Your Guide to Dishwashers:

What to Consider When Shopping for a Dishwasher

When shopping for a dishwasher, most people typically consider size, style and what features are appealing to them and could complement their lifestyle.

As you shop, you will find a range of dishwashers. Your goal, though, might be to find one that best fits your kitchen and lifestyle. To do so, you may want to think about what’s important to you. Is style paramount? Does versatility matter? Do you entertain guests often?

It’s your kitchen so make sure you choose a dishwasher that will complement your household.

What to Consider When Purchasing a Dishwasher

  • What is your budget?
  • What do your typical wash loads look like?
  • How much space do you have to work with?
  • What noise level do you prefer?
  • What style will work with your current aesthetic?

Dishwasher Sizes

Whirlpool dishwasher in kitchen suit

Most built-in residential dishwashers are one of two sizes: 18” or 24”. It’s recommended to precisely measure the space before purchasing your dishwasher.

While style and performance are often the main priorities, condo and apartment owners might want to focus on a dishwasher’s noise level.

Smaller kitchens don’t necessarily need a smaller dishwasher. Sometimes it’s more important to consider the space that separates rooms than the size of a kitchen. Think about it this way, if your kitchen is close to your family room, the noise level of your dishwasher could potentially interrupt your television watching.

For kitchens that are close to rooms where you'll be entertaining or relaxing, you might want to look into quieter models that are under 50 dBA. You’ll have several options to choose from.

Noise Level

The noise level of a dishwasher is rated in decibel levels (dBA). The higher the decibel level the louder the dishwasher will be.

It’s important to understand the difference in decibel level. 1 dBA isn’t much a difference and won’t be noticeable to most. On the other hand, a difference of 3 dBA may be detected by the human ear.

A dishwasher that registers at 40 dBA or below is considered to be practically silent when running. A 50 dBA rating or higher creates a noise level on par with a normal conversation.

Whirlpool dishwasher in kitchen suit

Choosing an Exterior Style

To many, style matters. Dishwashers offer the opportunity to augment or even further your kitchen’s aesthetic.

Your Options May Include Console, Pocket, Towel Bar, Panel-Ready and Semi-Integrated.

To help make a decision, start by answering these questions:

  • Do you want your dishwasher and cabinets to have a cohesive look?
  • Do you prefer the controls to be hidden from view?
  • Recessed handle or a towel bar: what’s your preference?
Towel Bar
Panel Ready

Semi-integrated vs Fully-Integrated Dishwashers

Semi-Integrated: This design has the controls visible, easy-to-access and flush with the door. The cycle’s progression is displayed externally via status lights.

Fully-Integrated Dishwashers: This design features hidden controls. Feedback is immediately available via status lights that include an exterior cycle indicator with changing colors.

Whirlpool stainless steel dishwasher


For a long time, finishes were only available in three options: black, white or stainless steel. These options have expanded to include fingerprint resistant stainless steel, black stainless steel or, in some cases, the ability to customize cabinets to match an existing kitchen aesthetic in an effort to create a cohesive look.

Whirlpool wood panel dishwasher

What Does Panel-Ready Mean?

Panel-ready dishwashers feature an unfinished door making them customizable. This provides the opportunity to match a dishwasher to existing cabinetry.

Choosing the Interior of a Dishwasher?

The interior of a dishwasher helps determine how items are loaded. One way to decide which interior might work for you is to consider your lifestyle, household size, if you often wash big or oddly-shaped items and how often you play the role of host.

Dishwasher interior

Interiors are usually offered in either plastic, stainless steel or a mix of the two.

In most instances, plastic tubs are less expensive. They are also considered to be louder.

Stainless Steel tubs may be more stain-resistant, are often viewed as the quieter option and are better equipped to handle higher drying temperatures.

Hybrid interiors are comprised of a combination of plastic and stainless steel.

Choosing Between a Built-In Dishwasher,
a Portable Dishwasher or Countertop Dishwasher

Built-in dishwashers can be permanently installed into a kitchen’s existing structure and layout.

Portable dishwashers might be a good option for kitchens that don’t have enough space to accommodate the other types. Portable dishwashers can be moved in or out from a kitchen as desired.

Countertop dishwashers can typically fit on top of most counters. They are often seen as a smart option for condos or small kitchens.

*Whirlpool does not offer countertop models*

Built-In Dishwashers

  • Families or those who frequently use their dishwasher tend to gravitate toward models with a 24” width.
  • 18” width might be a good fit for smaller kitchens or for households with less frequent wash loads.
  • Tall Tub configuration can accommodate many taller items.
  • Built-in dishwashers can typically be placed underneath counters and between cabinets for a seamless look.
  • Some built-in models are panel-ready, allowing owners to match their dishwasher to their cabinets.
  • These dishwashers all require permanent plumbing installation.

Is This the First Dishwasher to Ever be Installed in Your Home?

The recommended approach is to have a certified technician perform the installation.

Make sure that your home’s electrical output has all installation requirements. This usually includes a grounded electrical outlet and a dedicated 15 amp circuit. Please note that this means no extension cord or adapter.

Always consult the Use & Care Guide to review all requirements and guidelines.

What Does Installation Cost?

Costs can vary based on the specifics of a kitchen. It’s best to speak with the manufacturer’s service network to discuss the cost of installation.

Dishwasher Performance

Dishwasher blade  mid wash cycle

Heavy & Targeted Wash Zones: Models with this feature have a wide spray zone to attack heavily soiled dishes, including items that are awkwardly shaped.

Water Coverage: This can include flexible wash arms and bottle wash sprays to provide considerably more wash coverage.

Filtered-based systems: These systems generally reduce noise and may provide better results with respect to water and energy conservation.

Cycle options: Some dishwashers are customizable so performance is determined by the wash load. This helps preserve more delicate items like china and crystal.

The Importance of a Dishwasher's Loading Ability

Whirlpool Open Dishwasher

The typical wash load can include plates, cups and cutlery. Some households also need the option to wash items like wine glasses, fine china, chopsticks or platters.

Many dishwashers have features that are designed to alter or increase loading capacity:

Adjustable/Flexible Racks: Movable racks can provide more options, including the ability to load items that are large or irregularly shaped.

Silverware Baskets: This is a compartment designed to carefully wash most flatware.

Third Level Racking : A third rack can be used to clean items like cutlery, spatulas and chopsticks.

Flexibility and Capacity


Flexibility and capacity are two aspects that you might want to consider while dishwasher shopping.

Think about your household and washing needs. This can help determine if you should consider features like removable racks and/or fold down tines and/or stemware holders.

Drying Technology

Dishwasher controls

Tub Material: Stainless steel has a reputation for better retaining heat from the wash cycle. This can result in more efficient drying. 

Fan Assisted Dry: Utilizing a fan, this feature accelerates drying performance via the introduction of room temperature air. This feature is usually relegated to more premium dishwashers.

Heated Dry: This helps ensure that dishes are “cabinet dry” once the wash cycle is complete. Keep in mind that this feature defaults to the “on” setting. However, there is a manual option, allowing owners to turn it off.

Various Dishwasher Cycles

The standard dishwasher typically has normal and light cycles to meet the two most common needs of many households.

You could find some or all of these cycles on a dishwasher model: Quick Wash, Rinse & Hold, Steam, Delicate Wash, Heavy Duty and Sanitize.

Some models have more varied cycle options, including ultra-quick for less dirty items, a top-rack-only for glassware
and a heavy duty feature for larger items like pots and pans.

Dishwasher Features

Dishwasher blade  mid wash cycle

Soil Sensors

Also called turbidity sensors, this feature monitors the amount of tiny particles in the wash water. This allows the dishwasher to extend the cycle time in an effort to maximize performance by recognizing when items are heavily soiled.

Dishwasher controls

Delayed Start

Some dishwashers can delay a wash cycle from commencing. With this feature, you can start a cycle between 2-, 4-, 6- or 8-hours after you have loaded it.

This allows you to run your dishwasher even if you are not home or during off-peak times of the day.

Glasses in mid dishwasher cycle


Filters serve an important function in a dishwasher. Primarily, they prevent food from finding their way back onto items during the course of a wash.

One option is manual filters, which are considered to be quieter. They do, however, require manual cleaning. Some self-cleaning systems have a grinder to pulverize debris and then discard it. On the other hand, some systems utilize increased motor power to remove debris and, in the process, keep the filter clean.

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