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How to buy the best integrated dishwasher

By Hannah Walsh

On the hunt for an integrated dishwasher? Find out how to find the best model for your built-in kitchen.

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Integrated dishwashers are designed to be incorporated into built-in kitchens, but they're usually more expensive than their freestanding counterparts, generally because they're not produced in the same large quantities.  

In the shop, they can be even more difficult to choose between than standard dishwashers. They're designed to be covered by a cupboard door, so they all look the same from the front.  

We've tested hundreds of dishwashers and we've found some integrated models that really aren't worth buying. The worst we've seen leave dishes dirty and damp, while others are frustrating to use or will drive up your utility bills.

So before you install a new dishwasher in your built-in kitchen, it's worth being sure that you're choosing the best one for your home. Read on to find out the answers to key questions about integrated dishwashers.  

To find out which machines do an excellent job of cleaning and drying, head straight to our list of Best Buy dishwashers.

How much do I need to spend to get a decent integrated dishwasher?

We've tested integrated dishwashers that cost as little as £160 and premium models that will set you back over £1,000. Generally speaking, pricier models tend to offer more features, but a good integrated model that cleans and dries well can be found for £450 or less. In contrast, fantastic freestanding models with handy features are regularly available for £300 to £350.

Which type of integrated dishwasher should I get?

There are two types of integrated dishwasher - fully and semi-integrated. Which best suits you will mainly depend on whether you'd prefer a completely streamlined kitchen or a model with a control panel that can be accessed easily. Find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of the two types below.

Fully integrated dishwashers

Fully integrated models are hidden entirely by a kitchen cabinet door, making them the ideal choice for people who want their kitchen to appear as streamlined as possible. Their control panel is found along the top edge of the door. Some models will have a time-remaining indicator that you have to open the door to see, but others use sounds or lights to let you know when the dishwasher has finished cleaning. Fully integrated models are generally more common than semi-integrated dishwashers, so it's easier to find one that's in your price range and has all the features you're looking for.

The image below shows a fully integrated dishwasher on the right. The model on the left is semi-integrated.

Semi-integrated dishwashers

Semi-integrated models are the middle ground between fully integrated and freestanding machines. While most of the door is covered by a kitchen cabinet, the control panel remains visible at the top. This means that you can access the dishwasher's controls and see its display (if it has one) while the door is closed.  

Some semi-integrated models have their own front panel rather than requiring a custom-designed cabinet door. For example, compact models typically have a large drawer and a front panel built on to the machine.

What features should I look for?

Regardless of whether you opt for an integrated or freestanding dishwasher, there are a few key features that you may want to look for.

Adjustable upper racks: Look for dishwashers with height-adjustable upper racks that are easy to use. The easiest have two quick-release clips on either side of the rack. This means you can lower or raise the height to fit large items in the lower rack, even if the upper rack is full of dishes. Roller systems allow you to adjust the rack's height, but this isn’t always easy and you won’t be able to do it if the rack is full. 

Fold-down prongs: Dishwashers with fold-down prongs make loading large items easier. Look for dishwashers with fold-down prongs in both the upper and lower racks.

Large spray head: Large spray heads can be used on extremely dirty items, such as a roasting trays. Removing the lower spray arm and attaching the large spray head concentrates the water in one direction. 

Delay start: Most dishwashers come with a delay timer, which allows you to set the dishwasher hours before you want the wash program to start. This is handy if you can make use of cheaper night-time electricity, or if you like to time your dishwasher so that your plates are warm for dinner.

Child-safety lock: This is a reasonably common feature that prevents unwanted changes being made to settings while the dishwasher is in use. 

Anti-flood protection: This prevents flooding if something should go wrong. 'Float switches' detect water in the base of the machine and stop it from filling further, while an 'aqua-stop' prevents flooding if the hose that fills the dishwasher spills or leaks. 

Sensor wash: This measures how dirty the water is in the machine, and adjusts the temperature and length of the wash accordingly. It's frequently found on more expensive models.

Are cheap integrated dishwashers any good?

Some of the affordable dishwashers we've tested have done so well in our tests we've awarded them Best Buy status. However, we've also found that many are mediocre and others are disappointing.  

If your budget is tight, it's worth using our dishwasher reviews to find the best integrated models in your price range.

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