Dishwashers vary in price and features, from basic $350 models to stylish
luxury units costing $1,500 or more. In general, the more expensive the dishwasher,
the quieter it is and the more bells and whistles it includes. High-end models
are often only a little louder than a running refrigerator and have highly
adjustable racks, multiple wash cycles and sleek designs that generally include
Professional tests indicate that budget dishwashers priced around $500 clean
as well, or almost as well, as their high-end counterparts. However, they're
considerably louder and tend to offer fewer features to aid in loading, such
as adjustable racks. Most also have plastic (rather than stainless-steel)
wash tubs, which experts and owners agree are less durable and tend to stain
over time -- although even a plastic tub will last as long as most people
keep their dishwashers.
Here are other things to consider when shopping for and using a dishwasher:
Be wary of sensors; they may or may not reduce water
use. A sensor feature,
which is common even on budget dishwashers, measures the amount of
dirt in the rinse water and adjusts the water volume and rinse time accordingly.
In theory, this feature should save water, but ConsumerReports.org
editors say it doesn't always work and may increase cycle times.
Noise is hard to
predict. Other than ending up with dirty dishes, what's most likely
to annoy consumers is the noise their dishwasher makes. Reviewers say noise
level seems to correspond with price. If your living room, dining room
and kitchen are all one open space, it may be worth it to pay a little
more for peace and quiet.
Look for flexible loading
options. Features such as folding tines and adjustable
top racks give you more ways to position dishes, and often make
it possible to accommodate larger items.
Choose the filter type that
meets your needs. Self-cleaning filters have a built-in disposer
that grinds up food debris and washes it down the drain. While this feature
saves time, it also makes a lot of noise. Manual filters don't include
a grinder and are quieter, but they need to be emptied by hand -- a job
that takes just a few minutes.
Consider extra wash cycles
carefully. Experts say that three basic cycles -- light, normal and heavy
soil -- are sufficient for most jobs. Fancy steam-cleaning or sanitizing
cycles don't necessarily result in cleaner dishes. However, a "half
load" cycle can be a useful feature for smaller families that might
take a long time to fill a dishwasher completely. Another handy cycle is "rinse
and hold," which quickly rinses dishes that must sit until a full
load is ready to wash. Experts say this cycle can reduce odors and keep
stains from setting.
Skip prerinsing dishes. Studies find that most consumers
still routinely rinse their dishes before loading them into the dishwasher,
a step that experts say is unnecessary. According to the American Council
for an Energy-Efficient Economy, simply scraping the solid food off of
plates is sufficient; pre-rinsing doesn't improve cleaning but does waste
water. Most dishwashers today can handle even the dirtiest plates without
help; in one professional test, most machines had no problem removing peanut
butter, oatmeal and spinach that had been left overnight to congeal.
A good detergent can make
a world of difference. While the elimination of phosphates from dishwasher
detergent initially resulted in weaker cleaning power, today's low-phosphate
detergents are a big improvement. There's a lot of variation among
detergents, though, so choose one that's highly rated. (See the ConsumerSearch
report on dishwasher detergents.) Consider adding a rinse aid to eliminate
spotting and aid in drying, especially if you have hard water.
Watch the video
To learn more, watch this About.com video on how to install a dishwasher.
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