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Shopping for Home Dishwashers [Buying Guide 2020]

by Albert Lee Appliance

Shopping for a new dishwasher can feel intimidating.

You walk into the appliance store and see rows of products that seemingly look the same. Dishwashers with the same height, depth, finish, and interchangeable features can leave you unsure of where to begin. If your home's dishwasher breaks down or if you need to upgrade your dishwasher, how do you know what model to choose?

Beneath the similar surfaces, the differences from brand to brand and model to model are drastic enough to provide ample opportunities to find the right fit for your cleaning needs. Dishwashers include more rich features and smart technology than ever before, so if you know what you’re looking for in a new dishwasher, you can sort through the ranks to find the ideal cleaning and energy-saving appliance. 

Father and son loading dishwasher together

What’s Your Motive?

There are many reasons that you could be on the hunt for new household cleaning appliances.

Maybe you have an older model that runs too loudly, or you want more high-pressure cleaning jets to clean bottles and oddly shaped cookware? Perhaps you’re always on the go, heading to work or chasing after the kids, and want the convenience of starting your wash cycles from your phone?

Models equipped with noise reduction capabilities help to absorb sound eliminate the worry of running the cycle at night and waking up anyone in the house.

Adjustable top racks leave more room for larger cookware, and high-pressure jets wash those hard-to-clean bottles with deep cleaning nozzles that will fit any bottle shape.

If smart tech is what you’re after, connecting your appliance to your smart device allows you to remotely monitor and control your dishwasher wherever you are, simplifying your daily life.

Dishwashers, once considered a luxury appliance, have transformed into a must-have, time-saving kitchen clean-up appliance. However, the element of luxury still remains with enhanced options such as high-tech features and distinct finishes.

At Albert Lee, we’re here to help you sort through the various features that will help you find the best option for you and your family’s needs and provide the knowledge needed to make an informed decision on what matters most when buying a dishwasher.

woman smiles as she loads dishwasher with mugs

Dishwasher Overview: To Clean or Not to Clean

Choosing the right dishwasher starts with the model type. There are built-in, portable, and drawer dishwashers. Any one of these models will save homeowners time when cleaning up after meals, and they also use far less water than hand-washing dishes.

Let’s take a brief look at each of these washer types.

Built-in Dishwashers

A built-in dishwasher will seamlessly fuse into your kitchen space by blending into your cabinetry.

This clean and uniform design fits underneath your countertop and allows for a smooth installation and an increased level of sophistication. Built-in models that are permanently built into your kitchen typically feature more advanced settings like specialized wash cycles and spray arms.

A built-in dishwasher is typically around 24” wide and can hold anywhere from 12 to 14 place settings. This is the preferred model for families and large homes because built-in units are capable of washing a lot of different dishes in one cycle.

You may also see built-in dishwashers listed under another name; often referred to as custom panel or integrated appliances.

Just like a built-in model, a custom panel dishwasher can be custom installed on the front of the appliance to blend in with the rest of your cabinetry. Custom panel kitchen appliances help to create an even, consistent, and streamlined look across your kitchen and lack the pronounced stainless-steel protrusion in your kitchen space.

built-in panel dishwasher inside bright, springy kitchen

Portable Dishwashers

Portable dishwashers are another flexible option for kitchens without an installed dishwasher.

If you’re moving homes, living in a rental, or have a tight kitchen with little cabinet space to install a built-in washer, a portable unit will work great.

They can glide easily around your space and be moved around whether in use or not. Most wash cycles still perform like a traditional dishwasher, allowing you to choose your required level of clean, with high temperatures that rinse and sanitize to remove any difficult soils or stuck-on remnants.

Drawer Dishwashers

Drawer dishwashers offer a very similar capacity to a standard built-in dishwasher, but with greater flexibility and potential for energy savings.

The independent drawers make doing the dishes easier than ever before, including spacious top drawers that fit much larger items. The flexible racks allow you to customize the internal shelving to fit your needs and easily load the washer without the constant discomfort of bending at the waist.

Drawer dishwasher with drawers pulled out and full of dishes

Our Expert Recommendations

Whether you decide upon a built-in dishwasher, a drawer or portable model, you can’t go wrong.

After comparing the differences and similarities of each household appliance style, it comes down to which product will better adapt to your needs.

For folks who might frequently order take-out (and therefore, have smaller loads of dirty cookware) we recommend a drawer dishwasher. The ability to run independent drawers for loads lets you largely determine your wash size and control your energy consumption.

For those of you who might be renting, aren’t in a place to do renovations, or have a tight-fit kitchen, we recommend portable dishwashers. Moving them around at your convenience doesn’t require a performance sacrifice; a portable dishwasher’s efficacy is as great as its mobility!

And, if you want your new clean-up appliance to be styled exactly how your meticulously curated kitchen is already designed, a built-in dishwasher is your best bet. Shopping for built-in dishwashers will give you the most options from the most brands, and if bells and whistles are up your alley, we recommend the path most taken.

Check out our comparison of Bosch and Miele dishwashers for a close look at the features, specs, and details of two of our favorite models from two of our top-selling, most-trusted brands.

For any appliance needs big or small, don’t hesitate to contact our appliance experts here at Albert Lee—we're happy to help in any way we can. Give us a call or chat with us today!