The best portable dishwasher
If you're short on space, on a budget, or simply don't have the allotted slide-in room in your kitchen for a built-in dishwasher, consider a portable model. Portable dishwashers offer the convenience of built-in dishwashers but with less of a commitment. If you rent a home that doesn't have a dishwasher already, for example, that doesn't mean that you have to live without one.
This buying guide will help you find the right portable dishwasher for your situation. We've even included reviews of a few of our favorites at the end. Our top choice is Whirlpool's 24" Heavy-Duty Portable Dishwasher, a feature-packed model that has the capacity for 12 place settings.
Considerations when choosing portable dishwashers
Freestanding vs. countertop
Countertop models sit atop your counter and tend to be the least expensive of the two options. When weighing your decision, remember that, though a countertop model is ultra-compact, you'll still be sacrificing counter space with this type of dishwasher.
A freestanding model typically features wheels, allowing for easy transport. While this type is pricier, the convenience may be worth it. You can roll it out of the kitchen and stow it elsewhere when it's not in use.
Size and capacity
While you may assume that portable dishwashers have a significantly smaller interior than full-sized units, most models can accommodate between six and eight place settings. Freestanding units typically offer more room than countertop models but are also larger in size. Expect a portable dishwasher of either type to be between 18 and 24 inches wide. Note that countertop models don't often have enough room for washing pots and pans.
Setup is minimal for the majority of portable dishwasher models. Install the wheels, and you're ready to go.
To run your portable unit, you'll need to attach a hose to your kitchen-sink faucet. Choose an appropriate adapter to connect the hose; dishwashers should ship with a variety of adapters, but in some cases, you'll need to purchase a compatible accessory separately.
Those with specialty kitchen faucets (e.g., models with a spray hose) will likely need to purchase an adapter separately.
Run the tap to heat up the water before attaching the hose and starting a wash cycle. Warming up the water ensures that detergent dissolves effectively and reduces the chance of residue being left behind on your dishes and silverware.
Like their full-sized counterparts, portable dishwashers feature a variety of wash-cycle options, including quick, normal, pots and pans (or heavy), light, high-temperature (or sanitize), delicate (or china/crystal), and energy-saver.
If you like to put your dishes away right after a cycle has ended, pick a unit with a dry cycle. You'll likely pay a premium for this feature, as it's a rarity in portable models.
Models with soil detection sensors are pricier, but they adjust the wash cycle according to the amount of grit and grime detected on dishes.
Some portable dishwashers have a feature that allows you to set a cycle for anywhere from two to 24 hours in the future.
Wheels are a must if you need to move your portable dishwasher out of the way when not in use. Countertop models usually do not have them.
You'll pay between $200 and $700 for a portable dishwasher. Pricier units are sturdier, equipped with a variety of wash-cycle options, and may include a heated dry cycle.
Q. What is a portable dishwasher installation kit?
A. Installation kits are mainly intended for permanent installations. You won't need a kit if you plan to use a portable model with your kitchen sink faucet. If you plan to remodel your kitchen in the near future, buy the installation kit just in case you decide to include a spot for a permanent dishwasher fixture.
Q. How does the water drain in a portable model?
A. A built-in pump helps drain water from your portable dishwasher into your kitchen sink. You do not need to place your unit higher than your sink to encourage drainage.
Portable dishwashers we recommend
Best of the best: Whirlpool's 24" Heavy-Duty Portable Dishwasher
Our take: A sleek portable dishwasher attractive enough for most modern kitchens.
What we like: One-hour wash cycle. "Soil sensor" automatically adjusts the normal wash cycle if dishes are extra dirty. Roomy interior with enough space for a dozen place settings. Features a four-hour time-delay function.
What we dislike: Some complained that it doesn't dry dishes as well as it should.
Best bang for your buck: SPT's 18" Portable Dishwasher
Our take: A simple, portable model with all the features you'd want in a freestanding dishwasher.
What we like: Six wash cycles. Ability to dry dishes. Slim design. Space for up to eight place settings. Fairly quiet.
What we dislike: Some users complain of defective units with faulty wheels.
Choice 3: Danby's 18" Portable Dishwasher
Our take: A reliable, compact dishwasher that runs quieter than many other units.
What we like: Accommodates up to eight place settings. Small-space friendly. Leaves dishes free of residue.
What we dislike: Interior is too small for unusually shaped cookware.
Steph Coelho is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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