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A dishwasher does the dirty work for you—transforming crusty, greasy, or messy dishes into clean, ready-to-use place settings. So, instead of wringing out drippy sponges and using endless squirts of detergent, load up a dishwasher with your breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes. Create a clean kitchen quickly and with a lot of ease.
The majority of dishwashers are built-in models that slide under the countertop in your kitchen. However, if you lack a spot for a built-in dishwasher, you can opt for a portable or countertop dishwasher to accomplish the same goal. Some popular features to consider include quick-wash cycles, steam or sanitize options, special drying modes, and components like a hard food disposer or third rack.
What to Look for in a Dishwasher
The type of dishwasher you purchase depends on the layout of your space. If you have enough room for a full-size model, which needs to be professionally hooked up to your home's water system, then you'll want to look for a built-in dishwasher, otherwise known as a "tall tub" dishwasher. If you have less space—since you live in an apartment or RV—then you'll want to shop for a portable or countertop dishwasher. Portable dishwashers usually hook up to a kitchen faucet, while countertop models do the same and also feature a drawer design.
Noise level is measured in decibels, and can usually be found within the specifications of a model's listing, with the abbreviation dBA. A standard dishwasher typically has a decibel rating between 45 and 60 dBA—with 52 dBA being quiet enough to have a conversation over, but loud enough to hear the rinse cycle start up. The lower the decibel rating, the quieter your dishwasher will be. So, if your household has children or entertains often, you'll want to find a dishwasher in the 38 to 45 dBA range.
The control panel of a dishwasher can be located on the front of the model, or the top of the door. A front control model is the standard set-up, and allows you to check the status of your cycle. The downside? It's easy to accidentally hit the buttons and change the cycle's progress. A top-control model avoids this issue, by hiding the control panel and giving your whole appliance a sleek look. If you shop for a dishwasher with a top control panel, just know that you won't be able to monitor your cycles.
Here, the top dishwashers to save you time on dish duty.
Best Overall: Maytag MDB4949SKZ 24 in. Front Control Built-In Tall Tub Dishwasher
Type: Built-in | Dimensions: 33.63 x 23.88 x 24.5 inches | Decibel Rating: 50 decibels | Capacity: 14 place settings | Cycles: 4 | Tub Material: Stainless steel | Control Location: Front control
Has a powerful motor
Can hold up to 14 place settings
Front control panel is tucked away
No smart features
No sanitize setting
This dishwasher is a workhorse that cleans your dishes, pots, pans, and anything else with quiet determination. It runs at an impressively low 50 decibels, which is no louder than your average conversation. Plus, this tall tub dishwasher holds up to 14 place settings, as both the upper and lower racks can accommodate larger objects like dinner plates. Its functional and thoughtful design will ultimately make this piece popular in your living space, and a loyal sidekick when entertaining.
To start a wash cycle, select a setting from a front control panel that keeps all your options front and center, but also tucked away. The panel is smooth and only requires the gentle tap of a button to start a cycle. Now, while this Maytag model doesn’t include all the bells and whistles, it does have a premium build, including a stainless steel interior for durability and a powerful, 15 amp motor. A PowerBlast setting takes care of even sticky, burnt-on messes on pots or pans—like melted cheese or tomato sauce—with no pre-rinse necessary. All in all, this dishwasher won't cost you a fortune, but your glassware and dishes will sparkle and shine nonetheless.
Best Budget: Frigidaire FFCD2413UB 24 in. Built-In Front Control Dishwasher
Type: Built-in | Dimensions: 35 x 24 x 25 inches | Decibel Rating: 60 decibels | Capacity: 14 place settings | Cycles: 3 | Tub Material: Plastic | Control Location: Front control
Can hold up to 14 place settings
Delay start function
Can be very noisy
Has a plastic tub
This affordable appliance from Frigidaire falls under two categories: efficient and simple. It features two cleaning racks, a cutlery basket, and enough space for up to 14 place settings. You won’t snag a stainless steel interior or a steam-cleaning function on this cheaper model. However, it does have plenty of features you will likely use and appreciate on a daily basis, such as a one-hour quick wash.
This setting is ideal for when you need to run a small load with specific pieces in it, or are in a rush to get your chores done. A four-hour delay function is also key, if you want to avoid overly taxing your hot water heater, or having the model be a part of your conversation or television show. At 60 decibels, this dishwasher is a little louder than some other models, but will make up for it with its powerful and easy operation.
Best Splurge: GE Profile PDT775SBNTS Top Control Tall Tub Dishwasher
Type: Built-in | Dimensions: 34 x 23.8 x 24 inches | Decibel Rating: 42 decibels | Capacity: 16 place settings | Cycles: 5 | Tub Material: Stainless steel | Control Location: Top control
Multiple drying fans
Has built-in WiFi
Operates extremely quietly
Wheels on bottom rack can be flimsy
This model made by GE combines an abundance of features and options into a sleek package. The tall tub dishwasher includes must-have amenities for a high-end appliance including: a stainless steel interior, an impressive capacity that can hold up to 16 place settings, and a Piranha hard food disposer. The piece is very quiet when it runs, and allows you to steam clean and sanitize your dishes.
Notably, a Twin Turbo Dry Boost also uses two fans to make sure dishes are dry and sparkling. While it adds some time to the overall cycle time, it’s well-worth it, as you can put away your dishes without them dripping in your cabinets. If you're short on time, this dishwasher does include a one-hour quick wash cycle that will speed things along, too.
You can check to see how far along a cycle is using the built-in WiFi that updates an app on your phone or smart device. And while this expensive dishwasher has a much larger price tag than the average model, smart features can take a lot off of your plate—literally.
Best Countertop: Farberware FCD06ABBBKA Professional Countertop Portable Dishwasher in Black
Type: Countertop | Dimensions: 17.2 x 19.7 x 21.7 inches | Decibel Rating: 62 decibels | Capacity: 6 place settings | Cycles: 7 | Tub Material: Stainless steel | Control Location: Top control
Great for small households
Easy to install
Plenty of cycle settings
Takes a bit to learn the different controls
Not as spacious as other models
If you don’t have room in your kitchen for a built-in dishwasher, you can put down your dishrag and tap into the benefits of having a machine do your dirty work with a countertop dishwasher. This model from Farberware is only 21 inches wide, and easily rests on a non-cluttered counter or in a cabinet. With a pull-out rack that includes a silverware basket, it can hold up to six place settings—with a maximum dish size of 10 inches. When it comes time to install the dishwasher, use the included connectors and adaptors to easily connect it to your kitchen sink, so that it has a ready supply of water.
Despite the model being small, you won’t have to sacrifice a variety of cycles and options. There are several practical wash programs such as normal, heavy, baby care, light, glass, and quick wash. Each cycle is represented by a small icon, and you’ll have to learn what each one represents before using the model with ease. But, once you get a hang of them, you'll enjoy how this dishwasher uses a hotter-than-normal rinse cycle to speed up drying times.
Best with Third Rack: KitchenAid KDTM404KPS Top Control Built-In Dishwasher with Third Rack
Type: Built-in | Dimensions: 33.63 x 23.88 x 26.75 inches | Decibel Rating: 44 decibels | Capacity: 16 place settings | Cycles: 5 | Tub Material: Stainless steel | Control Location: Top control
Has a stainless steel tub
Easy to load and unload
No smart features
A newer trend in dishwashers is the addition of a third rack. This rack is ideal for holding dirty cups or utensils that don't necessarily fit in the basket (Think, extra long knives that may get caught otherwise). And while you may be unsure about the necessity of a third rack, this KitchenAid dishwasher incorporates one of the largest and most versatile versions. Designed to fit glasses, mugs, and bowls up to 6 inches tall, the third rack will surprise and impress you with how much it can actually hold.
Aside from the useful design of the three gliding racks, you’ll also appreciate the durable stainless steel interior and quiet operation of this model. At 44 decibels, it's certainly one of the quieter models on the market. A control pad built into the top of the dishwasher door preserves the smooth exterior, making this a quality pick for stylish kitchens as well.
Best Portable: GE GPT225SGLWW 24 in. Portable Dishwasher
Type: Portable | Dimensions: 36 x 23.6 x 25.37 inches | Decibel Rating: 54 decibels | Capacity: 12 place settings | Cycles: 3 | Tub Material: Stainless steel | Control Location: Top control
Has caster wheels
Powerful food disposer
Hidden control panel
Doesn't always dry dishes well
Not great for large households
If you’re not keen on losing cabinet space for a built-in dishwasher, don’t despair. A portable dishwasher sits anywhere and, thanks to four caster wheels, glides up to your water supply. Once it's finished washing and drying your dishes, you can slide it back into any corner of your home, as if its a much smaller appliance like a waffle maker or egg cooker.
This particular portable model by GE holds 12 place settings, which is quite a lot compared to others on the market. You likely won't need to run cycles daily with this kind of capacity. In addition, there's a hidden control panel on the top of the door that will make this piece look sleek when it is in use. The panel gives you a variety of wash and dry options including sanitize and delay wash. The model is also equipped with a Piranha hard food disposer to handle any debris.
Best for Quiet Operation: Bosch SHPM78Z55N 800 Series 24 in. Built-In Dishwasher
Type: Built-in | Dimensions: 33.87 x 23.56 x 23.75 inches | Decibel Rating: 42 decibels | Capacity: 16 place settings | Cycles: 6 | Tub Material: Stainless steel | Control Location: Top control
Precise soil sensors
Quiet filtration system
Has a third rack
Not always effective at drying dishes
Bosch has a reputation for quiet appliances, and this dishwasher is one of them. Registering at a low 42 decibels, it's designed to blend into the ambient noise of your home. What does this mean for your everyday activities? You don't need to raise your voice to talk over the dishwasher after dinner. In fact, this appliance is so quiet that a red light that shines on the floor is often the only indication that the unit is running.
At the same time, there's real action happening inside the dishwasher. A precise system uses sensors to assess soil level before and during the wash cycle, and the spray arms tackle all sorts of food messes. Keeping things quiet, a filtration system traps particles without using a grinder. You'll be left feeling satisfied with your clean dishes and new purchase.
Best for Dry Dishes: Whirlpool WDT730PAHZ Top Control Built-In Tall Tub Dishwasher
Type: Built-in | Dimensions: 33.5 x 24 x 24.5 inches | Decibel Rating: 51 decibels | Capacity: 15 place settings | Cycles: 5 | Tub Material: Plastic | Control Location: Top control
Has a built-in fan
Precise soil sensor
No hard food disposer
Has a plastic tub
A fan-assisted dishwasher like this Whirlpool model is for you, if you hate putting away drippy, wet dishes at the end of a cycle. An extended dry option uses a bit of extra heat to boost the appliance's drying capabilities, while a built-in fan has the ability to propel out moist air and draw in dry air. To further prevent moisture accumulating on the walls and doors and keep the dishwasher clean, run this dishwasher with a drying agent as well, according to the manufacturer.
Of course, your ultimate goal is dishes that are dry and clean, and this Whirlpool model uses a soil sensor to determine how large and how dirty each load is. It's able to adjust the normal wash cycle accordingly to deliver sparkling silverware, dishes, and cookware. You won’t find a hard food disposer inside. However, the unit does include a filter to catch particles that collect at the bottom.
If you’re looking for a spacious and highly functional dishwasher, you can’t go wrong with the Maytag MDB4949SKZ (view at Home Depot). This appliance is made out of quality materials that'll extend its lifetime, and can hold up to 14 place settings, which makes it a great pick for large households or entertainers. If you want to spend less on a new appliance, the Frigidaire FFCD2413UB (view at AJ Madison) is not as quiet as other models. However, it has multiple useful settings, including a one-hour quick wash that'll deliver clean dishes in little time.
What Is the Best Type of Dishwasher for Me?
Built-in dishwashers are most common, and must be professionally installed in your kitchen. They generally fit underneath your kitchen counter, and are connected to your water system continuously. Since they have a larger build, they have lots of flexibility when it comes to features and price. You can find a built-in model with front or top controls, two or three racks, and for $300 or upward of $1,500.
A portable dishwasher hooks up to a kitchen faucet, and measures only 24 or 18 inches wide. Despite their smaller design, they usually can fit anywhere between six and 12 place settings, the latter being around the same as a built-in model. Most portable dishwashers are mounted on caster wheels, allowing you to easily move and stash them away in a closet when not in use. They start at around $400, but can cost up to $800 depending on the brand and model.
A countertop dishwasher, as you may have guessed, is incredibly compact and designed to be placed on your kitchen counter. This type of dishwasher is the size of a microwave, ranging from 18 to 22 inches in depth, height, and length. Countertop models usually have a single rack, and a drawer or door design—depending on the brand and model. Like portable dishwashers, they're hooked up to your kitchen sink to run, so no complex installation is necessary, and cost anywhere from $200 to $300.
Typically, dishwashers have a lower and upper rack. A third rack—which is most convenient for larger households—maximizes the capacity of your dishwasher by giving you an extra layer for mugs, small bowls, kitchen utensils, and silverware that can’t fit in the basket. The rack is usually adjustable, and can have an angled design to accommodate pot lids and tall glasses. The one downside is that it can limit what you place in the lower rack.
Stainless steel tub
Stainless steel tubs in dishwashers help to keep the interior sanitized and clean. Like a stainless steel tub in a washing machine, the material is less likely to develop stains, harbor bacteria, and show wear over time. Not to mention, the metal is more conducive to heat, making it very helpful in drying dishes. If you purchase a model with a stainless steel tub and additional fans, then your dishes will likely come out very clean and dry. This is major for any household, but particularly those with children that might run the dishwasher more frequently.
A sanitize setting in dishwashers uses very hot water to cleanse your dirty dishes of lingering bacteria, allergens, and germs. It’s typically an add-on setting that can be paired with a normal cycle selection. Households with children will find this setting most handy, especially when its paired with a stainless steel tub, powerful water jet system, and hard food disposer.
How do you clean a dishwasher?
To clean a dishwasher, first empty the interior of any dishes and racks. Once everything is removed, take a soft-bristled brush dipped in vinegar to the strain to clear the holes of any debris. Any larger pieces—such as food crumbs—can be removed by hand. After, add the racks back in and place one cup of distilled white vinegar in an open container on the top rack. Run a normal wash cycle.
Once the machine has completed the cycle, sprinkle one cup of baking soda on the appliance floor to fix a smelly dishwasher. Run a quick cycle with hot water, skipping the drying cycle. When it's finished, keep the door of the appliance open so it can air dry.
What should you not put in a dishwasher?
While many of your plates, bowls, cups, and mugs are likely dishwasher-safe, there are some items you should avoid putting in the dishwasher. This includes anything made of cast iron, pots or pans with a non-stick coating, expensive knives, and very delicate items. The dishwasher's process can harm these items and materials, and even break them or reduce their quality. Wash these items by hand instead, making sure to follow our guides on how to clean cast iron and how to clean ceramic pans and cookware.
How long do dishwashers last?
Dishwashers typically have a lifespan of about 10 years. You can extend your dishwasher's lifespan past 10 years by maintaining it properly. This includes cleaning the interior once per month, making sure it's not too filled or too empty when you run a cycle, and performing necessary repairs. Buying your dishwasher from a reputable brand will also help.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was edited and updated by Marisa Casciano, who is the large appliance expert for The Spruce. Throughout her career, she's researched the ins and outs of air purifiers, dishwashers, cooktops, and more in the home and lifestyle space. Having lived in multiple apartments, she knows the difference that having a functional and quiet dishwasher can make.