Dishwashing used to entail a sink full of soapy suds and a good scrubbing brush—–and for some of us, it still does—–but now, the task can also be done with just a push of a button. Despite its apparent ease, using a dishwasher can be more complicated than putting in a little old-fashioned elbow grease. For example, should you use gel, powder, or tablet detergent? The experts say tablets. Should plastic spoons still be relegated to the top rack? If you have an old machine with a heat coil at the bottom, yes. Rinse before washing? The jury’s still out—–but Mom says you must.
Today’s dishwashers boast not only high-tech designs but a host of innovative features that make dishes cleaner. Water is warmed as it flows through heaters and softened with built-in salt depositories. Detergents are evenly distributed throughout the machine instead of clumping on the bottom. Plate holders and cup shelves fold out of the way, and entire racks can be removed for washing extratall pasta pots and cookie sheets.
New dishwashers are also being made with noise levels and energy efficiency as top priorities. The quietest machines come in at only 40 decibels (dB); a human talking voice is about 60 dB. The best-performing models use fewer than 200 kilowatt hours (kWh) each year and less than two gallons of water per load. To qualify for Energy Star certification, dishwashers must perform 25 percent better than National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) energy-efficiency standards—–though with nearly 750 qualified machines on the market, the percent-better figure helps differentiate the barely better from the greatly green appliances.
So set those greasy pans aside as we review five standard-size machines that will have your household arguing about who gets to be on dish duty.