The size of your dishwasher is the first decision you’ll make since not all kitchens have the space to accommodate a full-sized model. Most standard models are 24 inches wide and about 35 inches high and kitchens are generally designed to house a model of those dimensions, but there are slimmer dishwashers to accommodate smaller spaces.
Most dishwashers are available in stainless steel, which fits into most kitchen motifs. Many models are also available in white, black and other finishes. You won’t find tons of color options but Samsung offers a bespoke line that includes unique finishes including navy steel and brownish Tuscan steel.
The pricier models including Bosch and KitchenAid tend to have sleek, minimalist front doors and flashier internal design. More budget-friendly brands such as Whirlpool and Maytag have more traditional aesthetics, generally speaking.
Dishwasher racks and rack placement
This is an easily overlooked feature but it has a significant impact on your day-to-day dishwashing. A new trend is the small third flat rack at the top that can accommodate extra silverware, kitchen utensils and other smaller items. They are typically in addition to an upright silverware holder housed in the bottom rack. If you find yourself filling or overfilling a standard silverware holder on a regular basis, this feature will allow you to wash everything and keep things neat and tidy.
Many dishwashers also now have adjustable racks to accommodate dishes and pans of odd or abnormally large sizes. If you’ve ever struggled with fitting large items into your dishwasher, you should consider a model with adjustable racks.
Various dishwasher cycles and features: Do they matter?
There are dishwasher cycles that come standard on nearly every model — normal, quick wash, heavy-duty, delicate — but fancier units will have even more specific cycles such as mineral-assisted wash and presoak cycle. These extra cycles can be nice to have but I wouldn’t weigh them too heavily when making a purchase decision. Ultimately, you’ll be using the standard cycles far more than the niche ones.
Here’s a quick guide to dishwasher cycles and when to use them.
Drying cycles: Condensation versus electric drying
Most dishwashers have one of two ways to dry dishes after a wash. Many use a condensation process where the dishwasher will use very hot water to heat the dishes inside toward the end. Then, as the tub cools with the hot dishware, condensation will occur and water will drip off the dishes.
Other dishwashers, including some KitchenAid models, have an electric heating element to heat the air and dry dishes at the end. This may be a more thorough way to dry the dishes but it’s also less sanitary, less energy-efficient and will melt plastic items that are on the bottom rack since they are so close to the heating element.
Dishwasher noise level
While dishwashers generally have more in common than they do differences, the noise level is one area in which they do vary and may affect your overall satisfaction with a particular unit. Most modern dishwashers are pretty quiet, reaching only 40 or 50 decibels. But some, like the Kitchenaid KDFE204KPS, have advanced technology to keep the machine as hush-hush quiet as 39 decibels when running. If you look into the specs section of each model, this information should be listed clearly.