There’s one easy way to tell if someone is a clean freak: they wash their dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. We know that for a fact, because several members of the Groom+Style review team qualify for that description.
It’s unnecessary to pre-clean dishes that are going into today’s best dishwashers, of course. They’re designed to do all of the work for you. However, not all of them clean – or dry – or fit large loads – or run without sounding like a plane preparing take for takeoff – as well as others.
Choosing a dishwasher often requires trade-offs between features and performance.
You’ll pay a huge price for a machine that can do most of those things extremely well, but it’s definitely possible to find reasonably-priced machines that score high in most of the important categories. We’ve provided a great range to select from on Groom+Style’s list of the top 5 best dishwashers, which we’ll get to after a closer look at some of those trade-offs we’ve mentioned.
The Major Factors When Choosing a Dishwasher
Budget and Size/Capacity
Budget and size are always factors when buying an appliance, but they’re particularly important when it comes to dishwashers. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a high-performing model; machines that do a very good job cleaning dishes are available at all price levels. If you have a big budget, you can spend the extra money on extra features and extra capacity.
And make no mistake, capacity is important. It’s extremely frustrating to have to run the dishwasher once a day (or more) because it fills up so quickly. Capacity has little to do with the external size of the machine since most built-ins are a standard 24-inches wide and 35-36 inches high. A dishwasher’s capacity is usually judged by the number of place settings it will hold, and manufacturers make extra room by narrowing the space between the “tines” (those posts that stick up to hold the dishes, pots, and pans in place).
Some make models with adjustable racks and folding tines to accommodate different sizes of dishes.
Style and Color
Finally, most buyers will want their dishwasher to blend in with their kitchen décor, so the style and color of a dishwasher will be a major factor. The majority of machines will have white, black or stainless steel exteriors that blend in with most other kitchens appliances, but you can also find more unusual exteriors to fit designer kitchens. Cabinet-front dishwashers can also be a good choice because they let you insert panels that match your décor.
Washing, Drying and Cycles
While the primary purpose of a dishwasher is (naturally) washing dishes, the neat freaks we mentioned at the start find drying to be just as important – since they’ve made sure their dishes are already clean before going into the machine. Everyone else will be primarily concerned with how well the dishwasher gets off stubborn dirt and gunk.
Fortunately, as we’ve discussed, the best dishwashers at all price levels will get your dishes clean. In fact, moderate- and higher-level machines don’t even require you to pre-wash cycle for caked-on food, since they have sensors that determine how much washing your dishes need. A pre-wash is a good idea before using a budget-level dishwasher, though.
Drying is where some units fail the test. We’ve all experienced the frustration of having to hand-dry everything (especially silverware) when emptying a dishwasher, even though everything has been sitting inside the machine for hours. A “heated dry” function usually (but not always) takes care of the issue, but that raises the price of the machine. In our reviews, we’ll highlight units that do the best job, since there’s no “statistical” way to rank dishwashers for either their washing or drying ability.
Families who don’t do a lot of entertaining or fancy cooking really don’t need more than the three basic “light,” “normal” and “heavy” wash cycles. Almost all dishwashers can remove baked-on food without using a “pot scrubber” cycle, “crystal” or “china” settings aren’t necessary for everyday kitchen use, and the “sanitize” cycle is for sanitizing the machine itself, not the dishes in it.
However, an “express” cycle can come in handy to clean pre-washed loads quickly, and a “rinse and hold” cycle is useful when you’ve only partially loaded a dishwasher and don’t want food to harden before you’re ready to run a full wash.
Additional Factors to Consider
Front or Internal Controls
Controls are normally mounted on the front of the dishwasher for easy access and monitoring, but some prefer the cleaner look of hidden controls on the top of the machine door. If you’re one of the latter, consider a dishwasher that at least has a front panel indicator that the machine is running, and perhaps a cycle countdown clock, so you know when your dishes are done.
Noise can be a big problem. We’ll discuss how noisy each machine is in our reviews, because you can’t rely just on the manufacturer’s decibel (dB) rating. Many of those ratings average in the silent period when the dishwasher is in a dry cycle.
Stainless Steel vs Plastic
Many higher-priced units will have stainless steel tubs instead of the plastic ones commonly used in budget models, and that shouldn’t be a major factor in your decision. Washing (and drying) is no different for either choice; the only difference is that plastic ones can stain easily.
What you may want to consider, though, is the type of filter in the dishwasher. Self-cleaning filters are a bit more convenient but somewhat noisier, since they use a grinder to get rid of the food that could otherwise be recycled back onto your dishes. Manual filters need to be washed out occasionally, but that’s not a big job.
Let’s load up those reviews.
1. Bosch SHX878WD5N 800 Series Built-In Dishwasher
Many people don’t think “Bosch” when they think “dishwasher” – but they should. The German company (which builds its US models in North Carolina) manufactures an exceptional line of dishwashers, and this 800 Series model is a terrific example of their design expertise: large, quiet and flexible.
The stainless steel SHX878WD5N can hold a full 16 place settings and has a justifiably low noise rating of 42dB. But flexibility is where this dishwasher shines. There are three full racks inside, (one with movable tines to accommodate deep or large items), and the RackMatic system lets you move them to three height levels and nine possible rack configurations. It also includes a double-flex silverware basket, plus one of the best small, extra features G+S has fallen in love with: a red light that shines on the floor to show you that the unit is running.
The six wash cycles (heavy, automatic, energy save, normal, rinse and SpeedPerfect) leave dishes perfectly clean, and there are six additional options (delay, half-load, delicate, extra dry, extra shine and sanitize) you can use to customize the way the wash is done. SpeedPerfect, by the way, cuts run time in half but uses more water. Average standard run time is two hours. The touch controls are top-mounted and this dishwasher is EnergyStar and NSF certified.
This Bosch dishwasher is everything most homeowners could want in their kitchen. The price is relatively high, but the cost is reasonable – considering the fact that you probably won’t find a better choice on the market.
Facts and figures on the Bosch SHX878WD5N 800 Series Built-In Dishwasher:
2. KitchenAid Architect Series II KDTM354DSS Top Control Dishwasher
This isn’t the most expensive dishwasher in the KitchenAid line. But it’s the model that gives you the most bang for your buck. It’s not as large as the Bosch, fitting only 12 place settings, but the construction and operation of the Architect Series II is terrific.
One of the features we like best is that this model uses KitchenAid’s new ProFilter, an automatic filter that’s better than the auto-filters we’ve seen from any other competitor. There are six cycles on the KDTM354DSS: Express Wash, Light, Normal, Tough, Pro and Rinse Only. (Pro is for loads with some really dirty dishes and some that are already pretty clean.) There’s also a heated dry function that kicks in automatically on most of the cycles, but can be turned off if you prefer to save power. Additional options are high temperature, sanitize and “top rack only.”
The height of the upper rack can be adjusted, the controls are top-mounted touch-pad buttons, and there’s an LED screen that shows progress on the front of the dishwasher. The stainless steel design is elegant, too.
The Groom+Style review team would probably have listed this KitchenAid as our #1 choice if there weren’t a few small areas on the top rack where it seemed the dishes didn’t get quite as clean as they should have. Otherwise, it’s a very good choice to consider.
A closer look at the KitchenAid Architect Series:
3. GE Profile PDF820SSJSS Built-In Dishwasher
One member of the review team recently had to search for a replacement GE dishwasher to fit his existing kitchen setup – and was blown away with all of the possibilities between the Profile line, the Monogram line, and all of the other products offered by the company. The one thing they all had in common was excellent build and performance. With so many homes featuring GE appliances, we felt this list required a representative model.
Monogram dishwashers are generally more expensive than Profiles, so we’ve chosen to go with a more-affordable Profile option that’s still a very good dishwasher and also a very good value. The PDF820SSJSS is an attractive stainless steel unit with front-facing controls, a stainless steel tub, and four cycles (AutoSense, Light, Normal and Heavy) plus three options (Heated Dry, Sanitize and Steam).
There’s one other great feature: you can choose to wash just the dishes in either the upper or lower rack, if you prefer. The top rack is adjustable and has two rows designed to hold stemware plus bottle jets, and both racks have rows of adjustable tines.
One wonderful new addition to the latest GE dishwashers is its Deep Clean silverware jets, which take care of the common problem of clean dishes and dirty silverware. Cleaning is quick with this Profile model, about 1½ hours, which may be why the unit doesn’t perform quite as well as it should on really tough baked-on food unless you use the “Heavy” cycle. Overall, though, it’s a great machine for its price.
This GE Profile isn’t perfect – most dishwashers aren’t, as we’ve previously mentioned. Unless you make lots of food that leaves a lot of tough-to-remove crud on your pots and dishes, however, it’s a worthwhile choice.
A closer look at the GE Profile PDF820SSJSS Built-In Dishwasher:
4. Frigidaire FFBD1821MS 18” Built-In DishwasherNo products found.
The majority of kitchens require a 24” wide dishwasher. Some, though, only have room for an 18” model, and Groom+Style believes this Frigidaire is a good option to fit into that limited space (or replace another smaller appliance like a trash compactor). It’s a great deal, too, costing less than many equivalent 24” models.
There are six cycles on the BIDW1801SS: light, normal, heavy, china/crystal, energy saver and rinse. There’s a delay timer, but unfortunately no heated drying function. This Frigidaire is stainless steel both inside and out, and while the two racks don’t offer the adjustability of our higher-rated dishwashers, it cleans and dries your normal kitchen dishes with very good results – and isn’t that the point?
If you’re stuck working with a small opening for a dishwasher, this Frigidaire is a solid performer at a great price.
Specifications for the Frigidaire FFBD1821MS 18” Built-In Dishwasher:
5. MagicChef MCSCD6W3 Countertop Dishwasher
We’ve focused exclusively on built-in dishwashers so far, but some kitchens just don’t lend themselves (or aren’t big enough) for those large units. And some apartment dwellers don’t have the luxury of installing their own dishwasher. For those folks, a countertop dishwasher is a terrific solution, and this MagicChef is the one that the Groom+Style review team recommends.
The MCSCD6W3 is more versatile than you might expect for a countertop model. It holds six place settings, features five wash cycles including quick wash and soak, the retractable inflow and outflow hoses are easy to attach, there’s a stainless steel tub, and the single rack has foldable tines for the convenience that’s important when using a small dishwasher like this.
As you might expect, large plates (bigger than 10 ½ inches), pots and pans won’t fit in this model, though. There’s also no heated dry function or timer, but you can’t have everything with a small unit. However, there is overflow protection, an important feature for a countertop model.
A surprisingly strong performer for a countertop model, the MagicChef is a vast improvement over hand-washing dishes in a small kitchen or apartment.
Digging deeper on the MagicChef MCSCD6W3 Countertop Dishwasher:
Bosch 500 Series 24″ Dishwasher
We replaced this model with the Bosch 800 that is now in our number 1 spot.
Many people don’t think “Bosch” when they think “dishwasher” – but they should. The German company (which builds its US models in North Carolina) manufactures an exceptional line of dishwashers, and this 500 Series model is a terrific example of their design expertise: large, quiet and flexible.
The Series 500 models can hold a full 16 place settings and has a justifiably low noise rating of 44dB. But flexibility is where this dishwasher shines. There are three full racks inside, the middle rack has tines that can be customized, and there’s an option to add a two-part cutlery basket that can be separated (with just one used in the dishwasher), connected to each other at the back or at the side.
The five wash cycles (heavy, automatic, normal, rinse and express) leave dishes perfectly clean, and there are five additional options (SpeedPerfect, delay, delicate, extra shine and sanitize) you can use to customize the way the wash is done. SpeedPerfect, by the way, cuts run time in half but uses more water. Average standard run time is two hours.
The only big drawback is that drying isn’t optimal, since there’s no forced-air heated dry function; Bosch says that’s to maximize energy efficiency. Controls are top-mounted but there’s a very cool small red light that projects onto the floor to let you know that the dishwasher is still working, and a 24-hour timer completes the package.
This Bosch dishwasher is everything most homeowners could want in their kitchen at a somewhat-high but still reasonable price, unless a long waiting time for dry dishes is a deal-breaker.
Facts and figures on the Bosch 500 Series 24” Dishwasher:
EdgeStar BIDW1801SS 18” Built-In DishwasherNo products found.
Unfortunately it looks like the EdgeStar BIDW1801SS is no longer available, please consider another model for now.
The majority of kitchens require a 24” wide dishwasher. Some, though, only have room for an 18” model, and Groom+Style believes this EdgeStar is a good option to fit into that limited space (or replace another smaller appliance like a trash compactor). It’s a great deal, too, costing much less than equivalent 24” models.
There are six cycles on the BIDW1801SS: light, normal, heavy, speed, glass and rinse. There’s also a heated drying function. This Edgestar is stainless steel both inside and out, and while the two racks don’t offer the adjustability of our higher-rated dishwashers, it cleans and dries your normal kitchen dishes with very good results – and isn’t that the point?
If you’re stuck working with a small opening for a dishwasher, the EdgeStar is a solid performer at a great price.
Specifications for the EdgeStar BIDW1801SS 18” Built-In Dishwasher:
If you are in the process of a kitchen renovation then why not also consider replacing your gas range – we have put together a comprehensive list and buying guide in our top 5 best gas range review.