Dishwasher Buying Guide

Dishwasher Buying Guide

When it comes to dishwashers, often people come to me confused on how to select their dishwasher and what to look for when choosing their next dishwasher. This dishwasher buying guide will help serve as a helpful tool to outline what you should be looking for when selecting your new dishwasher for your home.

Exterior Style

What style of dishwasher are you going for in your space? Dishwashers come in a couple of different options.

  • Pocket handle style: is more of a reach-in handle or recessed handle. There is no bar or handle on the exterior of the dishwasher. This option will make your dishwasher blend in more.
  • Towel bar handles: Exactly how it sounds. A bar handle that sticks out from the dishwasher. You can place a towel on the bar to help accessorize your kitchen.

Dishwashers have either exposed controls or unexposed controls.

  • Exposed controls/Front Control: The buttons for the dishwasher are all on the front face of the unit and easily visible.
  • Unexposed controls: Also known as top-control, these dishwashers keep the control panel out of sight on the top of the dishwasher door.

You can choose from the typical appliance colors like stainless steel, black stainless, slate, black, white, etc. But dishwashers are also offered in panel ready for that customized, modern look.

Panel Ready Dishwashers

A panel-ready dishwasher will take a panel from your cabinet maker and give your kitchen a seamlessly integrated look. Think of it as having a cabinet that is really a dishwasher!

Panel Ready Dishwasher

Loading Capacity

Think about how often you use your dishwasher and how many people live in your home. Do you entertain a lot? Most dishwashers have two rack options, and some dishwashers even offer a third rack for that extra loading capacity. 

Many dishwashers come with adjustable rack options as well as fold-down tines. Dishwasher tines are upright protrusions that help to hold up dishes. See, we just learned something new. Now we know what those are named! 

Fold-down tines can be folded on both the upper and lower racks. Many dishwashers also offer a silverware basket, which makes washing those utensils a breeze!

Understanding Dishwasher Noise Level

Now let’s consider the volume of your dishwasher. Is your dishwasher nearby a frequently used living room or den? Do you want to hear the dishwasher noise in the background while you watch the next episode of Ted Lasso? 

Dishwashers come in several different decibel levels. If finding a quiet dishwasher is vital to you, check for a rating of 45 or lower decibels. At 45 or less, the level of noise from your dishwasher is at a minimum. 

Dishwashers with a decibel level between 45-50 are slightly louder. They will sound like rain. Decibel levels over 50 are a step above in noise and are comparable to a normal conversation. It all depends on your preference, and of course your budget.

Dishwasher Cycle Times and Features  

Look for some key features that dishwashers offer. Their cycles, and most importantly, how long those take to complete. Many people often ask me, “How long does it take to run a load of dishes? My dishwasher takes forever!” Most dishwasher cycle times can last anywhere from 1.5 to 4 hours long. Let’s look into some of these cycles in more detail to discuss all the options.

  • Normal cycle: The name is self-explanatory. This one is the cycle you use to wash and dry most dishes without heavy soil.  
  • Quick cycle: need the dishes cleaned quickly? The quick cycle is the cycle for you! It’s called the one-hour wash, as it only takes an hour. The quick-cycle uses more water, energy, and heat for faster results.
  • Rinse and hold or Rinse Only: When running this cycle, the dishwasher will spray the dishes with small jets of water to prevent the food from drying out until you fill it up and start an actual load. This cycle is only about 10-15 minutes as the dishwasher is not doing a full cleaning, just spraying the dishes down quickly.

Do any of these cycle times hold extra significance to you?

Drying Methods 

There are several different types of drying methods that dishwashers have. From air dry to heated dry with an element, condensation dry, crystal dry with Zeolite, and pop-to-open air dry.  Let’s discuss these options in more detail.

  • Air Dry: The air-dry cycle uses pumps to push room-temperature air through the machine to encourage even drying. You will likely find some moisture and pools of water in the upside-down bottoms of bowls or cups when the dishwashing and air-dry cycle is complete.
  • Heated Dry: Dries from forced hot air via an in-tub heating element that turns the moisture into steam. Small air fans push the steam through exhaust vents. This process is very energy-consuming, which has led many manufacturers to do away with it.
  • Condensation Drying: This drying method rinses dishes in hot water at the end of the cleaning cycle. The condensation then forms on the surface of the stainless-steel interior, effectively pulling water off of the dishes and sending it down the drain.
  • Crystal Dry with Zeolite: Zeolite is a mineral that occurs naturally in volcanic rock and is produced synthetically for technical use. Its water absorbency is extremely high, making it the perfect dishwasher drying option. Discovered by the developers at BSH, aka Bosch/Thermador. I won’t get into the boring details, but it takes a lot less energy to heat the Zeolite granulates than the dishes in the dishwasher, saving up to 20% less energy per cycle.
  • Pop to Open Air Dry: Offered on select Bosch dishwashers this feature automatically releases the door at the end of the drying cycle to let fresh air inside. AutoAir opens the door to let fresh air circulate for 40% drier dishes. Pop-to-open air dry saves you time and makes it super convenient to not rush to open the dishwasher. 

The top dishwasher manufacturers that I recommend are Bosch, KitchenAid, and Maytag.

What makes Bosch so special? Why is it a great dishwasher? What series is the best?

For easy reference take a look at these model numbers:

Bosch 800 Front Control Model Numbers: SHEM78Z55N, SHEM78Z52N, SPE68B55UC

Top Control Model Numbers: SHPM78Z55N, SHP878ZD5N, SHXM78Z55N, SHEM78ZH5N,  SHPM78Z54N, SGV78B53UC, SPX68B55UC

Panel Ready Model Numbers: SHVM78Z53N, SHV878ZD3N, SGV78B53UC

18″ and 24″ ADA Compliant Model Numbers: SGX78B55UC, SGV78B53UC, SGE78B55UC, SPX68B55UC, SPV68B53UC, SPE68B55UC

Bosch has perfected their dishwashers over the years. Particularly the 800 series! It is a washing beast, super quiet, super-efficient, and with a large capacity!

The new models with a “Z” in the nomenclature stands for Zeolite. A natural mineral, Zeolite will absorb moisture and emit heat. Bosch calls this feature “crystal dry”. The models come in pocket handle, towel bar handle, and panel ready.

They fit in a standard 24” wide opening, the third rack is not just for silverware, as they give you a silverware basket in the lower tray as well!

The top rack is adjustable, and it is only 42 DBA on this model. If you want a reliable workhorse with German engineering behind it, this is the unit for you!

They also make a 300 and 500 series for every budget, but the 800 is my go-to piece! For more details, click here.

Bosch 800 Dishwasher

KitchenAid Model Numbers KDTM604KBS, KDTM604KPS

Not to be outdone by Bosch.

KitchenAid is the way to go when you tend to wash high amounts of plastic items in your dishwasher. The KitchenAid 604 has the pro dry feature, so it will dry much better than the KitchenAid 404. It also has a deeper third rack than the Bosch to hold more. KitchenAid 604 has the print-shield finish for resisting smudges and fingerprints. Also, making it super easy to clean with just water and a soft cloth. Take a look here to learn more about the KitchenAid 604.

Maytag MDB4949SKZ

One of the reasons I love this unit so much is that it is just a 2 rack unit. So there is a lot of space above the top rack!
While so many brands went to a 3rd rack for smaller items this is a great value piece. Great for those of us afraid of the new 3rd racks or just anyone who wants to maximize their dishwasher space for extremely large items.

Some standout modes and features of the Maytag line of dishwashers are:

The PowerBlast Cycle: The PowerBlast cycle removes stuck-on food with high-pressure spray jets, increased temperatures, and hot steam to finish the job.

Long Powerdry: This feature boasts decreased humidity in the machine and your kitchen, and 60% better drying without the use of a rinse aid! Perfect for any of us who forget to pick it up at the store!

4-Blade Stainless Steel Chopper: No more scraping plates. The 4-blade stainless steel chopper disintegrates the food particles that come off your dishes so they don’t end up recirculating and sticking to your dishes and glassware.

Fingerprint Resistant Stainless Steel Exterior: Does this need an explanation?! Less time cleaning is always a plus! Wipe down the fingerprint-resistant exterior with some soapy water and you’re good to go!

Maytag MDB8959SKZ Dishwasher

Maytag MDB8959SKZ 

Now, if you want the 3rd rack, they offer a similar model. The 8959 has the third rack and the same great washing action.

Maytag MDB8959SKZ dishwasher with 3 racks

The Maytag brand is an excellent choice, especially so for those of us who are working against a tighter budget! As I like to say, a budget is a budget, and we all deserve to have appliances we love!

Still have dishwasher questions? Check out my top dishwasher picks for 2021 or visit our community forum and get all the answers to your questions.

Looking to purchase a new dishwasher? Head to or call 1-877-957-5377 and tell them Al sent you!



Appliance Expert Just Ask AL

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