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Should you get a dishwasher and what are the best ones?

The right dishwasher is capable of drastically reducing the amount of time you spend in the kitchen elbow deep in soap water, but how do you go about finding the right one for you?

We’ve compiled a helpful guide listing everything you need to know about making a purchase, with the help of the experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute, who have tested and reviewed some of the leading dishwashers currently on the market. Read on for their recommendations.

Things to consider

When contemplating investing in a dishwasher for your home there are several things you need to think about. Primary among these is: do you have enough space for it? Dishwashers need to be placed fairly close to the kitchen sink so it can take in cold water so, while it may be tempting to go for the biggest model on the market, you need to remain realistic about how much space you have to work with.

 You’ll also have to think about your budget and consider whether you want to go for a freestanding model – particularly ideal if you’re renting your home or are planning to move soon – or an integrated machine which, while stylish, could be costly.

If you have small children running around you’ll probably want to invest in a model that comes with child-safety features such as a lock that prevents doors being opened during a cycle. A machine with a built-in sensor that shuts itself off to prevent flooding would also be wise.

Dishwasher vs washing up: which is cheaper?

A pile of dishes in the sink
Should you hand wash your dishes or stick them in the dishwasher? 

It is cheaper to stick your dishes in a dishwasher every evening or wash them up by hand? This is a tricky question to give a definitive answer as it depends on a variety of factors, such the size of your home and how often you wash your dishes.

If you’re using a dishwasher always make sure it’s full before turning it on [otherwise it] can use more than half the energy and water of a full loadKaren Gibbs

However research suggests that, if used efficiently, dishwashers can be significantly cheaper than running your tap while hand washing your dishes. In a study carried out between 2007 and 2008 on two hundreds households across Germany, Italy, Sweden and Britain it was found that the household which had a dishwasher used 50 per cent less water and 28 per cent less energy that homes that didn’t own a dishwasher.

According Joe Payne from the Energy Saving Trust, one cycle in an average dishwasher would cost the same in energy and water as heating six washing-up bowls of water in the sink or running the hot tap continuously for up to nine minutes. So, if it typically takes you more than nine minutes to get through your dishes, or you find yourself using more than six washing-up bowls filled with warm water, using the dishwasher would be the more cost effective option.

Karen Gibbs, senior policy manager at the Consumer Council for Water, added: “Whichever method you use there are simple ways to cut your energy and water use and therefore reduce your bills.

“If you’re using a dishwasher always make sure it’s full before turning it on, and try not to use half load cycles which can use more than half the energy and water of a full load. Use the ‘eco-setting’ if you have one which uses less power to heat the water.”

Can everything go in the dishwasher?

Woman loading a dishwasher
Not all dishes are dishwasher safe 

As wonderful as it would be to stuff everything in the dishwasher so you never have to worry about hand washing again, not everything is dishwasher safe.

Make sure to check with the manufacturer of your dishwasher if you’re unclear about anything, but here is a general guide of things that are unsuitable for dishwasher use:

  • Cast iron pans: if uncoated, these will rust – instead rinse them in warm water without soap
  • Antique china: the hot water will chip away at the colours and cause them to fade
  • Sharp/carving knives: your knives will dull quicker when placed in the dishwasher – instead hand wash them
  • Wooden spoons: the wood will swell if placed in a dishwasher and eventually crack
  • Aluminium pans: these will react with the detergent solution and eventually discolour

But will it clean my dishes properly?

Person opening a dishwasher
Worried about dirty dishes? Never fear

Providing you do your research and pick out a good model, there should be no reason your dishwasher doesn’t perform to the best of its abilities. Unless, of course, you don’t know how to load it correctly.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham recently published a study that suggested filthy dishes and wasted water could be due to incorrectly positioning your dishes. According to the study the secret to perpetually clean dishes is to load them in a circular fashion and not in straight rows.

Leader of the study Dr Raul Pérez-Mohedano says dishes should also be grouped together by type of stain: “Depending of the soil type to remove, the best procedure to follow varies. For example, cleaning of protein based soils, such as egg yolk, requires of an initial swelling/hydration stage which is typically driven by high alkaline conditions at the beginning of the wash-cycle.

“Afterwards, cleaning occurs by detachment soil layers from top to bottom following hydrolysis reactions. Other types of soils based on carbohydrates, like tomato paste, require less chemistry and more mechanical action. They are detached in patches of different sizes in a process known as adhesive failure.”

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