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.

Best Dishwasher for Most People
Bosch 500 Series
Bosch 500 Series
With highly adjustable racks and tines, plus a roomy third rack and a lineup of useful wash cycles, a machine from this line should have you covered no matter your dishwashing habits.
Pros
Solid brand reputation
Mid-range price for high-end features
Adjustable tines and upper rack
Roomy third rack
An array of useful cycles and options
Multiple design options
Cons
Filter requires manual cleaning
Fewer color options

Why we chose it

Brand reputation

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.

Best Budget Dishwasher
Bosch Ascenta Series
Bosch Ascenta Series
A machine from the Ascenta series runs $200 to $400 less than a 500-series dishwasher, while maintaining the strong Bosch brand reputation. You’ll just make a few sacrifices: It’s louder, less adjustable, and doesn’t have a third rack for added capacity.
Pros
Good value
Solid brand reputation
Impressive performance
Cons
Minimal adjustability
Filter requires manual cleaning

Why we chose it

Good value

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.

Brand reputation

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.

Line performance

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

Minimal adjustability

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.

Best Luxury Dishwasher
KitchenAid KDTE334GPS
KitchenAid KDTE334GPS
A few features make this model worth the splurge: four spray nozzles for bottles and jars, a unique third rack, and a feature that prevents the bottom rack from pulling out too far. It’s also the only machine we feature with a self-cleaning filter — no need to take it out and rinse it every few months.
Pros
Solid brand reputation
Trendy customization options
No-maintenance filter
Cons
More expensive
Iffy warranty reputation

Why we chose it

Brand reputation

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.”

No-maintenance filter

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

Price

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.

Dishwasher FAQs

What's the difference between American and European dishwashers?

European dishwashers started hitting the US market about 20 years ago, providing quieter machines that sit flush with your cabinetry and pack a higher price tag. American-style dishwashers, on the other hand, offer an extra inch of depth in the first rack. Both styles are now starting to meet in the middle; but, overall, American-style dishwashers tend to be roomier, louder, and less expensive, while European models are a bit pricier but offer a quieter wash and a sleeker look.

Where they still differ greatly is drying. American dishwashers have heating coils, which heat the moist, hot air and then blow it through a fan to dry the dishes. It’s a method that results in drier dishes, but is less energy efficient. European models use condensation drying. The moist air is released from the dishes when it comes in contact with the cooler stainless steel surface, which draws the water away from the dishes and down the drain. It’s more energy efficient, but doesn’t work so well on plastics and can take longer.

“For some people, drying isn’t that important because they run their dishwashers at night and the dishes are dry in the morning. So, condensation is fine,” says Freedman. “To other people who either want to run a quick 30-minute load, or want to run and unload before going to bed that night, the heated/fan drying is more important because it will get the dishes dry considerably more quickly and completely.”

What’s the best way to load a dishwasher?

Dishwasher manuals actually show diagrams for the ideal arrangement of dishes. Nozzles and racks are all arranged differently depending on your model, so there’s no true one-size-fits-all strategy. But rest assured that there is an answer in your manual.

What shouldn’t I put in the dishwasher?

According to the manuals for our top picks, it’s best to hand wash dishes and utensils made of the following materials:

  • Wood
  • Acrylic
  • Iron
  • Bone (handles)
  • Pewter
  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • Tin
  • Anything joined with adhesive

Most manufacturers also recommend not using your dishwasher to wash anything but “normal, dishwasher-safe dishware and kitchenware,” which means that activities like washing car mats or cooking salmon sous vide are technically frowned upon.

Why do drinking glasses get cloudy after washing?

The hardness of your water is likely the culprit behind cloudy glassware. It may be the victim of mineral deposits, or the glass may have been “etched,” or eroded. The manual for the Bosch line we recommend suggests using a rinse aid in order to prevent streaking, and gives guidance for cleaning residue on the machine, plus how much detergent to use (and how often to replace your filter) based on the hardness of your water. The KitchenAid’s manual lends similar, machine-specific advice.

The Best Dishwasher: Summed Up

Bosch 500 Series
Bosch Ascenta Series
KitchenAid KDTE334GPS
The Best
Dishwasher for Most People
Budget Dishwasher
Luxury Dishwasher
Price
$900+
$600+
$1,500+
J.D. Power Overall Satisfaction Score
4/5
3/5
5/5
Noise Level
44 dBa
50 dBa
44 dBa
Number of Racks
3
2
3
Filter Type
Manual cleaning
Manual cleaning
Self cleaning
Wash Cycles
5
6
6