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We’ve spotted sale prices on this Maytag as low as $630 (about a hundred bucks more for stainless) and we think it's worth it. The Normal cycle was pretty good at clearing off dirt, but for serious messes the Jet Clean cycle annihilated even the tough, baked-on food stains we use for testing. The main drawback? It'll take its sweet time getting that perfect clean. Still, when you just want that dirt gone, the MDB8959SBB is never going to let you down.

More buttons than a video game controller.

From the outside, the MDB8959SBB looks like so many dishwashers on the market, with a towel-bar handle and a solid finish. The controls are a row of buttons laid out across the top of the door, and take up pretty much all of the limited real estate up there. With a single button for each cycle and wash option, as well as one for starting cycles and another for canceling them, you’re looking at a staggering total of 15 buttons and indicator lights crammed in that narrow space.

The smooth-sliding racks have tons of moving parts.

The inside is somehow even more intimidating. The tub is stainless steel, and the MDB8959SBB’s filter sits casually at the bottom under a massive wash arm. That filter is actually the top cover of a 4-blade stainless steel chopper, a beast of a machine that pulverizes washed off food before draining it away. The smooth-sliding racks have tons of moving parts, including mini racks and shelves that can be folded down as well as clips for holding stemware in place. Oddly enough, there aren’t very many collapsible tines like in other dishwashers, so any single, large item could still prove to be a tough fit.

The top rack is on ball bearings, so it glides out with a luxurious grace. It can also be lowered or raised for added versatility. While there is no third rack for holding silverware, which is something we’ve seen in fancier machines, there are four separate, removable baskets. Two of them are identical, with slots for keeping your silverware spaced out. There’s one other basket on one corner of the bottom rack that is fit for holding serving or cooking utensils, and another basket on the top rack that’s longer, shallower, and narrower than the others – the perfect size for chopsticks!

You can't have too many options

Though most dishwasher users hit "Normal" and forget it, the MDB8959SBB has six cycles to choose from: Auto, Jet Clean (a heavy duty cycle), Normal, Light, Quick Wash, and Rinse Only. That pretty much covers every dishwashing need, whether it’s a quick spray to clean some glasses during a party or a long, thorough soaking to get the toughest, greasiest stuff off your pots and pans.

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If that isn't enough, the MDB8959SBB also offers a wide array of extra options. Tough Scrub Plus raises wash temperatures and adds a steam cycle in the middle of the wash to get rid of baked-on dirt. Hi Temp Wash will increase the wash temperature without adding a steam cycle, and the Steam Sanitize will raise the temperature to bacteria-killing levels.

Wait—there's more! A Heated Dry for drying dishes, Extra Dry to extend the drying duration and temperature (not recommended for plastic dinnerware), a Delay feature that can be set to postpone a wash for four, six, or eight hours, and a Control Lock. Whew! We noticed that Heated Dry is selected by default for every cycle except quick wash and rinse only, and the Steam Sanitize is default for the Jet Clean cycle. You can shut them off if you want.

Jet Clean is thorough and brutal

More wash options and a higher price tag don't always make for a better clean, but the MDB8959SBB is definitely a powerhouse. The Normal cycle performed well on our tests, blasting off nearly all stains. It finishes in a little over two hours, which is about the threshold of what we’re willing to tolerate for a Normal cycle. If you want to speed things up a bit, and save some energy, you might want to try disabling the Heated Dry option.

The Jet Clean cycle is when the MDB8959SBB puts on its robe and wizard hat and works its cleaning magic, making all of the dirt disappear.

Of course, sometimes, Normal isn’t enough. The Jet Clean cycle is when the MDB8959SBB puts on its robe and wizard hat and works its cleaning magic, making all of the dirt disappear. It completely removed all milk, tea, egg, oatmeal, sugar, and even lasagna. Those last two are some of the toughest stains we use. When we ran the Jet Clean cycle the second time to test for consistency, it even removed almost all the baked-on spinach, which is another notoriously tough test.

Quick Wash cleaned almost as well as the Normal cycle, but it only took 34 minutes.

Part of the secret might be the fact that Steam Sanitize is a default option with the Jet Clean cycle. The cycle also uses 1.32 kWh of electricity and 11.81 gallons of hot water, which is far more than any of its other cycles. And like an awkward wedding toast, it lasts far longer than any of us would like, clocking in at three hours and 19 minutes. Still, as long as you use this cycle sparingly, the MDB8959SBB shouldn't cost much more than the average dishwasher to run.

Finally, we have the Quick Wash cycle, which was pretty amazing: It cleaned almost as well as the Normal cycle, but it only took 34 minutes. That's perfect for everyday, or an emergency wash during a dinner party.

Takes its time, but the results are worth it.

It’s easy to become dazzled by the MDB8959SBB’s myriad wash options and features. However, under all those extras is raw cleaning power that leaves nothing behind. It’s reassuring to know that there’s a cycle that allows you to, “Nuke it from orbit,” as Ellen Ripley might say. The long cycle durations might also be inconvenient to some buyers, but given its effective Quick Wash and how well this thing cleans otherwise, we still think it's worth checking out.

You made it to the science page, which is where we try to dissect the data we've gained from a dishwasher’s performance. Unlike real dissections, we can guarantee that no animals were harmed during our testing—we even use tofu-based sausage to stain plates! The Maytag MDB8959SBB scored very well in our stain removal tests, but its efficiency is a little worse than average. Still, we would recommend this machine based on its numbers alone.

The Jet Clean cycle is the star of the show.

The MDB8959SBB’s Normal cycle seemed perfect for normal, everyday loads. It scored over 99% on milk and egg stains, but only managed 97% on meat stains. Given that we use heavy amounts of soiling in our tests, these results should be more than enough for soil levels from an average user. One interesting thing to note about the MDB8959SBB’s Normal cycle was that it scored 99.66% on the oatmeal and 70.20% on the spinach, which are tough, baked-on stains that most machines have major trouble with.

The Jet Clean cycle is where the MDB8959SBB truly shines. Nearly every dish came out spotless, with milk, tea, egg, oatmeal, margarine, sugar, and lasagna stains all scoring 100%. The worst stain result was lipstick, at 82.20%, and even that is incredibly impressive, as the lipstick we use (Caramel Glace, thanks for asking) is designed not to wash off. Most machines barely get higher than 66% on that stain, and it’s usually something that can only be washed off by hand. Even the tough spinach test had an average score of 96.61%.

The Quick Wash cycle’s performance was very close to the Normal’s. The only major difference was that the milk score was only 95.46%, so much further from the near-perfect result of the Normal cycle. The Quick Wash did live up to its name, though, finishing in just 34 minutes. That's absolutely astounding, considering the performance.

The secret of my excess.

The secret to its success may lie in its water and energy consumption. The MDB8959SBB’s Normal cycle uses 3.81 gallons of water and 0.69 kWh of electricity, which isn’t very much. The Quick Wash cycle also isn’t terrible, using 6.26 gallons of water, but only 0.30 kWh of electricity. The Jet Clean, though, is a monster of a cycle. Using 11.81 gallons of water and 1.32 kWh of electricity, this cycle throws any semblance of efficiency out the window. If utility costs are a concern for you, we recommend breaking out the Jet Clean only on rare occasions. We estimate an annual running cost of about $34.80 for this dishwasher, which is slightly above the $32 average.

All the moving and removable parts might remind you of playing with Legos.

There are a lot of adjustable bits inside the MDB8959SBB, adding a great deal of versatility. We were able to fit 11 place settings and one serving setting, with a little bit of room to spare. There’s one row of collapsible tines on the bottom rack and four removable baskets for holding eating utensils. There are also three shelves that can be folded down to create extra space for smaller items, such as shot glasses. Overall, we were pretty impressed by the flexibility and the amount of space the MDB8959SBB’s interior offered.

Meet the tester

Johnny Yu

Johnny Yu

Staff Writer


Johnny Yu writes news, features, and reviews for Reviewed.com. He graduated from U-Mass Boston with a Bachelor's in Social Psychology and spends much of his free time expanding his gaming horizons. Sometimes, he does his laundry at work.

See all of Johnny Yu's reviews

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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.

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