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Glossary of Terms

Getting to know dishwasher jargin will make it easier for you to compare models and shop. Read our glossary of terms and find out about dishwashing features, options and what types are available today.


Add a dish light - This feature indicates at what point in the wash cycle dishes can still be added.

Adjustable upper rack - Accommodate tall items by moving the upper rack up or down.

Adjustable tines - Rack tines fold down to make room for large pots, pans and other awkward items.

Built-in - Also referred to as an under counter dishwasher. This dishwasher is meant to be installed under a countertop.

China/crystal cycle - This option lets you wash fragile stemware and dishes by either using less water pressure or a shorter cycle setting.

Compact - An 18" wide dishwasher designed for narrow spaces.

Controls - Rotary knobs, push button or electronic touchpads (microprocessors) designed to regulate dishwashing functions. Most common are rotary knobs. Most sleek,
electronic controls.

Countertop - These dishwashers are designed to sit above the counter. Often the size of a microwave; these small dishwashers are useful where space is limited: RVs, Boat etc.

Cutlery tray - cutlery lies flat on top of a pullout tray. This feature is convenient for holding utensils, such as carving knives.

Delay start option - A timer option that allows you to program the dishwasher to start at a later time.

Dishwasher drawers - Small dishwashers designed to integrate into the kitchen or mini bar. Look like real drawers.

Dirt sensor - Also referred to as a soil sensor. This feature (the sensor), detects the amount of food particles in the dishwasher and automatically adjusts the length of the cycle.

Door lock - This feature safeguards children by locking the door when the machine is on.

Drying options - Heat option - bottom coil heats up and dries dishes; No heat option - dishes dry naturally by convection; no power is used; Fan assist dry - employs a quietly running fan to dry dishes and plastic items quickly and efficiently.

End-of-cycle signal - A light that lets you see when the cycle has ended.

Energy saver wash - This option lets the dishwasher operate at a lower than normal energy level. It does this by either using less water or turning off the heating element.

Flood protection system - This feature will shut off the dishwasher if the water level becomes too high due to improper drainage.

Food disposer - This feature captures food particles during the wash cycle and grinds them up similar to a garbage disposal; when ground particles can be filtered out and washed away.

Half load cycle - Top or bottom rack is filled to run half load.

Heavy cycle - Wash cycle that employs maximum water pressure, or runs longer, hotter washes to clean heavily soiled items such as dishes with burned-on foods.

Indicator lights - Informs you about the progress of the wash/rinse cycle.

Light cycle - Designed to clean lightly soiled dishes such as china. This cycle runs for a shorter time and with less heat than the normal wash cycle.

Normal cycle - Designed to clean everyday soil from dishes, flatware and glasses.

Partially hidden control - Also referred to as semi-integrated controls. This design hides the control panel on the top of the dishwasher door instead of the front. However, the dishwasher front typically includes a time remaining display and a way to know that the machine is running.

Place setting - A table service for one person that includes a large plate, small plate, bowl, cup and saucer. Most dishwashers include information about how many place setting the machine can hold.

Plate warmer cycle - This cycle lets you to warm plates prior to serving food. No water is used.

Portable dishwasher - A freestanding dishwasher designed to be moved from one place to another on a set of wheels or casters. To run, the dishwasher must be hooked up to a faucet and will need to drain into a sink. Most portable units come with a wood or laminate countertop useful for additional counter space.

Pots and pans cycle - This wash cycle uses maximum water pressure and/or longer, hotter washes to clean heavily soiled dishes.

Pump - A motor designed to circulate water throughout the dishwasher and drain the tub when the wash cycle is complete. The water output of the pump is usually measured in gallons per minute. It can range from 6 gpm to 52 gpm.

Quick cycle - Often referred to as econo/short cycle. This cycle is designed to clean lightly soiled loads.

Racks - Pull out shelving where glasses, cups, stemware and dishes are stacked. Different rack configurations include: adjustable racks, cup shelves with fold-down and removable tines, stemware holders and cutlery trays. Racks are often plastic coated or all plastic. Premium racks may be coated with more durable nylon. Third rack options allow for a third dishwasher rack. This new space in the dishwasher bottom allows for convenient washing of odd shaped pots, pans, and bowls.

Rear rollers - Wheels at the bottom of the unit which make it easier to slide the dishwasher into place.

Reversible door panel - This option allows you to match the dishwasher to the kitchen's décor: the door panel slides out to reveal another panel color on the opposite side.

Rinse aid dispenser - A dispenser inside the door that automatically distributes the rinse agent, which minimizes hard water spotting on dishes.

Safety lock - A feature designed to lock either the control panel (so settings can't be changed) or the door of the dishwasher.

Sanitizing wash/rinse - Designed to kill some bacteria on dishes by running a longer, hotter wash and rinse cycle.

Self adjusting rear leveling legs - This device automatically levels your dishwasher.

Sound reduction system - Insulation designed to dampen noise.

Spray arm - Rotating radiating blades that propel water throughout the dishwasher via small holes in the blades. The arm can be located below or above the racks, depending on the model.

Spray tower - A retractable water distribution device on the bottom of the tub driven by the pressure of water.

Time remaining display - Located on the control panel this feature shows how much time is left before the cycle is complete.

Trim kit - A package of cabinet matching hardware such as brackets and clips sold by the dishwasher manufacturer. This hardware enables a cabinetmaker to attach custom made panels to the dishwasher door making the appliance appear built-in.

Tub - The interior cavity of the dishwasher. Tub is lined in either stainless steel or plastic. Stainless steel is more expensive and desirable.

Water consumption - The number of gallons of water a dishwasher uses when set on the normal wash cycle.

Water temperature options - This feature increases the dishwasher's incoming water temperature to 135 - 140 degrees for better cleaning. To sanitize, adjust the temperature to 160 degrees F.

See any errors? Have any suggestions for a dishwasher term, please let us know.

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