Dishwasher reviews: FAQs

How much do I need to spend to get a good dishwasher?

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Dishwashers that cost less than £200 are basic machines with no frills. Even at this comparatively low price, some do a good job of getting dishes clean, and you’ll be able to fit as many items inside as you would in a more expensive machine, but you’ll struggle to find the kind of features that make washing dishes easier. Delay timers, which let you set the dishwasher to automatically start in the future,  and digital displays showing the remaining wash time are rare on dishwashers that cost less than £200.

The space inside a £200 dishwasher won’t be as flexible as it is in more expensive machines. You’ll be able to adjust the height of the upper dish rack to fit in larger items, but you won’t find quick-release clips to help you do this quickly and easily. And many come from own brands that don't have proven track record for reliability. It’s rare at this end of the market to find machines that are good enough to be Best Buy dishwashers.

Which extra features should I expect from a mid-range dishwasher?

Dishwashers costing closer to £400 should have all of the features that cheaper models lack. Quick-release upper dish-racks, delay timers and child locks are all common on dishwashers for around £400, and most will come with flood-prevention devices that stop the dishwasher flooding should the hose spring a leak. Space-saving trays for cutlery to lay flat in are more common at this price, and £400 dishwashers should also score top marks in Which? tests on energy and water use.

Many come with sensor control for at least some of their programs, and digital displays are standard on dishwashers at this price. Lots of machines are good enough to be Best Buy dishwashers for around £400.

What should I expect from a top-of-the-range dishwasher?

If you pay more than £500 for a dishwasher you should be looking for something special. They should have all the features you need to make dishwashing easy, be the best dishwashers for energy and water-use and show some innovation as well. Some dishwashers at this end of the price range use heat-retaining minerals to help reduce energy during the drying phase, and others use only seven litres of water to wash a full load of dishes.

Do different programs use different amounts of water and electricity?

We’ve tested dishwashers on their main program, which washes dishes at the hottest temperatures, and their eco or energy-save program, which uses less water and electricity but washes for longer and at lower temperatures. 

Because eco programs like this wash dishes at lower temperatures, they usually need a little bit longer to get the dishes clean. 

The good news is there isn’t a huge amount of difference between washing results on the main program and the eco program with our Best Buys, but the eco program does use significantly less water and electricity than the main program.

Intensive programs are designed to clean extremely dirty pots, pans and dishes that would normally need soaking, rinsing and extra wash cycles to get them sparkling and clean. 

Intensive results are generally impressive but come at a price – intensive programs use more energy and water than either the main or the eco programs.

Dishwasher-plates

How does a dishwasher compare to washing by hand?

Washing by hand can be a quick and easy way to clean your dishes. But it won’t always save water when compared with using a dishwasher. 

The eco program on one of our Which? Best Buys uses just 12.1 litres of water to wash a full load of 97 items – that’s just a little bit more than a standard washing-up bowl. 

And by using the intensive program for your really dirty pots and pans you won’t have to soak them first, which again will save some water.

If you don’t leave the tap running while you wash, are happy to use one bowl of water for everything and don’t rinse or soak anything, you might save water by washing by hand. But it will be a very close-run thing.

Is it better to use all-in-one tablets or separates?

Three-in-one tablets supposedly provide all the consumables a dishwasher needs – detergent, rinse aid (to prevent watermarks) and dishwasher salt (to soften hard water) – in one handy tablet. Many dishwashers now feature a special program for these.

Four-in-one and five-in-one products claim to have an additional function to keep glasses looking newer for longer (four-in-one), as well as a function to give a better shine to stainless steel (five-in-one).

Before using all-in-one tablets, check your dishwasher manual. If you have an older machine that doesn't have a three-in-one button and isn't designed to work with all-in-one products, you may invalidate your warranty.

With all-in-one products you'll usually still have to add dishwasher salt separately.

Do you have any dishwashing tips?

  • Place the largest items at the side and the back of the machine – they might prevent water from reaching the detergent dispenser if they're at the front.
  • Pre-rinsing by hand is a waste of time and water. Wipe food residues away and/or use the rinse-and-hold program.
  • For the best cleaning, make sure the dirtiest side of the dish faces towards the centre of the dishwasher.
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How do I wash delicate glasses?

Cleaning delicate glassware in the dishwasher can be a problem. Most manufacturers suggest you avoid putting long-stemmed wine glasses in, as they may break.

The aluminium, lead and silver content of crystal glasses also tends to discolour or fade if you wash them repeatedly.

If you're feeling brave and want to risk glassware in the dishwasher, there are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Wash delicate glassware separately and select the lowest temperature with the shortest duration possible.
  • Spread glasses out in the upper basket to ensure they avoid contact with each other. Some wine specialist stores and manufacturers (including Whirlpool) sell crystal glass racks for this purpose.
  • Use a mild detergent that is ‘kind to dishes’ or labelled ‘glass protector’.
  • Place a cup of white vinegar in the lowest part of the dishwasher and run for 10 minutes. Stop the cycle, add a little detergent and re-start
  • To prevent damage, remove glasses from the machine as soon as the program has finished.

What should I do if I own a recalled or unsafe dishwasher?

Some manufacturers, such as Hotpoint, Bosch, Siemens and Neff, have recalled dishwashers owing to potential fire risks. To find out more about which dishwasher models have been recalled and what to do if you own a recalled dishwasher read our guide to dishwasher recalls. You can also tell us about your experiences of unsafe appliances with our quick appliance safety questionnaire.

What's the best way to get rid of my old dishwasher?

You can get rid of an unwanted dishwasher through the retailer supplying your new model or via your local council. Check when you buy if the shop will take away an old machine when delivering a replacement.

Your local council has a responsibility to offer a collection service for the disposal of waste machines, but it's a bit of a postcode lottery. Some councils offer free collection; others charge up to £30.

If you can take the machine to your local civic amenity yourself, though, there should be no charge.

Recycling schemes

One thing to remember is that it doesn't have to be sent to a landfill site. Large household appliances already make up 43% of the total electrical and electronic waste sent to landfill – and there are other options.

The Furniture Recycling Network co-ordinates the refurbishment of furniture and appliances for people in need. Call 01924 375 252 for details of your nearest project.

Similarly, Create (Community Recycling and Enterprise Training for Employment) repairs appliances and sells them on. It has projects in London (020 8885 6209) and Merseyside (0151 448 1748).

Also, when buying a new appliance, you could ask whether the retailer or manufacturer will remove the old one. Some will pick up old appliances when they deliver new ones, and dispose of them for you.

Are small worktop dishwashers any good?

Many people with small kitchens don't have room for a plumbed-in dishwasher, so a compact dishwasher that fits on your worktop or table might seem like a good idea. They take between four and six place settings (compared with eight to 10 for a slim model or 12 for a full-sized one).

However, most models we've tested didn't produce impressive cleaning results and were quite noisy.

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