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The Purchase : Productopia Tips : Dishwashers

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Look for water and energy conservation. The best dishwashers do a complete wash with very little water and energy and will get you a hefty energy rebate. However, the more food you leave on the dishes, the more water it takes to completely clean the dishes.

Listen carefully. The European models tend to operate the quietest, but all new models have lots more sound insulation and damping than ever before. Any decibel rating lower than 60 is very quiet, with the lowest currently coming in at 43 decibels.

Load them up. Some dishwashers allow you to wash as many as 12 place settings per wash. Look for a deep basin with flip-down tines to accommodate pots and big pieces, an adjustable upper rack for tall stemware and salad plates plus movable flatware baskets to accommodate the full load.

Make sure it's hot enough for you. Most dishwashers heat incoming water to fully activate the detergent. Those listed as certified by the National Sanitation Foundation heat it higher than 150 degrees. This, however, is not long or high enough to meet commercial standards but will give you sanitized dishes, important if you're doing baby bottles or just want to help stop the spread of cold germs around your household.

Wash fine china with abandon. To protect the finish on fine china and prevent crystal spotting, look for models offering a lower temperature wash. It doesn't completely activate the chlorine detergent that could damage the design. Also, don't prerinse those dishes -- a slightly greasy film further protects the surface.

Match your cabinets if you want. You can blend your dishwasher with your cabinets by installing a 3/4-inch cabinet panel on the front of models listed as integrated.

Get only the cycles you want. It's easy to get confused with all the options and cycles offered on some models. Make sure you get the basics -- light, normal and heavy. Then look for ones you like and need -- such as partial load, pot scrubber, sanitizer or china wash.

Look inside and out. The most durable dishwashers will have a stainless steel interior that's less likely to crack or stain. Exterior material or color is merely a design decision. Every manufacturer has a default exterior color, so expect to pay a bit extra for any other color.

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