Cracking the dishwasher code

Easy-lift baskets? Semi-integrated? Anti-burst? Here's how to decipher dishwasher descriptions

Dishwasher terminology

At CHOICE we love to get technical with dishwashers, but technical language doesn't make it easy when you're trying to understand our reviews, or being bamboozled by bellicose instore sales staff.

So what does the jargon mean? Let's tour through the terminology you're likely to encounter when deciding on a dishwasher.

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Adjustable-height basket

Some top baskets can be adjusted vertically to fit larger items. Handy for oversized plates or long-stemmed wine glasses.

Anti-burst hose

A mechanism that's part of the inlet hose which shuts off the water if the hose fails, preventing your kitchen from flooding.

Anti-flood device

A float switch inside your dishwasher detects water leaking into the cabinet and stops it from filling and flooding your kitchen.


Built-in dishwashers look like freestanding models but don't need top or side panels because they're enclosed in cabinetry. Built-ins must be properly secured to prevent tipping when emptying fully loaded racks.

Bench-top dishwasher

Holding four to six place settings, bench-top dishwashers are about the size of your microwave. As they don't require modifications to cabinetry they're a good option if you're renting.


The number of place settings your dishwasher can fit, and more importantly, clean. Capacity ranges from six to 16 place settings.

Child-safety lock

A feature preventing your children from inadvertently starting the dishwasher. Some even stop the door opening mid-cycle.

Comfort-lift basket

Designed to make it easier to unload your dishwasher, a comfort-lift basket raises up when you pull it out. Handy if you have difficulty bending.

Concealed elements

Unlike exposed heating elements which melt plastic and burn foodscraps falling on them, concealed elements are tucked safely away.

Cutlery basket

A removable basket for cutlery. They're more convenient than cutlery draws, but take up rack space. There's no performance difference between draws and baskets, so the choice is a matter of personal preference.

Cutlery drawer

A slimline drawer above the upper basket for cutlery. They're fiddly and reduce the top rack clearance but free up space in the main compartment.

Delay start

A function where you can set your machine to run after a delay so you can take advantage of solar electricity while you're at work.


Dishwasher detergents are very different to washing up liquids, and they're not interchangeable – they're far more alkaline, and contain anti-foaming agents to keep your kitchen from flooding.

Dish draw

A style of dishwasher where the tub slides out like a filing cabinet. They can be installed higher up if mobility issues make bending difficult, and double dish draws give you the flexibility of only running one for smaller loads.


Dishwashers use the final rinse cycle to build up heat in your crockery so it dries through evaporation. Fans and other tricks can also help drying.

Easy-lift basket

A top basket which can be raised or lowered while fully loaded.

Eco mode

A high efficiency program that uses less water and energy, but has lower wash temperatures and may not be suitable for heavily soiled plates. Some manufacturers also use the eco program for energy star registration.


Energy star ratings help you compare efficiency between models. More stars means higher efficiency, but there's also a number on the sticker – that's how much energy the dishwasher will use over the course of a year. The sticker also lists the program used to calculate those figures.


A removable filter in the bottom of the tub traps large particles so they don't block up your machine. Cleaning the filter is icky but essential for keeping your dishwasher healthy.

Foldable racks

Tines which fold flat to make your dishwasher more versatile as you can wash pots and other bulky items that don't fit in a rack.


Freestanding dishwashers have a handy worktop but can also be installed under cabinetry.


Around 60cm wide to fit a standard cabinet space, full-sized dishwashers hold 12-16 place settings.

Fully integrated

Fully-integrated dishwashers are built in with the entire facia matched to your cabinetry and controls hidden discreetly inside the door. As there's no visible display, integrated dishwashers often shine a light on the floor to indicate when the dishes are done.


A program for washing half the dishwasher's usual capacity. They use less energy, but only about 10-25% less. Wait until your dishwasher's full instead.

Intensive program

A high temperature (up to 70℃), high energy program for heavily soiled items with baked-on food residue.

Intensive zone

An area with extra spray arms designed to clean heavily soiled pots and pans.

Place setting

A measure of dishwasher capacity. Each standard 'place setting' consists of 10 items: a dinner, soup and dessert plate, a glass, cup and saucer, a knife, fork, soup spoon, dessert spoon and teaspoon. We modify the standard place setting for testing, adding salad bowls, pots and serving spoons that Australians typically wash in their dishwasher.

Removable racks

Tines which can be removed entirely, making your dishwasher more versatile as you can wash pots and other bulky items that don't fit in a rack.

Rinse aid

This assists drying and helps prevent water marks by breaking down the surface tension in water droplets so it sheets off your crockery more easily. Your dishwashers rinse aid reservoir may need refilling from time to time, but most dishwasher tablets have rinse aid built in.


Salt softens hard water and helps prevent clouding on glasses after washing. Some dishwashers have a light to tell you when the salt dispenser needs filling.

Scrape and go

Don't rinse your plates before you rack them (it shows a lack of faith in your appliance), just scrape food scraps into the bin and you're ready to wash.


These dishwashers are a built-in type where you can fit a panel to the door under the control fascia to match the rest of your cabinetry. They're a good balance of discretion and practicality.

Sensor wash

This mode detects how dirty your plates are and adjusts the washing conditions accordingly. That's why you should just scrape and go. Pre-rinsing tricks your dishwasher into thinking your plates are cleaner than they actually are so it won't wash well. It's also why we wash clean crockery for our drying test – if the machine uses less energy and water to wash a clean load then we know the sensor is working.


Designed for smaller kitchens, slimline dishwashers are around 45cm wide and fit 8-10 place settings.

Spray arm

A rotating arm with jets that spray water and detergent evenly across your crockery. (Clean blocked jets by carefully poking the obstruction free with a toothpick).

Water efficiency

Dishwashers are more water efficient than hand washing, using around 12 litres to wash a load (150 items). Eco modes reduce water consumption even further. Dishwashers carry a water star rating showing water efficiency and how much water used per run.


'Tall tub' models have around 20% more volume than standard models. Performance is roughly comparable and you can't fit more place settings, but they're great if you love larger plates and long stemmed glassware.

Need more help? See our Dishwasher buying guide. And when you're ready to buy, check our Dishwasher reviews to find the right model for you.