Types of Dishwashers

May 21, 2022
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A Look at the Varieties of Residential and Commercial Dishwashers

In this article we cover all the different types of dishwashers for home use and for commercial use.


Built In Dishwashers

Also known as under counter dishwashers, built-in dishwashers are the best dishwasher choice for many homeowners. These are very common and are a traditional dishwasher type. These are the traditional type of dishwasher that most of us are familiar with.

The sides and top of an undercounter dishwasher are unfinished - they will be surrounded by cabinets on both sides and a countertop above the dishwasher. They can be easily installed under the counter (generally right next to the sink) and come in standard (24 inches wide) or compact (18 inches wide) sizes.

Photo of a dishwasher's top rack

Top rack of a traditional built-in dishwasher

A traditional built in dishwasher requires access to water and power - but most modern kitchens are already equipped to easily accommodate built-in dishwashers.

Freestanding Dishwashers

A freestanding dishwasher is a dishwasher that is finished on all sides (except for the back of the unit). You can place them anywhere within your kitchen and they won't look out of place.

They can even go under your kitchen counter - but many models may need to have the top removed for a proper fit.

The only real constraints with freestanding dishwashers are:

  • Water Access - Freestanding dishwashers need access to water in order to actually clean dishes (either by means of a faucet or a plumbing connection).
  • Drainage - They also need access for the dirty water to be drained. This means usually requires close proximity to either a sink or garbage disposal.

Portable dishwashers (covered next) qualify as freestanding dishwashers.


If you have a small kitchen, portable dishwashers are a great solution for limited space. They are compact and come with rollers so they can be easily moved around, making them perfect for houses, mobile homes, or apartments with extremely small kitchens.

They're fairly easy to operate. You just roll them into position near a faucet (like a kitchen sink) for hot water and hook it up. You'll also need access to an outlet to power the dishwasher. The portable dishwasher is now ready for operation.

Portable dishwashers are also relatively inexpensive when compared to the much more popular built-in dishwashers, making them a great option for people who want the convenience of a dishwasher without the high price tag.

The two major downsides of portable dishwashers are:

  • Limited Capacity - They're a smaller-sized dishwasher, so they're not great for larger families or doing large loads of dishes.
  • Less Convenient - If you frequently do dishes, portable dishwashers can become cumbersome, especially when compared to a fixed dishwasher (like a built-in). It can obviously become tedious to roll a dishwasher into position and hook it up every time that you do dishes.


The countertop dishwasher is another good option for smaller kitchens.

Countertop dishwashers are compact and lightweight, making them easy to move around and store when not needed. A big bonus of countertop dishwashers is that they're the least expensive type of dishwasher.

Like portable dishwashers, you'll need to place your countertop dishwasher in close proximity to your sink. You need to hook up hoses from the countertop dishwasher to a faucet via an adapter. They also need to have a drain (in this case your sink) just like a portable dishwasher.

Most countertop dishwashers have a capacity of at least six place settings, so they're ideal for small households or couples.

There are a couple of drawbacks to countertop dishwashers:

  • Pots and Pans - You'll probably have to hand wash and dry larger pots and pans due to the limited capacity of a portable dishwasher.
  • Counter Space - With a countertop dishwasher, you will lose valuable counter space, and it can be a bit unsightly having visible hoses on your counter that are sometimes connected to your faucet.

Drawer Dishwashers

Drawer dishwashers were launched in the 1990s by Fisher and Paykel. Most major dishwasher manufacturers don't produce drawer dishwashers, and they remain relatively rare.

A drawer dishwasher is an under-counter dishwasher that can be either one drawer - or two dishwasher drawers stacked vertically. They fit into the same type of space that also works for typical cabinet drawers. They work well for smaller loads - making them a good fit for very small households or apartments.

Each drawer has a relatively small capacity and operates independently. When space is at a premium, they can free up space in your kitchen for other uses.

Large Capacity Dishwashers

Large capacity dishwashers can fit much more than a standard sized dishwasher. These large capacity dishwashers can fit more place settings, and in many cases larger plates (and pots and pans) than a standard dishwasher.

Dishwashers with taller tubs, as well as wider dishwashers (up to 42 inches) are examples of dishwashers with a large capacity.

Styles & Finish

Stainless Steel

At big-box retailers, you'll find that stainless steel dishwashers are far and away the most common finish for dishwasher models. The properties of a stainless steel dishwasher make it an excellent choice.

From an aesthetics standpoint, they look beautiful and complement most kitchen colors and layouts.

In addition, stainless steel is a very hygienic material that is resistant to bacteria and corrosion. It is also a very durable material that can withstand years of use.

Stainless steel comes in two color options - the original stainless steel (greyish color) as well as a black stainless steel.

Black Stainless Steel

Black stainless steel has an advantage over the traditional stainless steel color in that it is more smudge-proof and fingerprint resistant. You'll spend a bit less time having to wipe down a black stainless steel dishwasher as a result of people touching the dishwasher door.

Black stainless steel also gives you the advantage of the durability and hygienic nature of stainless steel while giving you an additional color option that may work best for your kitchen design.

Black Stainless Steel Drawbacks

Scratching - Black stainless steel is a coating that they put on the outside of regular stainless steel, and it can be somewhat prone to scratching. Scratches in this exterior coat can reveal the stainless steel underneath which can create highly visible scratches in your dishwasher.

Cost - Black stainless steel is more expensive than traditional stainless steel. You can go to an online retailer website and switch between stainless steel and black stainless steel for the same exact model of dishwasher and notice that black stainless steel costs anywhere from 10% to 20% more than the stainless steel finish.

Fingerprint Resistant Dishwashers

You'll notice when shopping for dishwashers online that you can sort by "fingerprint resistant" models. These models are stainless steel with a coating applied to make the surface of the dishwasher highly resistant to fingerprint smears and smudges.

Other Dishwasher Colors

Outside of stainless steel and black stainless steel, there are many other colors to choose from. The most popular finish colors and choices by quantity of dishwasher models are roughly in order:

  • Stainless Steel
  • White
  • Black
  • Black Stainless Steel
  • Red
  • Slate
  • Blue
  • Copper

Also mentioned in this post is the option to have a completely custom front panel with a panel ready dishwasher.


Automatic Temperature Control

Dishwashers are commonly equipped with automatic temperature control that regulates the water temperature during the wash cycle. This helps to ensure that the detergent is effectively liquified so that it can work its cleaning magic at the optimal temperature and the dishes come out clean.

Dishwasher Leak Sensor

Many newer dishwashers are equipped with a leak sensor. A leak sensor is able to detect even the smallest amount of water and will shut off the dishwasher to prevent flooding. Many dishwasher models will stop the wash cycle and actually pump water out of the tub to mitigate the risk of flooding.

Paying a little bit extra for a dishwasher with a leak sensor system may be worth it when compared to the cost of having to redo the hardwood floors in your kitchen.

Sound Reduction

When shopping for a dishwasher, you'll notice that many of the higher-end models offer sound reduction systems. These systems help to ensure that the dishwasher is as quiet as possible while performing dishwashing cycles.

As an example, the Bosch sound-reducing technologies featured in the video below mention the following efforts to reduce noise:

  • Multiple layers of insulation - these can not only prevent noise from escaping the tub, they can also prevent noise that can come from a dishwasher bumping into cabinets
  • Focused Spray - Spray arms that aim jets of water at dirty dishes instead of hitting the dishwasher tub and making noise
  • Quite mesh filter system

Sound reduction technology in dishwashers

This sound reduction technology can be extremely beneficial for those who are in apartments. It can also be great for house configurations where bedrooms or gathering areas like family rooms are adjacent or beneath the kitchen.

One thing to note when looking at the sound output of dishwashers is the decibel ratings provided by dishwashing manufacturers. These are calculated based on the average sound level for an entire dishwashing cycle. The drying portion of the dishwashing cycle is largely silent as it only involves using heated air to dry the dishes. The drying portion of the cycle skews the average downward. The peak decibel sound output will likely be much higher than the average decibel rating.

Hard Food Filter

Most dishwasher models come with a hard food filter that traps food particles as they are washing. These filters need to be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent build-up and ensure the dishwasher is working properly.

Not properly maintaining and cleaning out the filter can result in blockages that affect water pressure which can result in much less effective dishwasher cycles. If you notice that your dishes aren't coming out with a bit of grime or stickiness on them, you may need to replace your filter.

Cleaning the filter will vary by model, but a soft brush and soaking in warm water will generally do the trick. You'll want to consult your owner's manual for specific instructions on how to clean your hard food filter.

Discussion of Disposers vs Food Filters in Dishwashers

Hard Food Disposer

A hard food disposer - also known as a self-cleaning filter - is integrated into fewer dishwasher models than hard food filters. But they can come with big advantages over hard food filters.

A dishwasher hard food disposer is basically a garbage disposal that is built into your dishwasher. It chops up bits of food that are left on dishes, so you don't have to pre-wash your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

This allows the food to be safely removed from your plates and your dishwasher without clogging your pipes.

The disposer is also very easy to maintain - there are no filters to replace and no moving parts to clean. All you need to do is run it every once in a while with some dishwashing detergent to keep it clean. If you have a dishwasher with a hard food disposer, you'll never have to pre-wash your dishes again!

The only significant drawback of a hard food disposer versus a hard food filter is that the hard food disposer can be a bit noisy at times.

Panel Ready Dishwashers (Integrated Dishwasher)

Panel ready dishwashers are a built-in style dishwasher that is becoming a more popular option for homeowners who want a seamless look in their kitchen. Panel ready dishwashers are designed to blend in with your cabinetry, giving your kitchen a more consistent, seamless look.

You'll basically use a panel design that matches your cabinets, and apply it to the unfinished panel of your panel-ready dishwasher. Depending on the design you choose, guests in your kitchen may not be able to easily guess that you have a dishwasher.

Dishwashers with Third Racks

A third rack dishwasher is a dishwasher that has an additional rack above the main racks. This 3rd rack is usually not as deep as the other racks and is best used for smaller items such as silverware, small glasses and small bowls.

Items can be laid flat in this third rack, and this can make it easier for the cleaning process to easily reach and clean utensils. The items must have a relatively low profile due to the depth of the third rack being much smaller than the other racks.

The third rack makes it easy to access silverware, and it frees up space on the bottom rack which would normally be taken up by the utensil basket.

Third rack dishwashers aren't limited to higher-end dishwashers. Third racks are available in both standard and smaller (compact) dishwashers.

Adjustable Rack

One feature that sets adjustable racks dishwashers apart is the ability to reconfigure racks to accommodate larger items. This means that you'll be able to wash pots, pans, and bakeware with ease - even if you have a full load.

Usually, it is the top rack of the dishwasher that is adjustable. This allows you to raise or lower the position of this rack. This comes in handy if you have a load with higher-profile items like large pots.

This can allow you to maximize the space used in your dishwasher and run fuller loads. Whether you're washing a few items or a full load, adjustable racks dishwashers provide a versatile and convenient solution.

Tall Tub

A tall tub dishwasher is a dishwasher that has the same dimensions as a standard dishwasher but with a taller tub. This allows for more interior space, which means that tall tub dishwashers can accommodate more dishes than standard dishwashers. Typically, a tall tub dishwasher can accommodate around 15%-25% more place settings than a standard dishwasher.

The extra interior space in a tall tub dishwasher is reached in a couple of different ways. The motor in a tall tub dishwasher is generally more elongated and doesn't encroach into the interior of the dishwasher nearly as much.

Plastic Tub Dishwashers

Plastic tub washers used to be the most common dishwasher tub type, but less models have a plastic tub now than in the past as stainless steel tubs gain in popularity. They can stain more easily than stainless steel tubs and aren't as durable.

They are generally considerably less expensive than stainless steel tub dishwashers. Despite being less durable than stainless steel dishwashers, most are still very durable. The plastic used for these dishwashers will last for an extremely long time.

Stainless Steel Dishwasher Tubs

Stainless steel tub dishwashers are the most popular dishwasher tub type for modern dishwashers. Large retailers carry nearly 10 times as many stainless steel tub models versus plastic tubs.

Stainless steel tubs are highly durable which makes them a good choice if you're doing a lot of dishwasher loads. As their name indicates, these dishwashers don't stain easily. They're also very resistant to odors when compared to plastic tub dishwashers.

They're also very quiet - according to SFGate.com, these stainless steel tubs can make dishwashers up to 10 decibels more quiet than plastic tub dishwashers.

With the reduced noise and increased durability comes a higher price tag. Steel tub dishwashers also tend to be more expensive than their plastic counterparts. Stainless steel tub dishwashers are a good choice for those who want a long-lasting, reliable appliance.

Smart Dishwashers (WiFi Compatible)

More and more appliances are rolling out with more advanced technology, and a smart dishwasher is no different. While still in the minority (around 10% of all dishwasher models), there are smart dishwashers that are wifi enabled. This allows you to control the operation of your dishwasher from your smartphone.

Bottle Wash Dishwashers

Bottle wash dishwashers are becoming a more common feature in dishwashers. Around 20% of all models of dishwashers at retail outlets currently offer this feature.

The bottle wash feature is ideal for bottles or other drinkware that has a very small opening which makes them difficult to clean. It is typically difficult to wash these types of items by hand without a bottle brush.

Dishwasher safe items best suited for bottle wash include:

  • Baby bottles
  • Stainless steel water bottles (like Hydro Flask Bottles)
  • Sports bottles
  • Wine glasses

The bottle wash feature has four water jet prongs usually located in the top rack of the dishwasher. You'll place the bottles on top of the jet, and during the wash cycle, water will come out of the jet to clean the inside of the bottles.

An example of how bottle wash jets work is shown below.

How bottle wash dishwashers work

AutoRelease Door Dishwashers

AutoRelease (or automatic door release) dishwashers are relatively rare and seemed to be offered primarily by Samsung. According to Samsung, the feature works by automatically opening the door once the internal temperature of the dishwasher has fallen below 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius).

This opening of the dishwasher door occurs during the last 10 minutes or so of the dry cycle. This helps to enhance the overall drying process by incorporating fresh, dry air to enter the dishwasher.

Sensor Wash

Sensor wash options in dishwashers are becoming more and more common. No longer do you have to pre-wash your dishes or worry about which wash setting to use; sensor washes do it all for you!

Simply load your dirty dishes into the dishwasher, select the sensor wash setting, and let the machine do its work.

Depending on the size of your load and how dirty your dishes are, sensor washes will take roughly the same amount of time as a normal load of dishes ( a couple of hours).

And best of all, sensor washes will typically use just the right amount of water and energy for the load that is in the dishwasher. This can reduce overall wasted water and energy usage.

Sanitize Wash Cycle

Most dishwashers have a sanitize cycle that uses hot water to disinfect and kill bacteria. The water in this cycle is typically between 150 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to kill most bacteria.

While not needed to get your dishes clean, the sanitize cycle can be useful if you're concerned about wiping out bacteria or if you have a bug working its way through your house.

Delayed Start

Most dishwashers offer a delayed start feature which will allow you to set up your dishwasher to run at a point in the future.

If you've ever been in the shower when the dishwasher is running, you can see how this feature may be valuable. You don't want to have to compete with your dishwasher for access to hot water.

It is also a nice to have feature if you only want to run the dishwasher when the noise from the dishwasher won't hamper anyone's sleep or make it hard to hear conversations around the dinner table.

Heated Dry Dishwashers

The majority of dishwasher models have heated drying. This is accomplished by using water that is heated to higher temps during the end of the wash cycle - or through the use of a heating element within the dishwasher.

Dishwasher Size


The standard dishwasher size is 24 inches wide by 35 inches high and 24 inches deep. The space that is allocated for dishwashers in a kitchen is usually these dimensions.


Compact dishwashers are perfect for smaller kitchens where less under counter space is available. These compact dishwashers have the same height (around 35 inches) and depth (24 inches) - but are just 18 inches wide. This is 6 inches less wide than a standard dishwasher.

Compact dishwashers are much less common than standard sized dishwashers. Only around 25% of a retail stores dishwasher inventory will be comprised of compact dishwasher models.

The good news is that despite fewer overall offerings, there is still a wide variety of finishes and feature options. This means that you should be able to get a compact dishwasher that meets your needs and fits in well with the overall design of your kitchen.

In parts of Europe and Australia, these compact dishwashers are also referred to as a "slim dishwasher" or "slimline dishwasher".

Power Consumption

Energy Star Dishwashers

Energy Star Certified Dishwashers comprise around 90% of all dishwashers sold in the United States. These dishwashers are highly energy-efficient - and they're also great at limiting total water usage.

These dishwashers only cost around $35/year to run and can save a whopping 3,870 gallons of water over the lifetime of your dishwasher.

Dishwasher Handles


A bar handle on a dishwasher is a single, long handle that runs almost the full width of the dishwasher door. Approximately half of all dishwasher models have a bar handle.

Pocket Handle

Slightly less popular than a bar handle dishwasher is a pocket handle. The pocket handle dishwasher is designed with a recessed hidden grip that allows you to open the dishwasher door with ease. You reach up and under the pocket to access the grip and open the dishwasher door.


A recessed dishwasher handle is similar to a pocket handle in that the opening mechanism for the dishwasher is recessed into the dishwasher door. The main difference is that the recessed handle is generally located next to front panel controls on the dishwasher.


Scoop handles are the least common type of dishwasher handle. They are also similar to recessed handles, in that the handle is inset into the door of the dishwasher. The grip tends to be less wide, and the controls on a scoop handle dishwasher are generally top controls.

Dishwasher Cycles

Control Panel

Top Control Dishwasher

The majority of dishwasher models offered are top control dishwashers. Top control dishwashers are also called "hidden controls dishwashers" and "fully integrated controls" - have a control panel that is hidden until you open up the dishwasher. The control panel is located on top of the door and is only visible when the dishwasher door is open.

Photo of a built in stainless steel dishwasher with top controls

Top control dishwasher (controls aren’t visible from the outside)

The front of a top control dishwasher looks more minimalist and isn't cluttered by knobs, buttons, or controls. The fact that the controls are hidden can give your kitchen a more streamlined look.

The nice thing is that it is much more difficult to accidentally push a button on a top control dishwasher. This will prevent you from interrupting a cycle or starting a dishwashing cycle inadvertently which is possible with a front control dishwasher.

Two drawbacks of top control dishwashers:

Smaller Access Panel

Since the controls are packed into a limited space on the very top of the dishwasher door, for some it may be challenging to properly read or use the buttons when compared to a front control dishwasher.


Top control dishwashers can run a bit more expensive than front control panel dishwashers.

Front Control Panel Dishwashers

A front control dishwasher is a type of dishwasher where the controls are located on the front of the machine, rather than on the top. This can be helpful if you want to be able to see the control console and the status of the current wash cycle without opening the dishwasher door.

The handle for a front control panel dishwasher is typically an integrated or recessed pocket which is oftentimes beneath the control panel. Only around 1/3 of the dishwasher models sold at big-box retailers like Home Depot and Lowes are front control dishwashers.

There isn't much difference in dishwasher functions and capacity other than the control panel locations between a front control panel dishwasher and a top control panel dishwasher.

Commercial Dishwashers

Most of the dishwashers that we've covered thus far have been for residential use - either for a home or an apartment.

Obviously, there are commercial dishwashers that are used for high-volume foodservice operations (like restaurants, dining halls, and hospitals). These facilities have much more high volume dishwashing requirements.

Under Counter Commercial Dishwashers

Undercounter dishwashers don't have nearly the same throughput as the other types of commercial dishwashers. They're best for commercial and industrial establishments that don't have huge volume requirements for their dishwashers.

They fit under a counter just like many residential dishwashers, and they take up the least amount of space when compared to the other two commercial dishwasher options.

They're more durable than your standard household dishwasher due to the heavy use that is required.

Door Type Commercial Dishwashers

The next step up from under-counter commercial dishwashers are the door type commercial dishwashers. They can wash around twice as many dishes in an hour as an under counter commercial dishwasher.

While their overall footprint isn't as large as a rack conveyor dishwasher, they do require quite a bit of vertical space. This tall, upright dishwasher is more ergonomically sound for people using the dishwasher as it requires less bending over than an under counter dishwasher.

They also have more capacity and space within the dishwasher itself. This makes it easier to use the door type dishwasher to wash extremely large pots and pans - which may not fit into an under counter dishwasher.

Rack Conveyor Dishwashers

A rack conveyor dishwasher is a high-volume dishwashing machine that can clean hundreds of dishes per hour. Photo of a commercial dishwasher

Commercial conveyor dishwasher

A traditional residential dishwasher is located under a counter. You'll open the door and put dishes into the dishwasher, add detergent, push a button and wait - usually for a few hours - until your dishes are clean.

With a rack conveyor dishwasher, you'll load dishes into a rack. This rack is then automatically conveyed into the dishwasher where the dishes and utensils are exposed to hot water and detergent and then dried and ready for reuse.

Wrap Up

Hopefully from this post you've seen that there is an amazing variety in the types of dishwashers as well as the features and finishes that dishwashers offer.

Frank Salvatore

Hey there - I'm Frank Salvatore. I created this site as a comprehensive kitchen resource. You'll find everything you need to know about everything in your kitchen. From appliances to utensils and layout - it is covered on this site!

About Me
Frank Salvatore
I created this site as a comprehensive kitchen resource. You'll find everything you need to know about everything in your kitchen. From appliances to utensils and layout - it is covered on this site!
Learn More About Me
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