Most dishwashers can fit ten place settings of dishes with the new and larger 30” wide models allowing for 12 place settings. There is nothing more annoying than a dishwasher rack that cannot accommodate the daily dishes you use. If you have large serving or odd shaped dishes and pots you know will need washing frequently, take them shopping with you to make sure there is a convenient place for them in the dishwasher. Look for adjustable racks and fold down prongs that help in loading the dishwasher. There are a number of extras the higher end models offer, including receptacles to prevent silverware from “spooning”, special holders for your precious stemware, clips for holding down lightweight cups and shelves that fold down for more stacking capabilities. If you feel these extras will make your life significantly easier, look for them as you shop.
For durability, look for nylon coated metal racks with thick blobs on the tips of the tines. These are high use areas that can break off and leave the exposed metal to rust, and deposit rust stains on your dishes. ..not a pretty sight.
The three basic cycles for washing dishes…light, normal, and pots and pans will take care of most washing needs. If you want to take advantage of night time low energy usage rates or low traffic near the dishwasher, a “rinse and hold” option allows you to load the dishwasher, rinse the dishes and then set it for a more convenient time for actual washing.
Make sure it has an optional heating capability. This way you can choose to use it only when necessary. Also heated and unheated drying should be available. An open dry system lets the moisture escape efficiently.
Some washers offer a sanitizing cycle that takes the water temperature to over 140 degrees F for the germ conscious consumer. It sounds nice, but is really unnecessary. As soon as the dishes are exposed to your hands and the cupboard shelf they are no longer sanitary. Some other cycles include fine china, and scrubbing options. For your everyday washing needs these are unnecessary as well.
Some models come with sensors that adapt water usage and length of the washing cycle to the amount of dirt on the dishes. These sensors have not proven themselves as sensitive as advertised and tend to over-clean, using more water than necessary for the job. They also tend to prolong the cycle.
Speaking of cycle length, you may notice cycles are almost twice as long as the cycles of dishwashers ten years ago. In an effort to meet federal energy and water conservation guidelines, less dishwashing water is used at lower temperatures. Older models will use 12 to 13 gallons of pressurized water, blasting away dirt and debris. Today you can use as little as four gallons per load. The consequence is a significantly longer cleaning cycle…way longer. Normal cycles can run for two hours. If this is an irritant, look for machines with special cycles of 50 minutes, such as the Frigidaire Speed Clean models.
If you are not pre-washing, and there is no longer any reason to pre-wash as dishwashers are more than up to the mark for effective cleaning, then the debris from the dishes needs to go somewhere. Most dishwashers have a self cleaning filter, a mini garbage disposal to mash up the food and send it down the drain. This keeps the food from being sprayed over and finding their final resting place on the clean dishes. Some have filters that trap the food. These models tend to be quieter than the more aggressive disposing machines. But it is important to clean out the filter so it should be in an easily accessible location for weekly cleaning.