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A dishwasher can be an extremely useful appliance. The automatic washing and drying of dishes, glasses, pots and pans, cutlery and other kitchen staples is a welcome time saver, especially when you have a family or live with other people. It also spares you from the physical exertion of hand washing dishes (more so for heavily stained ones). It may surprise you to know that dishwashers use considerably less water than is used during hand washing dishes – so an energy-efficient washing machine is also good for the environment.

However, there are challenges that come with installing a built-in dishwasher. First of all, you may simply not have the space to do so. In a smaller kitchen, there may literally be no counter space to install a dishwasher – even if you removed cabinets or other appliances. Alternatively, there may technically be space where a dishwasher could fit, but it would either take away integral cabinet or counter space and disrupt the aesthetics of your beautifully designed kitchen. There are also the logistics of creating permanent plumbing for your built-in dishwasher. Lastly, it goes without saying that the renovations, electrical wiring and plumbing work that go into installing a built-in dishwasher are not cheap.

Thankfully, if a built-in dishwasher isn’t a viable option for you, that does not mean you’re stuck hand washing dishes for the rest of your life. An excellent alternative is a portable dishwasher. Some of us that remember portable dishwashers as children may be surprised that they still exist. Well, they still do – and they are far more advanced and better than ever! Today, many portable dishwashers boast the exact same features as built-in models. Some larger models offer the same capacity as full-sized fixed dishwashers, making them a real option for those who need the convenience of a dishwasher but are unable to install a built-in model.

If you’re thinking of purchasing a portable dishwasher, there are a few things you should consider in order to ascertain which model is right for you.


To most of us, there is only one type of portable dishwasher – models that very closely resemble built-in dishwashers, except they are on wheels. However, there is an entirely different type of portable dishwasher available – the countertop dishwasher. These units, as the name suggests, sit on the countertop as a toaster or electrical slow cooker would (though of course, quite a bit larger). There are pros and cons to each – depending on your personal circumstances; one may be more suited to your needs than the other.

“Stand Up” Portable Dishwasher: Other than some being a bit slimmer than built-in models, these are extremely similar to their fixed counterparts. They will have interior designs familiar to anyone that has used a dishwasher, a similar number of place settings and can come with the same rich feature set that built-in dishwashers are known for. Their similar capacities make these the choice for those with families or avid cooks who will constantly have a pile of dirty dishes. You’ll also want to make sure there is cabinet space – or at least unused floor space – in which to store your portable dishwasher. If the only thing stopping you from getting a built-in model is the permanent plumbing and the expense of renovations, you will almost certainly want to go with one of these.

Countertop Dishwasher: These compact appliances are excellent for when you desire the convenience of a dishwasher but space is at an absolute premium. At times, a full-sized portable dishwasher is not a viable option because it will literally take up the majority of a small kitchenette, rendering the space unusable while it is in use. In similarly small spaces, there is likely nowhere to store the dishwasher when it is not in use – and an extra appliance taking up precious usable floor space in an already small living area is the last thing you want when buying a ‘space saving’ dishwasher. In these situations, a countertop model may be the one for you. Naturally, it has less capacity than a full-sized model – so this is not the type you want to purchase for your family of five. Countertop dishwashers are best for an individual or couple, especially renters, for whom space is at an absolute premium.

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This is a “stop and investigate” moment, as it has huge implications for your decision to purchase a portable dishwasher. As you know, portable dishwashers work by being attached to a hot water source through built-in hosing. However, it is not a foregone conclusion that the dishwasher’s coupling mechanism will fit your kitchen faucet. Most will need a threaded faucet – and even when an adapter is provided, many more ornate faucets or those with built-in sprayers will not be able to accept it.

When considering a portable dishwasher, first find out what types of taps the hose coupler fits, and if there is an adapter, what types the adapter fits. If you are unsure whether your faucet is a match, inquire with the faucet manufacturer or contact a plumber. It is often an easy solution, but in the event that it will require extensive modification (or you do not wish to alter your tapware), then you may need to further consider whether a portable dishwasher is for you.

With the excitement of acquiring a dishwasher, we may simply think, “And we can store it when it’s not in use!” without further considering exactly where it will be stored. First, look around the immediate area (as you would no doubt like to avoid wheeling the appliance all over the living space) to see where it may be stored. When you’ve found a promising spot, carefully measure the available space. (i.e., don’t measure the entire pantry, but the space therein not taken up by other items). If it is a cupboard or pantry, make sure to measure the entry dimensions as well. These steps may save you disappointment later on. The difference between an 18” wide dishwasher and 22” wide dishwasher may seem negligible when thinking of its footprint while in use, but if the available storage space or door to your cupboard is 20″, it makes all the difference in the world. If your only option is in a corner alongside the counter, then you may wish to acquire a portable dishwasher the same height with your counters and with a matching top so it blends well. And if the only storage space is truly small (or there is none at all), this may mean a countertop dishwasher is your only option.

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Yes, by definition these dishwashers are all portable. However, levels of portability can certainly vary, and this is a very important consideration depending on your circumstances. When it comes to stand-up portable models, their weight can vary by 50 pounds or more. This can make a big difference in many situations – e.g., if there is a ridge or small step between the sink and the storage space, or if the dishwasher must be rolled on a resistive surface like carpet or linoleum. Also, many people buy a portable dishwasher as an investment – one that will follow them as their living arrangements change. One that can be moved outdoors and in and out a vehicle more easily is far preferable in this case. In terms of countertop dishwashers, this consideration is even more important. These units can weigh as little as 10 pounds and as much as 50 pounds. While, for quality and capacity’s sake, you may want to forego the feather-light models, it is conceivable that you can find a countertop dishwasher that you can move into storage on your own, or conversely, one that two people would struggle to carry. Researching the weight as well as ease-of-grip of countertop dishwashers is always suggested.

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Modern dishwashers are exponentially quieter than older models, with some even offering special “silent” (not literally silent, but whisper quiet) modes. With portable dishwashers, we must remember that water is expelled into the sink rather than through hidden piping, and this in itself creates noise. As a result, we should try to ensure our dishwasher is as quiet as possible during other cycles. Many dishwashers today have a noise rating of 55 dB or so – about the sound level of a microwave. When choosing a dishwasher, you should try to find one that does not have a rating much louder than this. 65 dB or even 60dB can be surprisingly louder, and quickly become a nuisance to occupants of the home.

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Studies have shown that washing dishes by hand can result in the consumption of nearly 30 gallons of water. As they use only a fraction of this amount, the purchase of any dishwasher means you will be saving yourself immense water costs and helping the environment. However, in certain cases (areas with water shortages and high water costs), every drop may count. In such a situation, it is important to find out which of the portable washing machines that suit your needs will use the least water. Many manufacturers will provide information on how much water a dishwasher consumes per load. In addition, you can look for models with eco-friendly wash cycles. Stand-up portable dishwashers use about three gallons of water per load, while countertop models use about two, so if you don’t need the extra capacity of a standup model, you can cut down on your consumption by going with a countertop model.

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Like all appliances, always look for a portable dishwasher that has the Energy Star rating. With so many available, you are almost sure to be able to find one that fits your needs – and the energy savings over time compared to a non-Energy Star-compliant model will be considerable. You can go even further than this – manufacturers generally provide exact energy consumption ratings for their dishwashers. Compare the models that fit your needs, and save hundreds of dollars (if not more) over years of use by choosing one with excellent energy consumption.

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The insides of your portable dishwasher can be made of two materials – plastic or stainless steel. The fact of the matter is, a stainless steel interior is superior to a plastic one in many ways. Before going into how it is superior, it is important to note that the plastic used for dishwasher interiors is usually very durable and often lasts the entire life of the dishwasher. However, the fact remains that stainless steel provides a number of advantages. Stainless steel resists corrosion, and at the end of the day, is more durable than plastic. If you expect your dishwasher to be run extremely regularly or on extra-hot cycles, you may want to stick with steel. One of steel’s greatest advantages, however, is its better heat retention. Because of this, dishwashers with steel tubs are far more efficient in the drying cycle. They are also quieter, for the most part, dampening noise more effectively than plastic. In addition to having better aesthetics, to begin with, steel interiors also resist stains and odors throughout the life of the dishwasher. Arguably, the only place plastic tub dishwashers come out on top is the price – they are usually cheaper than those with steel interiors. If you are considering a plastic tub dishwasher for this reason, we would consider calculating the energy costs saved with a similar steel tub model. However, if you do not foresee extreme use, and the savings are considerable, a plastic interior portable dishwasher should not cause you any problems.

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  • Wash Cycles – Cycles like “pots and pans,” “quiet,” and “eco-friendly” may be preferable for certain consumers.
  • Place Settings and Tray Layout – Think ahead to what you will be washing and how much per load.
  • Delayed Start – This feature can be especially useful with portable dishwashers. Running your dishwasher later at night means it will not be in anyone’s way or disturb those in adjacent rooms. However, you may not want to deal with moving and attaching your portable dishwasher late at night. With this feature, you can do this earlier in the night when leaving the kitchen, setting it to begin at whatever time you desire.
  • Hard Food Disposer – This feature makes dishwashing even easier. Hardened pieces of food stuck to your dishes and pans do not need to be scrubbed off for fear of clogging your dishwasher – instead, they will be crushed by the disposer and disposed of.

When a built-in dishwasher is not an option, a standing portable dishwasher or countertop model can be an excellent alternative. Here are some suggested models.

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Full Featured Portable


Portable Dishwasher Buying Guide GE-GSC3500DWW

Space Saver

Sunpentown SD9241SS

Portable Dishwasher Buying Guide Sunpentown-SD9241SS

Ultimate Portability

Magic Chef MCSCD6W3

Portable Dishwasher Buying Guide Magic-Chef-MCSCD6W3

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