Dishwashers Buyer's Guide
If you are looking for your first dishwasher or looking for a replacement dishwasher, there are a few things to look out for when making a purchase.
Choose the right size of dishwasher
Sizes of dishwashers do not vary that much in terms of external dimensions (usually around H85 x W60 x D60cm), but the insides of the dishwasher do vary, mainly the capacity, which is the number of place settings, i.e. the maximum number of plates and eating utensils the machine can wash (excluding any serving dishes, saucepans or utensils).
A typical 12 place setting capacity would include:
- 12 x 24cm dinner plates
- 12 x 23cm soup plates
- 12 x 18.5cm dessert plates
- 12 tea cups and saucers
- 12 tumblers
- 12 knives, forks, soup spoons, teaspoons, dessertspoons
If a full-sized dishwasher seems too big for your kitchen, then your other options are a slimline model (usually around 45cm wide taking around 9 place settings, but the same height and depth) or a compact model if you have very limited space and a dishwashing load of around 4 place settings will be adequate. There are also integrated, built-in models which can be completely concealed behind a matching fascia for a uniform look to your kitchen.
When you’re tight for space, a slimline dishwasher will save you a chore and provide a neat storage option. Choose from a silver, stainless steel or white finish. Compact dishwashers are ideal for smaller households, or when an additional `overflow` storage is required. An integrated dishwasher is concealed behind a fascia panel to create a uniform look to your kitchen.
Full size and slimline models are designed to fit under a standard worktop. Some dishwashers have a removable worktop which may save you around 3cm if it's going to be a tight fit.
Measure your space available to ensure a fit before ordering – and also measure the doorway to ensure it will fit through. Remember, there’s no such thing as a standard door!
Programmes will vary slightly depending on the machine, but there will usually be at least three and often a rinse only cycle.
The main wash programme with generally be at 65ºC, particularly useful if there are saucepans included in the load; usually there'll be an economy programme for normal washes, and a light or delicates programme.
Top of the range machines sometimes offer a glasses programme too, or a half load option where you only need to use one of the two levels in the machine.
Some machines will offer a rinse and hold function for very heavy soiling. A rinse only setting can be useful which you can select if you don't have a full load and don't want food debris to create odour or harden on plates and utensils.
All dishwashers are graded A to G on cleaning performance, energy efficiency and drying performance, with A-grade’ being most economical.
Cleaning performance - Measures the effectiveness of removing dried grease and food from your dishes
Energy-efficiency - Measures how efficiently the machine uses electricity and hot water
Drying performance - Measures how dry your dishes are at the end of the wash programme
The term Fuzzy Logic applies to 'intelligent' machines with particular sensor features designed to adapt the programme to the load in the machine, e.g. by assessing how soiled the load is and reducing or increasing the amount of water or rinses needed.
There are several ways in which dishes are dried in the machine; simple residual heat (heat created from the washing process), heated air or some kind of fan assistance. The latter are the quickest methods and serve to save energy because of their speed.
Not suitable for dishwashing
Bear in mind that not everything is suitable for dishwasher treatment. Most china, cookware and utensils you buy will state whether they're dishwasher safe on their labelling, but if not avoid taking chances with the following:
- Patterned/decorated fine china (may fade)
- Gold or silver-trimmed china
- Lead crystal glasses
- Cast iron cookware (may rust)
- Cutlery with wooden, plastic, bone or pearl handles (may crack or loosen)
While all wood items can be washed in a machine it's worth noting that the colour of some items may be bleached out over time. Silver or chrome plated cutlery may become damaged if it comes into contact with stainless steel.
Dishwashers include a variety of wash programmes designed for optimum wash results and extra crockery care. Here are some of the key programmes that can make a difference to your wash results and your lifestyle:
Quick wash - ideal for lightly soiled dishes
Economy - a longer wash programme at a lower temperature which saves money
Half load - a programme that uses less water
Intensive wash - a high temperature wash ideal for heaivily soiled dishes>
Pre-soak - a prolonged soaking stage at the beginning of the wash cycle
Glass care - designed to give clean results and protects your glassware
Detergent feature - modifies the time and temperature of each programme phase to optimise results when using 4-in-1 and 3-in 1 detergents
Automatic wash programme - sensor technology that detecs the size and soiling levels of the load, then automatically selects the optimum wash, rinse and drying phase to give perfect results.
Care and maintenance
You will need to site your dishwasher as close as possible to your kitchen sink for ease of plumbing (approximately 1.2m). It should be plumbed in before a water softener in order to maintain the performance of the machine.
All dishwashers require you to use dishwasher salt (to help with the water softening process), rinse aid (helps to reduce drying time and leaves dishes shiny and smear free) and of course detergent in powder, tablet or liquid form. There are now '4-in-1' and '3-in-1' tablets on the market but the efficiency of these may vary in hard water areas. Many machines also have additive indicators on the control panel which will show you when you need to refill the salt or rinse aid reservoirs.
There are also dishwasher fresheners which can provide you with a fresh fragrance when you open the dishwasher door, but it's more important to use a dishwasher cleaner every so often to descale, degrease and freshen. Both will be redundant if you don't take time to clean out the filters where food debris gets caught. They're simple and quick to remove and rinse through.
Loading the Dishwasher
It's vital to load your dishwasher properly to get the best out of it. Generally the top basket is for smaller, less soiled items as the spray arm is smaller, leaving the bottom basket for larger and more heavily soiled pieces. Read the manufacturer's instructions for guidance on loading and for information on items which are suitable or not for dishwashing.
Energy efficiency and the environment
Every dishwasher receives an energy efficiency grading ranging from A - G, with A being the most efficient and economical. Standardised tests, monitored by Trading Standards, are carried out across the industry and manufacturers are responsible for grading their own machines, taking into account water consumption, washing and drying performance.
The issue of water consumption may be of particular interest if you're on a water meter. All dishwashers are cold water fill, and some have time delays so that you can set the machine up to switch itself on during the night to take advantage of cheaper electricity.
Some dishwashers have built-in protection against flooding activated by a sensor which closes off the inlet valve. Some top of the range machines will detect changes in water pressure at the top of the inlet hose, and a safety valve will cut off the water supply.
You'll generally find that the more expensive the machine, the better its energy efficiency because energy-saving features have been included. This may make it cheaper to run in the long term. Top of the range machines also tend to be quieter because they have a higher level of insulation. You'll also find that your dishwasher uses less water to wash effectively than hand washing the same size loads.
Separates or all-in-one tablets?
Dishwashers need salt, rinse aid and detergent to function. Special salt is added to the built-in water softener to maintain it so that it can effectively decalcify the incoming water, ensuring that no stains or marks are left on your crockery or glassware. Rinse aid is required for the final rinse of the washing cycle, to guarantee clear glasses and utensils.
Depending on the hardness of the water in your area, you only need to top up your salt and rinse aid about once a month. Detergent is always added before each wash. Powder and liquid gel detergents give you greater control over the dosage required and dissolve faster than tablets; making them the ideal choice if you regularly do smaller loads or quick washes.
With the growth of 2-, 3-, and 4-in-one tablets which combine detergent with either rinse aid, salt or both, you should be able to abandon rinse aid and salt altogether for an easier life. However, if using combined cleaning products most manufacturers will still recommend filling the salt compartment if the water hardness is above 21º dH. Your local water authority should be able to inform you of the hardness in your area.
Overall, optimum rinsing and drying results will always be obtained by using detergents in conjunction with a separate application of salt and rinse aid. So for cost-effectiveness and performance, separates have the edge, while all-in-one tablets win out for sheer convenience.
The type of flooring you have in your kitchen will also make a difference to the volume of your dishwasher when it’s in operation.
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