Dishwashers

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The perfect dishwasher is hard to find.

We’ve tested a wide range of models so you can pick the one that’s best for your situation. We also explain all you need to know about water and energy efficiency, and which brands are the most reliable.

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About our test

It’s tricky to come up with tests for appliances like dishwashers.

The items used for a load need to be the same every time, have the same amounts of the same types of food on them, and there needs to be consistency in how many items you load into dishwashers of varying sizes. The problem is you can end up with a load that doesn't look anything like a real family’s.

How dishwasher manufacturers describe capacity doesn’t help either. You might have a 12-place-setting dishwasher, but when was the last time you threw a dinner party for 12 people? Or made dinner but didn't end up with any pots, pans or serving bowls to wash?

The test load

Our test uses items that most dishwashers deal with on a daily basis. There’s a steel pot and pan, a large serving dish, mugs, plastic plates, plastic bowls, a large glass bowl and plastic serving utensils. With all of this packed in, there’s only space in most full-sized models for 5 place settings – whatever the manufacturers claim about capacity. Where we used to fit 132 items in a 12-place setting dishwasher, we now have 82.

Our testing cycle

If a machine has an "auto" cycle, we select it over the "normal" cycle. We do this because an auto or sensing cycle should be designed to give optimum results for every wash. You're also generally paying extra for this feature. If there's no "auto" cycle we test on the "normal" cycle as this is what our members use the most.

We put each dishwasher through its paces at least twice and the scores are averaged.

The test lab diet

To really test a dishwasher's ability to clean, we carefully dirty each test load with a range of foods and let them dry for 15 to 18 hours. And we’ve added baked-on porridge to the foods we’ve always used (such as baby cereal, spinach, egg yolk, tomato juice, tea and butter). Each of the foods plays a crucial part in assessing how the dishwasher performs and they’re there to test things like filtration, spray-arm effectiveness, rinsing and automatic sensors.

Why are Consumer’s test results different to those on energy and water labels?

For water and energy rating labels, dishwashers are tested using a cycle chosen by the manufacturer. Any cycle can be used as long as it's stated in the instruction manual that it's designed to wash a normally soiled load at the machine's rated capacity. This means "economy" cycles can be used by manufacturers to minimise water and energy consumption, and so maximise the number of stars on the rating label.

Economy cycles often dispense with the drying part of the cycle. It saves on power, but means you may have to get out the tea towel.

Our test load also varies from the load used for water and energy rating label tests which doesn’t include items like pots and plastic ware.

Compare all the dishwashers we've tested.

What to look for

If you're thinking about buying a dishwasher, here's what to consider.

Dimensions

  • Size: A lot of 12- to 15-place models fit roughly the same-sized under bench space (82-85cm height, 60cm width and 55cm to 65cm depth). If you are replacing an existing dishwasher, check the fit before you order. Some models come with a worktop that must be removed before building in. Check the ventilation space requirements. If you’re looking for a dishwasher to squeeze into a small space, a compact or slimline model might be right for you.
  • Capacity: The dishwashers in our test database come in sizes up to 15 place settings. Overfilling a dishwasher with extra crockery and cutlery reduces wash performance.

Flexible loading

  • Adjustable top basket: Essential if you want to wash champagne flutes or other tall wine glasses, or wash very large plates in the lower basket. Some models let you lower one side of the basket, so you can wash tall glasses and large plates at the same time.
    Removable or folding tines allow large or awkwardly shaped objects to fit in the baskets. Watch out for short tines – plates can fall over onto each other and prevent a good wash.
    Take along a few pieces of your everyday dinnerware such as a large plate, a deep bowl and a long-stemmed glass. See how they fit – check that the baskets can close and the spray arms can spin without hitting anything.

  • Anti-nesting grids: Fitted over the cutlery basket to prevent cutlery bunching together. Removable grids are more versatile and easier to use.

  • Cutlery tray: Here's an innovation in some models you'll either love or hate. Critics find it time consuming and fiddly to load, because each piece of cutlery has to go in its own slot – the right way round. And it can prevent tall glasses from fitting, unless the tray is removed.
    Our test found there was no performance advantage with a cutlery tray. A basket may be offered as an alternative or in addition to a tray.

Settings

  • Program options and features: What do you want your dishwasher to do? The options vary. A low temperature wash saves power, and lets you take advantage of the new enzyme detergents. A delicate cycle is useful for fragile items. A fast-wash function is efficient if you've pre-rinsed the plates to remove the worst of the grime. A half-load option reduces the amount of detergent, power and water required.
  • Cycle time: A normal cycle takes around 2 to 2.5 hours. Some models have a fast cycle, and those with a hot connection will be quicker than those which heat the water themselves.
  • Auto-sensing: Where a dishwasher has an auto-sensing cycle we use that for testing. An auto-sensing cycle adjusts wash time, temperature and energy level to suit the amount of dirt in the wash water. But our tests have found some auto-sensing machines aren't always consistent in their choices.
  • Displays: It's helpful to see how soon the cycle will finish, or where to look to fix simple problems, such as blocked spray arms.

Other features

Additional features to consider when you're choosing a dishwasher.

  • Anti-flooding devices: Worth having. Often fitted to the hose, to prevent your kitchen becoming awash if there's a leak.
  • Concealed heaters: We can't see any difference in performance, though stray plastic items are more likely to melt onto an exposed element. If you must wash plastic, do larger pieces only, and in the top rack.
  • Noise: If you're used to a 15-year-old dishwasher, you'll probably be astonished at how quiet the current models are. Machines that can wash at levels below 45dBA won't intrude too much on your post-dinner chat.
  • Style: The right look can be a key factor. Most brands offer stainless steel and integrated options. Integrated models (often with an "i" in the model number) can be fitted with a front panel to match your kitchen décor.
  • Child proofing: Door locks, and child-safe detergent dispensers could prevent accidents.
  • Filter: Make sure the filter is easy to remove and replace.
  • Controls: Look for clearly labelled buttons and a display screen or rotary dial to indicate time remaining.

Drying

A dishwasher should make your life easier but if you’re always having to pull out a tea towel to finish the job, how convenient is it? Our testing shows most dishwashers wash well, but drying performance can vary considerably.

There are several factors in how well a dishwasher dries dishes:

  • Size: How large your dishwasher is can have a big effect. The smaller the washing compartment, the quicker it is to heat and dry your dishes.
  • Temperature: Anyone who has hand-washed dishes in a sink knows a hot plate dries faster. So a hot final rinse is important for quick drying.
  • Eco-mode: Using eco-mode is a good choice for your wallet and environmental footprint. However, the trade-off is this mode often cuts back on drying times, doesn’t heat the water as much or skips the last rinse cycle.
  • Extra features: Some models have drying aids, such as fan-assisted drying. This is where a fan inside the dishwasher pushes warm air around.

Our testing also showed dishwashers that scored well in drying were usually not very energy efficient. This is because the drying part of a washing cycle can be the most energy-intensive part of the wash. Finding a dishwasher that both washes and dries well is hard, but not impossible.

Before you get the tea towel out, follow these tips

If your dishwasher doesn’t dry well, here’s how to give it a helping hand:

  • The best drying method, while time-consuming, is easy – air-drying. Open the door a few inches once the cycle is finished and come back in an hour.
  • Rinse-aid speeds up the drying of dishes and prevents water marks, especially when using powder dishwasher detergent. It isn’t as necessary if you use dishwasher tablets with rinse-aid. If your dispenser has settings, try tweaking them to get the driest dishes possible.
  • Plastic items can slow drying as they don’t retain heat like crockery. If possible, hand-wash plastic items instead. They’ll likely last longer as well.
  • A full dishwasher dries better. More dishes mean more heat and therefore drier crockery.
  • Pooled water slows drying times. Make sure containers, bowls and glasses are angled down so water can drain away.

Water and energy efficiency

The perfect dishwasher balances washing performance against water efficiency, and drying performance against energy efficiency.

What matters most to you?

A dishwasher’s main job is to wash dishes properly. It’s false economy to choose a model that has excellent water and energy efficiency but can’t do its main job: you’ll just end up using more water and energy rinsing and re-washing dishes.

Drying tends to divide dishwasher users. Some aren't bothered if items come out clean but wet; others want everything bone dry.

Individual scores for washing, drying, water efficiency and energy efficiency vary amongst our recommended models – so when choosing a new dishwasher think about what matters most to you.

Our test results give the total amount of water used by each dishwasher but no longer give a score for water efficiency. This is because water efficiency has improved to a point where almost any dishwasher will use less water than washing the same load by hand. If our tests find a dishwasher that uses an excessive amount of water, we’ll point this out.

Water connection

Most dishwashers come with a single water connection, and manufacturers usually recommend you hook it up to cold water.

You might be tempted to save money by connecting to your hot water if it comes from a wetback, heat pump or solar unit. But before you do that check the maximum water-inlet temperature (see the test results). Also make sure you have a suitable tempering valve on your hot-water system.

If you have a standard electric hot-water cylinder, allowing your dishwasher to heat its own water will be fractionally cheaper than using the cylinder’s.

Using a cold connection also gives you the full flexibility of all the cycle options on your machine.

Cost per load

Every dishwasher we test is monitored to see how much electricity it uses. Then there’s the cost of detergent.

Electricity costs currently range from 17 cents per load for the most efficient machine to 44 cents for the least efficient.

Our test of dishwasher powders and tablets showed this can cost between 12 and 81 cents per load.

Households on a water meter will also have to factor in the cost of their water. That’ll be somewhere between 2 and 7 cents a load, depending on the machine.

This means cleaning a load of dishes will cost somewhere between 29 cents and $1.32 – not counting the cost of the machine. Most people’s costs will be somewhere in the middle. That isn’t bad for the convenience you get from a dishwasher.

The second-hand option

Considering a second-hand dishwasher? Unless you really must, we think new is better. But if second-hand is your only option:

  • Stick to well-known, reliable brands under 5 years old. It'll be easier to get parts if anything needs fixing. See our reliability data for brands to look for.
  • Check the door seal is intact and that the door clicks shut properly.
  • Check all connecting and drainage hoses are intact and in good condition.
  • Make sure the inside is free from rust, the filter is clean, and the baskets slide in and out easily.
  • Under the Electricity Act and its regulations, electrical appliances for sale must be safe. This law applies to every way of selling an electrical appliance, new or used.
  • If you buy a dishwasher from a second-hand dealer and then discover it to be faulty, you're covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act. If you buy privately, you're not.

It's hard to work out how old a dishwasher might be. It's also not easy to find out how much water and energy an older model uses.

How long should it last?

How long should a dishwasher last? And when should you replace rather than repair?

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Care and maintenance

Looking after your dishwasher will maximise its life and performance.

All that yucky grease left in your sink and food caught in the plug trap after handwashing dishes goes through your dishwasher. It’s no surprise a build-up of greasy food is enemy number one. Grease and food scraps clog filters and spray arms, strain pumps and reduce the effectiveness of sensors. To keep a dishwasher running efficiently for as long as possible, cleaning is your priority:

  • Add a capful of rinse aid to a load once a week to keep grease at bay, even if you use tablets with built-in rinse-aid.

  • Every month, run your dishwasher empty on its hottest cycle with dishwasher cleaner. After the cycle, remove and clean the drain filter with a brush and hot soapy water. Also check behind the door seal, particularly at the bottom, and clean out any grunge.

  • Every few months, check the spray arms as holes can get clogged. Check your manual to see if you can remove them. If so, clean them along with the filter.

  • If you get an error code on the control panel, check your manual or turn to Google for an explanation. In many cases, these aren’t terminal — they just indicate the filter is clogged (so water can’t drain) or a sensor is dirty. Before calling for a repair, thoroughly clean the machine and see if that fixes it.

What not to put in the dishwasher

Dishwashers are an appliance of convenience. However, while it’s tempting to throw in everything from the pots and pans to the glassware and cutlery, there are some items you should roll up your sleeves and wash by hand.

Silver: whether sterling or plated, silver should never go in the dishwasher. Silver tarnishes easily, and once stained polishing may not remove it. It isn’t necessarily the dishwasher that’s at fault, the detergent used can also tarnish silver. We recommend always hand-washing silver.

Fine china: depending on the age and condition of your china, putting it in the dishwasher can wear away at the pattern or chip and break it. It’s also best to leave gold-trimmed crockery out of the dishwasher as the trim can be stripped away.

Crystal and fine glassware: sensitive to temperature and detergents, these types of delicate glassware are prone to cracking and etching. If your crystal has turned cloudy, try cleaning it with a lime remover as it may not be etched. However, once etching occurs, it is irreversible.

Wooden cooking utensils and chopping boards: wooden cookware can warp and crack from repeated washes in the dishwasher. Chopping boards are a bit more resilient, but the wood can end up drying out too much and gaps and cracks can form. After washing, make sure wooden utensils and chopping boards are completely dry before putting them away to prevent bacteria growth.

Utensils with wood or bone handles: the temperatures and detergent in a dishwasher can weaken glue holding the handle to the utensil, causing it to fall off.

Cast-iron cookware: seasoning is the gradual process of building up a protective non-stick surface on cast-iron cookware. Putting a cast-iron skillet in the dishwasher can strip that seasoning and eventually cause it to rust.

Copper pots and pans: while your copper cookware won’t be ruined by putting it in the dishwasher, it can become discoloured and require laborious hand cleaning to restore.

Brass: the hot temperature inside a dishwasher can cause a chemical reaction that eats away at the protective layer on brass. This layer prevents oxidation and tarnishing. Once it’s gone, you’ll need to polish the item to replace it.

Items with labels on them: the dishwasher might seem like an easy way to remove labels from jars. However, once a label peels off it doesn’t go down the drain. It can stick to unseen places in your dishwasher, especially the filter, and cause headaches later on.

Is the top rack safer?

Some kitchenware and utensils come with instructions saying to wash in the top rack only. This is because the top rack of a dishwasher is typically cooler during a hot wash than the bottom rack due to the placement of the heating element. Regardless of which rack you use, you should avoid placing any of the items mentioned above in your dishwasher.

Reliability

Find out which dishwasher brands rated best in our 2016 appliance reliability survey.

Become a paying member or log in to see the results.

Miele & Bosch win Top Brand

The Top Brand award recognises brands that perform consistently well across product testing, reliability and customer satisfaction.

Miele and Bosch both performed well across the board. Consumers can be confident a brand touting this award has delivered top results both in the lab and in our surveys.

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