How To Buy A Dishwasher: 10 Must-Have Dishwasher Features

Having an efficient dishwasher in your kitchen can save you hours of cleaning. However, when it comes to quality and features, not all dishwashers are created equal.

While there are many budget dishwasher models under $400, you may want to think twice about saving money on this one. When it comes to dishwashers, low price usually means poor efficiency and a fairly short life span. The last thing you want to do is manually wash your dishes after the dishwasher has finished its job.

However, you also don’t need to spend $1,000 or more on a premium dishwasher. There are plenty of reasonably priced models that work very well.

We will go over the 10 most important features you should be on the look out for, if you want to buy a dishwasher that will do its job well, and will serve you for many years.

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1. Dishwasher Size

First and foremost you need to figure out what size dishwasher you will need. This obviously depends on how much space you have in your kitchen. Will this be a replacement dishwasher, are you custom building a kitchen and can leave as much room as you want and can get any size dishwasher? Are you very limited in your kitchen space?

The most common dishwasher is the 24 inch built-in dishwasher that sits under the countertop. There are also the 18 inch compact built-in models. Other space saving options include portable models and countertop models that can either sit on top of the counter or be hidden away in a cupboard. Keep in mind that these smaller dishwashers will have a very limited capacity. If you have a large family and have dirty dishes every day, its best to go with a standard 24 inch dishwasher.

2. Unit Capacity

The capacity of a dishwasher is measured by how many place settings it can hold. One place setting includes: a large plate, small plate, small bowl, tea plate, mug, glass, fork, butter knife, and two spoons. Choosing the right capacity should be determined by the number of people in your household, or by how much you cook (dishes you use on a regular basis). Typically for a large family with many kids and one that likes to have guests over, it is best to go for a dishwasher that has at least 11 place settings. If you use a lot of dishes, pots, pans etc, you can even get a dishwasher with 14 place settings.

3. Wash and Dry Cycles

Modern dishwashers come with a whole range of wash and dry cycles. Premium models can have as many as 9 different wash cycles to choose from. Its usually best to avoid all the fancy features (they can malfunction more easily) and go for what you really need. For example, if you pre-rinse your dishes by hand, then you don’t need the pre-rinse options or “tough-wash” cycles – basic wash cycle will suffice.

However, if you don’t pre-rinse, have very dirty, greasy dishes, have food that gets stuck to dishes and pots, then you need to look for wash cycles that are specifically geared to clean this level of soil. A normal cycle will not do much for you, and you will most likely need to wash everything again yourself. So the bottom line is these fancy cycles are worth the extra money if you actually need them.

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4. Rack Options

10 Features to Look for in a Dishwasher

When you look at different models, one of the most important things to consider is the positioning and number of the racks. Think about what types of dishes you use, are there big/heavy pots and pans that you need to frequently load? Do you have a lot of cups/mugs or large mixing bowls? Your goal is to get the racks that will allow you to load the amount of dishes you need in a way that is convenient for you.

Perhaps adjustable racks would suit your needs, or maybe you need a lot of room inside the machine instead. Be sure to check out the size of the silverware baskets. While most dishwashers have two tiers, its possible to get models that have three tiers.

5. Odor Control

Dirty dishes don’t smell too great, especially if they sit in the dishwasher for a while before you turn on the machine. The problem with this is that if your tub is made of plastic, overtime it will absorb these odors and will start to smell on its own. It is not a great feeling to open up your clean dishwasher and be greeted with a major stink that does not seem to go away no matter what you do. The only way to avoid this situation is to get a dishwasher with a stainless steel tub. While you will be spending a few hundred extra on this feature, you will always enjoy a good clean smell from your machine.

6. Durability

Overall, if you want you dishwasher to last a long time without any problems, its best to pay more for stainless steel tub and stainless steel arms at the bottom. A stainless steel tub will never smell or corrode, unlike plastic. Moreover, stainless steel arms are more durable, sturdy, have bigger holes and generate better water pressure than plastic ones.

7. Energy Usage

Dishwashers use a lot of water and electricity during the cycle. So to save the most money and avoid wasting water, ideally you want to get a model that has a special Energy Star Label. Keep in mind, these machines can cost $150-200 more upfront. If you are not willing to spend that kind of extra money, still be sure to check out and compare the energy usage labels on every dishwasher you are considering.

8. Noise Level

If you use your kitchen as a gathering place for family and guests, then you will not be thrilled to hear the rumblings of a working dishwasher. Quieter dishwashers have extra insulation and are therefore more expensive. Some high-end models are so quiet you can barely hear them. In general, Bosch and KitchenAid models are known for their very quiet operation.

9. Exterior Looks

High end dishwasher - Fisher and Paykel Dishdrawer

In general, you want your dishwasher to match the overall style of your kitchen. White is a standard color that works well in many interiors and does not cost anything extra. You can also create a seamless look of matching wood panel that will hide the dishwasher from view, but usually costs a premium. Another popular option that more and more people want is the upscale stainless steel look. This is ideal in modern and “professional chef-style” kitchens. A stainless steel door will cost you $100-250 extra.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if the door is stainless steel, that means the dishwasher itself is high quality. Nothing can be further from the truth!. Stainless steel door is great for looks, but a high quality dishwasher needs to be stainless on the INSIDE.

10. Extra Features

Today, many dishwashers come loaded with extra features that may sound really cool, but you may never end up using them. For example, Soil Sensors, “Delayed Wash” “Sanitizing Rinse”, “Hand-wash” setting for fine crystal, double dish drawers, and more.  

However, before you get carried away and spend a few hundred dollars extra, think about which of these awesome features will actually make your life easier. Keep in mind, that an average lifespan of a quality dishwasher is about 9-12 years, so if there is a feature that you really need, it may be worth the extra investment.

Cost of Kitchen Remodel
$9,841 - $17,450
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About Yelena G

Yelena G. has been working in the remodeling and construction industry for over 15 years. Her focus is on construction planning and design as well as project cost estimating. Yelena also has a personal interest in interior design, as well as in unique DIY remodeling projects. Read more about Yelena

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2 comments on “How To Buy A Dishwasher: 10 Must-Have Dishwasher Features

  1. marvin mcclendon

    looking for a dishwasher that has flap in it to keep water from coming back in dishwasher.

  2. Aggie

    yelena, you failed to discuss food filtration or disposer a feature that is puzzling to me, this seems to be really important, ca n you discuss where this falls in to the important features.