When people ask us which dishwasher to buy, our advice is usually pretty simple: Buy one of our top-ranked dishwashers and be done with it. But if you have an upscale kitchen and want a dishwasher that does more than just clean, the sky’s the limit.
Brands like Thermador, Bosch, and Miele sell dishwashers with features that will blow your mind. Some have doors that open automatically at the end of a cycle (which can help with dish drying), while others focus on the aesthetic aspects, like attractive interior lighting or being custom-panel ready. Some of these luxury dishwashers can wash dishes quickly during parties, or clean crystal and china without damaging it.
To see what kind of features you can get with a dishwasher when you have a (much, much) higher budget, we brought some of the most expensive and exclusive dishwashers into our product labs, and put them through the same battery of tests that we use to assess every other dishwasher we test, regardless of what it costs. We also upped the ante a bit by checking to see how easy it was to fit stemware on the upper rack of the dishwasher, as well as how fast each dishwasher washed and dried our test dishes.
If you want a premium dishwasher that looks as good as it cleans, look no further than the Thermador Sapphire DWHD770WFM. With its elegant design, blue interior lighting, quiet operation (42 dBA), cycle timer that’s projected onto the floor, and Home Connect implementation, this dishwasher has a lot of luxury touches that match its price point. The StarDry (which is based off of Bosch’s zeolite drying method) drying feature and the ability to open the dishwasher with either a push or a pull, it’s clear that this dishwasher is also trying to solve common issues people have with their dishwashers.
When it comes to actually cleaning and drying your dishes, the DWHD770WFM gets the job done right the first time. The Normal and Pots & Pans cycles give you near-perfect stain removal and dish drying in two to two and a half hours, and that’s without using StarDry. Using the StarDry gives you dried dishes that are perfectly table- or cabinet-ready. If you have a big budget, and need a luxe dishwasher that can keep up with the demands of hosting large gatherings, be sure to check out the Thermador DWH770WFM dishwasher.
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 Cycle, Heavy Cycle, and Normal Cycle) to the test by baking food and beverage stains onto 15-20 dishes that are then loaded into the dishwasher per the manufacturer's loading directions. The stains include milk, spinach, egg, oatmeal, meat, and more. At the end of each cycle, we determine how much stain has been removed from each dish. Ideally, each dish is 100% 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% 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.
Features and Usability
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 a) how useful the features are, and b) how easy it is to actually use those features.
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. However, if the third rack is rickety, doesn't slide smoothly, or 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 To Look For When Buying A Dishwasher
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 buy.
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 dishwasher's cycles and cycle 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 adjustibility.
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 (A-weighted decibels), 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, more affordable dishwashers won't let you down. Mostly, the price difference between dishwashers is usually down to more or fewer features and options.
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.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.