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Dishwasher Buying Guide

A comprehensive dishwasher guide that will give you all the information you need on how to buy a new dishwasher.

Getting Started

A dishwasher makes quick work of one of the most tedious kitchen cleanup tasks. Load your dishes, hit a button and come back in a few hours to clean, dry dished. Today's dishwashers do an excellent job at getting even the most stubborn dishes clean. Find out more about the various features available.


Exterior Appearance

Nearly every manufacturer makes dishwashers with doors in the typical kitchen appliance finishes: White, Black, Bisque, and Stainless Steel. For a higher-end look, many brands offer at least one model with a door that can take a decorative panel. This lets you disguise your dishwasher with a panel that matches your kitchen cabinets, for an elegant, uniform kitchen design.

Interior Construction

Dishwashers with a stainless steel interior can get to a hotter water temperature quicker, usually provide the machine a longer lasting life and are easier to clean than conventional porcelain or plastic interiors. Dishwashers are insulated with fiberglass batting on three sides and the top. Some have a layer of foil over the exterior of the tub to further reduce escaping heat and noise. Quieter models have additional insulation on the exterior of the tub. Select models include insulation on the door panel, access panel and kickplate to further reduce noise.

Dishwashers with the Energy Star label meet the minimum Federal standards for energy consumption for dishwashers. Products with this rating benefit the environment and cost less to operate since they use less energy than those without it.

Did You Know?
Today's dishwashers are about 95% more energy-efficient than those bought in 1972. Also, today's dishwashers use 4-8 gallons per wash (European models use 4-6 gallons). If you were to wash the same amount of dishes by hand, you would normally use 17 gallons of water or more.



Full-Sized Dishwashers are usually built into (undercounter) your kitchen cabinets but can also be portable/convertible. Most full-sized dishwashers are standard in size (34" high / 24" wide / and 24"deep). Some European brands, however, are slightly narrower and shorter. This blends your dishwasher with your cabinets. Built-In dishwashers must be wired to a 120 volt circuit breaker by a licensed electrician.


These dishwashers are typically free standing with casters that must be rolled to the sink for operation. A tap adapter must be used to connect two hoses to the sink faucet. One tap for filling the dishwasher with water and the other for removing wastewater from the machine. The electrical cords and hoses connected to the dishwasher store neatly behind the unit. These units can be converted into a built in unit by removing the exterior walls and rollers. These are ideal for apartments, older homes as well as mobile homes. Portable dishwashers require a grounded 120 volt outlet and a three pronged plug.


The latest dishwasher style is the "dishdrawer" available either as a single drawer or a double drawer. Each drawer can be operated independently.


Adjustable Racks

Many dishwashers have racks that can be adjusted in some way. Most often, Tines can simply be folded down. Adjustable racks make it easier to fit your entire load into the dishwasher.

Auto Clean

An electronic sensor monitors the rinse water and adjusts the cleaning until your dishes are clean.

Automatic Temperature Control

A control that automatically balances water temperature. It adds the correct amount of hot and cold water to ensure the proper temperature. This way, the detergent dissolves properly.

Child Lock

This indicates that the dishwasher has a locking feature that will prevent children from opening it or changing programs.


Each cycle differs in the number of washes and rinses. Select models will vary in washing speed, water pressure and water temperature.

Delay Wash

This feature enables you to set the dishwasher to turn on at a later time. For example, you can set the timer to turn on while you are asleep when energy use rates are lower.

Hard Food Disposal

Dishwashers with hard food disposals are able to grind solid food into particles that are small enough to fit through the filter. By doing this, food particles will not be re-deposited onto your dishes. This feature also eliminates the need for rinsing dishes thoroughly before washing.


Describes a dishwasher that accepts a custom front panel. Fully integrated means the controls are completely hidden and the panel covers the entire front. Partially integrated means the control panel is visible and the custom panel covers the lower portion of the door.

Plate Warmer

A feature that allows you to warm your dishes should you choose to serve food on warm plates.

Rinse Aid Dispenser

This feature applies to the rinse aid dispenser located on the inside of the door. During the cycle where the rinse aid is needed, this option sends electricity to the switch, which in turn opens the dispenser and measures the amount of rinse aid needed for the wash cycle. Rinse aids improve drying results and help prevent spotting and filming.

Sanitary Wash/Rinse

Dishwashers that offer this option use water heated over 150 degrees or higher to remove bacteria from your dishes.

Tall Tub

There is no separate access panel above the toe kick. The front is an uninterrupted door - one panel.