01.Choosing a dishwasher
Please note: this information was current as of March 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
Used properly, dishwashers are generally more water and energy efficient than dishwashing by hand. However, overall reliability is poor and there’s a big variation between makes, so the brand you buy does matter. Also, our testing has found that energy efficiency can often come at the cost of cleaning efficiency.
Limited by space or renting?
Consider a slimline model or a compact model: Slimline machines are narrower than a normal dishwashers, they can be built-in or freestanding; Compacts are usually half the height of a standard dishwasher, they can be placed on a bench or built; there's also a drawer option in the compact type.
Renovating a kitchen?
Like fridges, dishwashers can be purchased with doors suitable to be hidden behind kitchen cabinetry. Just beware, you'll pay more for the privilege.
Features to look for
Adjustable plate racks are a real boon if you wash pots and pans - some models come with fold-down trays.
Cutlery rack or basket? A rack lets you sort when you stack, a basket lets you sort at the cutlery drawer. Racks are safer because you can't accidentally be stabbed by a knife or fork.
- Some models now come with fan-assisted drying.
Child-safe door locks can stop little fingers breaking in.
Height adjustable top baskets let you fit tall plates or glasses.
Check for half-load or load-sensing options for maximum water efficiency.
- Before you buy, check your dinnerware fits easily — some may have trouble fitting in tall glasses and large dinner plates at the same time. Take one of each to the shops with you.
- Would you prefer to use a hot or cold water connection? Check whether a cold or hot connection is recommended for the machine. If you’ll be connecting to hot water, check the recommended maximum hot-water inlet temperature — you may need a tempering valve if it’s too hot.
Check the available space in your kitchen, and allow some room at the back for ventilation. Some space at the sides will also help when installing the dishwasher.
- Check that the filters are easy to remove and clean.
- If you live in an area with hard water, look for a salt dispenser.
Pre-rinsing is a waste of time and water. Just scrape dishes.
- Face dirtiest dishes towards the centre for best water exposure.
Don't overload or nest dishes too closely – the water spray won’t reach everything.
- To avoid chipping ensure breakables don't touch, and spray arm rotates freely.
Don’t machine-wash metal other than stainless steel, disposable plastics, gold-coloured cutlery, gold-leaf china, hollow-handle knives or anything made of wood.
Aluminium items may discolour.
Want to know more?
See the CHOICE Dishwasher comparison as well as our review of dishwasher detergents.