Can we have a show of wrinkle-free hands, please?
Half of Australian households own a dishwasher, and it's not surprising that some people would just about marry theirs. Sure, you still need to pack and unpack, but it beats having to hunch over a sink full of dirty water. Plus, you're actually saving water and energy. It's win-win!
What should I look for?
Video: How to find the best dishwasher
Don't box me in – size restrictions
Most of us are looking at filling a dishwasher-shaped hole under our kitchen bench, which means we're looking for a full sized dishwasher - 60cm wide, 82-85cm tall and 60cm deep (with room at the back for ventilation). If you have less space than that, you might want to think about using a drawer or compact dishwasher, or a slimline model that can fit neatly under a benchtop.
With a worktop (can generally be built-in as well). $399-$2379
A built-in model which can fit a panel under the control fascia to match the rest of your kitchen cupboards. $999-$3699
Built-in, with the whole front panel matching your kitchen and the controls inside the door. You won't even be able to tell it's there. $799-$1499
Might not have top or side panels; must be enclosed and anchored to prevent it from tipping forward when loaded dish racks are pulled out. $1199-$2499
Built in to a drawer or microwave-sized space that takes up less room, but also takes less crockery. $900-$1579
Just as tall as a full-sized dishwasher but around 45cm wide rather than the conventional 60cm. $769-$1899
Sits on a bench, also quite small, but good for renters. $499-$1099
Just how much water and energy am I saving?
All dishwashers are labelled with water and energy ratings. The star ratings will give you a general idea of how well the dishwasher performs, but the labels will also include raw figures on the kilowatt hours per year and the litres per wash. You can use these figures to get an estimate of your running costs.
Look out! Complex maths part:
For example, your energy costs 26 cents/kWh. The dishwasher uses 100kWh per year. 0.26 X 100 = your dishwasher is going to cost you around $26 a year to run. You can use the same sort of calculation for your water cost.
Is it going to break down on me?
We regularly ask our members to tell us how reliable their dishwasher is – results are inevitably very similar each year, so check out the best brands before you buy.
Manufacturers tend to spruik this, but you can pretty much ignore it. Some dishwashers claim to be able to fit 12 to 15 place settings, but unless you have a dishwasher TARDIS and are using the Australian Standard sized place setting – both extremely unlikely – then you can tell 'em they're dreaming. Don't go large for the sake of it; go for what suits your crockery.
My plate won't fit!
Before you buy, check that your dinnerware fits easily — you may have trouble fitting in tall glasses and large dinner plates. Take one of each to the shops with you.
Some models come with fold-down trays - a real advantage if you wash pots and pans.
Height adjustable top baskets
Look for height-adjustable baskets (usually the top basket) for more versatility when loading. An "easy-to-lift" top basket means you can adjust the height without needing to completely remove the basket to change its position. Some models can be adjusted when fully loaded.
A tray lets you sort when you stack, a basket lets you sort at the cutlery drawer. Trays are safer because you won’t accidentally be stabbed by a knife or fork while reaching into the dishwasher. Look for optional grids on the cutlery baskets or cutlery trays that separate each utensil.
Washes more economically with less water, or at a lower temperature - about 50°C is good for an enzyme-based detergent.
Washes lightly soiled or rinsed dishes more economically in a faster cycle.
Half load option or load sensing
The half load setting adjusts the water and program times for a smaller load, while load sensing adjusts them according to the number of items and soil.
Features to consider
Most dishwashers now have some level of anti-flood protection, but an anti-flood hose has an electric cut-off near the water tap connection, which means it stops leaks in the hose, not just in the machine.
Concealed heating element
This feature prevents items from damage if they fall through the basket, and food from being burnt onto the element and causing a bad smell.
Helps you identify simple problems, such as an empty rinse-aid dispenser or blocked spray arms, and avoid unnecessary service calls. It also warns you of a serious problem that does need a service call.
Check that the filters are easy to remove and clean.
Some models now come with fan-assisted drying, and some models even automatically open when they complete the cleaning cycle, which helps with drying. Also available is the push to open door, which might save your dishes if you have both hands full.
Salt dispenser for softening hard water
If you live in an area with hard water – you can check with your water supplier – then your detergent might not work as effectively. Look for a salt dispenser in the dishwasher which will make the water softer.
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.
Look for child-safe door locks, control locks and detergent dispenser locks.
Tips for getting the most out of your dishwasher
- Don't place the dirtiest items in the corners of the baskets as they're less likely to be cleaned properly.
- Check the spray arm won't be blocked during the cycle - it needs to move freely to rinse the dishes.
- Don't pre-rinse – just scrape and go. Dishwashers have advanced considerably and are now designed so you don't need to rinse before you wash. If you keep up your pre-rinsing habits, you're washing the savings from owning a dishwasher down the drain, so to speak.
- Wooden handles in the dishwasher – not a good idea. They'll fall apart from the detergent.
From $399 to $3699.