Nobody likes doing dirty dishes. Dishwashers help, sure, but rinsing a sink full of dirty plates, bowls and silverware isn't generally thought of as a good time. But it used to be a lot worse. Before Joel Houghton patented the first dishwashing device in 1850, the only way to get dishes clean involved hands, rags, water and soap. Early devices were slow to catch on until Josephine Cochrane's automatic dishwasher was a hit at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Since then, the dishwasher has become an indispensable appliance for millions of households.
Though the dishwashers of yesteryear were pretty basic, today's machines come in a variety of styles and sizes. The conventional, or built-in, dishwasher is called such because it's permanently installed underneath a counter in your kitchen and connected to a hot-water pipe, a drain and electricity. These dishwashers are traditionally 34 inches high, 24 inches wide and 24 inches deep, though some European models may be slightly smaller and a few American brands offer machines in larger sizes. Conventional dishwashers can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,200, depending on the brand and options you choose.
Compact dishwashers are usually a better fit for small kitchens. The units provide the same power as conventional dishwashers but are smaller in size, averaging 32.5 inches high, 18 inches wide and 22.5 inches deep. Compact dishwashers typically cost between $200 and $400.
Portable dishwashers are conventional or compact-sized units you can move around on wheels. They're ideal for older homes that don't have the infrastructure to connect a built-in dishwasher. Portable dishwashers get their water from the kitchen faucet, and they range in price from $250 to $600, making them less expensive than standard units. However, because they connect to the faucet instead of the plumbing, not all portable models are as powerful as conventional machines.
Those who are extremely low on space or don't wash many dishes may want to opt for a countertop dishwasher. Like portable units, countertop models connect to the kitchen sink. They're about 17 inches high, 22 inches wide and 20 inches deep. These machines tend to cost between $250 and $350.
The newest technology on the market is the dish drawer. These machines feature either a single or double drawer that slides out to facilitate loading. With two-drawer models, you can run different wash cycles at the same time. A double drawer dishwasher is approximately the same size as a conventional unit. A one-drawer machine costs between $500 and $700, while a two-drawer unit can set you back as much as $1,200.
With all these choices, how do you know which dishwasher is right for you? Read the next page to narrow your options.