Best Dishwashers

Best dishwasher

Washing dishes is a drag, and we all know that sinking feeling of a mountain of pots lurking in the kitchen.

No one enjoys it, it’s time-consuming, and the stream of dirty dishes never seems to end no matter how hard you try.

At least we have the technology:

Ask any adult who spends any amount of time in the kitchen, and he or she will surely tell you that the dishwasher is one of life’s saving graces.

In fact, it rivals the microwave for “Most Helpful Kitchen Invention, Ever” in our minds.

Much like its sister kitchen appliances, the dishwasher has advanced by leaps and bounds since Josephine Garis Cochran patented the first one back in 1886.

Nowadays, you have a variety of options when deciding how to equip your kitchen with the best dishwasher (or even a high-performance commercial model).

This is not like deciding which color of silicone spatulas best matches your cookware.

It is a whole different battlefield.

While prices have dropped significantly for these machines over the past several years, many people still consider them a financial investment.

Therefore, it’s important to choose wisely.

Otherwise, you risk ending up with a pricey machine that was supposed to make your life easier but that you never use.

Nobody wants to waste their hard-earned money on something that adds no value or is unsuitable for their needs.

Whether you’re curious about the best dishwasher brands or the dishwasher brands to avoid, we are here to help.

We’ve compiled a list of the best dishwashers for a variety of spaces and purposes so you don’t have to search through endless dishwasher reviews.

Dishwasher Types

types of dishwasher

Dishwashers are differentiated in two main ways: by how they are designed into the kitchen and by their size.

Built-in Dishwashers

Built-in machines – also referred to as “integrated” or “under-bench” dishwashers – are specifically designed to fit under the counter in your kitchen.

This style provides a clean, streamlined look, which many homeowners prefer.

The sides and tops of integrated machines usually come unfinished because they will be inserted into the counter area, and only the face will be visible.

Integrated machines often have more features than free-standing models, such a specialized wash cycles or uniquely-designed spray arms.

What is integrated?

Within the “integrated” category, there are two further subcategories of “fully integrated” and semi-integrated.”

Fully integrated dishwashers conceal their operational buttons inside the top of the door.

This design enables you to maintain an unbroken kitchen design.

You can choose to completely cover the dishwasher with paneling to match your cabinets if you so choose.

Semi-integrated machines, on the other hand, have visible controls on the top part of their door.

While it is possible to cover the majority of the machine with matching cabinet paneling, you will need to retain access to the top part of the door in order to operate the dishwasher.

Free-standing (Portable) Dishwashers

Free-standing dishwashers are very similar to washing machines.

They are self-contained devices that can be placed anywhere in your house or building, as long as there is both a water connection and a drainage point.

All three sides of free-standing dishwashers are finished. This means that each side has been designed to look sleek and suitable for display.

Many free-standing machines are on the smaller side.

The two most common types are countertop models and portable rolling models.

These are ideal for people living in small spaces without a built-in space for a dishwasher and those on a very tight budget.

Dishwasher Sizes

Dishwashers today can be categorized into three main sizes: full-size, slim, and compact. There is also a double drawer option, although these are rare.

Full-size

Full-size models are what most people traditionally think of when they think of dishwashers. They are heavy, rectangular, and usually fit under the counter in your kitchen.

Their standard size is 24 inches wide, 24 inches deep, and 35 inches high.

These full-size models generally come with adjustable-height legs to accommodate whatever slight space variations an individual kitchen might have.

Slimline

Slimline models, as the name implies, are thinner than your average dishwasher.

They can also be a little shorter, depending on the model. Most machines of this type measure around 18 inches wide by 32-35 inches high.

Compact

Compact dishwashers are small, microwave-sized boxes of magic that somehow manage to clean a significant amount of dishes without taking up much space or using much water.

While no one would ever be silly enough to compare their functionality to a full-size model, these machines are incredibly useful for people on a budget or those who are short on space.

What you need to do?

They require you to hook them up to your kitchen faucet (or some other water source), which means that they need more effort to set up and use than a typical built-in system.

Their dimensions typically range from 18-22 inches wide, anywhere from 18-37 inches high, and 18-24 inches deep.

Double Drawer Dishwasher

Double drawer dishwashers are currently only offered by Fisher & Paykel.

These machines provide the versatility of two different drawers in which to wash your pots and plates.

Each drawer can be operated independently, giving you the flexibility to customize your wash settings for items that need different levels of love and scrubbing.

Despite sounding like it would be much larger than a regular dishwasher, a drawer dishwasher still fits into a standard under-bench space.

Best Dishwasher Brands

dishwasher

The dishwasher market is large and diverse. Because these machines provide such a necessary service, many different companies have popped up over the years to address the desires of a wide range of customers.

Best Built-in Dishwasher Brands

This is by far the most popular of the two main types of dishwashers.

These models fit flush with your cabinetry and allow you to practically forget that washing dishes is even a chore.

The most popular brands in this category are Whirlpool, GE, Bosch, Samsung, and KitchenAid.

Whirlpool logo

However, Whirlpool leads the pack because of its wide range of options.

As the world’s leading global manufacturers of home appliances, whether you need something basic for your first apartment or are ready to upgrade to something a little snazzier, Whirlpool has you covered.

A trusted name in kitchen appliances for many years, customers know that they are getting quality when they buy Whirlpool.

The Whirlpool Front Control 24” Built-in Tall Tub Dishwasher (See Model #WDF520PADM) is one of the most popular models for its price and features.

Best Portable Dishwasher Brands

GE Brand

Since this dishwasher style is not as widely sold, there are fewer brands to choose from. The good news, is a couple of the big players make some solid models.

Whirlpool offers several models, but it’s GE that outsells them with their highly convenient GE Convertible Portable Dishwasher (See Model #GSC3500DWW)

It’s a little less expensive than other models but offers really reliable cleaning wherever you choose to hook it up.

Best Dishwashers Compared

#ModelPlace SettingsBest FeaturePrice
1.Bosch SHSM63W55NTop Bosch dishwasher14RackMatic® provides up to 9 possible rack positions
2.Maytag MDB4949SHZmaytag MDB4949SHZ14The 2X Life tested motor has twice the life testing based on accelerated 20-year life testing, normal cycle, average use
3.KitchenAid KDPE234GPSkitchenaid KDPE234GPS15High-temperature wash option to reduce bacteria and improve drying
4.Samsung DW80M9960USsamsung DW80M9960US15WaterWall spray track that shoots powerful streams into to dislodge stuck-on food
5.Whirlpool WDF520PADMwhirlpool WDF520PADM14AccuSense soil sensor detects how dirty your dishes are

Factors to Consider

Dimensions and Space

dimensions and space

Not all spaces are created equal, and those who lived in cramped housing know this better than most.

Many people would consider a dishwasher a necessary appliance, but you have to have space for it.

Something that may not be obvious to everyone is that most dishwashers require you to be able to fully lower to door in order to load and operate it.

This means that you must have sufficient horizontal space in your kitchen to do so.

If you’ve got a custom-designed kitchen, the chances are that you will already have a space set aside where you can fit in whichever fully-integrated machine tickles your fancy and be done with it.

Those who live in older or un-renovated spaces may need to measure and compare dimensions before purchasing their new dishwasher.

Noise

No one wants to hear their dishwasher chugging along through its cycle, and manufacturers have grown wise to this.

Newer generations have a clear focus on noise control and decibel level.

More or less, the noise level negatively correlates to price tag. By that, we mean that, as the noise level goes down on these machines, the price tag tends to go up.

While older generation machines could reach decibel levels as high as the 80s, today’s models range between the low 40s to the mid-50s.

Cleaning Performance

Different models of dishwashers have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to cleaning.

Some are great at dislodging stuck-on food, and others excel at removing stains or sanitizing your dishes.

You’d be pretty hard-pressed to find a dishwasher that doesn’t do at least a passable job.

If you rinse or scrape your dishes before loading them, you’re almost guaranteed to come out with clean pieces.

The main difference lies in how much work you need to put in before pressing the start button.

It’s always a good idea to read customer reviews and speak to a sales representative if possible about each machine’s particular pros and cons before making a decision.

Cycle Options

Are you a “Normal, Heavy, Quick” type of person, or do you like to have multiple customizable options to baby your delicate crystal pieces and sanitize your kids’ sports bottles?

Take some time to think about what you use most in your kitchen to help inform this part of your decision.

Drying

One of the most common complaints about older dishwashers is that they don’t dry thoroughly.

While this is another area in which manufacturers have improved their offerings by leaps and bounds, you definitely get what you pay for.

This is because the machines that truly do a good job of drying are those that have additional hardware integrated into their designs.

Colors and Finishes 

While there is certainly no shame in owning a dishwasher, few people want their appliance to scream, “Look at me!”

Therefore, aesthetics is an important consideration for many people.

Stainless steel gives a clean, modern appeal, but if your kitchen has an antique look to it, it will clash. Similarly, a black dishwasher would stand out egregiously in an all-white kitchen.

For this reason, those who have the ability often choose a fully-integrated unit that they can slide in under their counter and conceal with a faux cabinet cover.

This removes any potential design issues if you ever decide to remodel, as well.

Capacity

Luckily, dishwasher manufacturers have greatly diversified the sizes of their dishwasher models in recent years.

Now, you can find anything from a tiny compact model that washes enough for a single person at a time, to a powerhouse that can handle up to 16 place settings in one wash.

Since capacity is directly correlated with price, make sure you purchase something that will adequately suit your needs.

You don’t want to overspend on an appliance that takes you so long to fill up that it’s not worth using.

You also don’t want to skimp on a smaller model that forces you to run multiple loads to get the job done or to hand wash alongside it.

Price

These machines are not cheap. While the average price has dropped significantly from previous years, many people still consider purchasing a dishwasher to be a financial investment.

These days, you can find a wide range of price points on the market.

Simple budget models can be found for around $300, while many mid-range appliances sell for $600-$800.

From there, you can find lots of high-end models with all sorts of bells and whistles. These retail for as much as $3,000.

In other words, there is something for every wallet. It all depends on how much you want to pay.

Efficiency

Many people prefer the idea of a dishwasher that uses utilities efficiently.

Whether this is to save money on water and electricity bills or save the planet (or both), selecting an efficient machine makes a lot of sense.

Try to choose an EnergyStar-certified machine with a strong rating. It’s also a good idea to check out the cycle options to see if the appliance offers quick wash options.

Most manufacturers will list an average yearly cost or average water usage on their websites to help you calculate what it will cost to use your dishwasher after you buy it.

Best Dishwasher Features

While not every model reviewed here includes each of these features, these are commonly found in the vast majority of dishwashers on the market.

Delayed Start Function

Different models will have different time frames available, but all but the most basic models should have some sort of delayed start capability.

This function allows you to delay the start of your wash cycle for a specified number of hours.

Most people program their machines to start either when they go to bed, leave the house, or when utility bills are lowest.

Rinse and Hold Function

This nifty feature gives your dishes an occasional quick spray – much like the veggie section at the grocery store – to keep food from drying.

This allows you to fill your dishwasher up at your leisure and not feel pressured to run a partially-full load simply to avoid food crusting on the plates.

Heated Dry Function

Many dishwashers offer this feature, but few do it well.

Ideally, the machine uses an internal heating element to zap your dishes dry quickly at the end of the cycle.

In reality, the most effective way to get your dishes dry is usually to crack the door opens once it finishes its cycle.

A few models will do this automatically for you.

Sanitize Function

This option raises the temperature of the water during the rinse cycle high enough to kill germs (around 155 degrees Fahrenheit).

This feature is particularly useful when someone in the house is sick or is immuno-compromised.

Speeds and Cycles

All dishwashers should come with the standard cycle options of Normal, Heavy, and Express.

Many today also offer an auto-sensing option that determines how dirty your dishes are for you and an energy-efficient mode of some sort to reduce water and electricity usage.

Fancier models will go beyond this with additional options, such as “china & crystal, power scrub, and extra quiet,” to name a few.

EnergyStar Certification

Every dishwasher on this list except one is EnergyStar certified.

While reducing resource consumption is an admirable and cost-effective goal, keep in mind that this certification is somewhat vague.

Within the category of “EnergyStar certified” lies a wide range of efficiency.

Therefore, we advise you to do your research to find out exactly how much energy and water each model of dishwasher you are considering uses.

Background and Helpful Tips for Using Your Dishwasher

tips for dishwasher

As we mentioned above, dishwashers have technically been around since the late 1800s.

While Josephine Garis Cochran proudly showed off her revolutionary machine at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, only hotels and restaurants showed any interest at the time.

The original dishwasher designs had little in common with today’s models. An English inventor devised the rack system and rotating sprayer we know today in 1924.

Innovation continued over the decades as these machines began to assume the form we now recognize.

It would take until the 1950s for regular households to have the electrical capabilities and disposable income to enjoy the benefits of this invention.

By 2012, 75% of American households included a dishwasher and thus, fewer sinks full of dishes.

New technology continues to be developed and integrated into new models.

Some of the most exciting recent options include app-enabled machines and handle-free “double knock” machines.

How to Best Load a Dishwasher?

This is a bit of a loaded question. (Get it?)

While conventional wisdom exists about how best to load a dishwasher, some newer models have debuted racks with such specialized designs that they require their own particular loading methodology.

When in doubt, you can always consult your manual, but here are the basic guidelines.

You're Doing It Wrong! How to PROPERLY Load a Dishwasher | Rachael Ray Show

How to Choose the Correct Dishwasher Cycle

Many of the dishwashers available today have a dizzying array of cycle options.

While no one will judge you for defaulting to the “Normal” cycle out of intimidation or aversion to reading the manual, you are really missing out on some of the best attributes of your sophisticated appliance.

While the manual is the best way to understand and take advantage of the specialized options offered by your particular machine, here is a quick general overview to help you feel less overwhelmed.

How to Best Clean Your Dishwasher

how to clean dishwasher

As counter-intuitive as it may sound, yes, you do need to clean the machine that cleans your dishes.

Luckily, it’s neither difficult nor time-consuming.

If you use your dishwasher regularly, you should ideally clean it every month or so.

If you only use it occasionally, you might be able to get away with cleaning it a couple of times a year.

Keep in mind, though, that leftover food breeds bacteria, and bacteria love dark, wet spaces.

Here is a quick tutorial on how best to get that machine sparkling and sanitary for your next round of dishes.

Dishwasher FAQs

Q: My dishwasher doesn’t come with an installation kit. What do I do?

A: You have two choices. You can either hire a plumber to install it professionally or install it yourself.

For those you consider themselves handy, here are some guidelines.

Be sure to always consult your manual first to find out if your machine has any specific requirements.

Q: When should I replace my old dishwasher?

A: This depends. After ten years, many dishwashers start to break down in one way or another.

The longevity of your particular appliance will depend on how well it was constructed and how hard you have worked it over the years.

Here are some signs that it might be time to upgrade:

  • You see rust
  • The door doesn’t lock or close properly
  • Cracks have appeared
  • Water has started to leak out
  • You hear new, unusual noises when it is in use

Q: Are there any dishwasher brands to avoid when considering a purchase?

A: In general, there aren’t any specific brands to stay away from. You need to find what works for you based on features and budget. Period.

Of course, the brands mentioned above are popular and sell well for a reason. Anything that is considerably cheaper offered by an “off-brand” dishwasher manufacturer needs to be purchased carefully.

For example, is the machine one you want to have for many years? Even if you don’t plan to use your dishwasher often, it may not necessarily prolong the life of it.

Moving parts and plumbing systems need to be used regularly to stay working properly. Opting for a cheap dishwasher brand may save you money in the short term, but probably won’t in the long run.

Q: What should I avoid washing in my dishwasher?

A: Despite its incredible usefulness, the dishwasher does not treat all materials and items equally.

Even when set to the most delicate cycle, you can ruin certain items if you place them in your dishwasher.

Here is a list of items that you should always wash by hand:

  • Wooden items
  • Cast-iron, aluminum, non-stick, and copper cookware
  • Any gold-trimmed or hand-decorated pieces
  • Insulated mugs
  • Crystal (unless your machine has a special cycle for it)
  • Thin plastic items

Q: How can I make my dishwasher more efficient?

A: If your dishwasher has an “efficient” cycle, that’s a good place to start. If it doesn’t, or you are looking for something even more impactful, try these suggestions.

They will help you to live a greener life without sacrificing hours of your time bent over a sink with a sponge.

Q: Why don’t my dishes get clean?

A: The first possibility to consider is that your dishwasher might have a problem. If you think it is not running correctly, contact a plumber or your company’s warranty provider to find out what your options are.

If you think the problem is minor and something you might be able to fix, consider the following possibilities:

  • Your spray arm is clogged and needs cleaning
  • You’re overcrowding your dishwasher when you load it
  • You’re not using the correct cycle for your dishes
  • You haven’t cleaned the food trap. Yes, even modern machines usually need to have their filters/food traps manually cleaned out. It’s gross but necessary.
  • Your water heater isn’t heating your water sufficiently
  • You have hard water

Conclusion

There are so many different types of dishwashers on the market today. This can make it hard to narrow down, which are the best dishwashers for your individual needs.

Luckily, we have sifted through the pile to select ten stellar options that should appeal to people with a variety of requirements and preferences.

Whether you are looking for a machine to steal the show in your kitchen or something that does just enough to keep you from having to stand at the sink for hours, our top ten picks feature the best dishwasher options and best dishwasher brands available today.

So, assess your needs, take a look at your budget, talk to some customer service professionals, and select your new favorite time-saver. Trust us;  when you buy the best dishwasher, you won’t regret it.