Advice Guide

Dishwashers glossary

by Emma Featherstone Back to advice guides
This is our overview of different types of dishwashers, dishwasher controls and the features to think about if you're shopping around for a new machine.

Dishwashers explained

  • Find out which dishwasher size suits your kitchen
  • See what extras features are useful for you
  • Learn more about dishwasher programs


Anti-flood devices

'Float switches' detect water in the base of machine and stop it filling further

Prevent 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.

Adjustable baskets

Some upper baskets can be moved up and down to give more space below.

Built in (also known as integrated) dishwashers 

Built-in models are hidden behind a kitchen cabinet with concealed controls along the top of the door.


Compact dishwashers are typically 56cm wide and can sit on a kitchen work surface

Child-safety lock

This stops the door being opened while the machine is cleaning.

Compact (also known as table-top)

56cm wide, 4-6 place settings

Cutlery drawer

A hidden drawer above the upper basket for cutlery and espresso cups; an alternative to a cutlery basket.


Delay start 

A function where you can set your machine to run after a delay of a number of hours.

Dishwasher tablets

Dishwasher tablets are more popular among Which? members than powder. We've find the Best Buys in our dishwasher detergents tests.


Which? members have told us that drying is an important feautre in their dishwasher. So how well a dishwasher dries is given a star rating and also built into the overall score for every dishwasher that we test. 


Energy-efficiency labels

All dishwashers are graded A+++ to D for energy efficiency, with A+++ being the most efficient and cheapest to run

Ease of use

This is built into the overall test score for each dishwasher. It is assessed based on loading and emptying the dishwasher and using the controls. 


Flexible racks

Tiltable upper baskets that let you make the most of the available space.


The most common type, fits into any kitchen where space is available. 

Front-facing dishwasher control panel

These 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.


60cm wide, 12-15 place settings

Fuzzy logic

This adjusts the washing conditions according to how dirty the load is.


Hidden dishwasher controls

These controls sit along the top edge of the door. These are concealed when the door is closed, giving a sleek and contemporary exterior.


You can choose dishwashers that are semi or fully built in, so that they are hidden behind a cabinet door - see 'Semi-integrated' and 'fully integrated' for more information


Large spray head 

Some models come with large or extra-large spray heads that help to tackle hard-to-remove dirt.


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.



Dishwasher salt helps to soften hard water and helps prevent the clouding you sometimes find on glasses after washing. Some dishwashers have an indicator light for salt to tell you when it needs to be refilled. 


These dishwashers are hidden behind a cabinet door, except the control panel is still visible

Sensor wash

Measures how dirty the water is in the machine and adjusts the temperature and length of the wash to suit this.


45cm wide, 8-10 place settings


Rinse aid 

Dishwashers need rinse aid to speed drying and prevent water marks. Some machines have indicator lights to tell you when these need to be refilled.