Until recently, a third rack was a premium feature only available on high-end dishwashers. Not familiar with the third rack? It’s a sliding tray that makes better use of the limited real estate inside your dishwasher. You might want the third rack because it accommodates “where do I put this?” items, like long-serving utensils or small shallow bowls. Plus, it provides an alternative to the bulky silverware basket that can take up a ton of space on the bottom rack.
After years of testing dishwashers, we’ve discovered that those with a third rack, can vastly improve the dishwashing experience. Currently, our favorite third-rack dishwasher is the Miele G 5266 SCVi SFP(available at Abt for $1,649.00).
Here are the best third-rack dishwashers we tested, ranked in order:
Miele G 5266 SCVi SFP
Miele G 5266 SCVi SFP
The Miele G 5266 SCVi SF is a great high-end option. It has a sleek design, featuring a pocket handle, adjustable upper and third racks, and will get dishes clean. On top of that, its Normal cycle is a full 30 minutes faster than average, creating a much quicker turnaround without losing any cleaning power.
There’s not a lot to dislike about the G 5266, other than its premium price. If you like its look and have the money to spend, it won’t let you down.
Hi there! We're Reviewed's appliance testing team. Between the us, we've spent many years testing major appliances in a lab environment, but we've also used them at home, like normal people would in the course of their daily lives.
Testing dishwashers is a dirty job, and we're happy to do it. We assess each product 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.
Cycle time —Dishwasher cycles can run the gamut from 30 minutes to four hours.
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.
While all of the features in the world can't make a bad dishwasher better, they can really add the finishing touch to a model 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.
What You Should Know About Buying A Third-Rack Dishwasher
What is the Third Rack in a Dishwasher For?
The third rack is for mainly for larger utensils, like ladles and spatulas, which don't neatly fit into a traditional cutlery basket. Most third racks can also accommodate smaller bowls and ramekins. Essentially, the third rack allows users to make more of the vertical space that's already in their dishwashers, by storing excess items above the upper rack.
The one caveat to using a third rack is to not store heavily soiled dishes up there. Most third racks don't have their own spray jets, meaning they're getting washed by whatever spray can make it up there from the washing arms at the bottom of the appliance. Lower-end third rack dishwashers may not have correctly calibrated their spray patterns to reach every spot up on every item that's up on the third rack, especially if the rest of your dishwasher is loaded with pots, pans, or other large cookware.
How Long Do Dishwashers Last?
According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, the average dishwasher lasts about nine years. Appliance lifespans are shorter these days for a few reasons, among them broad economic factors that affect all durable goods, production of individual components that are frequently outsourced to the least-expensive third-party manufacturers, and machines being made with more plastic and less metal.
Since most consumers don’t buy appliances very often, a decreased lifespan can seem all the more dramatic when a dishwasher breaks down after just 10 years, even though its predecessor chugged along for 30.
What Is the Best Dishwasher?
The answer to this question depends on your own personal circumstances.
If you're one or two people aging in place or you're a 20-something living in your first condo, you may not need a dishwasher with a ton of extra options and features. However, if you have a big family (especially with babies), you may need more customizability in your dishwasher's cycles and cycle options as well as a one with a lower sound rating—any sleep you get is precious, so make sure dishwasher noise isn't keeping you up.
If you're into special features, you'll want a dishwasher that has some. One 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.
The third rack is a narrow tray that 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.
Figure out what special features you need and want, what you can afford and what you want to spend, and go from there!
Other Third-Rack Dishwashers We Tested
If you're looking for a model with strong cleaning power, the ability to dry dishes every time, and ADA accessibility features, the Bosch 800 Series SGX78B55UC/13 is one of the best options available. We found it scrubs out stains with the best of them, within relatively short cycle times. It also improves upon Bosch's already excellent CrystalDry technology, and in our testing it was able to get every dish perfectly dry on every cycle.
When it comes to features, the SGX78B55UC/13 comes fully loaded, with a third rack, adjustable upper rack, and foldable tines in its lower rack, in addition to Bosch's suite of smart features. What's more is this model is ADA-compliant, which means it has enhanced accessibility features—it's also a bit smaller physically, so keep that in mind if your cabinetry is designed for a standard-sized dishwasher. Overall, this is an excellent dishwasher and we're happy to see the SGX78B55UC/13 bring all these Series benefits to the table without sacrificing any performance over the other 800 series models.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As far as dishwashers go, the KitchenAid KDPM804KBS captures the look and feel of a premium appliance. It boasts a huge list of features that all add to the overall user experience: a third rack, adjustable tines, stemware holders, multiple cutlery baskets, and an internal LED, all wrapped up in fingerprint-resistant stainless steel.
In terms of cleaning performance, the KDPM804KBS does a decent job, but its marks weren’t high enough to separate it form the middle of the pack.
If you really like the look of this dishwasher and find its feature set useful, you might find it’s worth its high asking price—it just wouldn’t be the first dishwasher we’d recommend to bargain hunters.
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 GE Café CDT875M5NS5 is a gorgeous upmarket appliance that dazzles with its Platinum Glass finish. Its cleaning quality was excellent overall, but we did see some inconsistencies where certain stains just weren’t getting cleaned well.
While the rest of this dishwasher’s performance and its expansive feature set still makes the CDT875M5NS5 a good pick for anyone whose budget isn’t broken by its price tag, at this price point the level of competition is very high: Most of the dishwashers listed above have even better performance at a lower price (though they might not look quite so sleek).
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.