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One of the best things about buying an appliance is getting to play with all the new fancy features that come with it. The Maytag MDB8959SBB (MSRP $749) has plenty of those to keep you amused, but it can also get pretty serious when it comes to cleaning dishes.
We’ve spotted sale prices on this Maytag as low as $630 (about a hundred bucks more for stainless) and we think it's worth it. The Normal cycle was pretty good at clearing off dirt, but for serious messes the Jet Clean cycle annihilated even the tough, baked-on food stains we use for testing. The main drawback? It'll take its sweet time getting that perfect clean. Still, when you just want that dirt gone, the MDB8959SBB is never going to let you down.
From the outside, the MDB8959SBB looks like so many dishwashers on the market, with a towel-bar handle and a solid finish. The controls are a row of buttons laid out across the top of the door, and take up pretty much all of the limited real estate up there. With a single button for each cycle and wash option, as well as one for starting cycles and another for canceling them, you’re looking at a staggering total of 15 buttons and indicator lights crammed in that narrow space.
The inside is somehow even more intimidating. The tub is stainless steel, and the MDB8959SBB’s filter sits casually at the bottom under a massive wash arm. That filter is actually the top cover of a 4-blade stainless steel chopper, a beast of a machine that pulverizes washed off food before draining it away. The smooth-sliding racks have tons of moving parts, including mini racks and shelves that can be folded down as well as clips for holding stemware in place. Oddly enough, there aren’t very many collapsible tines like in other dishwashers, so any single, large item could still prove to be a tough fit.
The top rack is on ball bearings, so it glides out with a luxurious grace. It can also be lowered or raised for added versatility. While there is no third rack for holding silverware, which is something we’ve seen in fancier machines, there are four separate, removable baskets. Two of them are identical, with slots for keeping your silverware spaced out. There’s one other basket on one corner of the bottom rack that is fit for holding serving or cooking utensils, and another basket on the top rack that’s longer, shallower, and narrower than the others – the perfect size for chopsticks!
Though most dishwasher users hit "Normal" and forget it, the MDB8959SBB has six cycles to choose from: Auto, Jet Clean (a heavy duty cycle), Normal, Light, Quick Wash, and Rinse Only. That pretty much covers every dishwashing need, whether it’s a quick spray to clean some glasses during a party or a long, thorough soaking to get the toughest, greasiest stuff off your pots and pans.
If that isn't enough, the MDB8959SBB also offers a wide array of extra options. Tough Scrub Plus raises wash temperatures and adds a steam cycle in the middle of the wash to get rid of baked-on dirt. Hi Temp Wash will increase the wash temperature without adding a steam cycle, and the Steam Sanitize will raise the temperature to bacteria-killing levels.
Wait—there's more! A Heated Dry for drying dishes, Extra Dry to extend the drying duration and temperature (not recommended for plastic dinnerware), a Delay feature that can be set to postpone a wash for four, six, or eight hours, and a Control Lock. Whew! We noticed that Heated Dry is selected by default for every cycle except quick wash and rinse only, and the Steam Sanitize is default for the Jet Clean cycle. You can shut them off if you want.
More wash options and a higher price tag don't always make for a better clean, but the MDB8959SBB is definitely a powerhouse. The Normal cycle performed well on our tests, blasting off nearly all stains. It finishes in a little over two hours, which is about the threshold of what we’re willing to tolerate for a Normal cycle. If you want to speed things up a bit, and save some energy, you might want to try disabling the Heated Dry option.
Of course, sometimes, Normal isn’t enough. The Jet Clean cycle is when the MDB8959SBB puts on its robe and wizard hat and works its cleaning magic, making all of the dirt disappear. It completely removed all milk, tea, egg, oatmeal, sugar, and even lasagna. Those last two are some of the toughest stains we use. When we ran the Jet Clean cycle the second time to test for consistency, it even removed almost all the baked-on spinach, which is another notoriously tough test.
Part of the secret might be the fact that Steam Sanitize is a default option with the Jet Clean cycle. The cycle also uses 1.32 kWh of electricity and 11.81 gallons of hot water, which is far more than any of its other cycles. And like an awkward wedding toast, it lasts far longer than any of us would like, clocking in at three hours and 19 minutes. Still, as long as you use this cycle sparingly, the MDB8959SBB shouldn't cost much more than the average dishwasher to run.
Finally, we have the Quick Wash cycle, which was pretty amazing: It cleaned almost as well as the Normal cycle, but it only took 34 minutes. That's perfect for everyday, or an emergency wash during a dinner party.
It’s easy to become dazzled by the MDB8959SBB’s myriad wash options and features. However, under all those extras is raw cleaning power that leaves nothing behind. It’s reassuring to know that there’s a cycle that allows you to, “Nuke it from orbit,” as Ellen Ripley might say. The long cycle durations might also be inconvenient to some buyers, but given its effective Quick Wash and how well this thing cleans otherwise, we still think it's worth checking out.
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