Video: How we test dishwashers
Looking to buy a new dishwasher? Make sure it's passed the rigorous CHOICE tests!
What type of dishwasher do I need?
You'll need to work out what type fits your requirements and the specifications of your kitchen.
Freestanding (with or without a worktop): this type can be freestanding or built in to your space. Most worktops can be removed.
Built-in: these don’t have side, top or back panels, so must be built in and anchored so they don't tip forward when loaded baskets are pulled out. If buying a built-in, you can choose from:
- fully integrated – a built-in type for which you can fit a customised panel on the door that matches your kitchen cabinet doors and covers the whole front of the dishwasher. You have to open the door to access controls.
- semi integrated – a built-in type for which you can fit a customised panel on the door under the control fascia that matches your kitchen cabinet doors. (Customised door panels cost extra so need to be added to the the purchase price of the dishwasher.)
Pushing the limits
In a push to snag the best star rating, some manufacturers are increasing their load capacity without much change to the actual size of the dishwasher cabinet. In some cases, improvements to the design of the dishwasher and test program can partially compensate for this. But when combined with the lower water usage, performance is sacrificed in many circumstances. We always recommend checking wash performance, then our reliability ratings when deciding what to buy.
Fisher & Paykel DD60DCW7
Fisher & Paykel DW60CEX1
Miele G 4101
Miele G 5500 SCU
Miele G5935 SCi XXL
Note: We regularly test dishwashers and add them to our existing list of tested models. We move deleted discontinued models to the Compare discontinued dishwashers table as some readers still like to compare past models, and many are likely to be available second hand.
How we test
We don’t just use any old crockery and cutlery for our dishwasher tests. While we used to use a load based on the Australian Standard, we now load them based on an International Electrotechnical
Commission (IEC) draft standard, which more closely resembles what you're likely to put into your own dishwasher at home. We then test as follows:
- Our testers check how well the dishwashers tackle a full load of dirty dishes by measuring out and placing equal amounts of steam-baked oats, egg yolk, spinach and baby cereal on plates, butter on saucers, tomato juice in glasses and tea in cups. They also put egg yolk onto cutlery.
- It’s all then left to dry for 15–18 hours before being loaded into the dishwashers, washed (using the sensor wash if the dishwasher has one or a normal cycle if it doesn’t) and dried. They use a standard detergent powder specified in the Australian Standard.
- Each dishwasher is tested at least twice and the scores are averaged.
- Testers also measure the amount of water and energy used in a cycle.
Test program selection
If a dishwasher has an "auto" program, we select it over the "normal" program. We do this because an auto or sensing program should be designed to give optimum results for every wash. You're also generally paying extra money for this feature, as usually the base model won't have it. If there isn't an Auto program we test on the Normal program as this is what our members tell us they use the most.
Why do CHOICE results often differ to those on energy and water labels?
For the mandatory energy and water labels (the star rating stickers on the machines), the test is done on any program nominated by the manufacturer as long as it's stated in the product literature that it's designed to wash a normally soiled load at rated capacity. This means programs such as economy, daily, intensive, regular, and programs with extra options selected all qualify. They are also based on the Australian Standard load which we've found is not particularly relevant.
CHOICE testing rarely allow any optional extra functions (for example, eco options), as we test based on how our members use their dishwashers at home (the "normal" or "auto" program).
The scores explained
The overall score (see our table) is a combination of the washing, drying, energy and water efficiency scores for the "normal" or "sensor" wash program, weighted as follows:
- Washing performance: 65%
- Drying performance: 20%
- Energy efficiency: 10%
- Water efficiency: 5%
We assess how well the dishwashers could remove food such as oats, spinach, egg yolk, baby cereal, butter, and tea stains that had been dried overnight, and without being rinsed first. Our test is based partly on the current Australian standard and partly on the IEC Draft standard.
This score reflects how dry the dishes were 30 minutes after the "normal" cycle finished. During this time the doors are left closed (unless the dishwasher has an automatic door opening function that is activated at the end of the program).
Energy usage / score
This is based on the amount of energy used per place setting by the dishwasher on the tested program. The less energy used, the higher (better) the score.
Water usage /score
This is based on the amount of water used per place setting by the dishwasher on the tested program. The less water used, the higher (better) the score.
This is an estimate of how much it’ll cost you over 10 years (the average life of a dishwasher) for water and electricity if you wash one full load every day using a "normal" cycle. The calculations are based on 26 cents per kWh for electricity and $2 per 1000L for water.
For simplicity, we’ve excluded depreciation and any interest costs, as well as the cost of detergent – people use different amounts and the price varies considerably between brands.
These are the maximum noise levels recorded during the normal program, measured 1 m away from the dishwasher and 1 m above the ground. You’d be aware of all these dishwashers in the background.
Most dishwashers give you the option of connecting to either cold or hot water. See Water temp and efficiency for the pros and cons.
Recommended retail price (RRP)
This is the manufacturer’s recommended retail price. You can often get a better price by shopping around or try using CHOICE Shopper. You tell us the brand name and model number of the product you want to buy and a price you’d like to beat, and we’ll try to find it for you. You can also use the Compare prices link in the compare table which will show you a range of prices online which you can use for bargaining in store, or ordering online.
A dishwasher is a big investment
CHOICE's research will save you money for years to come and goes beyond the sales hype to reveal:
- Which of the cheaper models perform best.
- How to save hundreds of dollars on running costs every year.
- Which brands need the least repairs.
What features you need
and what you can do without.
- Which dishwasher is the most suitable for your home and individual needs.
- Which models are the most environmentally friendly.
For more information on dishwashers and other kitchen appliances, see our Kitchen section.