Can you recommend a dishwasher that will actually get dishes clean?
March 17, 2016 6:56 AM   Subscribe

It's time for us to get a new dishwasher, and all we care about is one feature: can the dishwasher get dishes really clean?

We don't mind rinsing, but right now we have to rinse vigorously and we still end up with food on the plates. We don't run the dishwasher every day, so we need something that can handle at least a little bit -- and ideally a lot -- of crusted food. If it matters, we live in a place with hard water, but we have a water softener. We don't care about things like how noisy the dishwasher is or even how expensive it is -- we just want our dishes to be clean.

Thanks so much for any recommendations!
posted by cider to Shopping (26 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
We have had a Miele for over 15 years and it will get all but the most crusted-on food off the plates. We've been very happy with it. It's survived two moves and has never given us any issues.

I know you don't care but it is also extremely quiet. It's not fast though, it takes about two hours for a cycle. We just set it before we go to bed.
posted by bondcliff at 7:11 AM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

We just got a Bosch (towards the lower end of the Bosch line, which I know does not make it a low-end appliance) and we love it. Love it! It's dead quiet; the gurgling as it drains has startled me more than once. The dishes get clean, and we scrape but don't rinse (except for batter, because that's an old habit). We're using Finish brand "Max Ultra 12 in 1" or whatever, but are switching to the lower end Finish tabs because the dishes are sparkling and smell like detergent, as if we are using more detergent than actually needed, if that makes sense.

We replaced our Maytag, which we hated, and had kept limping along to avoid dropping the cash on a new washer and because, dangit, a major appliance should last 20 years, not five or ten. After five years of increasingly frequent repairs, poor drainage, and food grit left on the dishes, we bit the bullet.
posted by JawnBigboote at 7:13 AM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

One thing to try before you buy a new dishwasher is adding back phosphates to the dishwashing liquid. The removal of phosphates has had a big impact on how effective dishwashers are at cleaning dishes. They were removed for environmental reasons, so that's something to keep in mind, but it's possible that a new dishwasher isn't going to do all that much better than your old dishwasher.
posted by jefeweiss at 7:19 AM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

My several year old Whirlpool Quiet Partner III does a good job for me with only running it every few days but its Amazon ratings are full of complaints saying it doesn't do a good job. My suspicion (beyond the fact that mostly only unhappy people get around to writing reviews) is that the detergent used can make a difference, especially with hard water.

I tend to use Cascade with vinegar as the rinse agent. Have you experimented with switching detergents and rinse agents to see if it makes any difference?
posted by Candleman at 7:26 AM on March 17, 2016

I installed this (well the previous generation) Frigidaire Gallery dishwasher a year ago when I remodeled my kitchen, and it's been great. I hardly ever rinse anything, and it even cleans dishes with dried-on food.

Consumer Reports has some useful info and ratings.
posted by The Deej at 7:35 AM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

We have a 1 yo KitchenAid mid-range model that works well, particularly considering its price (under $500), and with just two of us it takes several days to accumulate each load. No problem with (scraped, not rinsed) dishes with dried-on residue getting clean; the only thing it sometimes has problems with are utensils with mayo or peanut butter left on them (it doesn't clean them completely sometimes, which leaves brown blotches when dried).

Someone else mentioned the detergent as a big factor -- we use regular-grade Cascade pacs, not the premium or advanced kind, and I sometimes wonder if that would make a difference with the mayo / pb issue.

That said, current dishwasher models seem generally to have more of a problem with getting the load completely dry than completely clean. Also, for what it's worth (a lot to me) this dishwasher is super-quiet compared to the ten+ year old on we used to have.
posted by aught at 7:36 AM on March 17, 2016

I've got a Bosch and it's fantastic. However, I'm comparing it to my old dishwasher which was 30 years old and one of the cheapest at the time it was made, so ... but I really like the Bosch. It is very quiet.
posted by stowaway at 7:45 AM on March 17, 2016

its Amazon ratings are full of complaints

An aside that when I was dishwasher shopping I found comment threads on Amazon / Best Buy / Lowes etc. nearly completely useless with the random griping which often was clearly about different models or by people who had some kind of ax to grind against the brand or the world in general. Actually you can generalize this experience to all appliance and electronics shopping I have done in recent years, big sigh.

In my experience Consumer Reports is a good general resource to start, though you need a subscription or local library with one to get any specific information from them, and the biggest problem I have had with them over the years is that by the time they do a big comprehensive test and review of a type of appliance, brands have all moved on to a new set of models and it's nearly impossible to compare apples to apples; none of the model numbers match anything you go and look at when shopping at your local appliance store or online. I've had this frustration when shopping for dishwashers, smart tvs, and lawn mowers.
posted by aught at 7:48 AM on March 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

Dishwashers have gotten a lot better in the last 10 years. Also they're a standard size (in the US at least) so upgrading them is easy.

I've bought two Miele dishwashers in the past few years for different houses and they are terrific. No rinsing required, although you want to remove large chunks since they won't drain. Runs quiet, dishes and pots come out clean and dry. I like the design of the top tray thing for silverware. Also the filter / drain system is designed to be easily cleanable; that matters. Overall very happy. The drawback is they are expensive, I think the cheapest model is $1000. But I think they are worth the price.
posted by Nelson at 8:06 AM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

We have a top-of-the-line Bosch and don't love it. It leaves plastic dishes wet because it doesn't dry using hot air, to save energy. Also increasingly there are batches that come out dirty and we can't figure out what's causing it. We're meticulous about rinsing. The filter is clean. It has a weird oversimplified user interface, beeping when it needs something (like more Rinse Aid), but you can't always tell what. I also dislike the way the racks are shaped. On the other hand, it *is* extremely quiet.
posted by Dragonness at 8:13 AM on March 17, 2016

As a renter, I pretty much never have a say in this and rarely have had anything but relics for dishwashers, and I have to say I am pretty sure that almost all dishwashers wash dishes just fine as long as:

- your water is good or you find the detergent that really works well with your water
- the spray holes in the wash arms aren't blocked with water deposits (or flat out broken)
- you load it correctly/RTFM
- you run the water in your sink until it is hot before starting the wash cycle*
- you clear your disposal, if applicable
- there's no gunk or debris stuck to the internal drain inside the washer, which needs to be checked every time just like a lint trap

*This makes a huge difference and I can tell if I forgot. Some machines have immersion heaters but all in all you're probably getting more efficiency by running it hot to the sink first. Use the running water to rinse the last of the dishes or clean the sink or water plants, if it bothers you.

And a number of experiments have proven to me that as long as you remove pretty much all chunks of food that might otherwise not go through the drain grid, and deal with anything particularly sticky beforehand, your average decent detergent will eat pretty much everything else off as long as you have loaded the machine properly.

I suspect that 90% of bad reviews are user error, a misunderstanding about how dishwashers actually work, or installation error. And the other 10% are dishwashers with difficult impractical loading patterns, which you do want to avoid if you can, but that doesn't actually mean that a big open flexible loading grid is better, as it will give you more leeway to load it wrong.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:17 AM on March 17, 2016 [12 favorites]

Just moved into a place with a Miele that has been fantastic, as an anecdotal data point. For serious research though, check out the Sweethome article on dishwashers.
posted by roomwithaview at 8:42 AM on March 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

Our dishwasher was really crummy for a long time. A rinse agent made a bit of improvement but we still thought we would need to get a new one. But then we switched to using those pre-formed pellets (the hardened-powder kind) and putting a cup of vinegar (literally a cup measure, fill it with white vinegar, set the full cup in the top rack, close the door and press go) in each load. The difference was like night and day. Worth trying before you get a new one.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:34 AM on March 17, 2016

Before you spend the money, go on youtube and search for a cleaning videos for your dishwasher. I was considering a replacement for my dishwasher. Then I found a video that describes how to take the major pieces out and clean them (no more than 15 minutes). It turns out that the water return had a basically disintegrated coffee filter stuck in there. I suspect it resulted in poor water pressure and thus dirty dishes. Once I removed it, it was like getting a new dishwasher.

See this for example.
posted by aeighty at 10:07 AM on March 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

We have a Bosch costing under $600 that gets dishes clean like you would not believe. Pick a Consumer Reports-recommended dishwashing detergent, scrape the biggest food chunks off, make sure your disposal is clear before the cycle starts, that's it. No rinsing! No pre-soap unless the thing is chockablock with super-greasy stuff. The glasses are sparkling. The plates are much cleaner than if I washed myself with regular dish soap. In fact, I don't even check them for soil when putting things away. Did I mention no rinsing?

We've had it for maybe 6 years with no trouble except for a replacement soap dispenser, which I did myself. For the record, my in-laws much, much more expensive Kitchen-Aid does not get the dishes clean. Part of this may be due to poor drainage. It's very important that the drain is clear so that the emulsified fats leave the dishwasher.
posted by wnissen at 10:21 AM on March 17, 2016

We have a lower-end Bosch that is maybe a year old and it's driving me crazy already in its inability to get dishes clean (and we pre-rinse and don't put crusted on stuff in there). If we didn't have other appliances chugging along on a hope and wish I would actually get rid of it and buy a totally different brand. It is quiet, which is pretty much the only thing going for it. We had a cheap, old, Jenn-Air one before this one that was loud but great at cleaning, we had to replace it because the door latch broke.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 10:34 AM on March 17, 2016

The energy-saving "features" can reduce the cleaning ability of any dishwasher. The setting for normal wash produces cooler water than it used to, and the drying part of the cycle is shorter and/or cooler. My dishwasher cleans great when I use hi-temp scrub and only so-so without it.
posted by wryly at 10:52 AM on March 17, 2016

We have a crappy builder-grade dishwasher that gets like 98% of our dishes clean if we load it correctly, use the right detergent, and the pot and pan cycle (which is both longer and hotter than the regular cycle, since the regular cycle doesn't seem to engage the heating element). We don't rinse, and most of the time we don't scrape other than tossing bones and peels in the trash. Really, literally any new dishwasher should do the job.
posted by fedward at 11:38 AM on March 17, 2016

I'm going to make the same comment i make about washing machines, and say that if this is a real concern avoid ANY high efficiency/water saving/energy saving model. Buy the cheapest "commercial" model made for say, an office. Not a restaurant grade one, just a commercial one. Like they install in dorms/apartments with shared kitchens.

The cheap-ish nearly brand new GE at my office SMASHES stuff off of dishes. Whereas the 2 or so "energy efficient" ones i've used were very, very wimpy.
posted by emptythought at 11:46 AM on March 17, 2016

We have a medium-level Miele which takes forever, has no energy saving settings, and basically autoclaves our dishes and we love it. Needs some occasional maintenance, decently quiet, fits right into our kitchen behind a panel so you never see it. It's the best.
posted by jessamyn at 12:07 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding actually cleaning the drains in the meantime. Check your model number online for a manual as there may be more than one spot to clean. Our rental dishwasher has a lint trap type area and a drain. When food was getting stuck on we cleaned it and discovered broken glass and stuff crusted up for who knows how long. Manuals suggest clearing them once a month. This will still be needed for your new model.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:17 PM on March 17, 2016

We replaced a 1990-era dishwasher with a Bosch higher-side-of-midrange unit in the summer of 2013, one of the SilencePlus 44 models.

Our old model was a Kitchen-Aid, I believe, which usually got dishes clean but you'd occasionally have to take it apart and clean this or that, and things would occasionally stop working. We used some sort of gel-based detergent and threw vinegar in each load or it'd clog up pretty quickly. On the plus side, when it broke, I could take it apart and fix it. It was about 80% good, which was acceptable for a 20+ year old appliance.

The new one, I do not think I have much ability to fix it. I've never needed to figure out where the trap and drain are inside the machine. I'm amazed that the thing does as much as it does for as little space as the mechanicals occupy.

We don't pre-rinse, we don't scrape, but we don't put stupid stuff in either. It is a rare day that something isn't clean. When that does happen, it'll usually be something like a pan tipped the wrong way and caught a puddle of water. We use the Finish Quantum Max Shine tablets (not the ones in silver wrapping), Jet Dry, and once a month we run the "cleaning cycle" with Finish Dishwasher Cleaner.

It does have a vent on the left hand side that you cannot put plastic-y things near or they may melt. The other thing is that if you open the unit immediately after the cycle, lots of stuff will be wet. You have to wait an additional hour or two, then everything's dry. We tend to run the dishwasher more frequently rather than trying to fill it to the maximum possible capacity. This probably makes some sort of difference.
posted by jgreco at 3:41 PM on March 17, 2016

I've been favoriting all the Miele recommendations. The thing is, that even though they cost a lot, they last forever. In my summerhouse, which I inherited, there is a 20 + year old Miele, and it runs like a dream, silently and perfectly. After more than 20 years, those € 1000 have been paid out several times. If something happens, Miele service is amazing - the dishwasher never had service, but I've had them in once for my clothes washer at home, because a very low water pressure there causes problems.
At home, I live in a rental, but I renovated the kitchen (the old one was unbearably crappy, and the landlord and I split the price) Everything is IKEA, which means all appliances are Whirlpool. It's nowhere near Miele, but although there is sometimes something which is not clean, the main problem is that it doesn't dry properly on any setting.
At work, we have Bosch, and you need to rinse everything. However, this might be because at work, we are only allowed to use the very cheapest detergent on th market. So I'm with the detergent comments, too. At home I use Finish Quantum.
posted by mumimor at 4:34 PM on March 17, 2016

Our Bosch does a great job as long as we remember the most important step: LET THE WATER RUN IN THE SINK UNTIL IT'S STEAMING HOT BEFORE STARTING THE DISHWASHER. We get an occasional icky dish if something flips over or is placed badly, but that one habit makes 99% of our dishwasher loads come out twinkling.

Also, I found the Ecover pellets work great and don't leave residue where Cascade or the store brand did.
posted by bink at 7:21 PM on March 17, 2016

Thank you, everyone! I'm going to try some of these cleaning/detergent tricks to start and, if that doesn't work, investigate Miele -- though it seems like there might not be a dealer in our area, alas. I'll report back for posterity!
posted by cider at 5:20 PM on March 19, 2016

OK, I took the dishwasher apart (which wasn't very difficult but did require Torx screwdrivers) and cleaned the filter, which didn't seem to make a huge difference. Then I tried switching from a liquid detergent to the Finish Quantum tablets, and WOW. That seems to have made all the difference in the world. I never would have believed it! Thanks for all the advice -- I'll keep this thread bookmarked in case the detergent magic stops working and we wind up buying something new after all.
posted by cider at 5:18 AM on March 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older What is the best way to sell a house in poor...   |   What are the retrofitted outriggers hanging over... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.