In Search of the Perfect Dishwasher
Our old dishwasher sputtered to a halt last week.
Jessie White came by and presented us with a $500 repair bill.
Our next move was a clear one.
We sent him on his way…
Time to buy a new dishwasher!
Okay, now what?!!
It’s the kind of tech you take for granted, and when you don’t have it, it can get pretty inconvenient.
You have to wash dishes by hand?!
So it was time for a new dishwasher…
And the selection process needed to be a swift one.
The problem is… It’s not the kind of purchase you make every day.
(Dishwashers are supposed to last over a decade…)
And honestly… I’ve never actually bought one.
Every place I’ve moved into already had a dishwasher.
So I was starting from scratch…
Not Your Mother’s Dishwasher
I’d say the dishwasher is a pretty mature modern technology, right?
Heck, it’s been around since the 1920s!
How hard could it be to choose a new one?
Believe me… today’s dishwasher is not your mother’s Maytag…
There’s a lot of new tech under the hood…
Of course, I immediately went online to do my research.
I headed to Consumer Reports to check out their recommendations in an attempt to cut to the chase.
But I was barraged with 183 choices and 28 recommendations.
And the prices ranged from several hundred dollars to well over a thousand.
The top spots went to Kenmore Elite, followed by Bosch, KitchenAid, LG, and Miele.
So many choices…
I was paralyzed.
Seen but Not Heard
As you might expect, technology has continued to make dishwashers more effective and efficient.
- Today, a $500 dishwasher can do just about as good a job as a $1,200 model
- But more expensive dishwashers are quieter
- And they consume less energy and water
Sure, there are other bells and whistles to consider like dirt sensors and turbo wash jets.
But the big feature is ‘silence.’
The lower the decibel rating, the more you pay…
A lot of dishwashers today are really quiet.
So quiet in fact, the more expensive ones project a light on the floor to let you know they’re actually working.
Otherwise, who would know?
Remember the old days when your mother’s dishwasher boomed throughout the house as it wrestled the dirty dishes into submission right after dinner?
When I was a kid, the rumbling of the dishwasher was the nightly audio cue that the day had ended and everyone had relocated away from the dining room to get ready for sleep.
In hindsight, I see now it was more of a nightly retreat to a space where you could hear yourself think or have the hope of watching a TV show you could hear!
Okay… so a little evolution on the sound-dampening front is a welcome development.
The Devolving Dishwasher
Dishwashers have also been simplified in their march towards operational perfection.
Their look is now a ‘clean’ one.
(Clearly someone took a design cue from “Apple.”)
Now, there are no more buttons and LED panels in front.
They’re hidden out of site on the top lip of the door.
That’s apparently the new rage.
I can hear it now…
“Let’s pretend it’s not a dishwasher at all.
Now, it’s just a sleek door!”
Wait a minute! Not so fast…
Show Me All That Tech Bling!
I want lots of blinking lights and a cool LED display on the door to tell me what’s going on while the dishwasher is operating.
I like a countdown timer that tells me how many minutes are left till the cleaning cycle is over.
(If I’m prepping some dishes right before a party, I’ve got to know exactly when those dishes are going to be ready!!)
I enjoy the convenience of loading a dishwasher after dinner and hitting the delay button so the wash cycle begins later.
Is all that so much to ask?
It didn’t used to be!
Clearly the R&D folks at Dishwashers of America have ignored these standard features from the old days.
Because guess what I’ve uncovered after my little research project?
- Most American dishwashers don’t house countdown timers anymore
- And a majority of new dishwashers have banished all controls away from the front of their doors
- And the delay timer?
That’s no longer a given. You’d better look closely at the specs to see if that little feature still remains.
Got to love progress…
Breaking Up a Good Thing with Kenmore?
But I would not be deterred.
I wanted my old-school features, and hoped I could shop smart and end up buying something better than our old Kenmore Elite.
(which by the way, worked just fine)
And Consumer Reports rates several of the new Kenmore Elite models tied for #1.
That’s hard to beat!
So why not re-up on the Kenmore?
(Are you ready?)
Kenmore’s don’t have the countdown timer anymore.
I want that silly LED display!!
I know… call me wacky.
Clearly no one else in America cares about countdown timers.
Your Dishes Need a Little European Care
Maybe I’m just a Renaissance man from another time.
European dishwashers are so much more… civilized!
- They don’t use as much water.
- They expend less energy.
- They’re even more thoughtful about how to clean dishes.
- Their strategy seems more focused on prodding the food to leave as opposed to blasting the dishes with the force of the Guns of Navarone!
Yes, European models are a little slower… but it just seems like they care more about making the world a better place.
Bosch or Bust
The two European companies I looked at were Miele and Bosch.
Both are German.
Miele is wicked expensive. So I had to pass.
Bosch, a name I admit I was not familiar with, gets really high ratings in Consumer Reports.
I was thrilled to discover Bosch offers front facing LED displays on a variety of their models.
(You can tell those German engineers still value that little feature.)
The brand also offers a couple new differentiating items for me…
- The upper rack has a ‘RackMatic’ feature, which means it easily adjusts upward to allow for large plates to sit comfortably underneath.
- And there’s a third rack.
(kind of like The Fifth Element)
The Annoying Basket
Most dishwashers have the top rack for glasses and the bottom rack for plates and a flatware basket.
Don’t you hate that basket?
You have to jam dozens of knives, forks and spoons into such a small space?
And of course, you have to position the sharp edges facing up to ensure the surfaces don’t get buried underneath. Otherwise they won’t get cleaned.
Removing these dangerous objects can be a hazardous venture, if you’re not paying attention.
Come on… who hasn’t pricked their finger on a steak knife waiting for retrieval?
The Rare Third Rack
Now, you can avoid all that pain and place your dangerous cutlery on a flat top rack. How civilized!
(yes, there’s also a basket for the bottom should you happen to be an experienced circus knife thrower)
You’d think this added flat rack feature should be a no brainer for all dishwashers.
But alas, it’s still a rare item, even for Bosch.
Only a few of their higher-end models posses it.
Perfection is Hard to Find
As warm and fuzzy I was feeling with the Bosch brand, I did find two design downsides…
- Their models don’t offer heated drying, which quickly sucks the moisture out of your rack of dishes after the wash is done.
Europeans are happy enough just letting their dishes dry naturally… drip dry.
(and yes, that takes longer)
But the upside is you won’t melt anything plastic on the bottom rack if it’s too close to the heating element… because it’s not there!
If you tend to run your dishwasher overnight, you shouldn’t have a problem with wet dishes when you wake up.
- Bosch dishwashers don’t employ a self-cleaning filter.
(that’s code for ‘noisy food grinder,’ like a sink disposal)
They use a passive catch-filter, which you need to occasionally pop out and clean manually.
(How often depends on how much solid gunk you leave on your dishes.)
But remember, you don’t have to listen to loud grinding noises to interrupt your otherwise uber-quiet washing cycle…
The End of My Search?
I poured through Bosch’s website to find a model that met my preferred feature list and also fit our budget.
That wasn’t easy.
I kept coming back to their high-end ‘800 Plus line.’
The least expensive 800 model is the SHE7ER55UC.
(I know… there’s no ‘800’ in the name…. go figure.)
I reviewed my checklist:
- Front facing LED display- Check!
- Countdown timer- Ready for action!!
- RackMatic option- Easy peasy!!!
- Sound factor- a whisper-quiet 42 dBA
- Third rack- Yes! (I think I’m in Nirvana!!)
But it lists for a hefty $1,299.00.
(It feels crazy to spend more than $1,000 on a dishwasher when you know you can spend half of that to get the job done.)
The repairman who flatlined our old Kenmore Elite suggested you can get a ‘decent’ dishwasher for $700.
I decided to shop around for sales to see what I could find.
(you never know!)
I found my Bosch for $949 at Aitoro, my local appliance store, because the ‘800’ line is about to get a refresh.
(what a great time to buy!)
On top of that, there were two available rebates totaling $150, which brought the price down even further.
So $800 didn’t feel like I was blowing the budget.
So sure… I could feel cool owning a technologically and socially advanced machine. But would I be making regular dates with the repairman to keep it going?
Fortunately, Consumer Reports rates Bosch first (a tie with Whirlpool) for reliability.
(LG comes in last, by the way…)
So I was covered there!
But I wasn’t at the finish line yet…
My selection process required one more important step!
No Man Is an Island
It was time to take the family to the store and kick the tires.
(And after all, it’s my wife’s kitchen, too!)
So my Bosch pitch was on!
The very nice sales lady showed us the Bosch and a couple of competing American brands.
We opened them up and took a look.
Honestly, after a while they all started to look the same.
And the cheaper American models seemed perfectly fine.
I started losing my focus…
And then fate suddenly jumped in to shake things up even further…
My preschooler lost interest in the dishwasher aisle, finding the cool circular door on a washer machine and his reflection in an oven door infinitely more engaging.
While I followed him in his exploration to the other side of the store, I left my wife was alone with the sales lady. And their conversation continued…
From the distance, I saw them looking at other dishwashers!
And then the clock ran out.
It was 5pm, and time to give our son some dinner.
(never a good idea to shop with a hungry little boy!)
We left the store that day well educated, but without a decision.
That was Saturday night…
The Next Day
My wife and I agreed to share our opinions today, and hoped we could come to some resolution by sundown, or before the store closed!
(or face another week washing dishes by hand!!)
This morning, I furiously gathered all my notes to present my case to my better half.
And then I had an epiphany-
I already had my closing argument.
It was the draft of this blog post!!
(the final section as yet to be written)
When we sat down to talk, I showed her my weekly opus.
I didn’t have to say anything.
I’ve often wondered what kind of impact my blog has on my readers.
Now I had my wish!
My wife began unraveling the opportunity as I saw it.
I watched, looking for non-verbal clues…
She suddenly asked who Jessie White was.
(I nervously explained he was the original Maytag repairman.)
She continued reading and offered nothing else.
My heartbeat increased as time began to slow down.
She looked up and smiled.
I had her at hello.
The Bosch arrives on Thursday.
How has the Bosch held up?
I’ve had my Bosch for 7 months now, and it’s doing great!
Its only issue… and the store warned me about this before I bought it… has to do with the fact that Bosch dishwashers don’t use a heated drying cycle at the end of the wash.
It’s more energy efficient, but this design can lead to a damp interior when the unit finishes its wash.
If you rush the dishwasher every day or so… it’s never a problem.
But if you wait a few days and throw in some dirty dishes along the way… it gets kind of stinky in there.
Yes, that’s happened to us a few times.
(The next time you run the dishwasher, everything is fine again.)
The bottom line is you need to run the unit daily.
Occasional users should buy something else…