The best dishwasher
With so many dishwashers on the market, how do you choose the right one? If you're replacing an old clunker, it's likely you're looking for a quieter model. While you'll find plenty that are just that, many of today's Energy Star-rated models are actually slower than dishwashers made years ago -- but they will save you money in the long run.
Our shopping guide gives you insight into why modern dishwashers behave the way they do, and we give you tips on choosing the best model for your needs and space. Our top pick, the Frigidaire 18-Inch Built-In is one of the most hardworking, reliable slim dishwashers that's on the quieter side and fits anywhere.
Considerations when choosing dishwashers
Size and capacity
There are dishwashers that fit into virtually any size kitchen, even kitchenettes. Choose from a countertop model that hooks onto your sink faucet, a slim portable model on wheels, or the built-in look of a compact 18-inch wide or standard 24-inch wide model. Capacity is key and it's based on how many place settings fit into a dishwasher. For example, a countertop model can hold about six place settings. A standard 24-inch model can hold between 12 and 16 place settings.
The door of your dishwasher is used daily, so you should carefully consider the finish. Most dishwashers match the rest of the kitchen suite, so if you have a stainless steel refrigerator, range, and microwave, it's best to opt for a matching finish. You can find stainless steel, white, slate, matte black, black stainless, and newer shades of copper. You can find many of the same finishes for countertop models as well.
If you have a full dishwasher but your household is busy taking showers, simply hit the delay start button and your dishwasher will start two or four hours later when it's safe to use water. This is a great way to make sure you don't come home to a smelly kitchen and dishwasher full of dishes with old caked-on food.
The configuration and adjustability of racks can make your dishwasher function better. Some silverware baskets can be moved out of the way. While most dishwashers have two racks, some higher-end models may add a third rack at the top where you can place small or flat items or serving implements, so they don't get lost in the wash.
Countertop dishwashers can be found in the $230 to $337 range. Compact portable dishwashers -- which is a small category -- have models in the $450 to $483 price range. Built-in 18- or 24-inch dishwashers range from $500 to $800. More expensive models with higher capacity, a low decibel level, and luxury features run from $1,000 to $1,800.
Q. What's a dishwasher decibel rating?
A. When you're shopping for a new dishwasher, consider the noise or decibel (dB) level of the appliance. Dishwashers have a reputation for being one of the noisiest appliances in the house, running an average of about 75 to 80 dB. Manufacturers have worked over the years to successfully reduce the noise of dishwashers. You can find dishwashers with lower dBA (which stands for A-weighted decibels) ratings that range between 38 and 57 dBA. Though it can be complicated, the lower the dB or dBA, the quieter the dishwasher.
Q. Why does my dishwasher's wash cycle run so long?
A. Newer dishwashers actually have longer wash cycles than older machines. Some cycles can run longer than two hours versus the hour-long cycle of older machines. There's nothing wrong with your dishwasher. If it's an Energy Star-rated appliance, it has to use less water and energy, which it does through longer cycles. Though it sounds counterintuitive, the longer the cycle, the less water and energy the dishwasher is using.
Dishwashers we recommend
Best of the best: Frigidaire 18-Inch Built-In
Our take: A slim, 18-inch wide dishwasher that's also spacious inside.
What we like: Two spray arms clean better than one, easy-to-use digital controls, and it's so quiet that users report having to get up close to see if it's actually on.
What we dislike: A little pricey for a small dishwasher.
Best bang for your buck: Whirlpool Top Control 24-Inch Tall Tub Built-In
Our take: One of Whirlpool's finest at a decent price with top performing cleaning and drying, plus it's quiet at 47 dBA.
What we like: This well-priced dishwasher is feature-rich with an adjustable basket that moves to the door to allow for more items, a better sliding soap door, stainless steel interior for easy cleanup, and easy-touch controls.
What we dislike: Drain hose is in an awkward spot.
Choice 3: SPT Energy Star Portable 18-Inch
Our take: An ideal freestanding appliance for cramped kitchens thanks to its ability to hold a day's worth of dishes.
What we like: Quiet, easy-to-clean stainless steel interior, simple faucet connector for quick start, and six wash programs for customization.
What we dislike: Rinsing activity may be weak.
Marilyn Zelinsky-Syarto is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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