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All machines are graded from 'A' to 'E' for Wash performance, Energy efficiency and Drying performance, with "A-Grade" being the best in each area. Therefore, the very best in all categories will be "AAA-Grade" models.
Wash performance - An "A Grade" in Wash performance indicates machines that give the best wash results and are the most efficient at removing stubborn stains.
Energy Efficiency - An "A Grade" Energy efficient machines use less water and electricity, thereby saving money.
Drying performance – An "A Grade" Drying grade is awarded to machines that leave the least water on your dishes at the end of the cycle.
Dishwashers come in 3 sizes.
60cm (full size) which holds 12 place settings, suitable for a full family.
50cm (slim line) which holds 9 place settings, suitable for 2 or 3 people or when space is minimal.
Table top which holds 4 place settings. This is the smallest type of dishwasher and sits on your worktop.
Which type should I choose?
Free standing standard – sized dishwashers (60cm width)
These are the most widely sold and the best option to go for if you have the space. They generally wash around 12 place settings (one place setting consists of a dinner plate, soup plate, dessert plate, glass, tea cup and saucer, a knife, fork, soup spoon, dessert spoon and a teaspoon). If you have limited space, you can get slimline freestanding models (45cm width), which will wash around six place settings, or a table top machine which has a much smaller capacity and can generally wash four place settings.
Dishwashers are also available as integrated or semi-integrated. An integrated dishwasher fits neatly in to your kitchen, with the door covered by a panel that matches your kitchen cupboards. When closed, the dishwasher is completely hidden and looks like just another kitchen unit.
A semi-integrated dishwasher is exactly the same but the control panel is visible over the top of the décor panel.
Integrated and semi-integrated models are slightly smaller and tend to be more expensive All other programs and functions are the same for integrated or freestanding appliances. You will require a housing unit for an integrated or semi integrated appliance.
Choosing an integrated dishwasher
Once you’ve set a budget shortlist the models that offer the specific features you need. Because dishwashers are used frequently it’s also worth comparing models for noise output and energy efficiency.
Dishwashers generally use less water and energy than washing up by hand, especially when used on economy programs, and they can wash crockery more thoroughly and more hygienically than washing buy hand.
Different models use different amounts of electricity and water.A-rated machines are most efficient while those with a G-rating are least efficient.
There are a number of different functions on a dishwasher that will save you time and money.
Quick wash - for lightly soiled dishes.
Economy Wash - uses the minimum amount of water and washes the dishes quickly. Intensive Wash Program - to shift really stubborn burnt on food and grease. Ideal for pots and pans.
Glassware - an extra delicate wash to ensure glasses are not damaged and come out sparkling clean.
Half load – A cycle that only uses half the amount of water when the dishwasher is only half full. This eliminates the problem of smells from dishes left in the dishwasher while you are waiting for enough crockery to fill it.
Delay Timer - lets you set your dishwasher to come on when it suits you or to take advantage of low cost late night electricity charges. Some timers can be set as far as 24 hours in advance.
Adjustable baskets - allow for larger items like pots and pans to be accommodated and thoroughly cleaned.
Self cleaning filters - take away waste and purify water.
Sensor Dishwashers - are intelligent top end machines that automatically adjust the wash program to best suit your load and ensure perfect results every time.
Today’s dishwashers are much quieter than earlier and the sound is measured in decibels. 42dB is a very quiet machine.
Which features are useful on dishwashers?
The following features are generally useful:
Adjustable racks: These give the option to change the rack height to accommodate different items. For example, you could have large saucepans in the lower rack and have a shallow upper rack or have tall glasses in the upper rack and have less space below. Some machines come with lay-flat cutlery trays instead of baskets where you place cutlery vertically. If you have larger than average dinner plates, be sure to measure or take one with you to the store to ensure they will fit in, as budget models tend to have less rack height.
Indicator lights: These warn you when the rinse aid or salt need topping up. If you let them run low, you risk damaging your machine or its contents.
Child lock: This is useful to prevent the door being opened mid cycle and risk scalding a child. When opened during the wash program, or even whilst drying at the end of the cycle, the dishwasher will be very hot.
Timer delay: This may be useful if, for example, you want to time the machine to come on at night time if you have an Economy 7 tariff which charges less for electricity used at night. However, ensure you have a smoke alarm if you do run the machine when you are sleeping.
Anti-flood device: These detect the presence of water in the base of the machine and stop the dishwasher from filling further.
Three-in-one button: These are for using dishwasher tablets that have a three-in-one function (ie salt, rinse aid and detergent).
Which are the most useful programs?
Most machines have three main programs: an intensive wash at 65-70 C which uses most energy and is designed for very dirty pans; a standard wash at about 65 C; and an economy wash, at around 50 C, which usually takes longer to run but uses less energy. Other programs you may find include automatic programs, which sense how dirty the dishes are and adjust the program accordingly. Machines with automatic sensors are generally more expensive. You can also get a quick wash, which usually takes around 30 minutes to run, for items that aren’t very dirty, a half-wash program which would wash only the top or the bottom rack, a delicate or fragile setting which washes at low pressure and low temperatures to prevent items made of glass or china breaking or fading, and an extra-drying program. If you use lots of pans, a pre-wash or soak program might be handy as these loosen dried-on food. The more programs the machine has the more expensive it is likely to be so you may prefer to choose a machine that only has the programs you think you will use.
What are rinse aid and salt for?
Rinse aid helps to reduce drying time and leaves dishes shiny and smear free. Salt helps to soften the water.
Should I use combination tablets, powder or liquid gel detergent?
Although combination tablets dominate the dishwasher detergent market and are convenient to use, they aren’t necessarily the best option. Powder and liquid gel detergents give you more control over the dosage required and dissolve faster than tablets, so are better if you use the quick-wash program. Most manufacturers recommend that if you use combination tablets you still should add salt if you live in a hard water area. This makes it less cost effective. And, if you don’t have a program for using three-in-one tablets, you could invalidate your warranty by using them. If in doubt, the separate detergent, rinse aid and salt are standard use.
More expensive models are more likely to have noise pumps and sound absorbers to limit noise. Check the decibel rating. Anything under 55db is considered a fairly quiet machine.
Is it necessary to rinse plates before putting them in the dishwasher?
No, this is a waste of time and water. Just scrape off food residues, and put the dishes in the dishwasher. Take care to avoid putting dishes in with large amounts of food on, though, as this will block your dishwasher and lead to poor cleaning results.