The Best Dishwasher
How We Found the Best Dishwasher
24 Brands Compared
5 Experts Interviewed
3 Top Picks
The Best Dishwasher
Most dishwashers will make your dishes sparkle, but the best are from reputable brands with a track-record of reliability. Beyond that, the more you pay, the quieter and more customizable the machine.
How We Chose the Best Dishwashers
All the dishwashers we considered are ENERGY STAR certified, meaning they meet efficiency standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. On average, certified dishwashers are 12 percent more energy efficient and 30 percent more water efficient than non-certified models. To earn this distinction, companies use tech like ultra-efficient jets and dish rack designs to preserve water while still getting your dishes clean.
“A great feature on newer models is a dishwasher’s ability to ‘sense’ the level of soil on the dishes, and adjust the water and power accordingly,” says Katie M. Corrado of Kieffer’s Appliances. “So, light loads with well-scraped dishes use less water than heavily soiled ones.” According to Consumer Reports, any dishwasher manufactured since 2011 that costs over $500 will have soil sensors. Not only does a soil sensor yield maximum efficiency, but it also gets your dishes satisfactorily clean, no matter how caked on the spaghetti sauce.
Jim Freedman, President and CEO of Metropolitan Appliance, has been in the appliance industry for over 35 years. According to him, the number one thing people are looking for in a dishwasher is a quiet machine. Performance, although very important, tends to be a secondary request. All the models we considered operate at 50 decibels or fewer — about the noise level you can start to hear from another room.
That also means that most of the machines we looked at have stainless steel tubs, which absorb noise better than plastic tubs. There are other benefits to stainless steel, too: they’re more durable, can handle higher maximum water temperatures, and have better drying efficiency.
To find the brands most likely to leave us satisfied in the long-term, we turned to J.D. Power’s 2017 Kitchen Appliance Satisfaction Study, which collected the opinions of over 2,300 dishwasher owners about metrics like ease-of-use, performance, reliability, and overall satisfaction. We used these ratings to find the brands with the best reputations, only considering dishwashers that received at least an “Average” score for overall satisfaction. That meant leaving out appliance giants Whirlpool, GE, and Frigidaire — all three received below-average ratings on overall satisfaction, reliability, and features.
We dove deeper into the performance of individual models using Consumer Reports’ in-depth testing and ranking process. Unlike J.D Power's survey, which focuses just on brands, Consumer Reports intensely tests individual dishwashers from over 20 brands, evaluating their washing, drying, energy use, noise, and cycle time (with a special emphasis on washing power).
Ease of use
A spec sheet only goes so far in telling you what you might love or hate about your future appliance: You can’t spy wheels that come off-track easily or tines that are too close together to handle the average plate.
We visited Metropolitan Appliance in Seattle and loaded, then unloaded, dishes and pots, adjusted upper racks, attempted to fit a ladle into any possible nook, twisted filters in and out, and imagined ourselves using the machines long-term. The best dishwashers had solid construction, smooth adjustments, and loading setups akin to a perfect game of Tetris.
The 3 Best Dishwashers
- Bosch 500 Series -
Best Dishwasher for Most People
- Bosch Ascenta Series -
Best Budget Dishwasher
- KitchenAid KDTE334GPS -
Best Luxury Dishwasher
Why we chose it
Our experts consistently praised Bosch as a standard-setter. The brand is highly regarded by Consumer Reports and J.D. Power, receiving a “Better than Most” in nearly every category in J.D. Power’s 2017 survey. In Consumer Reports’ survey of over 42,000 readers, only 10 percent of people who had purchased a Bosch dishwasher in the prior four years experienced repairs or serious problems — the best reliability results for any brand we looked at.
Mid-range price for high-end features
Bosch offers several dishwasher lines: Ascenta, 300, 500, 800, and Benchmark. As you progress through the lines, machines get quieter, more flexible, and more expensive, with the Benchmark representing the most high-end pricing ($2,000) and features (it’s the only line to come with a built-in water softener). The 500 series lands squarely in the middle of the spectrum at about $900. And, after giving all the lines a try, we think the 500 offers the most impressive balance between features and price. Consumer Reports scored the 500 series slightly higher than the more expensive 800 series, and the only category in which the 500 didn’t receive an “Excellent” was noise, for which it earned a respectable “Very Good.”
Adjustable tines and upper rack
Most of the dishwashers we looked at had tines that fold down and upper racks that raise and lower, but the 500 series' design felt unusually functional. The top rack features two rows of folding tines, and the glasses fit nicely at an angle, so water is less likely to pool on the tops. The upper rack also adjusts vertically by either one or two inches to make space for large vessels like stock pots on the bottom rack. (We found it’s best to adjust the racks when they’re empty. When we tried it loaded with dishes, the glasses all clanked as the rack dropped to the lowest setting.)
As for the bottom level: The silverware basket separates into two halves, so you can arrange the baskets in whatever way is most conducive to packing the rack full. And there are two rows of foldable tines here as well, making the adjustment from dinner plate to cereal bowl spacing easy.
Roomy third rack
The 500 has the capacity to hold up to 16 place settings, on the high end of what we encountered. Some of this roominess is likely thanks to a three-inch third rack that can hold lots of silverware, freeing up more space below. The slots on that shelf hold silverware on its side so spoons can spoon, but not so closely that it blocks the jets from cleaning them. Note: We couldn’t fit a big spatula or ladle in the upper rack, so don’t expect it to hold every piece of serving ware in your home. Still, this feature adds an estimated 30 percent more loading capacity, according to Bosch, and you can choose to take the rack out if you need more overhead clearance.
An array of useful cycles and options
The Bosch 500 series' five cycles run the gamut for soil levels — including a soil-sensing Auto cycle. Freedman told us that roughly 75-80 percent of people will probably just use the “Auto” or “Normal” (he recommends “Auto”) setting most of the time, but the Bosch 500 series does give you options for heavy-duty scrubbing, if the need arises.
Multiple design options
If you search for “500 series dishwashers” on Bosch’s site, you’ll see about 25 options to choose from, with multiple color and handle-style variants — the two main handles available are bar and pocket. The newest additions to the 500 series all feature a control panel on top — a feature that’s handy if you have young children who like to play with buttons. But you can find a couple of options with control panels on the front of the machines.
Models in the 500 series do vary in terms of specific wash cycles, but all have the same foundational options. If you want to compare details, we suggest using Bosch’s “Product Comparison” tool.
Points to consider
Filter requires manual cleaning
The food a dishwasher cleans from cookware doesn’t disintegrate into thin air — it’s captured by a filter on the bottom of the machine. Some dishwashers have self-cleaning filters, which use a disposal (this can get loud) or fine mesh to break apart food and wash it away. But Bosch machines use a quieter, manual filter. You’ll have to take it out — which requires a quick twist-and-pull, we tried it — and rinse it in the sink every so often to avoid funky smells. The Bosch 500 owner’s manual recommends cleaning the filter three to 12 times per year, depending on your pre-rinsing habits and whether you have hard water (which can cause mineral buildup on the filter).
Fewer color options
Freedman told us that some companies are trending toward color options outside of the traditional white, black, and stainless steel, adding rose gold coppers, retro pastels, and black stainless steel to their lineups. While Bosch does currently offer a black stainless option, its color schemes are somewhat limited in comparison.
Why we chose it
Of all the dishwashers that met our criteria for brand and model reputation, machines from the Bosch Ascenta line are the most affordable. For $200 to $400 less than Bosch's 500 series, you get impressive customizability and capacity. Ascentas offer six cycles, letting you choose the most efficient way to get heavily soiled or barely-dirty dishes clean. Plus, the machines come equipped with soil sensors for “Auto” and “Auto Half Load” cycles if you don’t want to make the call yourself.
Most dishwashers fit between 13 and 16 place settings; the Ascenta line hits the middle of this range with a 14-setting capacity. The Ascenta's lower price point means it does lack the third rack that comes with Bosch’s other series — but you still have the ability to adjust the upper rack to create more room for tall items on the bottom.
J.D. Power rates the Ascenta line separately from the rest of the Bosch brand, giving it a slightly lower “About Average” score for overall customer satisfaction — and a lower rating for ease-of-use than our other finalists. Still, in Consumer Reports’ survey of over 42,000 readers, Bosch continued to be the brand for which the lowest number of dishwasher owners experienced repairs or serious issues over four years.
In Consumer Reports testing, two Ascenta models received particularly standout scores: SHX3AR75UC (with a bar handle) and SHE3AR75UC (with a recessed handle). Priced at $700 and $600, respectively, the two machines earned “best buy” designations in testing and “Excellent” ratings in washing and energy use. They do lag behind other Bosch models in noise and drying ratings — a tradeoff that's typical for lower-priced machines. But at 50 decibels, the Ascenta's sound score is about the same as rainfall, so it's unlikely to be disruptive if it's running in the next room.
Points to consider
Compared to its higher-priced brethren, the Ascenta’s adjustability is more limited. It has a row of tines that fold down on the bottom rack, but the non-folding tines are spaced tightly, which can be frustrating if you have bulkier place settings. Plus, the Ascenta doesn’t have the third rack of other Bosch models. If you’re looking to max out ease-of-use, the 500 line will be worth the extra money. But if those features aren't a priority, the Ascenta delivers a satisfactory clean and is backed by a solid reputation.
Filter requires manual cleaning
Like all of Bosch’s dishwashers, the Ascenta’s filter requires regular rinsing to stave off bad odors. You can refer to your owner’s manual for a specific schedule, but expect to clean the filter at least every three or four months.
Why we chose it
KitchenAid has an impressive track record. It's the only brand to receive a perfect five stars for overall customer satisfaction from J.D. Power. If that's not enough, Consumer Reports also ranks KitchenAid dishwashers “Excellent” overall. (Noise was the only Consumer Reports category in which KitchenAid received a “Very Good” among the sea of “Excellent”s). Just 15 percent of Consumer Reports survey respondents who purchased a KitchenAid dishwasher in the last four years experienced repairs or serious problems.
Ultra-convenient extra features
The KitchenAid KDTE334GPS offers a number of luxury touches that set it apart from the Bosch 500 series:
- A sound score of 39 dBa — roughly the noise-level of a dove call.
- Four dedicated bottle-wash spray nozzles on the upper rack. Freedman says these are “great for jelly jars and sports bottles."
- A third rack that was roomy enough to fit a ladle in our tests (thanks to a well-placed gap that’s the perfect size for the scoop-end).
- A ledge that prevents the bottom rack from sliding off-track and out of the machine — no more finagling the rack back into position when it's already loaded full of dishes.
Trendy customization options
Like Bosch, KitchenAid offers both pocket and bar handles. If you choose the bar handle, the default model comes capped with KitchenAid’s signature red rings — however, Freedman clarified that you can choose from a few other color options. You can also pay a couple hundred dollars extra for a similar version with a window on the front, letting you “inspect your dishes before removing them.”
Instead of a filter that requires cleaning every few months — commonplace even in Bosch’s luxe Benchmark series — KitchenAid’s higher-end models use a microfilter that never needs cleaning or replacing. While cleaning a filter every few months isn’t a huge inconvenience, this could be a win if you know you’d rather not have another chore on your plate. The brand also claims that its microfilter reduces wash time by filtering food from water faster than other systems — its regular wash cycle is 110 minutes long, while most are 125.
Points to consider
All those luxe features don’t come cheap — at $1899, the KDTM354DS one of the most expensive machines we considered. If you’re not shopping in that price range and still want a KitchenAid, there are slightly cheaper models still rated highly by Consumer Reports. But you'll lose features like a full third rack, bottle-wash nozzles, self-cleaning filter, and color options outside of stainless steel — and at that point, it may make more sense to opt for a Bosch 500 instead.
Iffy warranty reputation
The only category in which KitchenAid ranks less-than-average per J.D. Power is the scope and length of its warranty. When we compared KitchenAid and Bosch’s dishwasher warranties, they appeared similar: Parts and labor are covered for the first year, with more limited parts coverage for years two through five, and very limited lifetime coverage on a few select parts. However, KitchenAid’s warranty does have a lengthy list of exclusions — it’s worth reading through before you buy to make sure you understand the fine print.
Guide to Dishwashers
How to find the right dishwasher for you
Assess your needs
Your lifestyle will determine much of what you should look for in a dishwasher. A good question to start with: What cycles will you actually use? If you entertain often, Freedman suggests looking for machines with quick-wash cycles to refresh dishes that have been in storage for awhile as well as a “glasses” cycle, that specifically wash just drinking glasses so you can keep them fresh between drinks.
Consider your space
Color scheme is an obvious factor when it comes to your space, but your dishwasher’s handle is an oft-overlooked factor that may be just as important. According to Freedman, “people will usually gravitate toward bar handles if they can.” The main reason people like them? Because you can hang dishrags on them, according to Freedman. But, depending on your kitchen, a bar handle may not make sense. “If your kitchen layout is such that your dishwasher is in a corner and you choose a bar handle, you may not be able to open that side cabinet.” In that case, a pocket handle makes more sense (and is also likely to be cheaper).
Budget for professional installation
“Unless you are a trained licensed professional you should not be installing your own dishwasher,” says Shirley Hood, an Appliance Specialist in the Appliance Department at Abt Electronics. An amateur dealing with water lines in an enclosed space is a recipe for disaster: You may think your dishwasher is working fine, only to find months later that your basement ceiling has water damage, your wood floors are warping near your dishwasher — or perhaps even worse, your downstairs neighbor is knocking on your door because water is leaking from their ceiling. “Keep your peace of mind and hire a trained professional,” Hood said. It may add $150 to $250 to your budget, but will reduce the chance for mistakes.
The Best Dishwasher: Summed Up
|J.D. Power Overall Satisfaction Score|
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