If you live somewhere without a full-size dishwasher, a countertop model might save you from dishpan hands. But with so many countertop dishwashers out there, which one should you choose?
Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Every countertop dishwasher is basically the same, and they all clean well. Buy the one you like, and spend as little money as possible.
How do I know? I looked at shipping manifests, and saw that every popular countertop dishwasher was manufactured by a company named Midea (more on them later). With that knowledge, our testers tried out a few popular models and found out they all had identical cycles, interiors, and cleaning performance.
With that said, we recommend the SPT SD-2201W (available at Amazon for $205.00) because of its good looks and low price.
Updated November 30, 2017
Where To Buy$205.00 Amazon Buy
For $205.99, you can get this top-selling SPT dishwasher in white. When we tested it, we were surprised at how sturdy it felt and how well it cleaned dishes.
No, you won’t be able to fit large pots and pans in there—but we got four place settings inside the stainless tub. Cycles took between 49 minutes and 1:15 to finish, and cost between six and eleven cents in water and energy costs to run.
All of the dishwashers we evaluated offered Heavy, Normal, Eco, Glass, and Speed cycles, plus a rinse option, which might come in handy if you’re storing the dishwasher after a wash and don’t want it to smell like food residue.
We like that it has a straightforward control panel, that it comes from an established brand name (SPT, also known as Sunpentown, has been in business in the U.S. since 1993), and that it’s available at numerous retailers. It has positive reviews, and has been on sale since 2011.
A silver version, the SD-2201S, is available for $25 more.
Do I need a countertop dishwasher?
It depends. If you’re concerned about wasting water, a countertop dishwasher uses less water than effective hand washing. This makes it an especially attractive option for an RV.
A countertop dishwasher is also easier to use than washing by hand, and our tests show that it does a much better job cleaning. If you’re a clean freak, $200 is a small price to pay to ensure that your dishes don’t just look clean.
But you’ll still have to wash larger items in the sink, and a countertop dishwasher may take up valuable space when it’s not in use.
Larger portable dishwashers like this 18-inch SPT—which also hook up to kitchen faucets and wheel out of the way when they’re not in use—can cost twice as much, but fit more items.
How do countertop dishwashers work?
Nearly every countertop dishwasher works the same way: There are two hoses that join a “quick connect” mount that should attach to almost any faucet. One hose takes in fresh water, the other drains dirty water into the sink.
Inside, there's room for four full place settings in a single rack, a cutlery basket, a removable filter, and a stainless tub.
You can keep the dishwasher attached to your sink and press a bypass button to get fresh water, or you can disconnect it after use.
Be aware: Not every faucet works with a portable dishwasher. We had to purchase a small 15/16 inch to 55/64 inch faucet adapter at a hardware store. Stylish faucets with hidden “Cache” aerators may not fit a portable dishwasher at all.
It’s possible to hook up a sprayer faucet to a dishwasher—several online guides exist that explain how to do so—but it’s not recommended.
Who makes these dishwashers?
After looking at bills of lading and other import data, we learned that nearly every countertop dishwasher sold in the U.S. is made by Midea.
Midea, based in Guangdong, China, is one of the largest appliance companies in the world. It owns vacuum-maker Eureka, has the rights to use the Toshiba name on small appliances, and manufactures hundreds of products for companies like GE Appliances and even the Instant Pot.
Midea now sells appliances under its own name, and recently opened several research and development centers in the U.S. In fact, you can even buy a countertop dishwasher with the Midea brand name—but it’s more expensive than its private-label competitors.
It makes sense that these products are imported from China, and not just because of lower manufacturing costs. Countertop dishwashers are much more popular in China, and it’s a lot easier to import these rectangular, easy-to-ship boxes from an existing factory than to set up production in countries where they’re more of a niche product.
How did we test them?
We have already evaluated hundreds of dishwashers in our appliance test facility in Cambridge, MA. We researched the most popular countertop models, and got five in: the SPT, Koldfront, Edgestar, HomeLabs, and Danby.
Then, we took the same tests we give full-sized dishwashers, but modified them by removing large pots and pans from our test loads, and skipping the Heavy Duty cycle.
Other good countertop dishwashers
Where To Buy$199.00 Build.com Buy
Both Koldfront and Edgestar brand-name dishwashers are imported by Ferguson, a large plumbing supplier. The PDW60EW sells for just $199, making it the least-expensive dishwasher on our list. In black, as the PDW60EB, it costs $229.
Although it cleans identically to the SPT, it lacks a delayed start feature. We also prefer the SD-2201W’s less obtrusive controls to the Koldfront bright blue buttons.
Where To Buy$269.00 Build.com Buy
The Edgestar has the same bright blue buttons as the Koldfront, although it adds a silver exterior and delayed start mode. Unlike many other dishwashers on this list, it also has a timer that lets you know when the cycle is finished.
Most of these dishwashers take about an hour to complete a wash, so we think a timer is more of a luxury than a necessity.
Where To Buy$239.99 Amazon Buy
This dishwasher costs about $25 more than the winning SPT, and its only extra features are an LED display, and a delay start timer that can be set in one-hour increments between one and 24 hours.
With the exception of the Koldfront, which lacks a delayed start function entirely, every other dishwasher only allows delays of two, six, and eight hours. One caveat: This Costway may not be available in all areas.
Danby is a well-known name in compact appliances, and the DDW621WDB was one of the dishwashers we tested extensively in our labs. It has identical features to the SPT, but in a slightly different layout.
Still, it costs $20 more on sale, which is why it didn’t take our top spot.
Where To Buy$249.99 Amazon Buy
The Sunbeam DWSB3607WW is available in black, white, and a fun red finish. Unfortunately, it also appears to be out of stock as of November 2017.
Similarly, we loved the sleek look of this HomeLabs dishwasher—but then it disappeared from Amazon, and from HomeLabs’ own website. That’s a shame, because good design counts in a small kitchen.
We reached out to HomeLabs on November 29, 2017 and were told, “Unfortunately, there's not date yet as to when we'll ship new units to them. You can check again after to 2 weeks.” We’ll be sure to update this article if it goes on sale again.