Compact, 18-inch dishwashers are common in Europe and in smaller American dwellings, although some people like them because they help maximize kitchen work and storage space even in larger homes. Although small, these dishwashers can be as fully featured as their larger, 24-inch siblings. However, there are not as many models available, and they usually cost more than 24-inch dishwashers that are otherwise identical.
While there are few expert reviews of 18-inch built-ins, blogger Steve Sheinkopf rounds up a few of the best for a post at YaleAppliance.com, including our top pick, the Frigidaire FFBD1821MS (Est. $700) . While Sheinkopf doesn't give much feedback on this dishwasher, merely noting that it's a better dishwasher than the otherwise identical (and cheaper) 24-inch Frigidaire FDB2410HIC (Est. $600) that it's modeled after, plenty of owners do. Most love its very good cleaning performance and say it's surprisingly spacious for such a small dishwasher, even accommodating larger plates and platters on the lower rack.
The Frigidaire FFBD1821MS is both attractive and packed with features. It's stainless steel inside and out, and has six wash cycles, including Light, China & Crystal and Heavy Wash cycles. There is also a delay start that is popular with users. The FFBD1821MS is very energy efficient, costing an estimated $30 per year to run, but there is also the option to turn off the heat dry to save even more energy. Users say it's a top performer both in washing and drying, although a few complain that plastics don't get dry -- a common problem with all dishwashers. While the stainless steel exterior is popular, this dishwasher also comes in white as the Frigidaire FFBD1821MW (Est. $650) and in black as the Frigidaire FFBD1821MB (Est. $650).
Another good, albeit pricier, choice in this category is the Kenmore Elite 14683 (Est. $980). This compact dishwasher gets a mostly positive review from Johnny Yu at Reviewed.com, who says it's "A powerful clean from a small machine." In his testing, the Kenmore 14683 was a solid performer on most cycles, but he notes that you'll need to soak or scrub off baked on foods if you want them to get really clean. There was also quite a bit of redeposit noted in the Fast Wash cycle; redeposit is when food particles from other dishes are sprayed onto, and stick to, other dishes. In this case, bowls that originally were stained with oatmeal came out stained with spinach. However, for the most part, this small dishwasher did a good overall job with cleaning, it's just important to use the right cycle for the level of stains and to pretreat as appropriate. His bottom line is that this is a category with few choices, and this Kenmore is better than washing dishes by hand.
Owners mostly agree with Yu. Although we found far fewer user reviews for the Kenmore 14683 than for our Best Reviewed choice, the Frigidaire FFBD1821MS, the few that are out there are mostly complimentary. They say that the Kenmore gets their dishes very clean and runs quietly. Its noise level is rated at 56 dBA, which is not the quietest we've seen, but we also saw no complaints of it being excessively loud. A few do say that they have to pre-rinse everything in order for their dishes to actually get clean, and we saw some feedback about durability issues, but most say it's a great dishwasher.
The Kenmore 14683 has a nice array of features, including Eco Wash, Pots and Pans, Fast Wash and Quick Rinse. The heated dry can be turned off for additional energy savings -- this Energy Star certified appliance will cost about $30 a year to operate under normal conditions. While the suggested retail price, which we use here, is quite high, you can usually find this Kenmore on sale for around $800 and sometimes less.
There are other 18-inch dishwashers available for sale, including other Kenmore models, plus models from Bosch, Miele, and others, but most get either dismal reviews or so few reviews that there was no way to form a consensus on performance. Based upon those 18-inch dishwasher reviews we found, the Frigidaire FFBD1821MS is the best choice -- and the best value -- in this category.