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The Which? guide to buying the best dishwasher

Find the best full-size, slimline, integrated and compact dishwashers with Which? reviews

How well a dishwasher washes your dishes, how easy they are to use and the features they have vary dramatically between models. So it’s important to make sure you buy the right dishwasher for you - find out more in this guide, and in the video above.

Which type of dishwasher is right for me?

Dishwashers come in three sizes: full-sized with room inside for 130 or more items of crockery, cutlery, pots and pans; slimline with room for around 90 items; or compact models that sit on a counter and hold around 60 items. Fully-integrated dishwashers live behind your kitchen cabinets, whereas with semi-integrated dishwashers you can only see the control panel.

Most full-sized dishwashers hold 12 place settings – that’s more than 130 pieces of crockery and cutlery. You can buy 13, 14 and 15-place-setting machines, but 12 place settings will be enough for most of us. But if your current dishwasher is bursting at the seams, or you’re not great at loading, go for a dishwasher with a larger than average capacity to make sure you can fit everything in.

Will a slimline dishwasher be big enough for me?

You might be put off buying a slimline dishwasher for reasons of size – they’re smaller than full-sized dishwashers, but you can still fit a lot of dishes inside. They’re only 45cm wide – that’s 15cm slimmer than a full-sized machine – but most will wash around 90 to 100 items, so you can fit more in than you might think.

Slimline dishwashers are a good option if you’re re-designing the layout of your kitchen and are tight for space, and the best slimlines will wash dishes just as well as the best full-sized machines.

Are compact dishwashers any good?

If you hate washing dishes and you don’t have any spare under-counter space, a compact (or table-top) dishwasher will be your best bet. You can squeeze in between 40 and 60 items, depending on the type you choose. There aren’t many compacts on the market, and how well they wash varies massively between brands.

See how we test dishwashers at the Which? Test Lab, and find out what it takes to be a Best Buy dishwasher.

Which dishwasher features should I look for?

Adjustable racks

If your dishwasher comes with an easily adjustable upper rack, you’ll be able to raise or lower it even when it’s full, to fit in tall items. When you’re in the shop, look for latches at the sides of the upper rack – pushing them allows you to change the rack height.

If a dishwasher uses a roller system to change the rack height, this means you’ll need to remove the rack completely and then slide it in again to change the height. This is impossible to do if it’s full of dishes and is a much more cumbersome option even when the rack’s empty.

Delay timers

Look for a dishwasher with a 24-hour delay timer. This feature allows you to set your dishwasher to wash at a time convenient for you. And if you time it right, you’ll have warm, clean plates ready in time for your next meal.

Cutlery drawers

Some dishwashers come with a third rack for cutlery which slides in above the upper dish rack. This is a clever use of space and allows more dishes to fit in the lower rack where the cutlery basket would normally go.

Cutlery drawers are a great space-saving idea but before you buy a dishwasher with one, have a look at one in the shop. For some people it might be a bit more fiddly to fit in the knives, forks and spoons than with a conventional cutlery basket, but this is something that most people get used to very quickly. 

Which dishwasher programme should I use?

Most people use the main or normal dishwasher wash programme – on sensor-controlled dishwashers this will be called the auto programme. These programmes are designed to wash a mixed load of everyday dishes between around 45°C and 60°C. A full-sized machine will take around two hours and 20 minutes to do this.

The energy-save, or eco, programme will wash the same load and is likely to do just as good a job. But energy is saved by washing at lower temperatures and usually with a little less water, so energy-save programmes tend to take longer to get dishes completely clean.

Intensive dishwasher programmes are for filthy pots and pans, and they’re just what you need to get something like a roasting tray clean – they can blast dirt off even the dirtiest pots. But to do so they need to use more water, hotter water and more energy.

Do I need a dishwasher with lots of wash programmes?

Along with the main, eco and intensive programmes, most dishwashers also offer a half-load option, a quick programme and a high-temperature hygiene programme for things such as babies’ bottles. Every now and then you might find these programmes helpful, particularly the quick programme if you’ve got lightly soiled dishes and you’re in a hurry. But most of the time you’ll probably use the main and eco programmes.