How to buy the best dishwasher
By Aaron West
Article 1 of 2
Buying a great dishwasher means kissing goodbye to washing up by hand. Our guide will help you buy the best dishwasher for you, your kitchen, budget and priorities.
One dishwasher may look like another, but buying the right one for you can mean you'll actually save on your energy and water bills, while still getting pristine results.
Watch our video above or read on to learn all you need to know about dishwashers.
In this article you'll learn the answers to these key questions:
- What type of dishwasher is best for me?
- Freestanding, integrated or semi-integrated dishwasher?
- Which sized dishwasher do I need?
- How much does a good dishwasher cost?
- How much will a dishwasher cost to run?
- What features and programs do I need?
- What is a smart dishwasher?
If you already know the type of dishwasher you want, then head over to our dishwasher reviews.
One of the first decisions you'll need to make is whether you'd prefer a freestanding dishwasher, an integrated (built-in) model, or a semi-integrated one.
Freestanding dishwashers are the most common, and fit into any kitchen that will accommodate them – their front door is designed to remain fully visible.
They're available in a range of colours. Unsurprisingly, white is the most common, but black, grey and silver are also popular, and other colours are occasionally available, too.
- The most common type of dishwasher, so it's easier to find one that matches your budget.
- Unlike integrated models, they're not built into your kitchen units, so you could feasibly take your dishwasher with you if you move home.
- Freestanding dishwashers are easier to pull out and remove for maintenance.
- They don't blend into kitchens the way integrated models do, although you could find one in a colour that suits your decor.
Integrated dishwashers are designed to be incorporated into built-in kitchens. The entire front panel of the dishwasher is hidden behind a kitchen cabinet door.
As a result, you won't be able to see how long is left of the program at a glance. But some high-end models get around this by projecting the time-remaining onto the floor in front.
- They completely blend into your kitchen, hidden behind a cabinet door. This is great if you want your kitchen to look streamlined.
- Often more expensive than freestanding models.
- The controls and display aren't visible at a glance with fully integrated models; you'll need to open the door to check the controls.
- You can't easily check how long is left of the current program. But some modern dishwashers get around this by projecting the time remaining onto the floor.
Although quite rare, semi-integrated dishwashers can offer the best of both. They are integrated into your kitchen cabinets, but have just the control panel at the top on display.
As a result you get all the functionality of a freestanding model, but with streamlined look of an integrated one.
- They blend into your kitchen, mostly hidden behind a cabinet door - great if you want your kitchen to look streamlined.
- With most you'll be able to tell at a glance how long is left of the current program.
- Often more expensive than both freestanding and integrated models.
- Not common, so the choice of brands and price points are limited.
Dishwashers come in three different sizes: full-sized, slimline and compact.
If you are fitting a new dishwasher into an existing kitchen, you'll need to measure the width of the space you plan on putting it in.
Slimline dishwashers are narrower. But we've sometimes found slimline dishwashers trickier to load, and our lab tests reveal that they use about the same amount of energy and water as a full-sized dishwasher – meaning per item they are actually less economical.
This means you're better off going for a full-sized dishwasher if you have the space.
Learn more below about the pros and cons of opting for a full size, slimline or compact dishwasher.
Width Approximately 60cm Capacity 120-150 items
Pros They can wash at least 120 items at once. They're also, in general, better for water and energy efficiency.
Cons They might be too big for small kitchens. Households that don't use much crockery could struggle to make up a full load. Running the dishwasher when it isn't full will waste water and electricity.
The smallest full-sized machines have room for 12 place settings – each place setting is made up of 10 items, so that's 120 pots, pans, plates and pieces of cutlery in total. The biggest dishwashers can squeeze in more than 150 items – so they’re capable of coping with the washing up after large dinner parties.
If you regularly have lots of dishes to wash, go for a model with a larger-than-average capacity - so 13, 14 or 15 place settings.
Width Approximately 45cm Capacity 90-100 items
Pros A great option if you're short on space.
Cons A larger machine will be more energy and water efficient per item washed.
When space is tight in your kitchen, a slimline machine can be a good option. At around 45cm wide, these are 15cm slimmer than full-sized models, but are still capable of washing 9 or 10 place settings at once.
Pros A good option if you don’t use too many dishes or are tight on space. Table-top versions mean you don't have to bend down to load the dishwasher.
Cons They're often quite expensive, and usually a lot less energy efficient than full-sized or slimline models. It can be tricky to fit large items inside.
Compact models can be either integrated or table-top dishwashers. As their name suggests, table-top dishwashers sit on top of kitchen worktops, while integrated compact models take up the space of a large drawer in your built-in kitchen.
Compact models are handy if space is scarce but they do use more energy per item than larger dishwashers.
They're a little bit bigger than a very large microwave oven or a large drawer, and have a small capacity of between four and six place settings, so you won’t be able to wash too many dishes at once. As such, compact dishwashers use more water and energy per item than slimline and full-sized machines.
You could buy a dishwasher for less than £170, or you could spend more than £1,000. But our testing has found that price is no indicator of quality – in fact, we've uncovered a £800 dishwasher that did such a bad job we've labelled it a Don't Buy.
It's perfectly possible to pick up a great, affordable dishwasher that gets the basics of cleaning and drying right – whether you're looking for a compact, slimline or full-sized machine. You may need to compromise on features, though.
Expensive models will often have more program options and advanced features, such as an auto sensor for detecting how dirty your dishes are and adjusting the wash, an anti-flood sensor, auto-open door feature for leaving your dishes completely dry, and even built-in wi-fi for controlling your dishwasher remotely with your smartphone.
Freestanding and integrated dishwasher installation costs
Don't forget to include the cost of installation as part of the overall cost of your new dishwasher.
When buying from one of the major home appliance retailers, such as John Lewis or Currys PC World, you will be given the option to include installation as part of the order.
This normally costs about £25, but we have seen some quotes for integrated dishwashers being as much as £90. It could therefore be worth shopping around beforehand to see whether an independent installer can offer you a better rate.
The cost of a dishwasher doesn't just end with its price tag. When we test dishwashers, we calculate the running costs in terms of electricity used, as well as the amount of water the machine uses, and we've found significant differences between the most and least efficient machines.
You can find out the energy costs for each dishwasher using our interactive tool in the dishwasher energy running costs guide.
Most dishwashers have an official A rating for energy efficiency, but this doesn't guarantee that you're getting the most efficient machine. Which? gives each model a star rating of one to five for energy and water use. The most inefficient dishwasher we've tested would add £64 to your yearly energy bills, while the best adds just £27.
Which? members can see which dishwashers we've awarded an 'Energy Saver' label to. These machines will save you money on your energy bills, and are better for the environment.
When it comes to water use, we've found full-sized machines that use just half a litre of water per place setting. Slimline models tend to be less efficient, but the most efficient we've tested still used less than a litre of water per place setting - far less than the amount used while handwashing.
Getting the perfect dishwasher for your lifestyle also comes to down to the features you choose - families with children may value a child lock, while others may need an adjustable rack to configure the machine for large platters or long-stemmed wine glasses. If you use an economy energy tariff, such as Economy 7, then a flexible delay-start feature is worth looking for.
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 roasting trays. Removing the lower spray arm and attaching the large spray head concentrates the water in one direction.
Cutlery tray or second cutlery basket
Some dishwashers now have a third rack, right at the top of the machine, which replaces the cutlery basket. Some also still include a basket, and some have two baskets, giving you the option for extra flexibility when loading.
Adjustable upper racks
Look for dishwashers with height-adjustable upper racks that are easy to use. The easiest have a quick-release clip on each side of the upper 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, as you need to remove and then replace the basket, this isn’t always easy and you won’t be able to do it if the rack is full.
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, for example.
Child safety lock
This is a reasonably common feature that prevents unwanted changes being made to settings while the dishwasher is in use.
This prevents flooding if something goes 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 splits or leaks.
Sensor wash or fuzzy logic
This measures how dirty the dishes in the machine are, and adjusts the temperature and length of the wash accordingly. It's frequently found on more expensive models.
Built-in wi-fi or smart features
Currently reserved for high-end machines, wi-fi connected dishwashers can be paired with an app on your smartphone and monitored or controlled remotely.
Smart connected dishwashers tend to be pricier – usually priced at more than £600. However, we have also tested one dishwasher that has built-in wi-fi for less than £400.
Smart dishwashers connect to your home wi-fi network and pair with an app on your smartphone or tablet. They are designed to give you greater flexibility to operate your dishwasher without needing to be in the same room, or simply an easier way to keep an eye on the dishwashing cycle. Here are some of the snazzy features you get with smart dishwashers:
Home Connect (for Bosch and Siemens): Lets you start your dishwasher remotely, gives you the current status of the cycle, and can even advise on levels of salt and rinse aid. You can input the date you last started a new pack of dishwasher tablets, and the app will give you a notification when you’ve nearly run out. It works with the Easy Start function on some dishwashers that tells you the best settings for each type of load. It's available for some Bosch and Siemens dishwashers.
Hoover Wizard: Can help with the selection of programs, depending on the type of dishes loaded and the level of soiling, lets you delay the washing cycle and monitor the time left. It is available on all new Hoover dishwashers and gives you notifications of any changes in status of the dishwasher. This will be useful for knowing what maintenance needs to be done, with practical advice on what you can do yourself.
LG SmartThinQ: Sends you an alert when your dishwasher has finished the cycle, meaning you don't have to listen out for the beep or get up to check the display. It works with selected LG dishwashers.
Miele MobileControl: You can access the program status, and select and start programs. The Miele connected appliances range includes ovens, hobs, cooker hoods, coffee machines, fridges and laundry appliances.
Where can you buy a black, silver or stainless steel dishwasher?
Dishwashers are available in a whole range of colours. You should be able to buy black, silver, stainless steel or even cream dishwashers anywhere they sell regular white ones.
We've found that a choice of colour doesn't make a dishwasher any more expensive. But it will limit your choice, as many retailers will only sell one colour - either the white one or the black one, for example.
Dishwashers with a stainless steel exterior will cost more than a plain white, black or silver dishwasher. This is because stainless steel is more expensive than the plastic many dishwashers are made of.
What about black and silver slimine dishwashers?
Just like their full-size counterparts, slimlines are also available in a whole variety of colours.