How To Choose a Dishwasher
The top performers in our review are the GE Cafe CDT835SSJSS, the Gold Award winner; Electrolux IQ-Touch EI24ID50QS, the Silver Award winner; and LG Studio LSDF9962ST, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a machine to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 dishwashers.
While they're not absolute essentials, dishwashers are convenient and they save you valuable time and effort in the kitchen. Instead of washing and drying each item individually, you simply spend a small amount of time loading and unloading, while the dishwasher does the bulk of the work for you. Choosing the right model and keeping it well maintained also ensures that your kitchenware is sanitary. Lastly, studies show that using a dishwasher, contrary to popular belief, actually saves water and energy, providing you opt for an energy-efficient model and use it properly. Lowered water and energy consumption helps to lower your home's carbon footprint and allows you to run a greener home. Even if you're not overly concerned about lessening your environmental impact, choosing an energy-efficient dishwasher is still a good investment, as it helps you save money by reducing the cost of your utility bills because of your low use of water and power.
There's a range of models to choose from, including tabletop, freestanding and integrated, and you also need to decide on which interior you prefer. Other key considerations include the efficiency, load flexibility and user-friendly features. Remember to consider the type and quality of the warranty and customer support. The best dishwashers feature adjustable racks, multiple arms, energy-saving features and multiple cycle options, providing a high degree of versatility and user control.
To cut down on energy use in your kitchen even more, you can complement your dishwasher with energy-efficient induction cooktops, side-by-side refrigerators and washing machines. These appliances allow you to improve the overall efficiency and versatility of your kitchen while reducing your energy consumption. To further save and go even greener, you can select from a range of small smart appliances, including microwaves, slow cookers and coffee makers.
How It All Works
With so many options out there, having a full understanding of the key considerations in our dishwasher reviews enables you to make an informed purchasing decision and get the dishwasher that best suits your needs and lifestyle.
One of the vital considerations is how much water and energy the appliance uses. For consumers who want to save money and do their bit to help save the planet, the best dishwashers are those that are ENERGY STAR qualified. While older models may consume vast amounts of energy and use excessive amounts of water, the best modern models do not. In fact, the study conducted by the Energy Saving Trust shows that, on average, an energy-efficient dishwasher set on an eco-cycle uses only a third of the water you use when washing up in a sink. It also consumes less energy, as you are heating a comparatively small amount of water when running a dishwasher than when you must heat a full tank of water to manually wash up. When making your decision, be sure to look at the estimated yearly running costs too, as this gives you a good idea of how much the machine will cost and save you every year.
Cleaning options have a significant impact on how well-suited a particular dishwasher is to your kitchen. The more cycles to choose from, the greater control you have over your appliance. Models with specific wash zones provide a targeted area for heavily soiled kitchenware with a cycle designed to remove tough debris particles. Some dishwashers have a small-load option or a top-rack-only setting, allowing you to run a shorter cycle that targets the top rack when you need to wash a small load.
Dishwashers that meet National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) standards ensure your pots and pans are hygienically clean, providing you keep the appliance in good working order. An eco-friendly wash cycle provides an economic option that uses less water and less energy, as does a quick cycle, which is suitable for thoroughly cleaning lightly soiled loads. If you have a lot of fine dinnerware, such as bone china, a dishwasher with a delicate cycle is a must. Choosing a model with a steam cycle is a good option for heavily soiled items. The presence of a rinse-only cycle allows you to lightly rinse dishes if you don't plan on running a full cycle immediately.
Drying choices include the use of a heating element, which dries items quickly but consumes more power. An air-dry option allows dishes to dry naturally, which lowers energy consumption. Fan drying works in tandem with heat and air-dry cycles to speed up the drying process and, when used with a heated dry option, shortens the cycles, lowering power usage.
In our dishwasher reviews, load flexibility refers to the ease of use and flexibility of each model. The number of place settings is a key consideration, as it essentially determines how frequently you run your dishwasher, and if you have a large family, a small place setting capacity may not provide enough space to load dinnerware and kitchenware after a single meal. Some full-sized dishwashers hold up to 16 place settings, whereas slim, tabletop or apartment-sized dishwashers can hold as few as four. The majority of dishwashers in our review have two racks, but some have a third rack, primarily for silverware and cutlery, freeing up more space on other racks to help you make the most of the available interior space. Adjustable racks and folding tines make the dishwasher much more flexible and versatile, as you can essentially alter the position of the racks and tines to accommodate large, bulky or odd-shaped items.
Sound Level & Design
The design and dimensions of a dishwasher should have a major influence on your purchasing decision. How much noise it makes during a cycle is particularly important if you want to run it overnight when energy tariffs are typically cheaper. The quietest dishwashers peak at 40 decibels, while the noisiest reach 50. The more spray arms a dishwasher has, the more cleaning potential it has, as more spray arms means better water and detergent coverage. Our top-rated dishwashers have three arms, while other noteworthy models in the lineup have two. All dishwashers have filters. However, choosing one with a self-cleaning model reduces the amount of maintenance the appliance requires.
The type of interior is an important consideration, as it impacts how noisy the appliance is during a cycle, the inner temperature and the strength of the interior. Models with a stainless steel tub are a better choice than plastic, as they can withstand higher temperatures without the risk of warping, and they retain heat better, making them more energy efficient. Additionally, where noise is a factor, stainless steel models are quieter.
Dishwashers have either a recessed handle or a bar-style handle. Bar handles offer easy access, but they stick out, which isn't ideal where space is at a premium. Recessed handles aren't quite as convenient but they don't stick out, making them a better option for small kitchens, and because they don't have a protruding bar, they provide a cleaner, sleeker appearance.
Overall size plays a key role in your purchasing decision. You need to accurately measure the available space, taking into account height, width and depth to ensure you choose a model that fits neatly into the allotted space.
While the color or finish of the dishwasher isn't necessarily a deal-breaker, if you want an appliance that complements the rest of your appliances and the style of your kitchen, it's something that you can consider. Options in our top-rated dishwasher lineup include black, white, slate, and brushed or bright stainless steel.
Warranty & Support
When you make a large purchase like a dishwasher, it's important you understand the warranty and support terms. While new appliances should require very little repair and maintenance, there's always the chance that something will go wrong. While some models have a standard warranty that covers everything, many have different warranties on different elements, including a labor warranty that covers labor costs during its lifetime, a part warranty, a rack and electronics warranty, and a tub and door liner warranty. Whether the warranty is a general one or covers individual parts and components, the longer it lasts, the better.
Good customer support is crucial. If something goes wrong, you will need help troubleshooting or finding product-related advice. This means the manufacturer should be your best resource, even if you bought the dishwasher in a store. While you can contact many manufacturers via phone and email, others also offer a live chat service.
Which Type Is Right for You?
Dishwashers, like all other kitchen appliances, take up valuable space. Full-size, freestanding and built-in dishwasher models are large and bulky, even if you opt for a slim model. However, if your kitchen is particularly small and the under-counter space is at a premium, you can still find a dishwasher that meets your needs. Apartment-sized dishwashers and tabletop dishwashers make a great choice in these circumstances. Obviously, they have considerably less capacity, some with only space for four place settings, but they make a good choice for single people and small families.
A small dishwasher still provides all the benefits of large models, including energy efficiency, lower utility bills and valuable time saving. Full-sized dishwashers have a larger capacity and work well in larger kitchens with enough under-counter space. For homes with a utility room, it's possible to move appliances, such as tumble dryers and washing machines, to make way for a dishwasher in the kitchen.
How to Keep Them Clean
Dishwashers come into contact with a lot of food residue, and not all the particles disappear every time. These machines also collect grease and soap scum, so knowing how to clean a dishwasher is crucial. If you don't stick to a regular cleaning schedule, you'll notice an unpleasant odor in the dishwasher and even on items that have been run through a cycle. Therefore, to prevent a bacteria-laden buildup and a dishwasher odor, you need to clean the appliance regularly. If you don't, eventually the machine will stop performing as effectively and, particularly when washing at low temperatures, your dishes may harbor bacteria after cleaning. Even if your machine has a self-cleaning filter, you still need to clean the machine.
First, disconnect the dishwasher at the wall outlet for safety. Make sure it's empty and remove the bottom rack. Take out the filter and follow the cleaning instructions in the user manual. Use a soft, clean cloth to wipe over the interior, making sure you get right into all the corners and crevices. Check the drain and remove any debris, as buildup can result in a serious blockage and damage the machine. You should also replace the racks and filter. Then, add a cup of white vinegar in a dishwasher-safe container to the top rack and run a complete hot cycle. This process removes odors, bacteria and food particles. To remove stains and lingering odors, sprinkle a cup of baking soda across the bottom of the machine and run a short hot cycle.
Remember to clean the door seal, the handle and the exterior, as debris and bacteria collect here too. Use a soft non-abrasive cloth and warm soapy water. Regular cleaning and maintenance is an effective way of limiting limescale buildup which, if left untreated, damages the dishwasher and decreases performance and efficiency. Keeping your dishwasher topped up with salt helps too, particularly if you choose a product designed to fight limescale.
Dishwashers: How to Correctly Load
Correctly loading a dishwasher is not as easy as simply chucking everything in and switching it on. Instead, to get the best results from your dishwasher, you have to load everything properly. You need to position all the items so that the sprayer arms can effectively spray water and detergent all over. You should make use of the silverware basket, and be sure to position your cutlery with the handles pointing down. Small items, such as cups and glasses, do best on the top rack apart from cutlery and utensils. For best results, everything should be face-down on the racks as this allows the water spray to get right inside without water and debris collecting inside. If you have foldable tines and adjustable racks, you can alter the interior layout to make way for pots and pans of varying sizes.
How to Optimize Efficiency
There are a variety of ways to optimize the efficiency of your dishwasher, which is vital if you want to save money and reduce the carbon footprint of your home. Firstly, you should clean it regularly. Even the best dishwashers suffer from poor performance if you don't keep them clean. You should also keep it free of limescale, as limescale reduces efficiency and performance, and damages the machine.
You should only run your dishwasher when it's full. This limits the number of cycles you run and therefore the amount of water and energy you use. You should also avoid using a half-load setting when possible, as this still uses more than half the water and energy of a full load, so you're better to wait until the dishwasher is full, then use a whole cycle. Unless your dishes are heavily soiled, you should use an eco-friendly setting when possible as it uses less water and runs at a lower temperature, so uses less power. To save money, if you have a cheaper nighttime tariff for your energy, select a model that has a delayed start, and set it to come on during the night.
What Should You Never Put In?
One crucial point is to make sure that anything you put in a dishwasher is actually dishwasher safe. If it isn't, the item can warp, crack or receive other types of damage. It's usually best to avoid putting anything hand-painted inside a dishwasher as, even on a delicate cycle, you run the risk of removing the finish or paintwork. Similarly, you should wash anything with a delicate glaze by hand, unless it explicitly states the item is dishwasher safe.
If you have cast iron pans or skillets, you should wash them by hand as they require care and seasoning and, if scratched or etched, they quickly develop rust. While you can clean knives in the dishwasher, it's important to note that sharp edges dull much faster in a dishwasher than when you clean them by hand.
Crystal should never be placed in the dishwasher. Apart from the risk of etching and clouding if you wash with too much detergent, fine crystal can easily crack at high temperatures. Food particles and high-pressure water spray can cause chips.
You should avoid placing copper pans in a dishwasher. If the detergent and high-pressure spraying arm remove the finish or scratch the copper, it can oxidize, ruining the appearance and changing the color. Gold- and silver-plated items have a similar reaction, and silverware becomes irrevocably tarnished.
To avoid a clogged dishwasher and damage to the machine, never put anything with labels or adhesives inside. An example would be a jar with a label still on it. The labels and adhesive residue form a sticky mass that lodges in the drain or the filter, resulting in a blockage.
What Else Is Important When Choosing a Dishwasher?
There are a few other noteworthy elements to consider when choosing a dishwasher to make sure you get the best possible model to meet your needs. Features that improve the convenience of the appliance and safety precautions should all be taken into account before you finalize your purchase.
Maximizing Efficiency With a Soil Sensor
A soil sensor allows the dishwasher to establish whether the load is clean or whether it needs further washing. These devices can be useful and increase efficiency. A soil sensor uses an infrared signal to establish whether the water is clean or contains particles, and the dishwasher adjusts washing time accordingly. So, if your dishes are still dirty, the machine extends the wash cycle.
The integration of a soil sensor helps prevent the need for re-washing items with a second full cycle. Without one, the dishwasher simply runs through a fixed cycle. However, if you don't clean your dishwasher regularly, the soil sensor may use more energy in the long run, as it will continually sense particle-laden water and run longer cycles.
Choosing a model that features a child lock is a smart option, as it prevents the door being opened or the settings being changed while the dishwasher is running a cycle. Hidden controls act as another safety feature. Models like the GE Profile have the control panel hidden away on the top of the door so it isn't visible or accessible when the dishwasher is closed.
Do You Need a Hard-Food Disposer?
While a hard-food disposal feature isn't essential, it saves time and effort and can increase the efficiency and lifespan of your dishwasher. A model with a hard-food disposer grinds up large, hard particles and flushes them down the drain so you don't have to rinse dishes and remove any hard particles before you load your dishwasher. This feature helps keep your dishwasher cleaner, prevent dishwasher clogs and stop hard particles being left behind or sticking to your dishes.
Delayed start isn't a vital function, but it is useful, particularly if you want to run your dishwasher during the night to save money. Dishwashers with delayed-start functions allow you to choose your cycle and the time you want it to begin. Some models only let you program six hours ahead, while others have a maximum delayed start of 24 hours.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
From our evaluation of different dishwasher models, our top picks are the GE Cafe Series CDT835SSJSS, Electrolux IQ-Touch EI24ID50QS and LG Studio LSDF9962ST. We found these models to be the best dishwashers for energy efficiency, operating costs, flexibility and versatility.
The GE Cafe surpasses the other models when it comes to cleaning options, offering the full range of features we looked for (with the exception of a rinse-only cycle), including targeted wash zones, air-drying and a heated dry option, which is rare. However, all three models performed well in this category, offering NSF certification, multiple cycle choices, eco-friendly settings, variable spray pressure, and delicate cycles.
Our top three each achieved a score of 90 percent or higher for ease of use, thanks to their range of features. However, in this category, the LG Studio received a score of 100 percent because of its long delayed start times, minimal noise output and large capacity.
With so many separate elements to take into consideration, choosing the right dishwasher requires careful thought and research. To find out more about all the products in our lineup and to make your decision easy, be sure to read the full reviews. We also offer other articles for even more information.