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What You Need to Know Before You Start Shopping for Dishwashers

Updated on September 10, 2014

What You Need to Know Before You Start Shopping for Dishwahers: Easier than Teaching a Cat to Swim!!!

Hey, fans and fanettes, I have great news for you. Shopping for a diswahser is a lot easier than trying to teach a cat to swim. Its also a lot easier than shopping for a refrigerator, because size doesn't matter anywhere near as much as it does with a fridge. So, now I am going to give you the knowledge you need before you go out into the field to begin your quest. So, fasten your seat belts, sharpen your pencils, and PAY ATTENTION!!!!! After you get finished reading what I have to say, buying a new diswasher should be easier than flicking snot into the wind. PS The cat pictured lives in Russia, and is much more fond of water than American cats. Go figure???

Styles and Colors

Only a Few Choices Here

Basically, you have Four choices for a style of dishwasher. There is, of course, your standard under-the-counter dishwasher, which is what most people are buying. There is also a variation on that theme, with the new 2-drawer dishwaser version. Takes up only the same space, but has two compartments for washing your dishes. I'll explain the advantages later. Then there is the compact top-of-the-counter version, which is cool if you have a small family and don't use too many dishes at one time. Or, there is the slightly larger portable versions (generally available in 18" and 24" widths). This is good if you don't have a place for an under-the-counter, live in a small home, or apartment, or for a spare dishwasher if the main one goes out of service for some reason.

As far as colors go, you have the major choices, Stainless Steel, Black, White, Bisque (not so much), and GE offers a finish called "Clean Steel" which is a fingerprint resistant type of finish. There are some higher end models available with cabinet type fronts, for those who want a more sophistacated look; however, I am not going to go into much detail about these.

Brand Choices

The Players

Brand choices, when it comes to diswashers, are pretty similar to your choices in most appliances. The most popular are: Kenmore, Kenmore Elite, Whirlpool Whirlpool GU3200XTXY GU3200XTXY Built-In Dishwasher

, Maytag Maytag Jetclean Plus Series MDB6769AWQ Fully Integrated Dishwasher - Bisque

, LG LG : LDF6920ST Fully Integrated Dishwasher - Stainless Steel

, GE GE Profile : PDWT180RSS 24 Built-In Dishwasher - Stainless Steel

, Bosch Bosch : SHX98M09UC Integra 800 Series 24 Undercounter Dishwasher - Stainless Steel w/Display

, Frigidaire Frigidaire FFBD2407LB Full Console Dishwasher - Black

Samsung Samsung DMT800RHS Fully Integrated Dishwasher - Stainless Steel

, and Electrolux Electrolux EIDW6105GS 24 Fully Integrated Dishwasher - Stainless Steel


The Bells and Whistles

What You Need vs. What You Want

First let's look at racks.

There aren't quite so many options when it comes to racks, but a few of the one's that most people find important are:

1. How sturdy are they. Give them a good feel to make sure they are substantial enough to meet your needs.

2. Does the top rack adjust up and down. If you can adjust the top rack, then you can put larger items on the bottom rack.

3. Does one, either, or both racks have fold down tines. This is convenient if you need to get the tines out of the way for some larger items.

4. Are there stemware holders: If you have stemware that needs to be kept from moving around while its being washed, stemware holders can be an important feature.

5. Where are the silverware racks. Most diswashers have silverware racks that can be moved around in the bottom rack. Some also have lids with holes for individual pieces of silverware. Many Whirlpool dishwashers have the silverware rack mounted on the door. This gives you more room on the racks for dishes.

Tub Design:

Basically there are two main choices when it comes to the tub. You can choose either Plastic or Stainless Steel. Stainless steel's main claim-to-fame is that it looks nicer, but it also retains heat a little better than Plastic, so your dishes will dry a little bit faster. Also, if you have well-water, especially if it contains iron, eventually a Plastic tub will turn pink. Probably the most important reason for choosing stainless steel would be if you have, or are planning to have granite or marble countertops, because stainless steel can be mounted from the side. Plastic can't be mounted from the side, because the screws will go right through the Plastic. We don't want to be drilling holes in granite or marble, because if it cracks it will be a really EXPENSIVE mistake.

Food Grinder

Some dishwashers have food grinders and some don't. If you want a food grinder, your diswasher won't be quite as quiet as a dishwasher that doesn't have one. If you opt for a dishwasher that doesn't have a food grinder, you'll have a food screen that will need to be cleaned out periodically. The advantage of a food grinder, is that any residual food that gets washed off of your dishes will get ground up and go out your sink drain. This means using less rinse water before your dishes go into the dishwasher.

Spray Arms:

Spray arms can be plastic or metal. If they're plastic, they might be less durable, but they won't be prone to getting gunked up with calcium or lime deposits. Spray vary in the number of arms they have also, and some dishwashers have two spary arms and some have three. Some Kenmore models also now feature 360° wash.

Heated Dry:

If you look on the bottom of a dishwasher, and you see something that looks like a modified version of the element in the bottom of an oven, then you're probably looking at the heated dry element. It does what it says. The advantage is your dishes get dryer fast. The disadvantage is that your dishwasher is going to consume more energy when you use the heated dry feature.

HE or Non-HE:

HE dishwashers use about 40% less water than non-HE models, but because they use a lot less water, they tend to run longer. Evaluate where you are spening the most money on energy before you decide. Also, if you buy an HE dishwasher, you need to be using dishwashing detergent that is designed for HE dishwashers.

Controls: Front Panel or Top of Door

There are two basic choices as far as where your control panel is. If it is on the front of the dishwasher, its always in easy sight. Many people prefer controls on the top of the door, because this gives the diswasher a cleaner appearance. Also, for families who have small children, controls that are out of sight and out of the reach of inquisitive little fingers, are a good option.

To Steam or Not To Steam, That is the Question

"Steam Dishwasher Cycles and OptionsThe name "steam dishwasher" might seem misleading. These dishwashers don't exclusively use steam, but steam is an important and effective step in their cycle. Knowing this, skeptics might question the marketing behind calling these new products steam dishwashers. After all, haven't we all seen traditional dishwashers release steam when we open them after a hot wash?

Maytag Steam dishwashers incorporate steam features as an addition to normal cycles.It's true that conventional dishwashers do produce some steam. In fact, some adventurous cooks effectively steam salmon in a dishwasher. However, this steam is mostly just a by-product of the drying cycle (to dry dishes, dishwashers heat up the air, which converts the leftover water to steam). On the other hand, cutting-edge steam dishwashers actually harness steam's cleaning ability in the washing phase. Specifically, they can either directly heat the water in the tub into steam (as with Maytag models) or incorporate nozzles dedicated to releasing pure, hot, high-pressure steam at the right time (as with LG models).

With the latter nozzle method, steam dishwashers will include a steam generation unit. The unit allows the appliance to heat water into a steam state in a separate section from the main tub. This way, streams of pure steam can release directly from the nozzles to the main tub with the dishes.

Although steam dishwashers don't exclusively use steam as a cleaning method, the user has the option to add a steam cycle to clean a load of dishes. But steam dishwashers can use steam differently and at various times. For instance, some steam dishwashers, such as LG's models, have a special setting that uses steam to clean fragile dishes. Because steam doesn't need to use force to get dishes clean, it's a great tool for cleaning fine china and other easily breakable items. Adding a steam option to other, more rigorous cycles also will help it clean more effectively. It's like adding an extra boost of cleaning power to the traditional cycle.

Out, Out, Damned Spot!

Even if you don't have a fancy dishwasher, the experts at Consumer Reports say strategic loading of dishes is the key to an effective cleaning. In particular, it's important to place large items along the sides and back and face the dirtiest items toward the spray (which usually shoots up from the rotating spray arms) [source: Consumer Reports].

The GE steam dishwasher includes another option, however. In addition to a normal steam phase, the GE Profile SmartDispense2 model has a cycle to prewash dishes, which is purely a steam bath, so that users don't have to manually rinse dishes prior to loading [source: GE]. Other steam dishwasher models from Maytag offer yet another steam option. Maytag provides what it calls "SteamClean" features. The SteamClean adds 24 minutes to the end of the cleaning cycle during which the appliance inundates the load with high temperature steam and a rinse before drying [source: Maytag].

So are steam dishwashers really superior to regular dishwashers? On the next page, we'll take a look at the good, the bad and the dirty of steam dishwashers." Quoted from:

Turbo Wash, Pot Scrubber or something similar:

Generally, if you look in the back of your dishwasher, and you see some colored plastic nozzels in the back toward the bottom, this is your high-pressure, heavy duty wash for cleaning pots and pans or casserole dishes that still have food cooked or baked onto them.

Cycles and Options:

Almost all dishwahsers have a Normal, Pots and Pans, and Gentle cycle. Here is a list of some of the other cycles and options that may be available.

Cancel & Drain, : Heavy Duty, :High Temp Wash, Light Wash, Pre Soak, Quick Wash, 1-Hour Wash, China, Glassware, Lower Rack Wash Only:, NSF Certified Rinse, Plastic Item, Heated Dry, and/or Plate Warmer. There may be other cycles not mentioned here available on some other diswashers.

There are other options available also, which I haven't listed here, but these are the most basic ones.

Professional Installation

Let the Pros Do It or DIY

Most retailers will offer you the option of professional installation. You should know what professional installation covers before you decide, but also be aware that if you decide to install a dishwasher yourself, you are working with two bitter enemies, water and electricity. The pros know what they are doing, so if you aren't sure, get the pros to do it. Also, most retailers will have their installation work guaranteed. This means, if you have the pros install your diswasher and it develops a leak which destroys your kitchen floor and everything you own in your newly finished basement, your retailer will be responsible. If you do it yourself and this happens, your homeowners insurance might help cover some of the cost, but you most certainly will not get as much from them as what the real cost will be to fix and/or replace everything necessary.

Another advantage of having your retailer's installers do a professional installation, at least in Pennsylvania, is that professionally installed built-in appliances in your home are non-taxable. This means if you buy a $1000.00 dishwasher and have it installed by your retailers installers, you will save $60.00 on PA sales tax. Whatever the difference is between the installation charge and the sales tax you saved, is the effective amount that it really cost you to have your dishwsher installed. Plus, YOU didn't have to do ANY of the grunt work. Whether or not the peace-of-mind is worth it to you, is a decision that you have to make for yourself.


How Much Protection is Enough

Most manufacturer's warranties cover parts and labor for one year from date-of-purchase. There are exclusions to the warranty though, so read the fine print. Most manufacturer's DON'T cover your electronics control panel if you've had an electrical power surge in your house. This is usually an EXPENSIVE repair, and let's face it, no one disconnects their dishwasher during an electrical storm. Many retailers will offer you an extended warranty on your new dishwasher. Again, READ THE FINE PRINT. An extended warranty usually only covers what the manufacturer's warranty covered, just for a longer period of time. There is at least one retailer that offers a plan, that covers such things as power surges, unlimited service calls, no lemon guarantee (certain # of repairs, and your appliance is totally replaced), etc. Also, with this type of warranty, if you had your dishwasher professionally installed by this retailers installers, and your getting it replaced through your Protection Agreement, this also covers the installation for your new dishwasher. I bet you think that I'm going to tell you which retailer this is?? Guess again!!! YOU have to do some of your own due diligence. I'm not just going to hand everything to you on a silver platter.

Now finish your research, and go forth into that mighty mystery called the appliance world, and feel confident, because now you know more than the average Joe Schmoe. (Hey Joe Schmoe, if this offended you, sorry, but I thought you were a fictional character).

New Guestbook Comments

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    • poconofoothills2 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Fisher 

      5 years ago from Easton, PA

      Thanks for your comment. It never ceases to amaze me; how many people tell me that they bought a dishwasher that couldn't be installed because the salesman never asked them if they had granite or marble countertops.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      @ApplianceRepairsEdinburgh: Hi, Thanks for your kind comment. I appreciate it.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      hi there, i like your dishwasher lens. I am an appliance repair engineer myself and thought your lens was really useful. Stop by my lens sometime. Many Thanks, Liked!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

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