looking for dishwasher recommendations, installation experiences please
May 26, 2018 11:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm overwhelmed at the massive amount of dishwasher models out there. And I'm broken-hearted that the independent appliance store where I bought my last dishwasher 18 years ago has sadly gone out of business. So I'm looking for recommendations on what dishwasher to get, whom to buy it from, and your experiences with store installation/installers.

My preferred price range is from $500 to $800. ($US)

Hive mind, please help me. Sweethome's recommendations only list a couple of models in my price range, and they admit to not actually doing real laboratory tests. My print Consumer Reports subscription doesn't give me access to current info on their website. Amazon's listings have only two - five reviews for the models I looked and And.There.Are.So.Many.Models including ones no longer in stock.

I don't need many bells and whistles. It would be nice if one of the racks could accommodate large pots, ceramic bowls and crocks - think lots of soup and occasional canning. Having an extra drawer or fold down rack for utensils would be welcome, but not essential.

Reliability of brand is important. My Whirlpool lasted 18 years without needing a repair. Also, durability of interior racks and basket is important. I don't run the machine until it is full (I do not use the rinse and hold option -- am in drought-prone area) so it's really important that it cleans well.

What are pros and cons of stainless steel interior vs. plastic interior? Filter vs. grinder for random food that comes off in wash? European vs. America? My other appliances are white, but it'd be okay if exterior was another color.

I have a plethora of options nearby (RIP trustworthy, honest and fairly priced independent store): Costco, Fry's, Pacific Sales, big box stores, department stores, etc. Did you have great or terrible experiences with any of them? Any tips for dealing with installers?

Costco has a very limited selection in my price range and their installation instructions say they won't install it if they have to touch the plumbing. After 18 years, I have no recollection of how the other one was hooked up. Do you know if other stores are as picky?

posted by LeftMyHeartInSanFrancisco to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"Other stores" do not have skilled installers - they have deliverers, no matter what they call them. These guys are not trained to deal with plumbing, and plumbing can impact health and safety. In other words: CMA.
As part of kitchen remodeling, I just replaced the Whirlpool dishwasher that was in this house when I bought it in 1995. I have no idea how old it was but it still washed clean.
I bought another made-in-America Whirlpool that has more room, and a 3rd rack for odd shaped utensils. Go to an appliance store, not a big box store for contractors, and get an installation guarantee in writing.
posted by Cranberry at 11:47 PM on May 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to various dishwasher types - my kitchen could only fit an 18"-wide dishwasher so I had a very limited selection. The installer from Lowe's came on a Saturday afternoon (it was my birthday!) but I hadn't realized that the cabinets would need to be demoed out. I asked him to please come back later and he said he'd do his best.

I drove to Lowe's and bought myself a birthday present of a reciprocating saw and went home and destroyed my cabinets. The installer was kind enough to come back - at 8PM on a Saturday! - and spend my birthday evening installing my dishwasher.

Maybe this was only this one installer's work ethic, but I'll continue to shop at Lowe's until they disappoint me. :)
posted by bendy at 12:08 AM on May 27, 2018

I’m not well-versed in dishwashers to help with models and stuff but I popped in to comment on installation. We bought a dishwasher at Home Depot earlier this year. The installers hooked it up so badly that it leaked AND was incorrectly wired AND left wires exposed. We’re lucky we caught it before someone was electrocuted or the house burned down.
posted by _Mona_ at 7:30 AM on May 27, 2018

Does your library offer digital magazine browsing? You might be able to access Consumer Reports through an online portal from home.

I recently bought a new dishwasher and highly recommend the Bosch Ascenta models. Going from memory, CR also rates them as a Best Buy on a yearly basis. They're in your price range and have exceptional performance and noise levels. The higher models offer a third rack for utensils. The models sold in the US are built in North Carolina, so they're not imported.

The only thing that throws some people off is that the units do not have the old traditional exposed heating coil that is used to dry the dishes. The units dry the dishes by using a very long hot final rinse and having the water steam off the dishes and condense into the drain. You also need to keep the unit filled with Jet Dry to help this along.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:03 AM on May 27, 2018

We have had the entry level Bosch Ascenta for a fair number of years now- it's been disappointing. The drain pump failed early in the life of the dishwasher (I think it may have been 4 years old at the time.) I was able to replace the pump myself so repairs weren't too expensive, but it was too soon for a failure. The drain filters found on European dishwashers require cleaning every couple of washes. Why go through the extra hassle with seemingly no benefit? I'd rather have an American style dishwasher with a grinder which will deal with any little bits of food residue automatically. Another irritation is that that the dishwasher doesn't remember which cycle you used last time... it always defaults to auto wash. The only cycle which seems to work well for us is a heavy wash + sanitize. It is more quiet than our prior dishwasher. Our next dishwasher will be American style.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 8:30 AM on May 27, 2018

I’m on my second Bosch (because we moved and couldn’t take the first one with us). Cleaning out the trap in the bottom is not a big deal. Keeping it filled with jet dry is not a big deal.

Mine has a top third rack for silverware, and I couldn’t go back to an ordinary silverware bucket. I love, love, love the third rack.

When we bought it it was very quiet. Now it’s not quite as quiet.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:41 AM on May 27, 2018

We have the previous Sweethome/Wirecutter recommendation for a Bosch, and have been very happy with it. Cost something like $450 from Best Buy, with another $150 for installation. Got installed fine.

We use it quite a bit for a two human, one cat household, and are happy with the European style "clean the filter when it needs it" approach rather than the American grinder version.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 9:08 AM on May 27, 2018

We also have the Bosch that Sweethome recommended (a previous model but similar to current). It's the only appliance that's delighted me. A couple of years in it's not cleaning quite as well as it did at the start, which probably means it needs a good cleaning, but still very good. If you are replacing a dishwasher, installation is very easy; even an idiot (that would be me) can do it. If you don't already have a dishwasher, depends on what lines you have.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:32 PM on May 27, 2018

Another vote for Bosch: I've got the 500-series that was available at the time. It's the SHP65T55UC.

It's been fantastic: I seriously told everyone I could about how great it was. I had previously suffered through 2 terrible dishwashers, and the change in quality was unbelievable. I'm a huge fan of the third rack - small ramekins, tupperware lids, utensils, anything that will fit goes up there. The middle rack is also very adjustable - most often I put it in the lowest position and do my pots and pans (including the slow cooker) in it, instead of the bottom rack. Also, it's SO QUIET. Sometimes I mistake the low gurgling it makes for someone talking out on the street.

I've had it for about 18 months, and the only issue I've had at all is that it has trouble with some fattier foods. Peanut butter doesn't always come 100% off of spoons, and avocado will leave a weird residue on silverware if it's not rinsed before putting it in. Otherwise, it's been an amazing improvement in cleaning power over any dishwasher I've had in my life. As others have said, keeping it full of rinse aid is trivial; the port for it is a little fiddly, but rinse aid is dirt cheap, and I probably only add every 2 weeks or more. I don't have to clean the filter all that often, but I'm also pretty good about making sure that I'm not leaving chunks of debris on the dishes.

Installation was pretty easy - there's the water line, which might use a different fitting than some other dishwashers? Mine also came with a kit including a line that had the right fitting - so I had to re-run the water line. Which in this case involved drilling a larger hole. The electrical runs out to a plastic box which I mounted under the sink, and it has a plug which I put in the same outlet as the disposal. My previous dishwasher was hard-wired (very poorly), so I was happy to have a plug rather than a rat's nest of bad wiring. And then the drain line, which goes into your trap/disposal. So if you can handle those three things, you can install it.

TL:DR: Love it, would definitely recommend. This is a good time to be buying a dishwasher, too - the equivalent model is on sale (link to Lowes, but probably on sale most places) for $769 - $809, depending on which sub-model you get.
posted by god hates math at 12:38 PM on May 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another +1 for Bosch - had one af last house, put one in new house because the dishwasher was awful. Bosch has worked great, is quiet and I also like the third rack. On well water, so I run citric acid or CLR through it periodically, but no complaints on either Bosch I’ve owned. Read the manual. There’s a top basket on some models if you use pods instead of liquid. The rinse aid can be adjusted up or down. Lowe’s didn’t do a great job on the second installation, so monitor your installers closely.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 1:15 PM on May 27, 2018

I have always had good luck with higher end Kitchen Aid. I always get a stainless tub. I recently purchased a new one that is so quiet I can't hear it running. If you are dealing with standard sizes in terms of width, depth etc, installing is really not that difficult. There is the power (turn the breaker off of course) water supply and the drain. There is usually some type of clip to attach it to the cabinet or to the deck of the counter.
I believe I paid about $450 for this one.
posted by jtexman1 at 2:29 PM on May 27, 2018

Bosch with caveats. you want to be sure to take a look at the recall/repair for your model. my last Bosch lasted longer than normal because I enforced the repair of the circuit board. I also, was good at doing partial dismantling for repairs like impeller. The filters needed to be cleaned once a week. I have a legacy Bosch where I live now and it too requires cleaning of filters once a week and of the lines with a cleaner to help with hard water build up.

Get it professionally installed. Your time, anxiety and potential warranty may well be worth the cost.
posted by jadepearl at 3:16 PM on May 27, 2018

All my recent experience with dishwashers has been with premium models. Before that, we had a Sears Kenmore dishwasher that served for about 20 years. It was pretty loud by modern standards but was fine.

My son bought a Bosch for his condo, and then a new one for his new house. They have a good reputation, and are very quiet. A tradeoff for quiet is that the cycles are very long. I don't care for the Bosch silverware tray idea; I don't see the value of painstakingly putting each piece of silverware in a slot.

When we bought a new unit, we asked the salesman which was best brand, and he said KitchenAid.

However, we bought a GE because it matches our new GE stove. GE (the company) sold off their appliance business, so the GE brand appliances are now made by a different company. Our dishwasher, like the Bosch, is quiet and has a long cycle time. The interior racks seem a bit flimsy and don't fit our dishes especially well. We have a gasket that is pulling out of place, and we are going to have to get it repaired before the service contract runs out. It's not leaking, though. The salesman who like the KitchenAid said the GEs used the most water. Using a lot of water may be another trade-off for the quiet running.

I have a friend (an old coot, and maybe cynical, but I'm a cynical old coot myself) who reported that an appliance dealer told him that all new kitchen appliances are designed to keep working no longer than 6 or 7 years.

On a somewhat related note, that GE stove was throwing up error messages about once a month. When we finally got the repair guy in he said he thought a software upgrade would fix it, and so far, it has. Just about everything you buy these days is a computer in disguise.
posted by SemiSalt at 3:39 PM on May 27, 2018

Thank you all for the very thoughtful responses. I found an independent appliance store in a nearby city which has 4 1/2 star recommendations on Yelp and Google. It's closed Sundays, so I'm off tomorrow to take a look at what they have with an assortment of crock pots and awkward fitting pans to try out in their floor models.

I'll still check here for your answers and suggestions before making my decision, and I'll let you know what I decide.

Hive mind, you're awesome!
posted by LeftMyHeartInSanFrancisco at 5:45 PM on May 27, 2018

Last April (so, 13 months ago now) we bought a Bosch SHEM78W55N (three racks, buttons on the front, recessed handle). I wholeheartedly recommend the three rack model with the adjustable middle rack. We keep it in the middle position by default, but every now and then I'll raise or lower it for a particular load. A couple times I've removed the third rack and lowered the middle rack for big loads of party dishes. The only problem with this use is that our kitchen has nowhere to store the third rack, so I have to balance it by the cabinets and hope the cats don't knock it over.

We paid a little more to get a model with the delicate cycle for some of our glassware. If you don't need that feature don't pay for it (we barely use it, since we barely use the dishes that need it, but it was nice for Thanksgiving and Christmas). As a result of that upgrade though, we ended up with a model that was, I think, two whole decibels quieter than the next model down. I wouldn't have paid extra for those two decibels, but I will say that in the summer months when we have fans going the dishwasher is below the noise floor of our house. The pipes make more noise when it drains than the dishwasher makes itself. In winter our house is quieter and you can hear the dishwasher from the living room if nobody is talking, but if there's any noise at all in the house you won't hear it. It's kind of amazing.

As for the other quirks people complain about: the number one complaint seems to be that people want the traditional heating element for drying, not the condensing feature of European style models. Honestly, it's fine the way it is, as long as you use a rinse aid (Jet Dry is recommended), but there's an option for extra drying (which we have never used). We buy Jet Dry at Costco and use a funnel when refilling the compartment, so we no longer make a mess when the bottle inevitably glurgs and spurts. Our porcelain and glass dishes come out dry and spotless; a few plastic lids collect a little water but we shake them off and put them in a rack to finish air drying. The recommended Finish tablets aren't great for us, and we often found sediment on glassware. We switched (back) to Cascade pods and never have sediment issues. (Note: sediment is more of a problem if you refuse to use rinse aid, and Finish tabs also sucked for us in our old washer, so I think maybe Cascade pods have a better built-in rinse aid than Finish tabs do?).

It does default to "auto," which takes two hours and nine minutes for a complete cycle, but there's a "Speed 60" cycle that takes only an hour and a heavy wash cycle we have literally never needed. It's so quiet we start it before we go to bed and let it run its 2:09, and in the morning the dishes are clean.

I removed our old dishwasher and installed the Bosch by myself, but I'm handy, and the water supply line already had a shutoff valve and a standard fitting so there wasn't any real plumbing to be done (shut off the valve, remove the old one, connect the new one). The power box and new water supply and drain lines took me about an hour to route and connect. None of the steps are difficult if you can handle a screwdriver and a wrench already. If you need plumbing done, or if there's no good place to mount the auxiliary power box, you would need the services of a good installer.

Inspired by the comments here I just cleaned the filter for the first time in 13 months of ownership. There was barely anything in it.
posted by fedward at 2:31 PM on May 28, 2018

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