What is a "third rack" dishwasher, and why should I want one?

New dishwashers often rock the rack. Here’s why you’ll want it.

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Once you open the door, modern dishwashers don’t look much like the one your parents or grandparents had. Not many new models still have an exposed heating rod, or a (very noisy) food disposal unit that older ones used.

KitchenAid-third-rack
Credit: KitchenAid

Longer and oddly-shaped items that never had a good place in most dishwashers fit well in a third rack.


But the biggest design change in 21st century dishwashers is the addition of a third rack. These extra racks make good use of available space, and provide a convenient place to stash silverware and cooking utensils.

Not all dishwashers have third racks, but they’re moving from the priciest models to more affordable machines. And third racks have evolved from flat trays to deeper trays, meaning that many of them now have room for small bowls, big spatulas, deep soup ladles, and long, flat kitchen utensils.

If you’ve been wondering what a third rack does or why you would want one, here’s some info to help you decide.

Third rack basics

A third rack is a sliding tray, usually located at the top of the tub, that adds to the useable space and versatility of your dishwasher.

Bosch-third-rack-dishwasher
Credit: Reviewed.com / Matthew Zahnzinger

There's plenty of room for your cutlery and utensils in this third rack.


Some third racks are adjustable, folding up or sliding to the side to accommodate tall items in the middle rack. And, even if your third rack doesn’t adjust, most are easily removeable for times when they get in the way of tall items on the second rack.

More to love

Your third rack can help you make better use of your dishwasher.
• Your silverware may come out cleaner, because it doesn’t “nest” in the third rack the way it can in the basket.
• Putting your flatware in the third rack enables you to remove that big silverware basket taking up space in the lower rack, making more room for cookie sheets and serving platters without obstructing the water jets.
• Small ramekins, measuring spoons, and Tupperware lids finally have a good place to go.

Miele-dishwasher-third-rack
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jackson Ruckar

If you organize silverware by type, it's quick and easy to unload it from the third rack

What to watch out for

Before you commit to a third rack dishwasher, think about these minor disadvantages.
• If you’re not used to having a third rack, you may forget to empty it.
• Some dishwashers come with a flat tray third rack that might not be as useful.
• Silverware could take you more time to load, if you’re used to dropping handfuls of it in the basket. Unloading from the third rack can be faster, though, especially if you organize your cutlery by type.
• The third rack takes up some space near the top of the dishwasher’s tub, so you may have to lower the middle rack (if it’s adjustable) to load tall items.

Although third racks are standard on an increasing number of dishwashers, you might end up spending a bit more for one. You may not have to, though. Third rack models have become so popular that some brands are adding them to every dishwasher they make.

Which dishwashers have a third rack?

When you read our dishwasher reviews, you can filter the results to show only models with third racks.

Some recommendations:

Bosch SHPM98W75N
KitchenAid KDTM354DSS
Miele Futura Lumen EcoFlex G6885SCVi
Samsung DW80K7050US
Whirlpool WDT970SAHV

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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