KitchenAid KDFE104DSS Dishwasher Review
Looks better than it cleans.
At a glance, the KitchenAid KDFE104DSS (MSRP $849) looks like a competent, capable dishwasher that's a step up from low-end, budget-conscious models. With a touch-sensitive, forward-facing control panel, a pocket handle that's flush with the front panel, and a stainless steel finish, this KitchenAid should look and feel right in any kitchen.
However, our tests found this dishwasher doesn’t clean as well as many similarly-priced machines. In fact, it uses the same basic filtration system found on dishwashers that cost half as much, leading to less thorough cleanings and more food particles spread among the dishes.
KitchenAid does make many great dishwashers, like the KDTM354DSS. That dishwasher features a unique Clean Water Wash filter, however, which drastically improves cleaning performance. On sale, the 354 costs about $150 more than the 104, but we think it's money well spent.
Design & Usability
The KDFE104DSS’s design fits right in with any kitchen. Nothing about this dishwasher protrudes into your space: Touch-sensitive buttons are located on its front-facing control panel, and the machine opens with a tug of its pocket handle. The result? It will line up perfectly flush with your kitchen’s cabinetry. The stainless steel finish also makes it unobtrusive, matching kitchen designs both traditional and modern.
The control panel illuminates with bright white indicator lights and features simple, single-button selection for cycles and wash options. Although lacking the tactile feedback of traditional mechanical buttons, we found the touch-sensitive buttons work well most of the time, with rare moments of unresponsiveness.
When you open the KDFE104DSS's door to peek inside, that's where its weaknesses start to show. Despite a handful of foldable tines and a height adjustment mechanism for the upper rack, the KDFE104DSS lacks adjustments that could help fit larger dishes and cookware. The main culprit: A long, unadjustable cutlery basket that takes up much of the space on the lower rack. We were still able to fit 11 of our standardized place settings and one serving setting inside this dishwasher, but it wasn't pretty.
All the essentials
The KDFE104DSS’s selection of wash cycles has you covered from every angle. The usual Normal, Tough, and Express Wash cycles are there, but there’s also a ProWash cycle that uses the machine’s soil sensors to determine the best number of washes and rinses a load should use: Light for delicate dishes that need lower heat and gentler spray, and Rinse Only for when you just want to get the plates wet sans detergent.
There’s also a basic selection of wash customization options. Heat Dry, which is a default on most cycles, uses the KDFE104DSS’s exposed heating element to dry the dishes at the end of the cycle. Hi-Temp Wash raises the water temperature during the wash, while Sani Rinse adds an extra-hot, bacteria-killing rinse to the end of a wash cycle. A simple Control Lock feature keeps housemates from accidentally interrupting a cycle—a vital option when the buttons are located on the front of the machine. Additionally, a 4 Hour Delay allows you to postpone the start of a wash.
Well behind other mid-range dishwashers
Performance is where the KDFE104DSS proved most disappointing. Two noticeable problems kept popping up in each of the cycles we tested with this machine: tea remnants and redeposit. One points to water coverage issues, while the other points to problems with filtration.
Redeposit is when food particles from one dish gets stuck to another during the wash, usually as a result of a weak or poorly-designed filtration system. We test for this using small bowls of baked-on spinach. With this KitchenAid, we found tiny particles of spinach transferred from the bowls to other items during the wash cycles, including mugs and glasses loaded on the upper rack.
In our tea test, we pour a small amount of tea into our mugs and leave it to dry overnight before loading it into our test cycles. Typically, this is an easy stain that many dishwashers can clean with 100% efficacy. But a large percentage of the cycles on the KDFE104DSS left a visible brown ring inside the mugs after washing. That points to coverage issues. After all, if water was reaching the mugs, they would get clean.
Perhaps the KDFE104DSS’s only saving grace is its efficiency. With an estimated annual cost of $28.67 a year, this dishwasher is slightly below average in terms of water and power consumption. However, if you find yourself frequently running another cycle after your initial wash cycle spits out dirty dishes, that could run up your water and power bills regardless.
For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.
Before You Buy
Move up the lineup.
All in all, the KDFE104DSS really doesn’t feel like a mid-range dishwasher. Sure, it has a couple of features you won’t find on a budget machine, such as an upper rack height adjustment option and a few extra cycle choices. However, lackluster cleaning performance and limited loading flexibility make it hard to justify this KitchenAid’s price tag—especially when other machines do a better job.
The KitchenAid KDTM354DSS is a far superior machine, and has KitchenAid's unique new self-cleaning filter that proved itself in our lab tests.
For around $700, you can also get the straightforward Bosch Ascenta SHX4AT75UC, the feature-heavy Frigidaire Gallery FGID2474QS , or even the panel-ready Fagor LFA-75IT. All of these offer greater flexibility and performance for the same price.
Get Our Newsletter
Real advice from real experts. Sign up for our newsletter
Thanks for signing up!