Dishwasher Guides: How To Buy the Best Dishwashers

Posted by Paul on Sunday, 28th March, 2010.

Hotpoint Dishwasher Stainless Steel

When you go to buy a dishwasher, you may find yourself confused over what features are important. You may wonder does the interior need to be stainless steel, do I need a 24-inch model or will a smaller 18-inch machine serve my needs, and how many different washing cycles do I really require? The more features and the more complex the dishwasher, the more it will cost.

There are numerous aspects of these time-, water- and labor-saving machines that you want to consider. In this dishwasher guide, we’ll focus on five important elements that you need to weigh prior to purchasing a dishwasher that will meet your needs.

Dishwasher Guide: Interiors

Dishwasher interiors or, as the primary internal area is called, tubs, are made of one of two basic materials—plastic or stainless steel. Plastic tubs are less expensive but they offer fewer benefits than stainless steel. Here’s how stainless steel compares to plastic.

Stainless Steel Versus Plastic

•    Stainless steel resists water damage and corrosion.
•    It lasts longer.
•    The material dampens sound better.
•    Stainless steel conducts heat more effectively and dries dishes more efficiently.
•    It is more expensive.

For most people, the choice between stainless steel and plastic comes down to price. The same model in stainless steel costs from 15% to 25% more than the one that offers a plastic tub. If you can afford stainless steel, overall, it is the better value. However, please keep in mind that plastic is still good.

Dishwasher Guide: Sizes

Dishwashers come in two basic sizes: 18-inch and 24-inch models. This measurement is not of the tub area; it refers to the width of the machine. Which model you decide to buy will be determined by how many people are in your household and how often you’ll use the dishwasher.

You’ll usually find 18-inch models in households comprised of three or fewer people. Also, these are suitable if you have limited space in your kitchen or don’t use your dishwasher every day.

The 24-inch type of machine is often referred to as a “family size” dishwasher. This machine has the capacity to do a full day’s dishes for a family of four to six. In most instances, if you have the space, this is the preferred size since you can actually conserve energy by doing more dishes at once.

Dishwasher Guide: Cycles

This can be truly the most confusing feature when it comes to determining which dishwasher you should buy. The basic settings on a dishwasher machine are regular or normal, economy and light. The regular setting includes the full cycle of pre-treating, washing, rinsing and drying the items in your dishwasher.

The light cycle uses less water and heat in the cleaning process and is usually adequate for a normal load. Using this cycle can save on energy and water. The same thing is true for the economy cycle. Washing dishes in this way saves on even more energy, because the items in the tub dry on their own.

What other cycles will you find on some models? You’ll discover special methods of washing pots and pans, delicate glassware, baked on or burned food and more. You may find other choices too in terms of cycles, including various types of rinse settings related to water pressure and temperature, length of wash and a setting related to kinds of items being cleaned.

Don’t go for the extra cycles unless you are going to use them. They add up in two ways—the cost of the dishwasher and the cost of repairing your dishwasher. The three standard cycles are adequate for most families and buying a less complex machine can save you hundreds of pounds in upfront costs.

Dishwasher Guide: Styles

Most people don’t know this, but there are actually three standard styles of dishwashers—countertop, portable, and under the counter. The under the counter model is the one that is most familiar.

This type of machine is built into your counter arrangement, sits just under your countertop and connects directly into the plumbing. The machine has a hookup devoted solely to it and the plumbing is hidden behind the machine.

The countertop and portable styles are temporarily hooked up to your kitchen sink’s faucet and once these machines have run through their cycles, they are unhooked and stored away. The countertop model sits directly on your counter surface and fits just a few items. Portable types of dishwashers are either 18 inches or 24 inches wide and travel on wheels. When not in use, they may be stored in a corner, closet or pantry area.

What style suits your needs? If you can, it’s best to buy an under the counter dishwasher. But if you’re in an apartment or home that does not already have a dishwasher, the cheapest solution would be either a portable or countertop model. Obviously, two determining factors in choosing between either the countertop or portable models are the number of dirty dishes you produce in a given day and the amount of space you have in your kitchen and storage area.

Dishwasher Guide: Extra Options

There are many other options from which you can choose. As with other aspects of these appliances, the more features you choose the more complex they are and the higher the price. Additional elements can add hundreds of pounds to the overall cost of a dishwasher machine.

Options include childproof locks, extra sound dampening materials, three tiers of water jets rather than just two, attached garbage disposal components and high tech sensors that compute how full your machine is and how much water should be used.

Some of these choices can certainly be useful. If you have toddlers running around your home, then the childproof locks can prove to be a good investment. More water jets can give you greater cleaning power and a garbage disposal feature may save you cash when it comes to plumbing bills related to clogs from the build up of food particles from your pots, pans and dishes.

Both the sensor feature and disposal option can save on water and cash. They allow you to place unrinsed dishes in the machine, which means you save as there’s no rinsing prior to putting the items in the dishwasher.

Dishwasher Basics

It’s been found that dishwashers are not only great time savers, but they use less water than hand washing methods, and overall they conserve energy. New models are extremely efficient. If you have a dishwasher machine that’s been in your home for a decade or longer, then purchasing a new, more energy efficient dishwasher can prove to be a solid investment. Before buying, consumers need to determine what features and options fit their needs and budget. Become an educated buyer and spend wisely.

See Also

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To complement your kitchen style and design, you can also find stainless steel dishwashers, silver dishwashers and black dishwashers.

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Paul has written about a range of consumer topics, especially those related to the kitchen and home improvement. He's also an accomplished cook, having created hundreds of original recipes and has served as a head writer and editor for numerous print and Internet publications focusing on meal preparation.

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