Dishwasher decisions should be based on more than just an integrated versus freestanding discussion. As the workhorse of the kitchen, a dishwasher needs to meet the needs, priorities and habits of the homeowners. If you’ve got a great relationship with an appliance retailer, you’ll definitely want to send your clients there for the best advice. And if you want to give them a ‘heads up’ on what to ask about when they get there, the following may help.

Assessing your clients’ daily dishwashing

The size of a family or household unit is an obvious place to start when assessing dishwasher needs, but the habits of the homeowners should also be considered early in a design project. Frequency of meals and washing, cooking styles, crockery collections and favoured beverages (and associated glassware) should all be discussed early in the design project to avoid future dishwashing dramas in a shiny new kitchen.

Size and capacity

The size of a machine is pretty much a given, with most kitchens allowing for a 600mm wide unit. A smaller kitchen or scullery may require a smaller appliance, however, in which case a dishdrawer or 450mm unit may be a better fit (literally).

The capacity of a dishwashing appliance is an important consideration. Manufacturers often advertise the potential of a unit to hold 12 or 15 place settings, with a place setting including one dinner plate, one soup plate, one dessert plate, one teacup and saucer, one glass and associated cutlery for one. The ability for machines to hold a dozen or more of each of these is questionable, and at the end of the day, it’s probably irrelevant to most families. As set out below, the cooking and cleaning habits, along with crockery collections, is potentially more important.

Frequency of washing

Many households load a dishwasher throughout the day and only begin a cycle when the unit is full. If this is the case for your client, they’ll need to consider how long it will take them to fill a unit (and how many spare dishes they have) when assessing the internal capacity of a dishwasher. A retired couple may deem a dishdrawer to be sufficient, while a family of five may be looking for maximum capacity to take a day’s load. In the latter case, you may wish to steer your clients towards extra depth models or units with genuinely wider insides (and potentially thinner walls).

If your clients are looking for fast turnaround on their dishwashing loads, encourage them to compare the fast/quick wash cycles available. Conversely, if they’re more interested in an economical or efficient wash, you’ll want them to check out the range of eco, economy or bio washes. Half-load or load-sensing options may be desirable, but efficient and eco-minded clients will want to carefully consider the energy and water usage in comparison to full loads.

Cooking styles and pots-and-pans preferences

If your clients use whopping big pots on a daily basis, they’ll want to make sure their dishwasher can accommodate them. Fold-down racks could be advantageous, as could height adjustable shelves. (And if they have a decent collection of large cast-iron or non-stick pans, make sure you allow for a suitably-sized sink for handwashing.)

Crockery and glassware

As per the pots and pans comment above, your client may need height-adjustable baskets for serving plates and platters, or special consideration for wine, champagne or chunky beer glasses. Get your client to play with the in-store appliances and assess the user-friendliness of adjustable baskets. (Tip: if your clients are crystal collectors, consider how user-friendly the dishwasher – or potentially the sink – will be.)

Cutlery and cooking knives

Cutlery tray or basket? You can learn a lot about your client by their preferences for cutlery stacking (!!!). A tray lets you sort when you stack, while a basket enables you to sort when you’re loading back into the cutlery drawer. Trays are potentially safer (no accidental stabbing with an upright steak knife or fork), but they may take up valuable space. If you’re working with some keen cooks, they won’t want to put their best blades (cutting knives) in the dishwasher – keep this in mind when considering sinks.

Maintenance and Troubleshooting

Whether it’s wrong or right, when things go cactus in the kitchen, your client will be thinking of you. Help them avoid dishwasher disasters (and stay out of potential blame games) by pointing out the following considerations:

Accessible filters

Keeping filters clean and clear is essential for drama-free dishwashing. Make sure your clients check out the accessibility of the filers – are they easy to remove and clean?

Anti-flood devices and anti-burst hoses

Most dishwashers now have some level of anti-flood protection. An anti-flood device is a float switch inside the dishwasher that will detect water leaking into the cabinet, and stop it from flooding the kitchen. An anti-burst hose, on the other hand, has a mechanism that is a part of the inlet hose and shuts off the water if and when the hose fails. Ensure your client asks about these options when weighing up the pros and cons of various machines.

Fault displays and service calls

Fault displays help home occupants identify simple problems like an empty rinse-aid dispenser or blocked spray arm. These alerts can avoid unnecessary and sometimes costly service calls. On that note, get your client to ask about warranty and ongoing service calls – are parts easily accessible and affordable? 

Salt dispensers for softening hard water

If your clients live in an area with hard water, their detergent may not work as effectively as expected. Encourage them to look for a dishwasher with a salt dispenser; this will make the water softer and result in a better wash.

Hot or cold connections

Clients should determine whether a cold or hot connection is recommended for their preferred appliance. If a hot water connection is necessary, a tempering valve may be required to meet the recommended maximum hot water inlet temperature.

Energy efficiency

All dishwashers in Australia are labelled with water and energy ratings. Star ratings give consumers a general idea of how well a dishwasher will perform, with information about the expected kilowatt-hours per year and water usage per wash. It’s essential to go back to the daily habits here: an efficient machine used inefficiently won’t do the homeowner or the planet any favours. As professional designers, we should be encouraging energy and water-efficient practices and products, so give your client a helping hand to make an eco-friendly decision.