offer machines in fun colors like blue or red.
Spotlight: The Miele Knock2Open flush-mount dishwasher doesn't have a handle; you open it by knocking on the front panel. It's only available in Europe for now, but the technology is likely to make its way stateside soon.
Roomy interiors: Design improvements now allow dishwashers to hold more without getting any bigger. Adjustable racks, fold-down or removable tines, stemware holders, and third-level racks let you configure the interior for specific items. Cutlery baskets and racks help keep silverware from nesting, allowing better cleaning and preventing damage.
Spotlight: GE now offers a bottle-washing feature in some of its dishwashers. Place a water or baby bottle on one of the spray jets on the upper racks for a complete clean.
Special cycles: In addition to the three basic wash cycles (light, normal, and heavy), many new machines have 10 or more precise settings. These programs handle every need, including pots and pans and delicate dishes. New soil sensors automatically check food soil levels and adjust water use and cycle length accordingly. Most new machines also eliminate the need to prerinse, thanks to multiple arms, built-in heaters, and targeted sprays that thoroughly clean even hard-to-reach places.
Spotlight: Electrolux's new IQ-Touch dishwashers offer a fast-wash cycle that promises a thorough clean and dry in just 30 minutes.
Energy savings: Perhaps the most progress has been made environmentally. Most manufacturers sell several models that meet or exceed Energy Star guidelines, which will save on both electricity and water costs. Air-dry cycles also reduce energy usage because they don't require hot water. Finally, while it's most economical to run a machine when it's full, a half-load setting is a good feature for when the dishwasher isn't filled to capacity.
Spotlight: KitchenAid's AquaSense Recycling System uses water from the last rinse cycle to prerinse the next one. The system uses 33 percent less water than traditional machines.
Other features: The innovation in dishwasher technology doesn't stop with the features already mentioned. For an extra cost, for example, you can get a machine with a stainless-steel interior that won't discolor or hold odors the way plastic ones can. Also, reduce water and mechanical noise by choosing a dishwasher with extra insulation, cushioned tubs, and a quiet motor. New antioverflow and antileak options automatically cut water supply if the machine malfunctions. Delay-start functions allow certain models to be programmed to run as much as a day in advance. There are even machines that can diagnose service issues and use Wi-Fi to schedule repairs.
Spotlight: Whirlpool's 6th Sense Live technology connects to your home's Wi-Fi to determine when electricity consumption is cheapest in your area and then automatically run the dishwasher at the least expensive time.