For the price, it will put a little bit of stainless steel in your kitchen and—most importantly—get your dishes clean. A handful of extra features bump it above the lowest-end models, too. The WDF540PADM might not be fancy, but it makes for a decent kitchen workhorse.
It does, however, have a lot of competition. If you're shopping for a stainless dishwasher in this price range, we suggest you also check out the $494 LG LDS5040ST, which has a better user interface and a stainless interior. The $500 Blomberg DWT24100SS might not be on sale at your local big box store, but specialty cycles and a quick Normal wash mean that it's also worth checking out.
Sometimes, a dishwasher performs exactly as well as its competitors. The Whirlpool WDF540PADM more or less returned similar cleaning scores to many other dishwashers in its price range.
It pushed our buttons
Dishwashing may be a chore, but that doesn't mean a dishwasher should be hard to use. Unfortunately, the WDF540PADM's control panel proved to be a pain.
There’s one button for toggling between five cycles, one button that toggles between activating Heat Dry, High Temp, or both, and one more button that toggles between Sani Rinse, 4 Hour Delay, or both.
Instead of having one button for each of those options, which would be convenient, the WDF540PADM forces you to hit those three buttons until all the cycles and options you want are lit up. There are separate buttons for starting a wash and canceling one mid-progress, which is the only convenient design choice. That's a shame, because the control panel is wide enough for a simpler setup.
The interior is made of plastic, which is unsurprising at this price point. Plastic tubs lend themselves to slightly different noises from inside the dishwasher—you'll notice more of a "whooshing" noise than you'd get from a stainless tub model. Overall, Whirlpool claims a 53 dBA sound rating for the WDF540PADM. By comparison, LG rates the similarly priced stainless tub LDS5040ST at 50 dBA.
The cutlery basket is the most impressive piece of engineering inside the WDF540PADM. It opens in the front for easy unloading and can be hung on the door. Unfortunately, you won’t find an adjustable height mechanism for the upper rack or any foldable tines, so you’re out of luck in the flexibility department.
But if your dishes aren’t particularly tall, thick, or oddly shaped, such as the ones we use in our labs, the lack of adjustable parts might not bother you. When we tested the WDF540PADM’s capacity with our regular, standardized dishes, we had no trouble fitting 11 place settings and a serving setting.
The Normal cycle on the WDF540PADM took almost exactly two hours and cleaned well enough, exhibiting very few instances of redeposit. Its main trouble spots were with dried milk and baked-on meat stains, where many visible chunks remained after the wash. Since we use more stains than a sane person would leave behind, though, this cycle should be more than adequate for the average user.
The Heavy cycle took a little under three hours, which is typical. This cycle had a far better handle on milk and meat, but—like many dishwashers—really had trouble with the burnt cheese stain. This is a test that even high-end dishwashers fail, and we’re generally happy if even half of it comes off. The WDF540PADM’s Heavy cycle removed 65.84%.
Finally, the 1-Hr Wash took exactly an hour, fulfilling its promise. The cleaning scores were noticeably lower, and redeposit was far more prevalent, but no results were unreasonable for a fast cycle. We expect cleaning power to drop for cycles like this, especially with stains like milk and egg, which typically need high temperatures and strong, repeated mechanical action to remove.
A tailored selection of cycles and options
Aside from a standard array of Heavy, Normal, and 1-Hr Wash cycles, the WDF540PADM has something called the Soak & Clean cycle. This 7.5+ hour cycle removes tough stains with an extended prewash, loosening stubborn food the same way a good overnight soak in the sink would.
The WDF540PADM’s customization options offer a bit of added control. You can boost the overall wash temperature, add a sanitizing rinse to the end of a cycle, or use the heating element to dry the dishes. You can also set a 4-hour start delay or engage the child lock, which is especially important given the forward-facing control panel and prominent Cancel button.
Overall, the WDF540PADM used more water and power than average, to the tune of $31.64 per year to run compared to the $29-30 average. It's just a buck or two, but utility costs can vary wildly for some buyers, so efficiency matters.
Broken down by cycle, the Normal cycle uses 0.81 kWh of power and 2.76 gallons of hot water, Heavy uses 1.03 kWh and an immense 8.28 gallons of water, and a run of the 1-Hr Wash will use 0.52 kWh and 6.03 gallons of water. Other than the Normal cycle, these numbers are a little higher than comparable cycles on other dishwashers.
Cleaning dishes is what the WDF540PADM does best. While it would be generous to call this dishwasher a top performer, its cleaning ability is decent enough that you won’t regret purchasing it.
Test results were fairly run-of-the-mill. The Normal cycle cleared out most of our heavily stained dishes in about two hours. The Heavy cycle did an even better job but failed to completely remove burnt cheese stains, and the 1-Hr Wash finished in 60 minutes but did the worst job removing stains.
These results are typical, and even comparable to some machines that cost $100 more. The only surprising numbers came from our efficiency tests: The WDF540PADM uses a bit more water and power than other consumer dishwashers, leading to an estimated annual cost of $31.46 per year. Still, that's only a dollar or two per year above average.
For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.
Although none of the racks in the WDF540PADM could be adjusted or manipulated in any way, the cutlery basket’s design gave us more space on the lower rack to work with. We could comfortably load eleven place settings and a serving setting inside this dishwasher.
This Whirlpool comes with a one-year warranty, during which the company will pay for labor and parts for fixing any defects with the dishwasher. Whirlpool may replace the dishwasher entirely if it feels that’s better than ordering repairs. These terms are pretty much the standard when it comes to home appliances.
You’re getting what you paid for.
The WDF540PADM has a low price, but a few extra options to elevate it above the most basic machines out there. More importantly, it actually fulfills its task of cleaning dishes.
Unfortunately, we weren't fans of the WDF540PADM's control panel, nor did we like its plastic tub. For the same price, you could get the LG LDS5040ST, which is easier to use and has a stainless interior. For a few dollars more, the Blomberg DWT24100SS may be unique, but it also gets the job done.
Meet the tester
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.
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