At first glance, you’d likely miss the wealth of innovation that’s happening in the world of dishwashers. That’s because it’s all hidden inside the machines, away from the surface gaze of consumers. Dishwashers are also arguably the least-exciting type of appliance out there—no open flames like an oven or grill, nor does it store vital food or drinks like a fridge. So it's kind of inevitable that dish-cleaning innovations are met with skepticism.
But we've seen the future. We had the opportunity to check out some cool new dishwasher features at this year’s IFA conference in Berlin. In the U.S., brands like GE and Whirlpool are developing ways to save water and energy, or features that more easily clean hard-to-reach surfaces. They're not quite the sensational technologies found in European appliances, but they're interesting nonetheless.
Bosch’s Zeolite technology is perhaps the most amazing, if not practical, new concept in dishwashers. It uses zeolite crystals to heat the interior of the dishwasher during the dry cycle—without consuming any electricity. It does this by adsorbing the water from a wash cycle (sort of the opposite of absorbing), whereupon the microporous mineral heats up to extremely high temperatures and dries the dishes in mere minutes. It’s pretty amazing, but these dishwashers are currently only available in Europe. If you really want to see the potential of this strange, magical mineral in the states, you’ll have to buy a package of Zeolite laundry detergent.
The Knock-Knock Non-Handle Dishwasher
Miele recently unveiled a handle-less dishwasher at IFA. It requires a simple knock-knock on the front panel to open the door. But, once again, there’s no indication that the device is destined for U.S. retailers. In Europe, it makes sense, as kitchens there tend to be snugly designed with appliances that are often flush with the cabinetry. A handle-less dishwasher works well for that kind of design plan.
Most dishwasher innovation in the U.S. seems to be focused on efficiency—systems that require less water and less electricity, but are still able to actually clean dishes. Last month, KitchenAid—not usually known for efficiency—unveiled its AquaSense Recycling System, which uses leftover water from prior rinse cycles to pre-rinse the next one. If that sounds unsanitary, don’t worry, it uses fresh water to complete the cleaning process. According to a press release, dishwashers with AquaSense use 33 percent less water.
GE Bottle Wash Jets
This year, GE unveiled a new line of dishwashers with a unique bottle-washing component. Jets on the upper racks of the dishwasher are designed to fit tall containers with small openings, such as sports bottles and baby bottles. GE claims it is an industry first. However, while one might be able to fit some 12-oz. bottles over the tiny spray jets, it seems GE missed an opportunity to appeal to home brewers looking for an efficient way to clean large beer bottles.
Frigidaire’s OrbitClean system features an independent, rotating spray arm. According to the company, the circular device delivers four times better water coverage than most other dishwashers (whatever that really means). Traditional spray arms distribute water in a circular pattern, while the OrbitClean spray arm adds an additional rotating spray jet, ensuring a wider area of water exposure.
Of course, this isn't the only factor behind a thorough, effective clean. Detergent, dish placement, and heat are all important cleaning elements that the OrbitClean does not account for. Still, it’s a pretty cool add-on. Check out our review of the Frigidaire Gallery FGHD2465NF featuring the OrbitClean.
Whirlpool 6th Sense Live
Whirlpool’s 6th Sense Live technology connects with your local WiFi network to bring you the benefits of a smart grid system—without the need for a smart electric meter. Only about $200 more than comparable machines, 6th Sense dishwashers determine when electricity consumption will be the least expensive, helping you save money in the long run. Simply pressing the Smart Grid button will instruct the dishwasher to run whenever grid consumption is cheapest. Check out our review of the 6th Sense-equipped Whirlpool Gold WDL785SAAM.
Of course, the amount of money you’ll save by working around peak hours is negligible—and rather unnecessary given the added investment of the 6th Sense Live system. But as smart appliances begin to find a home in American households, the price of these features will come down.
[Hero image: Miele]