What you need to look for when buying an eco-friendly dishwasher

My love affair with a dashing Spaniard named Diego came to a cursed demise last month. Diego was my dishwasher, but not in the paid help sense. He was an appliance that came with my condo, brand new, only seven years ago. All he needed was a new intake valve, but the brand had been discontinued. Long story short: for lack of a $20 part, I had to replace an otherwise functional, relatively new, allegedly high-end dishwasher.

With little else to do given the pandemic, I learned about this appliance in excruciating detail. Here’s what I learned during my browse...


1. What's in a brand name?

Some people swear it doesn’t matter. That you’re literally just paying for the name. That all you need is a good detergent (more on that below). But it turns out the dishwasher that came with my condo had a terrible reputation, both for its ability to clean and its endurance (I’m betting the developer got a wicked deal). Some neighbours bought new dishwashers as soon as they moved in. The high-end brand was indeed renowned…for terrible reviews.

My new dishwasher, on the other hand, is from the top brand in the category. She’s a Miele (and her name is Sheila). I won’t deny she was expensive, but I found her during a floor model sale for 25 percent off. The units are still built in Germany, at the family-owned factory, almost exclusively from their own parts. In terms of quality control, it doesn’t get better than this. And while most dishwashers won’t survive a decade, Miele estimates my Sheila should last 20 years. If you’re serious about going green, and can afford it, skipping yet another dishwasher replacement in 10 years is a great solution.


2. Less is more

It’s obvious we should choose a dishwasher that uses less water and power. But that doesn’t mean inferior units. My machine sips water and energy for mighty clean dishes. There was a giant energy consumption sticker slapped on the front that indicated it was the best in its category.


3. Keep it down

If, like me, your dishwasher is right outside your bedroom, a quiet machine is worth a lot. I turn mine on at bedtime (not like that) so I can wake up to clean dishes. Some of today’s units are whisper quiet. I still remember our first dishwasher in the '80s: it had a built-in garbage disposal and sounded like a racoon fighting a forklift. Sheila sounds like a trickling mountain stream, turning this grumpy bear’s bedroom into a cozy forest den. Just add essential oil aromatherapy diffuser.

dishwasher inside


4. Green and clean

After installing Sheila and turning off the built-in water softener (because we have soft water in Vancouver, but good to know if your tap water turns everything brown), the technician asked me what kind of detergent I used. Full disclosure: I was using the antithesis of green dishwasher detergent. Those candy-coloured pucks with red medallion that burst with chemical cleaning power (they were on sale and we’re in a pandemic; let’s focus on the big picture).

He explained that with a good dishwasher, these giant chemical pucks are just overkill. All you need is a tablespoon—max—of powdered detergent, paired with a good rinse aid (both of which are available in green options). If you prefer the convenience of detergent pucks, choose basic blocks and split them in half. Unless you’re cleaning filthy pans, this should cut it.


5. Sparkling clean conclusions

Do your research about reliable dishwashers. Don’t just buy the brand that matches your other appliances. Consider the years of energy and water consumption that await. Your sale price today might cost more down the road. It could mean fewer service calls, less dishwasher replacements, and ultimate savings on water, energy and money.