Dishwasher reviews: Features explained
Types of dishwasher
There are several choices you need to make when considering which dishwasher is right for you.
Standard or full-sized
Compact or table-top
|Place settings||12 to 15||8 to 10||4 to 6|
|Best for||A large family or if you entertain||Smaller households where space is limited||Occasional use, if you live alone, or prefer not to bend down|
|Drawbacks||Items are crammed into machines with 15 place settings, which can affect cleaning||Can be noisier than full-sized models||Difficult to fit in large items|
Built-in or semi-integrated models
Most dishwashers are freestanding. If you want one to coordinate with your kitchen cabinets, you can buy a built-in model (with concealed controls on the top of the door) or a semi-integrated one (where the control panel is visible).
Dishwasher indicator lights
It's useful if the dishwasher has lights to warn you when the rinse aid or salt need topping up.
The most convenient are models that have these on the outside of the machine (or the rim of the door for built-in models).
Dishwashers need rinse aid to speed drying and prevent water marks, and dishwasher salt to soften hard water. Without them, you could risk damaging the machine, but you don't need to use them every time.
When you install your dishwasher, you'll need to adjust the water hardness level setting depending on the hardness of the water in your area. Contact your local water board to find out what this level is.
Dishwasher additional features
Dishwashers use strong chemical detergents and scaldingly hot water, yet few models have child-safety locks to stop the door being opened while the machine is cleaning.
Many dishwashers have a function where you can set your machine to run after a delay of a number of hours. This can be useful if you have an energy tariff, such as Economy 7, which gives cheaper power overnight.
Some models don't have a delayed-start option but will work with an ordinary timer plug.
Flexible racks and baskets
The best dishwashers have adjustable or removable lower baskets and a height-adjustable upper basket.
This means you can fit large plates or saucepans in the lower basket, for example, at the expense of space in the upper one. Alternatively, you can fit tall glasses in the top basket, and have less space below.
Some dishwashers have tilting upper baskets, which make it easier to make the most of the available space.
Some also have a cutlery basket with a removable top. The top has holes in it to separate individual pieces of cutlery. Ensuring items don't touch helps cleaning but can be fiddly to load.
Types of dishwasher control
Hidden dishwasher controls
Some dishwashers have hidden controls, which sit along the top edge of the door. These are concealed when the door is closed, giving a sleek and contemporary exterior.
Front-facing dishwasher control panels
Front-facing control panels also come in different designs. Buttons, such as those pictured, may be raised or flush to the surface, and some machines have electronic touch pads. LCD panels showing details of the cycle are also common.
Many of the dishwashers have devices to prevent flooding should something go wrong.
The best devices are either 'float switches' which detect the presence of water in the base of the machine and stop the dishwasher filling further, or an 'aqua-stop' which stops any flooding if the hose that fills the dishwasher with water splits or leaks.
The hose carrying the water is encased within another hose, so if the inner one breaks the water pressure trapped within the next layer will close a safety value and stop further leakages.
Dishwasher energy and water efficiency
All dishwashers are graded A to G for energy efficiency, with A being the most efficient and cheapest to run.
Choosing the eco or energy-save dishwasher program usually increases the duration of the cycle, but by heating the water to a lower temperature and washing the contents for longer, the total amount of energy and water use is less than on the standard program.
For example, a typical normal program can use 20 litres of water and 1.5 kWh of electricity, but an eco program can reduce this to 15 litres and 1.0 kWh.