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Dishwasher Buying Guide

Save water and energy with the hardest-working appliance in your kitchen – the dishwasher. Our dishwasher buying guide helps eliminate the guesswork for easy shopping, almost guaranteeing happiness for the life of your appliance.

Dishwasher Buying Guide

Dishwasher Types

Dishwasher Buying Guide - dishwasher types

A built-in dishwasher is a traditional 24-inch model that installs below the kitchen counter. A typical built-in can accommodate up to 12 five-piece place settings.

Compact dishwashers measure roughly 18 inches and can accommodate up to 8 five-piece place settings. Compact models are great for small spaces or bonus areas, like a wet bar, media room or secondary kitchen.

Drawer dishwashers are available in single- and double-drawer configurations and install in the same space as a 24-inch traditional built-in. Double-drawer models offer the flexibility of single- or double-drawer washing for efficient accommodation of small and large loads. Drawer dishwashers are also easier to load since the drawers slide out at work level for minimal bending.

dishwashers are ideal for those who have no room for a built-in or for renters whose homes do not have a built-in. Special installation is not required, as this dishwasher has wheels and hooks up to the sink, and is easily stored when not in use. Portable dishwashers can also be taken with you when you move.

Dishwasher Features

Cleanability / Performance
Clean and sanitize dishes with advanced wash options.

  • Spray arms
  • Varying wash type (waterwall, rotary spray, high-pressure jets)
  • Steam clean
  • Bottle wash
  • Washing zones (pots and pans, crystal)
  • Hard food disposer


Noise Level
If noise level is a concern for you, check the decibel level. A rating of 45 or under will be virtually silent. Decibel levels between 45 and 50 sound similar to a rainfall. Ratings of 50 or above will be equivalent to the level of a normal conversation.


Removable racks and adjustable shelves make it easy to customize tub space to accommodate oversized dishes, pots and pans. Also look for third rack options, fold-down tines, cup shelves, stemware holders and extra-capacity silverware baskets.


Energy Savings
Regulated by the federal government, with ratings established by the Environmental Protection Agency, ENERGY STAR® qualified dishwashers use less energy than other models. You may be eligible for local rebates when buying qualified ENERGY STAR appliances. Learn more about ENERGY STAR dishwashers.


Tub Material
Interior tubs come in different finishes. Stainless steel resists stains and odors; it also transfers heat better for faster drying. Gray or slate-colored tubs resist rust and minimize the appearance of stains. Plastic tubs, which are often found on more affordable dishwashers, are also very durable.


Removable filters make for easy cleaning.


Today’s dishwashers are equipped with sensors to ensure quality cleaning and energy savings.

  • Soil level sensors adjust wash cycle times.
  • Temperature sensors ensure proper water temperature.
  • Water sensors maintain the proper amount of water in the machine for cleaning.
  • Detergent sensors release the proper amount of dishwashing liquid into the wash cycle.


Dishwasher cycles allow for a customized wash on all types of dishes, from pots and pans to fine china.

  • Delayed wash: Set the start time anywhere from 1 to 24 hours ahead, depending on your model.
  • Rinse and hold: Rinses away food on a partial load of dishes to eliminate bacteria and smell without using detergent.
  • Wash programs: Varied wash cycles provide custom settings for everything from fragile dishes and stemware to pots and oven racks.
  • Quick-wash: The quick-wash cycle can finish a load of lightly soiled dishes in less time.
  • Sanitize: A sanitizing rinse option kills 99.9% of bacteria. This is great for cutting boards and baby bottles.

Extend the Life of Your Dishwasher

  1. Load it correctly. Loading your dishwasher according to the manufacturer’s guidelines helps the machine run smoothly. Plus, your dishes come out cleaner.
  2. A cycle a day keeps the repair person away. Regularly using your dishwasher clears build-up from debris and helps ensure proper drainage.
  3. Lose the food. Even though your dishwasher is equipped with a food disposer system, it’s best to scrape food debris from dishes prior to loading for thorough cleaning and damage prevention.
  4. It’s the inside that counts. Remove build-up with a commercial dishwasher cleaner. Some home cleaning solutions include completing an empty wash cycle with white vinegar or lemon juice.
  5. Check the arms. Use a brush or a toothpick to clear debris or blockages from the spinning arms for optimum water movement.
  6. Flush out the garbage disposal. If your dishwasher drains to your garbage disposal, make sure to run it before starting a wash cycle to lessen the load on your dishwasher’s pump. This also helps keep the drain tube free of debris.

Improve Your Dishwasher's Efficiency

  1. Scrape to save. By scraping instead of pre-rinsing in the sink, you’ll save 55,000 gallons of water over the life of the appliance. If you’re not ready to run a cycle, use the rinse and hold feature.
  2. Capacity counts. When you load your dishwasher to capacity, you’ll get the most cleaning from the energy you’re using to run a load.
  3. Let dishes air-dry. Opting out of your machine’s heated dry setting saves energy. If your dishwasher doesn’t have an air-dry feature, simply prop the door open once the cycle is complete.
  4. Use a rinse-aid. Rinse-aids speed drying time in addition to removing spots on dishes, making the air-dry option perfectly suitable for a shiny finish.
  5. Wash during off-peak hours. Some utility companies charge more for electricity during peak hours. Use your machine’s delay feature to schedule a wash for off-peak times to reduce your energy bill.
  6. Keep your cool. By running your dishwasher at night in the summer, you’ll reduce daytime heat and the amount of time your air conditioner runs.