Dishwasher Buying Guide

With every good meal comes the inevitable cleanup. Luckily, appliance manufacturers design top-notch dishwashers to take the chore out of cleaning pots and pans. Now, let’s dive into our dishwasher buying guide!

If your dishwasher is in need of replacement, rest easy knowing that new dishwashers clean better and run quieter than those of the past. Ready to buy a new dishwasher? Roll up your sleeves and dive into our buying guide to determine the right dishwasher for your lifestyle.

In this dishwasher buying guide we will go over:

  • How to measure for a new refrigerator.
  • Pricing
  • Dishwasher Finishes & Options
  • How Dishwashers Work
  • Dishwasher Cycles
  • What is a dBA?
  • Features within a Dishwasher

How To Measure for a New Dishwasher

Take the following measurements when determining the size of dishwasher you need:

  • Height of space under the counter
  • Depth of space
  • Width of space between cabinets
  • Distance to nearest obstacle (to ensure space for opening the dishwasher fully and loading/unloading dishes)
  • Space under counter to floor

In general, dishwashers come in two width options: standard (24 inches) and compact (18 inches). Compact machines fit up to eight place settings and six serving pieces, whereas standard dishwashers clean 10 to 12 place settings and six serving pieces. 

Dishwasher drawers can be purchased as single drawers, and installed individually or side-by-side. Single drawers can be particularly useful for kitchens with limited space or in those that require handicap accessibility. Double dishwasher drawers can usually be installed into a standard 24-inch dishwasher opening without any plumbing, electrical or cabinet modifications. This configuration can be especially useful when a traditional dishwasher door interferes with a walkway or extends into a kitchen island when open. 

When a consumer wants a dishwasher but does not have the facilities for a built-in model, some manufacturers offer portable dishwasher models. Portable dishwashers plug into a standard 110-volt electric outlet and include a built-in fill hose connection that adapts to most kitchen faucets.

Dishwasher Price

Dishwasher prices range from under $550 for a basic model to roughly $1,700 for a model with all of the latest features, including a built-in water softener. Expect to pay more for dishwasher drawers or dishwashers with custom panels to make them blend in with the existing cabinetry.

Dishwasher Finish Options & Styles

Dishwasher Exterior Finishes

The most popular exterior finishes for dishwashers are black, white, stainless steel and black stainless steel. However, some manufacturers create more unique finish options. To learn more about finish options and choose the right one for your dishwasher, check out our Appliance Finishes Guide.

Dishwasher Interior Finishes

Most high-end dishwashers feature a stainless steel tub (interior), while many of the basic models feature a plastic tub. Stainless steel is less porous than plastic, and therefore less likely to absorb odors or stains. A stainless steel tub also helps dishes dry faster since it retains heat longer.

Control Panels

Many dishwashers feature electronic control panels on the front of the dishwasher door. However, an increasing number of dishwashers now offer hidden controls for a more seamless appearance. These controls are located on the top edge of the door, so you can’t see them when the door is closed. Some hidden control dishwashers offer small indicator lights on the front of the door to display how much time is remaining in a cycle. Other models shine small infrared beams on the floor or chime when the cycle is fully completed.

Handle Options

Dishwashers come with myriad handle options. While recessed and pocket handles offer convenience when it comes to cleaning, some consumers like bar handles, so they can hang a towel onto the dishwasher. Some panel-ready dishwashers come without a handle and include the option of push or knock to open. It ultimately comes down to the aesthetic and functionality you need in your kitchen. Take a look at the available handle options and talk to your salesperson about which is right for you.

How Dishwashers Work

The most common dishwasher cleaning configuration includes three separate spray arms, located at the bottom, middle and top of the machine. Some entry level models only have one or two spray arms.

Most dishwashers need a mechanism to dispose of any food that passes through the system. A few basic models feature soft-food disposers to eliminate small particles, but the majority of dishwashers utilize a hard food disposer. Typically, this disposer system features a blade that spins at several thousand RPM, pulverizing any food particles into easily disposable particulates. These particulates are then flushed out by a burst of hot, soapy water to prevent them from being re-deposited onto the dishes.

European-style models, such as BoschMiele and Electrolux, employ a slightly different approach to cleaning. These models use high wash temperatures (30-40 degrees more than comparable models) and increased water pressure. The increased water temperature and pressure offers a more effective wash cycle, able to cut through even the toughest baked-on grease. Due to the added heat and pressure of the European wash cycle, a hard food disposer is not required as food waste is emulsified into small particulates and washed away at the end of the cycle.

Dishwasher Cycles

Most dishwashers include a few standard wash cycles: normal, heavy and rinse & hold. Normal is the default cycle for everyday dish-washing needs. Heavy offers a longer wash time with higher temperatures – ideal for removing hard-soiled pans. Rinse & Hold is simply a short rinse designed for dirty dishes that will likely sit in the dishwasher a while prior to the wash cycle. 

Aside from the standard wash options, models offer several specialty cycles to enhance the performance and energy efficiency of the dishwasher, including the following:

Quick Wash: Handles lightly-soiled dishes at lower temperatures conserving time, water and electricity.

Half Load: Uses a fraction of the water and energy resources to efficiently clean a small load.

Auto Wash: Utilizes either a turbidity or pressure sensor to determine how dirty the wash water is throughout the wash cycle, then automatically shortens or lengthens the wash time accordingly for maximum cleaning results.

China/Crystal Care: Lowers water pressure and uses cooler temperatures for delicate cycles.

Sanitize Rinse: Based on NSF certification, the water reaches 160 degrees or higher for several minutes, providing a truly sanitizing environment for the dishes.

Steam Clean: Incorporates steam into the cycle for more cleaning power. Steam cycles can also be used for fragile loads.

What is dBA?

Depending on your home’s floor plan, you may be concerned with the noise level of your dishwasher. Dishwasher manufacturers use A-weighted decibels (dBA) ratings to measure how quiet (or not) a dishwasher is. DBA is an expression of the loudness of sounds as perceived by the human ear.

Dishwasher dBA ratings range from approximately 37 to 64. Here is a decibel scale for common sounds to help you interpret the noise level of a dishwasher.

Dishwasher Features

As technology changes, appliance manufacturers continue to find ways to streamline the cleaning and drying processes within dishwashers. The following features are just some examples of what today’s dishwashers can do. 

Smart Dishwashers

With a smart dishwasher, you can monitor cycles, use remote smart or even set notifications for when you need to buy or fill detergent and rinse aid. Many dishwasher manufacturers have phone apps, which connect to the appliance.

Anti-Leak Safety Feature

An important feature to look for when shopping for a new dishwasher is a safety drip pan. In case of an internal leak, water will be contained within the pan, shielding hardwood floors from damage. Many models feature sensors within the safety pan that, when activated, shut down the wash cycle of the dishwasher to prevent further damage.

Internal Water Softener

An internal water softener reduces fogging and etching to glassware. It also makes dish soap substantially more potent, resulting in better cleaning results. 

Automatic Detergent Dispenser

Load and go! Some dishwashers allow you to fill a reservoir with detergent, which is dispensed automatically depending on load size. Never guess how much detergent is needed again!

Drying

Many models include a heating element for drying, while others use a fan-assisted dry or simply air dry. Bosch dishwashers use a new solution to ensure perfectly dry dishes – a mineral called zeolite, which naturally absorbs moisture and emits heat. 

Dishwasher Racks

The majority of dishwasher racks are now constructed of metal and coated with nylon. The nylon-coated design is most durable against chipping, scratching and peeling. In some upgraded models, an extra coat of nylon is applied to the rack tine tips to minimize wear and tear. Vinyl-coated racks, though commonly used in the past, are now found only in the most basic of dishwasher models

Consider the types of dishes you use most. Do you need tines that fold down to fit pots and pans? Or bottle jets? Dishwashers come with adjustable rack configurations, and many manufacturers now include third racks in their dishwashers, which are great for silverware, cooking utensils, measuring spoons and other small items that don’t quite fit in the regular racks. 

When dishwasher shopping, talk to your appliance specialist to figure out what dishwasher features are right for your household.

We hope you have found this dishwasher buying guide to be useful and informative, and we appreciate the time you took to read through it. If you have questions that were not answered by this guide, please feel free to contact us.

Additional Buying Guides

3 Benefits of Frigidaire Gallery Dishwasher

Stainless Steel Frigidaire Gallery Dishwasher

This Frigidaire Gallery dishwasher promises to clean better, get your dishes completely dry and do so quietly.

There’s a reason that the most-read posts on this blog are about dishwashers.

They’re frustrating.

Half the time the dishes come out still needing to be dried – or worse – washed. Can’t they just get it right the first time?

And if your dishwasher does do the job, it probably makes its presence well known to anyone in earshot.

Sound familiar?

Frigidaire is making a big deal out of the Frigidaire Gallery dishwasher they’re selling that addresses each of these issues.

Frigidaire Gallery Dishwasher Benefits

1. The OrbitClean technology, aka satellite-action lower spray arm, works independent of the upper and middle spray arms and covers 4x more area with concentrated soap and water.

Instead of drawing the same pattern of water over and over again, the OrbitClean rotates on the spray arm as it turns in circles at the base of the dishwasher. Watch the video.

2. The fan-assisted dry (“SaharaDry”) eliminates the need for toweling off your glasses while unloading.

3. The alternating wash arms that improved the wash action of the dishwasher also lessen the noise output. But the four-sided sound insulation wrap further ensures that this Frigidaire Gallery dishwasher is the quietest in its class.

If you buy this dishwasher, Frigidaire is saying they get it right the first time; so no do-overs in terms of dishwashing.

Shop Frigidaire Gallery dishwashers.

Discount appliances at Warners’ Stellian Warehouse Sale this weekend

We’ll have thousands of appliance deals on hand for Warners’ Stellian’s (now-famous) Extreme Warehouse Sale, taking place 7 a.m. to 5 :30 p.m. Saturday, March 12 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 13.

Though there’s absolutely no early shopping allowed, I can give you this little preview of the appliance discounts smart shoppers will be snapping up at our St. Paul appliance warehouse (550 Atwater Circle, 1 miles north of I-94 & Dale).

See my tips on how to shop for appliance deals. Aside from the products pictured below, look for:

  • Electrolux laundry pair (gas dryer) for $1399
  • Up to 80% off professional built-in cooking products
  • A whole truckload of Bosch dishwashers
  • Up to 30% off blemished Frigidaire freezers
  • $249 for Dyson refurbished vacuums
  • $600 off our best-selling French-door refrigerator

All prices are good only while quantities last.

349 ge dishwasher

399 frigidaire range

399 frigidaire refrigerator

599 kitchenaid dishwasher

799 gas kitchenaid range

799 ele kitchenaid range

799 frigidaire laundry

999 frigidaire laundry

1099 French-door refrigerator

1499 lg laundry

Dishwasher Troubleshooting: Dishwasher Detergent Left in Dispenser

Few things are more frustrating than when you finally work up the energy to unload the dishwasher, but notice the dishes aren’t quite clean. You investigate a little only to find out the detergent is still chilling in the dishwasher, and thus, never washed your dishes.

If you have experienced this phenomenon far too many times, try these dishwasher troubleshooting tips, adapted from Whirlpool.

Dishwasher Troubleshooting Tips

Was the dispenser cup wet when you added detergent?

If dispenser cup is wet, the detergent can clump. This also means that if there’s still detergent left in the cup, don’t think, “Oh, well now I don’t have to refill it!” Clean it out and start over.

Is the cycle incomplete?

If the previous cycle did not complete, the detergent can become caked in the dispenser cup if it is left sitting in the dishwasher. But this probably isn’t the cause for those with chronic detergent-caking issues. Again, clean the detergent from the cup and start over again.

Is the detergent old?

Older detergent exposed to air will clump and not dissolve well, which will cause the dispenser door to stick to the detergent. Buy new detergent, and this time, keep it in a tightly closed container (i.e. not the box with an open flap) in a cool dry place (i.e. not under your sink right next to the wall where your dishwasher runs hot!).

Is the water temperature too low?

For best washing and drying results, water should be 120oF (49o C) as it enters the dishwasher, so check your water heater setting. I also try to remember to run the kitchen sink until hot water comes out to help this.

Were items blocking the dispenser that kept it from opening?

Items blocking the detergent dispenser will keep it from opening. Make sure water action can reach the dispenser.

Other good (if not obvious) detergent guidelines

  • Use automatic dishwashing detergent only.
  • Add detergents just before starting the cycle.
  • The amount of detergent to use depends on the hardness of your water and the type of detergent.
    • If you use too little, dishes won’t be clean.
    • If you use too much in soft water, glassware will etch.
  • Your manufacturer’s suggested amount is based on standard powdered detergent, so follow instructions on the package when using liquid or concentrated powdered detergent.
  • Water hardness can change over a period of time. Want to find out if you have hard water? Get a free testing kit at any Warners’ Stellian location.

Share your best dishwasher tips in the comments section!

Dishwasher Not Draining. Help!

Dishwasher not draining? Perhaps you have a cat in there.

Standing water in the dishwasher is a big problem, and has numerous causes. If you find your dishwasher not draining, try the following.

First of all, make sure that the door is completely closed.

Press the cancel button (sometimes twice, depending on model) to manually drain water left behind because the dishwasher cycle was interrupted (i.e. kids/roommates). The dishwasher will turn off after a couple minutes.

Tips for Dishwasher That Won’t Drain

1. If you have a disposer, run it, because your drain system could be blocked.

2. If you have an air gap, it could be clogged. Consult your particular brand for instructions on how to clear that, but mostly it’s just taking off the chrome cap, unscrewing the plastic cap and cleaning out whatever’s ailing it.

3. Make sure you’ve got drain hose in right dishwasher area codes. The drain hose should be looped to touch the underside of the counter and connect to the sink drain or disposer. The hose should not exceed a foot in length. Also, check for any kinks.

4. If you’re still under water, contact our plumbing department. Your sink drain could be clogged, which prevents your dishwasher from pumping out water.