This article was updated on July 19, 2016 to reflect the results of new tests on a similar machine.
We’ve been testing and reviewing dishwashers in our state-of-the-art labs since 2011, and in that time we’ve covered hundreds of models from dozens of manufacturers. We’ve gotten to test every new advancement in dishwasher technology, from Samsung’s WaterWall to KitchenAid’s Clean Water Wash system.
But we’ve never had the opportunity to test a machine from simpler times. You know, a time before detergent came in tablets. A time when you didn't have to remove and clean your filter once in a while (because you couldn't). A time when dishwashers were loud, and you had to pre-rinse all your dishes before starting a cycle.
A few days ago, we found ourselves with a little downtime between shiny new models and wondered: What if we subjected a decade-old machine to the same tests we put today's dishwashers through?
A Blast From the (Recent) Past
Enter an entry-level GE dishwasher, built in 2007.
This particular unit lives in the Reviewed.com break room, and we run it about once or twice a week. If you’re wondering why a company full of appliance experts uses such a dated machine, well... this dishwasher came with the building when we moved in. Since it still works, it’s easier to keep it around than to install a new one.
Anyway, we loaded the old girl up with some of the stains we use for our normal dishwasher testing—dishes with baked-on meat, spinach, oatmeal, egg, and milk. When the machine was full, we set it to run a Normal cycle.
Could a relic of a bygone era match up against today's tech? Well, pictures tell the story better than words, so we’ll let you decide:
Dirty dishes before a Normal cycle
The same dishes after the Normal cycle
How Bad Is It?
See all that spinach in the "after" photos? That's a lot of spinach. But how does it compare to what today's dishwashers can do?
Here's something that should give you some perspective: our recent review of one of the worst-performing machines we've ever tested. We're talking about a dishwasher that couldn't outperform any contemporary rival. But take a look at its spinach removal performance, compared to our GE:
Another major issue: The controls are essentially an old-fashioned kitchen timer, hooked up to engage various functions. If you push it too far, the washer will start mid-cycle and result in far worse cleaning performance.
As the control knob on our machine felt a bit loose, we suspect that's what happened in this particular test and why dishes ended up so dirty. However, we also tested an updated version of this machine and found the same problem: an unsteady hand on the manual controls could cause big problems.
What Did We Learn?
Given the amount of food left on the dishes after the test, it's clear that this old-timer can’t handle the types of stains we routinely put though modern dishwashers. This GE is from an era when people were expected to scrape or rinse their dishes before loading them—something you don’t have to do with a current dishwasher.
When you think about it, 2007 actually wasn’t even a decade ago. This dishwasher is still within its projected lifespan, and it obviously still runs. But changes in the industry since it was produced—such as new, enzyme-based detergents and a growing consumer demand for quieter machines—have led manufacturers to build objectively better machines.
So, what have we learned? A lot can change in a decade.