So, despite all of the duct tape & bailing wire, your 20-yr. old WASHINATOR 6000 ULTRA-CLEAN WITH TURBO BOOST dishwasher has finally given up the ghost. What do you do now? This one came with the house and you’ve never had to actually buy a new dishwasher – it can’t be that difficult… right?
We have talked in the past about repairing your dishwasher that just died, now we will delve into shopping for a new dishwasher. Welcome to the world of confusion – where online reviews and information overload will have you curled up in the corner in a fetal position dreading the outcome of a potentially bad purchasing decision.
Regardless of which brand & model of dishwasher you ultimately purchase, it is good to know how the new generation differs from the old and how you can avoid some common issues that can cause the premature death of your new purchase.
95+% of new dishwashers are Energy Star rated.
What does that mean?
Energy Star is a government-backed labeling program that helps people and organizations save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by identifying factories, office equipment, home appliances and electronics that have superior energy efficiency.
In a nutshell, it means that they are all using less water & energy – which also means that cycle times will be longer so that they operate more efficiently.
Scrape your dishes, but don’t pre-rinse.
I know it goes against everything you have been brought up to know about doing the dishes, but this will actually help the new one perform in the way it should.
How is that?
Phosphate-based detergents are a thing of the past – most dishwasher detergents are now enzyme-based. For the detergent to be effective, these enzymes need work to do, and their sole purpose in life is to break down what you leave on your dishes. This, combined with sensors that detect how clean/dirty the water is will optimize the performance of the dishwasher.
If we put pre-rinsed dishes in, the sensors detect clean water and shut the cycle down early – leaving the detergent unused. Over time, the unused detergent builds up and becomes a film on things that can lead to hazy glassware, slimy-feeling flatware and eventually can clog up the drain system.
As we start to see these deposits on our dishes, the natural tendency is to think that the detergent isn’t working and that more is necessary – this only compounds the problem.
Inside most detergent dispenser cups are some pre-measured markings, these are guidelines for how much to use. Around here we have pretty soft water, so only a small amount of detergent is needed. When in doubt, go with the pods. Most manufacturers have tested and often provide a sample of what has been found to work best with the particular machine.
Now on to more fun stuff – FILTERS!
The #1 attribute that consumers request when looking for a new dishwasher is “It has to be quiet!”
Most older dishwashers were loud – they were equipped with a food grinder that made lots of noise when in operation and they didn’t use much in the way of sound insulation, many mimicked the sound of a tank rolling through the kitchen.
Manufacturers have responded to demand for quiet dishwashers by copying the European model of using stainless tubs and filter-based systems. This takes a lot of the noise out of the unit, but does require that you clean the filter periodically. IF you don’t, the drainage system gets clogged up and you run the risk of killing the drain pump. There are still models with grinders (that have been quieted down by using sound-dampening materials) if the whole filter cleaning process makes you cringe.
Regardless of which variation you prefer, most of your mid-to-higher end models are down below 48 decibels (as compared to the 70+-decibel unit you are replacing.) What this means is that you will no longer have to leave the room to hear yourself think!
Let’s talk about drying!
It’s good to know how manufacturers differ on the subject of drying.
Most American dishwashers have a heating element in the bottom of the tub, while the majority of European models do not.
This does not mean that European models do not dry dishes, they just have a different approach to doing it. They use a condensing drying system (sometimes with a fan assisting) to get as much moisture out of the tub as possible
In either case, a rinse aid is a must for newer dishwashers – it helps the dishes shed water so the drying process is more effective (heating element or not). I have included a video from Cascade below about how rinse aids work, but any brand will work well. It won’t necessarily help getting plastics dry, nor will it get rid of the water that collects on the flat surfaces of upside-down coffee mugs.
For this we recommend emptying the bottom rack first; it will prevent you from getting some of that final rinse water left on items in the upper rack all over your dry plates down below.
Now that you are aware of some of the differences in how they function, it is also good to know how things have changed as far as features over the years:
- 3rd rack – Almost all brands now have models with an additional rack – for many this means getting rid of the silverware basket that always seems to be in the way and prevents you from getting all of the plates loaded. For others, it is where all the odd items (spatulas, slotted spoons…etc.) go that normally were squeezed in the middle of upper rack on the old dishwasher. What it really means is more flexibility and options, which is a good thing. The GE® Front Control with Plastic Interior Dishwasher with Sanitize Cycle & Dry Boost is a good example of a dishwasher with a third rack. if you click through to the page on our website, you will see the second photo that illustrates how useful that extra rack would be.
- Fold-down tines – In most cases, the higher up you go within a brand, the more rows of fold-down tines you get…..this provides you with the ability to tailor the racking for different loading options. The 500 Series Dishwasher 24” Stainless steel, XXL is a good choice for the ultimate flexibility in loading your dishwasher.
- Zone Jets – These are specialized jets that can focus attention on specific areas (bottle washing, casserole dish cleaning, silverware basket showering) and add cleaning possibilities not available before. The JennAir NOIR 24″ TriFecta Dishwasher, 38 dBA is my choice for integrated jets as they are the pioneers in this technology.
With consumers being more particular about their dishwasher needs these days, it is helpful to know the attributes that are most important before trying to differentiate between the hundreds of models available. Get an appliance expert involved like those on the Metropolitan Appliance team whom are trained to ask all of the questions about your expectations and use so that you get some dishwasher options that meet your budget and your dishwashing needs. We hope this adds to your understanding and good luck with your new dishwasher!