Compact dishwashers: any good?
May 23, 2008 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Compact dishwashers: are they any good? Which one is best.

We are remodeling a house. There are only two of us. We want a built-in dishwasher, but we don't need a full-sized one. A full-sized dishwasher will take us a week to fill up between washes. I recently discovered compact dishwashers. There are several to choose from in my price range.






She wants one with deep racks for wine glasses.

Does anybody have experience with any of these? Do they suck? Which is best? Thanks!
posted by wsg to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I have a Danby, but I wouldn't recommend it. Doesn't do that good of a job, and the warranty repair was a nightmare.
posted by cestmoi15 at 8:20 AM on May 23, 2008

Just to be contrarian I'll offer that I wash my wine glasses by hand and that I view a full-sized dishwasher as a "must have" for resale value. Perhaps you can find such a thing with a "light wash" option that uses less water, and run it more often than once per week?

We're looking at redoing a kitchen in the near future and would prefer not to waste space on a microwave, but that would be insta-death for resale. :) Yeah, we could just stick one on a counter when we sell, but that would look junky and cramped compared to building in a cabinet space for it during the remodel.
posted by kcm at 8:23 AM on May 23, 2008

Dishwashers have circular spray arms and are about 24" deep by 24" wide (roughly square.) An 18" dishwasher is going to be very rectangular, so the dishes in the front and back won't get as clean, especially in the corners. So you won't be able to fit as much stuff in as it seems like you'd be able to. This is probably one reason the 18" dishwashers are so poorly regarded. A 24" dishwasher will also be much easier to swap out down the road if need be. After replacing a crappy dishwasher with an awesome one, I will never hesitate to change out a poorly performing dishwasher again.

We have a dishwasher with a top rack only option, and it's also Energy Star certified, with a high efficiency cycle that uses much less water. Another option in higher price ranges is dishwasher drawers, which allow you to run them one at a time. In my opinion the best value comes from the top rack only type, because these dishwashers have a second set of spray arms below the top rack. This means you can put anything you want in either rack, since you don't have to worry about loading it so that water can spray through the bottom to get to the top.

Even running a half load still uses less water than washing dishes by hand... or having to wash things twice because your dishwasher left dirt all over the dishes.
posted by pekala at 8:45 AM on May 23, 2008

To clarify on the top rack only option, that means you only load dishes in the top rack and it just runs the top spray arms, using dramatically less water. In ours, the top rack holds a ton, so we only use the bottom for big stuff and run the full cycle relatively rarely. The top rack can also be adjusted downwards so that it can hold larger items.
posted by pekala at 8:53 AM on May 23, 2008

Don't get a Danby one. I've been having nothing but problems with mine, albeit mine is a smaller countertop model.
posted by Meagan at 9:05 AM on May 23, 2008

I have a Danby countertop one and love it. It's certainly not as good as a full size, but it's worked fine for about 4 years now.
posted by dripdripdrop at 9:37 AM on May 23, 2008

I bought an 18" Kenmore dishwasher from Sears (this one) about 6 months ago. We chose it because we have a small kitchen and a small family; a full-size dishwasher would have required major work on our kitchen. A similar model was reviewed will on Consumer Reports, which was important in our choice.

We've been very happy with the dishwasher. It is easy to use, quiet (although not completely silent) and cleans well.

Personally I think you shouldn't be obsessed with resale value, especially if you plan to be in your house for a long time.
posted by betterton at 10:52 AM on May 23, 2008

The bachelor solution:
Buy the regular sized dishwasher. Double-up on plates, bowls, glasses and flatware. Run the dishwasher when full. You spend a little more money, and yet, everyone still wins.
posted by terpia at 12:51 PM on May 23, 2008

I have no experience with any of the ones you linked, but I do have a double drawer fisher and paykel, and love it! You could either get the regular double-set ones, which is basically two half-size dishwashers in one unit - so you can just fill one drawer and run it while the other runs empty (or is full of clean dishes that you are to lazy to put in the cupboard, ehem!). Or you could just buy the single drawer and install it, with a small storage cupboard below.
Here's a link to their dishdrawer options.
posted by Joh at 1:31 PM on May 23, 2008

Oh also, I believe other manufacturers are now making their own versions of the dishdrawers (now that F&Ps patent expired or something) so there may be cheaper versions of the same concept available. For resale reasons, as mentioned by kcm, I would personally get a double drawer, and then just use one drawer at a time, like I do :)

Have fun remodeling!
posted by Joh at 1:34 PM on May 23, 2008

I have a small GE that works just fine & dandy. Being a single person, I found no reason to use a larger one, and I don't regret my decision one whit.

...however, I live in a small space (by choice). If you've got a whole house, you may as well get a large one and just run it less often.
posted by aramaic at 2:31 PM on May 23, 2008

Response by poster: This is good. Thanks for the input.


What dishwasher do you have? I like the top rack only option.

As far as resale, we are allowing space for a 24" whether we get the 18" or not. Apparently, there are panels that cover extra space. It's not that big a thing to swap out a dishwasher, but I'm leaning towards a 24" anyway after reading this thread.
posted by wsg at 4:48 PM on May 23, 2008

I only had room for an 18" and spent a long time agonizing over the limited choices. I couldn't justify the expense of the high-end ones (Miele and Bosch), so it was between the Danby, GE, and Frigidaire/Kenmore (same washer under different name). There are no Haier or Avanti dealers in my area; I wanted someone local in case I was shipped a bad unit. I was able to find PDFs of installation and service manuals and also spent a lot of time online looking for real customer reviews.

The Danby can't turn off the heated dry and has a rinse aid dispenser I didn't want (just another thing to go wrong). In the end I chose the Frigidaire over the GE because there is no authorized GE repair shop in my area, but at least two places authorized to do Frigidaire service. I was leaning toward the Frigidaire anyway. From what I've seen and been told, the GE and Frigidaire are made by the same factory in Asia so there isn't a lot of difference between them besides the front panel and some of the electronics. I bought from a Frigidaire dealer instead of Sears/Kenmore because the Frigidaire logo looks better and the local guys working at Sears were idiots (just getting a price quote with shipping was a trial).

Anyway, I've had mine for about seven months and am happy with it so far. The only surprise was that the buttons which appear to have LEDs above them are actually mechanical switches. My mother and Consumer Reports recommended Cascade Complete powdered detergent, which has worked well.
posted by D.C. at 6:18 PM on May 23, 2008

On reading pekala's comment, I should note that all three models I considered have a second spray-arm under the top rack. Also, I've never had any problems with items in the corners getting clean.

I was curious about water usage since I'd been doing my dishes by hand for over twelve years. I found how much water my washer uses per fill and had a chart of the cycles. Using a two-litre glass measuring cup I filled my sink (which is one of those large tubs with a smaller side one) with the total amount of water used in the normal wash. It was about the same amount of water I'd fill the sink with for hand washing (deep enough to completely cover coffee cups), without the extra water I'd use rinsing.

I do wish I'd had room for a 24" just to expand my options.
posted by D.C. at 6:56 PM on May 23, 2008

I had a Danby 18" model and it was a real pain. I had to replace the top spray arm twice in two years.

If you compare 24" to 18" models, you'll find that there isn't really much difference in water/energy usage between the two and that 24" models generally cost about the same.
posted by ssg at 7:55 AM on May 24, 2008

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