A good dishwasher is hard to replace. Hand-washing takes longer and uses more water. A bad dishwasher can necessitate running multiple wash cycles, leave glasses spotty, redeposit food particles onto otherwise clean dishes, have long and noisy cycles, and leave dishes soaking wet.
We've been testing dishwashers for over a decade now, so we know what separates the good dishwashers from the great ones—and which you should avoid. The best dishwashers are energy efficient, offer a low noise level, provide great stain removal, drying ability, and have flexible racks, among other features.
After testing hundreds of dishwashers using thousands of dirty pans, plates, and casserole dishes, we’ve found the dishwashers that excel at everything.
The Bosch 800 Series SHPM88Z75N (2019) is everything we've come to expect from Bosch—quiet, efficient, and stylish. With a sound rating of 40 dBA, it's one of the quietest dishwashers that's ever come through our labs. This dishwasher did an amazing job removing some of our more difficult stains, like burnt-on cheese and spinach; however, as is the case with most dishwashers, the spinach that got blasted off of our test dishes was occasionally redeposited onto other dishes.
The major selling point of the SHPM88Z75N is its CrystalDry feature. Using zeolite crystals, this dishwasher completely dries all of your dishes—even the plasticware that always seems to need a couple of passes with a dish towel before you can put it away. If your primary method of storing food is with plastic food storage containers, the SHPM88Z75N will save you a lot of extra time and effort when it comes to getting your dishes clean and dry.
If your dishwasher just died, chances are that you're in a hurry to replace it. When looking for a new or replacement dishwasher, consider the following topics carefully before buying another.
No one wants to spend hundreds of dollars on a dishwasher that can't get your dishes clean. Stain removal is the most important facet of our dishwasher testing methodology; we add different food and liquid stains onto a variety of dishes to see how well a dishwasher can clean. If you're out shopping for a dishwasher at a store, be sure to ask the sales associate about the dishwasher's cleaning performance. Additionally, you can look through our dishwasher reviews and our dishwasher roundups to see which dishwashers did the best when it comes to cleaning.
Cycles and Cycle Options
If you're just cooking for one or two people, you may not need a pricey dishwasher with a ton of extra options and features. However, if you have a big family or you often host parties, you might need more customizability in your wash options. Extra cycles include China Crystal/Delicate for your more delicate dishes, or Sanitize for sports bottles and baby bottles.
When it comes to cycle options, they mostly relate to the location of the water (i.e. Bottle Jets or Half Load) and the water temperature (i.e. Hi Temp).
If none of these options sound useful to you, then you'd probably be happier with a more basic dishwasher with the three main cycles: Normal, Heavy, and Quick.
As you may have discovered, dishwashers don't always dry your dishes perfectly. If you have a lot of plastic dishes, like Tupperware or sports bottles, then you may be really frustrated by the fact that you always have to towel dry these dishes. You can either check out our list of the dishwashers that do a great job of drying your dishes, or you can look for dishwashers that sport extra drying options. Typically, though, dishwashers that have heated drying options (versus just venting the hot air) are more expensive because heated drying requires additional hardware in the dishwasher itself.
Third Rack/Rack Customizability
The third rack is a relatively new development in dishwashers. This narrow tray resides above the top rack, and may or may not have its own wash arm. Depending on the third rack's depth, you can typically fit either just cutlery (that occupy individual tines, and aren't clumped together like they can be in your cutlery basket) or dishes with taller profiles, like ladles, pacifiers, or small bowls. While cleaning results on the third rack might not be as good as they are in the cutlery basket, some people find the convenience of a third rack very enticing.
Another thing to consider is the customizability of the racks themselves. Do all of the tines fold down, or are they rigid? Can you change the height of the racks? Can the cutlery basket be mounted on the door? All of these options give you flexibility when it comes to fitting large or awkwardly-shaped dishes into your dishwasher. If you're mostly washing plates and glasses, though, you might not need to spend the money on this kind of adjustability.
If you're environmentally- or money-conscious, the prospect of using less water and energy may be appealing to you. Be sure to check out the Energy Star rating for a dishwasher to give you an idea of what you can expect your utility bills to look like. We also talk about energy efficiency in our dishwasher reviews.
If you have an open-concept floorplan, you might want to look for a dishwasher that has a lower sound rating. These days, dishwashers can go as low as 37 dBA, which is akin to the noise you hear in a library. One thing to note with the sound rating: the value reported is an average. So while lower dBA values are definitely better, you might still experience the occasional loud swishing noise during a cycle.
Additionally, generally speaking, dishwashers with stainless steel tubs are typically quieter than those with plastic tubs. There are pros and cons to both types of dishwasher tubs, though, so noise might not be the only consideration.
Do you prefer buttons or a touch panel? While touch panels definitely look sleeker, some dishwasher touch panels are so sensitive that you (or your kids) can accidentally start cycles by brushing against it. Conversely, some touch panels are so insensitive that you have to jab at them a few times before they work correctly. If you're trying one out in the store, be sure to try out the touch panel before-hand so that you can get a feel for how hard you'll have to press down to get a cycle going.
Fit and Finish
Dishwashers often come in a variety of finishes, from regular white or black to black stainless steel or panel-ready (the ability to install a dishwasher cover that matches your cabinetry). While you should be able to find a dishwasher that matches your kitchen setup and your other appliances, be ready to pay more money for any finish more sophisticated than black/white/stainless steel.
Don't worry: Whether you're on a budget or have a blank check, you can find a dishwasher that gets your dishes clean. While some high-end dishwashers do a really stellar job of removing food stains, there's also some more affordable dishwashers that also won't let you down. Mostly, the price difference between dishwashers is usually down to more or fewer features and options.
We have plenty of experience testing these products in the lab, but we've also used them like normal people would in the course of their daily lives, which means that we have a great sense for what appliances are bargains at their price points, and which appliances have really useful extra features (as opposed to the kitchen-sink approach to features).
With all this in mind, you can feel confident that when we recommend a product, we're giving it our Reviewed stamp of approval, which means two things: firstly, this appliance performs well, and secondly, this appliance is easy to use. We're always reviewing new products, so stay tuned for our reviews and roundups of the latest products in laundry, refrigerators, dishwashers, and vacuum cleaners.
Testing dishwashers is a dirty job, and we're happy to do it. We assess each dishwasher on the three major parts of the dishwasher experience— Performance, Features, and Usability.
• Stain removal —We put the three major cycles on a dishwasher (Quick, Heavy, and Normal) to the test by baking food and beverage stains—milk, spinach, egg, oatmeal, meat, and more—onto 15 to 20 dishes that are then loaded into the dishwasher per the manufacturer's loading directions. At the end of each cycle, we determine how much stain has been removed from each dish. Ideally, each dish is 100 percent clean, but that level of cleaning perfection can be harder to achieve in real life.
• Redeposit —Redeposit is the term for when, during the course of a dishwasher cycle, water jets remove bits of food from one dish, only to accidentally get it stuck on a second dish. Any dishwasher that shows little to no evidence of redeposit is a winner in our book.
• Number of dirty dishes —After a dishwasher cycle has finished, we count the number of dishes that are not 100 percent clean; if your dishwasher can't clean most of your dishes the first time, it's not doing its job correctly.
• Cycle time —Dishwasher cycles can run the gamut from 30 minutes to four hours. Shorter cycle times are much more convenient, especially when it comes to large dinner parties, where you may need to reuse dishes from dinner when it's time for dessert.
• Drying —Whether it's accomplished with rinse aid, a built-in heater, or a built-in fan, customers expect their dishes to be dry as well as clean. We penalize the dishwasher every time a dish comes out wet, whether it's sopping wet or just covered in a few water droplets.
While all of the features in the world can't make a bad dishwasher better, they can really add the finishing touch to a dishwasher that does a killer cleaning job. We look at the various cycles, cycle options, and dishwasher specs and assess both how useful the features are, and how easy it is to actually use those features and whether or not their control panel is easy to navigate.
For example, a third rack that primarily holds cutlery can often be a game-changer when it comes to freeing up valuable real estate in the bottom rack. Likewise, when a third rack is paired with a middle rack with adjustable height, it lets you dynamically create space where it's most necessary, getting around the sometimes cramped conditions a third rack can create. However, if the third rack is rickety, doesn't slide smoothly, if its inclusion limits storage options, or it prevents the dishwasher from actually cleaning the cutlery, we would penalize the dishwasher, rather than reward it just for having a third rack. The whole point of a dishwasher is to save you from having to spend time scrubbing every dirty dish by hand; if a particular feature isn't going to make the process of using a dishwasher better or easier, then we don't want it.
The best dishwashers have short cycles, superior stain removal and drying power, and features that make the experience of using a dishwasher a painless one.
What Does dBA Mean?
The dBA abbreviation refers to "A-weighted decibels," which is the unit that dishwasher manufacturers use to measure how loud a dishwasher is during its operation. You've probably heard of decibels as a measure of loudness before, but the "A-weighting" refers to the fact that certain frequencies are more easily perceived by the human ear than others; for instance, a flute solo sounds louder than a bass solo played at the same volume because the human ear is naturally more attuned to mid- and high-range frequencies than it is to bass-range frequencies. As a result, when manufacturers report how loud a dishwasher actually sounds to someone in the same room of the dishwasher while it's turned on, they report that number in terms of A-weighted decibels (dBA), rather than just decibels (dB).
Other Dishwashers We Tested
The Samsung DW80R9950UT dishwasher has it all. With a third rack deep enough to hold ladles and whisks (in addition to all of your silverware), adjustable tines that will make fitting even the most awkwardly-shaped dishes a breeze, a futuristic-looking control panel, and a fingerprint-resistant stainless steel finish, this dishwasher has enough features to please even the pickiest of dishwasher users.
Even better, the Samsung DW80R9950UT talks and talk and walks the walk: Its cleaning performance is top-notch. The Normal, Quick, and Heavy cycles were all able to remove more than 97% of our test food stains. The Heavy cycle clocks in at about 2.5 hours, so you won't have to do too much waiting around; some Heavy cycles on other dishwashers take as long as four hours to finish. This dishwasher also has minimal spinach redeposit and near-perfect dish drying. For a user-friendly dishwasher with an outstanding cleaning performance, you can't go wrong with the Samsung DW80R9950UT.
The LG LDF5545ST may look futuristic, but behind its unique integrated handle is a quiet, efficient, stainless steel dishwasher with a plethora of cycles and features. Amazingly, this LG dishwasher has a cleaning performance that is comparable to that of our highest-rated Bosch dishwashers but only costs half as much.
The LDF5545ST has the best Heavy Cycle that's ever come through our labs—it removed 100 percent of the stains on every single dish, and showed no evidence of redeposit. The heavy cycle took about two-and-a-half hours to finish, but we can hardly complain when extremely dirty dishes come out spotlessly clean. With a solid warranty and relatively low price, this dishwasher will give you a lot of bang for your buck.
From design to performance, this all-new dishwasher is all about fluidity and grace. Perhaps most importantly, it's equipped with KitchenAid’s Clean Water Wash technology, which continually removes food particles from the wash water. That means the KitchenAid KDTM354DSS helps clean dishes to actually stay clean by not spraying food removed from one dish onto another dish. Even with this new feature, it's still one of the more efficient dishwashers we've ever tested, with respect to both water and electricity usage.
With a solid cleaning performance, heating drying, and additional spray jets for really tough stains, the KDTM354DSS is a workhorse that can get the job done right the first time.
The LG LDP6797ST dishwasher is all about customization. The racks are adjustable both with respect to their tines and their heights, so you can fit in large or awkwardly shaped dishes with ease. Two spray zones allow you to focus on a particular rack in the dishwasher if you're only doing a partial load of dishes. With the seven cycles and a variety of temperature and drying options, you can select exactly the options you need to get your dishes clean, whether it's just a couple of cereal bowls, or a whole host of dishes at the end of a dinner party.
When it comes to cleaning performance, the LG LDP6797ST does a solid job. The Heavy cycle has a better cleaning performance than the Normal and Quick cycles, but it clocks in at around 3 hours, so it may be best if you run it overnight. The Normal and Quick cycles do a pretty good job with most food stains, but they both struggled to remove the most difficult stain in our testing, the spinach stain stains. For everyday messes or special dish-cleaning needs, be sure to check out the LG LDP6797ST.
Based on our reviews of other Bosch dishwashers, it’s not surprising that we also love the Bosch 500 series SHPM65Z55N dishwasher. While it’s still on the pricier end of what you might want to pay for a dishwasher, you’re getting a lot of bang for your bucket. With Its quiet operation (44 dBA), adjustable tines, and third rack, you’ll be able to wash many different sizes and types of dishes without worrying about loud noises disrupting your conversation during a dishwasher cycle.
The dishwasher cycles are a bit on the longer side (the Quick cycle clocks in at about an hour), but the cleaning results are worth it. This dishwasher removed nearly all of the stains from our test dishes during the Heavy cycle, which is a rare feat. Additionally, the Auto Air function, which opens the dishwasher door after a cycle has ended to expedite dish drying, is pretty effective; almost every test dish in the Normal and Quick cycles came out bone dry. If you want a Bosch dishwasher but don’t have the budget for a dishwasher in the Bosch 800 series, the Bosch 500 series SHPM65Z55N is a great option.
The Bosch 300 Series continues to offer the same sleek look, quiet operation, and incredible cleaning prowess that Bosch is known for. We tested the Bosch SHSM63W55N and the Bosch SHXM63WS5N, both of which removed nearly 100 percent of the stains on the Heavy cycle, an amazing feat which happens rarely in our test labs.
On top of that, this dishwasher also has a third rack, foldable tines, an adjustable upper rack, solid drying, and an optional water softener. This dishwasher is worth every cent.
The KitchenAid KDTM404KPS is a dishwasher that is tailor-made for big families. It can hold up to 16 place settings, about two more than average. Part of the reason it can hold so many plates is because of the unique third rack, which has a deep divot that can hold small bowls, cups, and mugs. The third rack even has rotating spray jets to ensure everything gets clean up there.
Good stain removal is not just limited to the third rack. Our testing showed that the Normal and Tough cycle did an excellent job removing stains. The only major downsides we found were that the Express cycle is slow compared to the competition.
The Brama BR-DWSH01-S is the first dishwasher released by Vinotemp, a company much beloved by wine aficionados for its wine storage and cooling solutions. This dishwasher is packed with high-end features, including a sturdy third rack, adjustable tines on every rack, an additional high-powered wash jet for tough stains, and an air exchange system that helps to combat bacteria growth.
This Brama did a great job of removing most stains, but, like most dishwashers we test, stumbled when it came to our most difficult stain, pureed spinach. Spinach redeposit ended up on many of our test dishes. However, for most dirty dishes, this dishwasher should be up to the task of getting them clean. For a high-end dishwasher that doesn’t have a high-end price tag, look no further than the Vinotemp Brama BR-DWSH01-S dishwasher.
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.
Julia is the Senior Scientist at Reviewed, which means that she oversees (and continually updates) the testing of products in Reviewed's core categories such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, and more. She also determines the testing methods and standards for Reviewed's "The Best Right Now" articles.
Cindy Bailen loves writing about major appliances and home design and has spent over 15 years immersed in that. In her spare time, Cindy hosts pledge programs for WGBH-TV in Boston and other public television stations.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.