If you’ve got space in your kitchen, a dishwasher is one of the most useful time- and labour-saving appliances you can buy.
Chances are that you’re simply looking to replace an existing model, but if you’re buying for the first time, don’t forget that having space isn’t the only factor: dishwashers need access to the water supply, drainage and mains power.
What’s the difference between integrated and freestanding?
Your first choice is whether to get a freestanding model, or one that’s integrated. Integrated simply means that the dishwasher has a door attached to its front that matches the rest of your kitchen cabinets.
When you see ‘semi-integrated’, it means the controls and any display are visible on the front, above a shorter cabinet door. Fully integrated dishwashers have their buttons and displays on the top edge, and are only visible when the door is open.
But both integrated and freestanding models are usually 600mm wide, 550-600mm deep and 820-850mm tall. Slimline dishwashers are typically 450mm wide (but have the same depth and height as regular ones).
The first thing to do when considering buying a new dishwasher is to measure the space available and ensure your chosen model will fit.
They all have adjustable feet, so it doesn’t matter if your floor is uneven.
What place settings mean
When you’re looking at different dishwashers, you’ll notice that manufacturers generally quote the number of place settings that can be washed in one go. It varies from around 9 for slimline dishwashers to 16 for larger appliances.
However, whether you can fit the claimed amount of crockery into a certain model will depend on whether or not your plates, cups and bowls are of the right size and style to slot neatly between the tines.
It’s also important to think about what you actually need to put in the dishwasher and then look for one with the right arrangement of baskets and shelves.
For example, not all dishwashers have supports for wine glasses, and some have fold-down tines so you can more easily put pots and pans in the lower basket.
You may prefer a model with a cutlery drawer which leaves the baskets free for other things, but bear in mind that such drawers usually reduce the height available in the other baskets which may prevent taller items – such as wine glasses and large plates – from fitting.
Most dishwashers have at least one adjustable basket whose height can be changed to allow more or less space above and below it.
How to tell if a dishwasher will be quiet
There’s nothing worse than a noisy appliance. With the trend towards open-plan living, there’s a good chance a quiet dishwasher will be high on your list of priorities.
When looking at the numbers, remember than the dB scale is logarithmic so a dishwasher rated at 55dB will – subjectively – sound twice as loud as one rated at 45dB. Fully integrated dishwashers tend to be quieter thanks to the fact that the cupboard door they sit behind acts as sound proofing.
If you’re after a quiet model, look for one that’s 45dB or less.
Which features to look out for
There are various features dishwashers may have. Some now have LEDs inside, so you can more easily see what you’re doing when loading, unloading and emptying the filter.
You might also see a quick wash option (usually 15-30 minutes) and special drying modes which help to ensure that crockery isn’t wet when the cycle is finished.
One of the most effective drying features is when the dishwasher door pops open automatically after the washing cycle is finished.
How effective a dishwasher is at cleaning is something you can only find out from reviews, not specifications or lists of features.
Getting an energy efficient dishwasher
The cost of a dishwasher varies a lot, but don’t forget about running costs. Look for how much water is used on an average or Eco cycle and how much electricity it will use per 100 washes: both figures are readily available from retailers and manufacturers.
Right now, it appears all dishwashers are uneconomical when you look at their overall energy rating but that’s because the rating system was changed in 2021. Where previously you’d see A+, A++ and A+++, these have been changed to A-G, and even A+++ models from the old system are now rated as D or E.
Note that these ratings only apply when you use the Eco mode: more water and electricity is used in other cycles, such as the quick or intensive wash. Similarly, high-temperature cycles – which you might use to sterilise baby bottles – will use a lot more power.
Do I need Wi-Fi and other smart features?
In short, no. Having Wi-Fi and a companion app on your phone can add a bit of convenience, telling you when the cycle is finished and allowing you to start a cycle remotely. It’s a nice add-on but it’s rarely a reason to buy a particular model.
Installation and warranty
Most retailers charge extra to install your new dishwasher, but freestanding models are remarkably easy to install if you’re replacing an old one. Integrated models can be trickier.
It’s usually worth paying extra to have your old dishwasher taken away when the new one is delivered, but it’s not usually worth paying for an extended warranty: instead, look for a model that comes with a longer warranty in the first place, and don’t forget to register your appliance soon after it’s delivered.
If you’ve registered your appliance and it’s recalled or found to be faulty, you’ll be contacted to let you know to stop using it. In most cases, you’ll be able to get a replacement free of charge from the manufacturer.
If you’d like to see some buying options, we’ve reviewed both a full-size integrated dishwasher, the Hisense HV651D60UK, and a slim model, the Neff N50 slimline S875HKX20G – which has smart features.