A Guide to Dishwashers:

What To Know When Dishwasher Shopping

Typically, among the main elements that people look for when shopping for a dishwasher are size, style and features that fit their lifestyle.

There is a wide range of dishwashers on the market and you need to find the right match for you and your kitchen. Is versatility the most important? For some, design rules their decision-making.

It's up to you to determine what’s best for your life, home, and taste

KitchenAid dishwasher in kitchen suite



  • What is your budget?
  • How big will your wash loads be?
  • How quiet do you want your dishwasher to be?
  • What is your design aesthetic?

Dishwasher Sizes

KitchenAid open dishwasher

Most built-in residential dishwashers are either 18" or 24". Be sure to measure the space before making your purchase.

While style and performance may be at the top of any list, condo or apartment owners might want to pay special attention to noise level.

A smaller kitchen, though, doesn’t necessarily mean you need a small dishwasher but it might mean that there is less separation between rooms.

You might consider quieter models (under 50 dBA) that are in close proximity to locations where you'll be entertaining, or in smaller spaces. You'll have a variety of options so it'll come down to the level of quiet you want.

Noise Level

Dishwasher noise is calculated in decibel levels (dBA). What's important to know is that the higher the decibel level, the noisier the dishwasher.

The difference of 1 dBA is mostly not noticeable; it typically takes a difference of 3 dBA before the human ear perceives a difference. Keep this in mind when comparing the decibel ratings between dishwashers. A rating of 40 dBA and below may be virtually silent while running, while ratings of 50 and above could produce a noise level similar to that of a normal conversation.

The KDTE204K / KDFE204K series is our quietest dishwasher at 39dBA.

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Dishwasher handle closeup

How to Choose an Exterior Style?

Dishwashers offer a unique opportunity to further the design of your kitchen.
It should come as no surprise that the first thing many people notice while browsing dishwashers is exterior style as it can complement, or even enhance, a kitchen.

There are several styles to choose from: Console, Pocket, Towel Bar, Panel-ready and Semi-integrated.

Here are three questions to help narrow your style choice:

  • Do you want a uniform look for your dishwasher and cabinets?
  • Do you want the controls to be hidden?
  • Do you like the idea of a recessed handle or a towel bar?
Towel Bar
Panel Ready

Semi-integrated vs Fully-Integrated Dishwashers

Semi-Integrated Dishwashers: Controls are within view, at your fingertips and flush with the dishwasher door. Exterior status lights display cycle progress.

Fully integrated dishwashers: Controls are hidden from view and status lights with an exterior cycle indicator, giving immediate feedback with changing colors.

KitchenAid dishwasher in kitchen suite


Historically, people could choose from black, white or stainless steel finishes. Now, there are additional options like finger print resistant stainless steel, black stainless steel or you can even customize cabinetry to match your kitchen design.

KitchenAid panel ready dishwasher

What Does Panel-Ready Mean?

Often a popular choice among style enthusiasts because custom panel-ready dishwashers have an unfinished door, so you can match the panel to your cabinetry to give your kitchen one cohesive look.

How to Choose a Dishwasher Interior?

The interior configuration of a dishwasher may affect how items are loaded. To decide on an appropriate interior, consider your household size, if you have a lot of large or awkwardly shaped items, or if you often play the role of host, in which case you may want to consider an adjustable rack.

Dishwasher rack

Dishwasher interiors are typically constructed in either plastic, stainless steel or a hybrid of the two.

Plastic tubs are typically less expensive but can be noisier.

Stainless Steel tubs may be better for stain-resistance, are often considered to be quieter and able to handle higher drying temperatures.

Hybrid consists of a mix of plastic and stainless steel.

KitchenAid does not offer plastic tub dishwashers

Deciding Between a Built-in Dishwasher,
Portable Dishwasher or Countertop Dishwasher

KitchenAid dishwasher in kitchen suite

Built-in dishwashers are permanently installed into a kitchen's existing structure.

Portable dishwashers are designed for kitchens that don't have enough space for a built-in or countertop model. Most portable options can be easily moved in and out of a kitchen.

Countertop dishwashers are small enough for most counterspaces and are often considered to be ideal for condos or small kitchens.

*KitchenAid Does not offer portable or countertop dishwashers*

What to Know About Built-in Dishwashers

  • 24” width is often a popular choice for families or those who have frequent loads
  • 18” width is ideal for smaller kitchens with less frequent washloads
  • Tall Tub configuration accommodates taller items.
  • Built-in dishwashers are designed to fit under counters and between cabinets for a seamless aesthetic.
  • Some built-in models are panel-ready, to customize to match cabinetry.
  • These dishwashers require permanent plumbing installation.

What if a Dishwasher has Never Been Installed in my Home?

It is recommended to always have a trained and certified technician perform the installation.

Check to confirm that the home's electrical output is sufficient for the location of a new dishwasher. You will typically need: A grounded electrical outlet (no extension cord or adapter) and a dedicated 15 amp circuit.

Refer to the specific dishwasher’s Use & Care Guide for additional installation requirements and guidelines.

How Much Does Installation Cost?

Prices may vary. Reach out to the manufacturer's service network to learn about cost of installation.

Should my Dishwasher be the Same Brand as my Other Appliances?

There may be design benefits to buying a suite of kitchen appliances from one brand. Handles, finish and aesthetics will often match to bring a cohesive look to your kitchen.

KitchenAid dishwasher in kitchen suite

Dishwasher Performance

Dishwasher interior

Heavy & Targeted Wash Zones: Dishwashers with heavy wash zones have a spray zone to attack heavily soiled dishes and oddly shaped items.

Water coverage: Features such as flexible wash arms and bottle wash sprays allow for greater wash coverage

Filtered-based systems: Generally, these types of systems commonly minimize sound and optimize water and energy conservation.

Cycle options: Some dishwashers may offer a customizable option to wash based on your dishes, allowing you to cater to more delicate items like china and crystal to help preserve them.

Dishwasher Loading Ability

Dishwasher rack

Most people wash plates, cups and cutlery daily but occasionally they might need to wash wine glasses, fine china, chopsticks or large serving dishes.

Look for the following features to improve loading capacity and versatility:

Adjustable/Flexible Racks: Moveable racks, allowing for a customized wash and the ability to load large or odd-shaped items.

Third Level Racking: This rack is often used to wash smaller items like cutlery, spatulas and chopsticks.

Silverware Baskets: Dedicated compartments for flatware.

Flexibility and Capacity

KitchenAid dishwasher in kitchen suite

Look for a dishwasher that offers enough flexibility and capacity to match your needs.

Options can include removable racks and fold down tines to accommodate large pots and pans and/or stemware holders to secure wine glasses and champagne flutes.

Drying Technology Options

Dishwasher controls

Tub Material: The benefit of a stainless steel tub is that it will retains heat from the wash cycle, resulting in efficient drying.

Fan Assisted Dry: With the assistance of a fan, this feature accelerates drying performance by removing humid air and introducing room temperature air. This feature is typically found on more premium dishwashers.

Heated Dry: Typically, This is a manual option that customers can turn off The default setting is commonly "on" after the wash cycle ends to ensure your dishes are dry to put in the cabinet.

What is a "SMART" Dishwasher?

Some dishwashers have the ability to connect to the internet to provide data and additional features such as downloading additional cycles, checking how much time is left on the cycle, and eventually, voice compatibility. Features vary and may be subject to change.

Different Dishwasher Cycles

Basic dishwashers typically have two wash cycles, normal and light. Furthermore, most people rely on the same cycle for every wash.

Dishwasher rack

Most dishwashers offer some or all of these cycles options: quick wash, rinse & hold, steam, delicate wash, heavy duty and sanitize

Certain models offer more cycle variety and could include options like ultra-quick for less dirty items, a top-rack-only for glassware and a heavy duty option for pots and pans.

Features to Look for when Dishwasher Shopping

Dishwasher interior

Soil Sensors

Also called turbidity sensors, this feature monitors the level of tiny substance particles that might be present in the wash water. It allows a dishwasher to recognize when dishes are heavily soiled and extends the cycle to achieve optimal performance.

Dishwasher controls

Delayed Start

Most dishwashers offer the ability to delay the start of a wash cycle. This allows your dishwasher to start between 2-, 4-, 6-, or 8-hours after you finish loading it.

This way, you can run your dishwasher while you're at work or running errands or during off-peak hours regardless of your schedule.

Dishwasher rinse cycle


Filters are important because they can prevent food from finding their way back onto items during a wash. Dishwashers typically have a manual or self-cleaning filter.

Manual filters may be the quieter option but typically requires you to regularly clean it. Some self-cleaning systems have a grinder to pulverize and discard debris. Other units utilize increased motor power to discard debris and help keep filters clean.

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Where to Buy a Dishwasher?

Most major appliance retailers typically carry a variety of dishwashers. Check out our store finder to find a location near you:

Where to Buy