Shopping for new appliances can be overwhelming. Dishwasher models these days contain so many options for materials, cycles, noise level and energy consumption that it might seem hard to choose. Out of all the dishwasher elements, the racks might be the most important part: they have to hold your dishes properly so that everything is cleaned, and they have to stand up to high temperatures of water over and over throughout the life cycle of your appliance. Daily wear and tear can be hard on dishwasher racks, which can lead to rusting and deterioration. It's important that the racks are a good fit for your lifestyle.
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Best Dishwasher Rack Coatings
Most dishwasher racks are steel and coated with some sort of polymer. The most common coatings are nylon and PVC. Some dishwasher models come with stainless steel racks with no coating. As always, the material that's best for you is the one that best fits your personal needs.
Dishwasher with Stainless Steel Racks
Stainless steel dishwasher racks are the most durable, as stainless steel is an incredibly stable material. There's no coating that can chip or wear off, which means you don't have to worry about nicks or dents. Stainless steel does not easily rust, and resists the buildup of deposits and stains.
It can also withstand a higher temperature than most polymer coatings, which means the water in the dishwasher can run hotter. The biggest disadvantage to a dishwasher with stainless steel racks is that stainless steel is much more expensive of a material than others on the market, so the upfront cost of the dishwasher will be higher.
Nylon Coated Racks
Most Lowe's dishwashers and other dishwasher models available at your local hardware store will have racks made of steel with some type of nylon coating. This steel-nylon combination is less expensive than stainless steel, so the dishwasher model will be more affordable. The nylon coating is also far more durable than vinyl coatings used in the past; it won't easily chip or scrape off. It's a material that balances durability and affordability in a range most consumers prefer. The coating helps prevent food and deposits from sticking to the racks.
The downsides to nylon are that the coating can, over time, wear out; sharp knives may cut through the coating, and high temperatures can degrade the polymer. In cases where the coating is compromised, the steel underneath can rust. This can cause harm to and buildup on your dishes and inside the dishwasher, and small scratches will grow worse over time.
PVC and Other Vinyl Coatings
These days, there are very few models sold with vinyl polymer coatings (PVC being one example), mainly because nylon polymer coatings have taken over the market. The one advantage to a dishwasher with vinyl-coated racks will be the initial cost; vinyl coatings are cheaper than nylon coatings, so the upfront price of the dishwasher will be much less. However, these coatings are less durable than nylon versions, so they will be more likely to chip, scratch or wear out.
Common Use In Dishwashers
Dishwashers are sold as a whole package, so it's unlikely that you'll be able to customize a model with your preferred type of rack. As a general statement, you'll find vinyl racks in the lower-end, most affordable dishwasher models, labeled economy or efficiency brand.
Most midrange models will have nylon racks, although some might offer stainless steel racks along with a stainless steel interior tub, which offers more durability and better temperature performance. Top of the line models will have either nylon or stainless steel racks, depending on the brand and the type. While your needs may lean toward one type of rack or another, it appears that the market favors the nylon-coated steel racks as a balance of affordability and value.
Other Considerations for Dishwasher Racks
A good dishwasher rack isn't all about the material, either. You'll want to consider how you use your dishwasher and judge the design of the racks to see whether they will work for your lifestyle. Do you wash pots and pans in the dishwasher? In that case, Bellingham Electric Appliances recommends racks with tines designed to fold down into different configurations to help you fit those big items appropriately to make sure every surface is cleaned. Are you a household with children, using small dishes as well as large ones? You'll want to make sure the racks are spaced to fit both adult and child sized dishes. Do you go through dishes quickly so the dishwasher is always running? Look for a model with racks sized for higher capacity.
Caring For Your Dishwasher
The condition of your racks is critical to making sure your dishes come out clean, and general maintenance can help prolong the life of your dishwasher with a few simple steps.
- Clean the dishwasher filter on a regular schedule. The filter is what catches any leftover food residue, and that residue stays there until you clean it. Keeping your filter clean helps your dishwasher trap more residue and operate more efficiently.
- Descale the dishwasher regularly to remove any deposits from minerals in water. This can be done with white vinegar, lemon juice or baking soda, but there are also a number of products available from dishwasher manufacturers that can be used to descale any buildup.
- Regularly check the dishwasher parts. The seals around the door can build up residue that can be harmful; clean it out with a washcloth and soap. The spinning arms that distribute water can also collect buildup, which will make them less effective. You can use a toothpick to clean any residue out of the water holes on the arms.
- Monitor the dish racks for dents, scratches and rust. With polymer-coated racks, spots of rust indicate places where the coating has been worn away. You'll need to address these weak spots immediately with a replacement cap or a suitable coating. Rust can build up inside the dishwasher pump and eventually plug it up.
- Be careful how you load the dishwasher. Don't overload it, or you'll start seeing dishes that aren't entirely clean. Scrape plates off before putting them in the dishwasher; they don't need a thorough rinse, but scraping off major food bits helps extend the life of the filter. Most importantly, limit dishwasher use to kitchen dishes. It may seem convenient to put in things like car parts that need cleaning, but these can introduce chemicals that your dishwasher is not meant to handle.
Other Dishwasher Components
A dishwasher's racks are important, but they're only one piece of an appliance made to do many things. You'll also need to consider the materials used in the interior tub. Again, stainless steel has some advantages with regards to high temperatures and heat retention, but will be more expensive.
Consider whether the dishwasher's ambient noise matters in your household. Some will demand models made to be quieter, while others will decide that dishwasher noise is a low priority. While many models these days are made to be energy-efficient, power usage can be a concern if you are environmentally inclined or if you desire a lower bill. Also, select a dishwasher with cycle options that fit your intended uses to make sure the dishwasher will be a perfect fit.