Dishwasher reviews: Features explained

This is our overview of different types of dishwashers, dishwasher controls and the features to look out for. Once you have an idea of what you're looking for and what features are important to you, see which models have come out top and which to avoid in our dishwasher reviews.

Best compact dishwashers

Compact dishwashers can sit on a work surface and hold 4-6 place settings

Dishwashers: what are the main types?

You might pick your dishwasher based on the space available, the number of people in your household or the design of your kitchen. Here are the basics:

  • Full-sized - 60cm wide, 12-15 place settings
  • Slimline - 45cm wide, 8-10 place settings
  • Compact or table-top - 56cm wide, 4-6 place settings
  • Freestanding - the most common type, fits into any kitchen where space is available
  • Semi-integrated - semi-integrated dishwashers are hidden behind a cabinet door, except the control panel is still visible
  • Built-in or integrated - built-in models are hidden behind a kitchen cabinet with concealed controls along the top of the door.

What dishwasher control options are available?

  • Hidden dishwasher controls - controls that 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 panel - come in different designs, buttons 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.
  • Rinse aid and salt - Dishwashers need rinse aid to speed drying and prevent water marks, and dishwasher salt to soften hard water. Some machines have indicator lights to tell you when these need to be refilled.
Dishwasher timer control

A delay-start control - useful for setting the dishwasher to start a load when suits you

Which dishwasher features and specifications should I look out for?

  • Child-safety lock - stop the door being opened while the machine is cleaning.
  • Delayed start - a function where you can set your machine to run after a delay of a number of hours.
  • Adjustable baskets - some upper baskets can be moved up and down to give more space below.
  • Flexible racks - tiltable upper baskets that let you make the most of the available space.
  • Anti-flood devices - prevents flooding if something should go wrong. 'Float switches' detect water in the base of the machine and stops it filling further, while an 'aqua-stop' prevents flooding if the hose that fills the dishwasher spills or leaks.
  • Sensor wash - measures how dirty the water is in the machine and adjusts the temperature and length of the wash to suit this.
  • Fuzzy logic - adjusts the washing conditions according to how dirty the load is.
  • Energy-efficiency labels - all dishwashers are graded A+++ to D for energy efficiency, with A+++ being the most efficient and cheapest to run
  • Water efficiency - we've tested dishwashers that use up to 21 litres of water per load; some new machines use as little as 6 litres per wash.
  • Large spray head - some models come with large or extra-large spray heads that help to tackle hard-to-remove dirt.
  • Cutlery drawer - a hidden drawer above the upper basket for cutlery and espresso cups; an alternative to a cutlery basket.

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