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Dishwashers

Dishwasher buying guide

Last updated: May 2013

Getting started

Tougher new rules have slashed the energy and water dishwashers can use to get the government's Energy Star seal. But our latest tests show that you don't have to live with dirty dishes or endure even longer cycles. Better yet, some of the biggest energy misers are also easy on your wallet. Dishwashers built since January 2012 must use about 9 percent less electricity and 27 percent less water to meet the federal EPA's voluntary Energy Star standard. Our top picks qualify for that coveted seal.

Energy Star standards for dishwashers could add a wash-performance component as soon as January 2014. The Department of Energy, which sets the underlying standards, bases them on lightly soiled loads. Consumer Reports has urged them to use much dirtier loads, as we do in our tests.

We slathered plates with egg yolks, peanut butter, raspberry jam, and other stubborn goo to see which diswashers made our clean-plate club. Our results show that it's easy to pay a tidy sum for so-so performance. You can also pay less and get more noise than you expected. Here's what else to consider:

Look for convenience

Dishwashers that scored well for ease of use usually include adjustable racks and lots of flatware slots. Many also have fold-down tines, which let you fit large or odd-shaped dishes and other dinnerware. Stainless-steel tubs resist stains better than white plastic tubs.

Match your cleaning habits

Our picks clean well enough for you to skip prerinsing. If you do prerinse, skip extra-cost power-scrubbing modes. And sidestep noisy self-cleaning filters. More models now have manual-clean filters.

Check the controls

Some models include interactive touch controls, but the usual touchpads are fine if they're clearly marked. Also look for cycle-time and other visible displays if you opt for controls that are hidden when the door is closed.

Types

Aside from performance in our tests, key dishwasher differences include types, costs, and features. Here are the types of dishwashers to consider.

Budget-priced conventional dishwashers

These are a smart buy if you care more about performance than glitz, and are willing to give up a few convenience features.

Pros:

As a group, these roughly $500 models clean dishes as well as premium-priced models. Some include adjustable racks and self-cleaning filters.

Cons:

They tend to be noisier than the upscale models. Fewer flexible-loading features also make loading and accommodating tall items tougher.

Premium-priced conventional dishwashers

Pros:

These roughly $800-plus models tend to be quieter and have ample flatware slots, folding tines, and other flexible-loading features. Hidden controls and a cycle-time display add style and convenience. Many have a stainless-steel tub, which tends to resist stains better than plastic tubs.

Cons:

They're typically no better than the best low-priced models at cleaning dishes.

Dishwasher-drawer models


Pros:

These typically include two small, stacked drawers you can use simultaneously or individually. Pull-out drawers also ease loading compared with a typical fold-down door.

Cons:

They're typically expensive. Relatively small capacities also limit how much you can wash and contribute to lower efficiency as a group.

Features


Generally, the more you spend, the more features you can expect. But some aren't worth the extra expense. Here are the dishwasher features to consider.

Adjustable racks and loading aids


Racks that adjust up and down, adjustable tines, and silverware and stemware holders let you reconfigure the interior and organize the contents. Those devices increase flexibility, especially when you cook for a crowd, and they can help accommodate large and oddly shaped items.

Soil sensor

This adjusts the cycles time and water use to the load's soil level, improving efficiency.

Rinse/hold cycle

It lets you rinse dirty dishes before you're ready to start a full cycle. This cycle can reduce odors and prevents soil from setting while you accumulate enough dirty dishes for a full load.

Filters


These keep wash water free of food that could be redeposited on clean dishes. There are two types: self-cleaning and manual. With self-cleaning filters, a grinder pulverizes the debris and flushes it down the drain. That's convenient but noisy. Some models instead have a filter without a grinder. It's quieter, but it needs periodic cleaning, a job that takes a few minutes.

Special wash cycles

Most dishwashers come with at least three cycles: light, normal, and heavy (pots and pans). Some offer pot-scrubber, soak/scrub, steam clean, china/crystal, or sanitizing cycles as well. The three basic cycles should be enough for most chores--even for baked-on food. A sanitizing option that raises water temperature above the typical 140 degrees F doesn't necessarily deliver better cleaning.

Stainless-steel tub


Typically starting at mid-priced models, steel tends to resist staining better than light-colored plastic. Gray-speckled plastic tubs also resist stains and trim the overall cost. Any plastic tub should last longer than most people keep a dishwasher.

Hidden touchpad controls


Controls mounted along the top edge of the door are strictly a styling touch. They're hidden when the door is closed. You typically can't see cycle progress at a glance, however. (Partially hidden controls are a good compromise. They show that the machine is running and often display remaining cycle time.)

Brands

Bosch arrow  |  Fisher & Paykel arrow  |  Frigidaire arrow  |  GE arrow  |  Kenmore arrow  |  KitchenAid arrow  |  Maytag arrow  |  Miele arrow  |  Whirlpool arrow

There are dozens of makes and models of dishwashers from many brands. Use this review to compare dishwashers by brand and learn more about some of the leading manufacturers.

Bosch

This highly rated European brand is positioned as the maker of the quietest, most energy-efficient models with features that leave dishes sparkling. The machines are known for their quiet operation and washing ability. The company is introducing a stainless-steel tub that has a nonstainless tub base (gray). Bosch dishwashers also have a manual filter, unlike most of the other brands sold in this country.

Fisher & Paykel

This maker is known for having introduced the dishwasher drawer to the U.S. market.

Frigidaire

This brand is sold mostly at big-box stores, Independent appliance stores, and other national retailers for $300 to $800; the company also makes the Frigidaire Gallery and Frigidaire Professional lines. Frigidaire is known for its least expensive models. It introduced a gray-colored speckled stainproof tub and the Sahara Dry technology on it's models. Frigidaire is owned by Electrolux.

GE

This company, which touts its innovations and features, is the second-biggest dishwasher brand and has four lines: GE, Profile, Café, and Monogram. Prices range from about $250 for a basic GE model to $1,400 for a Monogram product. In 2006, GE introduced the Smart Dispense feature, which automatically dispenses detergent in the right amount for the load and is found on its high-end Profile, Café, and Monogram models. The Café line offers professional-style models at lower prices than the Monogram series.

Kenmore

Kenmore, the largest dishwasher brand in this country, is known for its reliability and dependability and has three lines: Kenmore, Kenmore Elite, and Kenmore Pro. Prices range from approximately $250 for a basic Kenmore model to $1,600 for the double-drawer dishwasher in stainless steel ($1,400 in white). Major features such as the TurboZone power-scrubbing mode tend to be shared among the higher-priced Kenmore models ($650 and up) and the Elite models. Kenmore recently introduced steam cleaning, hidden-control models as well as top-rack-only wash on some Elite models.

KitchenAid

This high-end brand positions itself as maker of heavily featured appliances geared toward the kitchen enthusiasts and sold through independent dealers. The brand includes a model with steam cleaning and will launch a new dishwasher drawer model this year. The line now includes fully integrated displays with function indicator on the front. KitchenAid is known for quiet operation and high cleaning performance.

Maytag

A Whirlpool-owned brand, Maytag introduced a steam model in 2008 and will introduce a dishwasher-drawer model later this year. The company positions its products as durable, but its dishwashers have been relatively repair prone, according to our Annual Product Reliability Survey. Prices range from $300 to $900.

Miele

This European brand, like Asko, makes dishwashers that generally excel in energy efficiency but come at a premium cost.

Whirlpool

Whirlpool, the third-biggest dishwasher brand in the U.S., is known for reliability and reasonably priced models. It has two lines: Whirlpool and Whirlpool Gold. Overall, Whirlpool is known for less-expensive models—prices range from about $250 to $850. The company’s PowerScour zone appears on models starting at about $550.

   

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