UPDATE... I've switched dishwasher detergents, and now I DO think this machine is a miracle worker! or maybe it's the detergent that works the miracles. Anyhow... take this all with a grain of salt and if you want to read about my detergent discovery, click here.
Now that I've had my new Bosch Ascenta dishwasher for nearly a month, I figured I'd do a little review and tell y'all what I think.
The short story is that... well, it's a dishwasher, not a miracle worker, but it is by far the best dishwasher that I have ever owned. Now, to put that statement in context, I have never owned a nice dishwasher before. I've always had the cheap variety with no disposer, you know, the kind that doesn't get your dishes clean and sounds like a cement mixer - so bear that in mind here.
I got it at Best Buy and as luck would have it, it was on sale and they were having a free delivery and installation special, so the entire thing ended up costing me about $550 - that includes taxes, delivery and installation. Not a bad deal.
I chose this model because Consumer Reports just LOVED the Bosch, and in particular they loved the Ascenta.
So here are my thoughts...
First of all, the thing is gorgeous... I mean the stainless steel interior is really pretty. I realize this falls near the top of the ridiculous scale in terms of rating appliances, but still... it makes me smile every time I open it up.
One of the real selling points of Bosch dishwashers is that they are quiet, and this is definitely true. Now, this model is rated at 50 dBA, so it's not like you can't hear it or anything... but it's quieter than the furnace, and the noisiest part of the cycle is a little glugging sound when it drains. My house is very small with an open design, so this is a very nice feature. I think that some of the more expensive Bosch lines are even quieter.
Many of the reviews that I read complained that the Bosch had a smaller capacity than other dishwashers, and for the life of me, I really can't figure out what they're talking about. I'm sure some of this varies depending on the racks, but I seriously have a hard time filling the sucker up before I run out of dishes.
The racks are designed more for actual dishes rather than large bowls, pots & pans etc... but I haven't yet found anything that I couldn't make fit. And the little silverware cages have these nifty slots in them to keep the spoons from getting nested, which is totally WONDERFUL!
The other really nice feature is that it has a separate spray arm for the top shelf, so you can actually put pots, pans and bowls face down in the bottom shelf without blocking all of the water to the top shelf. This is a REALLY nice feature.
So... on to the important stuff... how does it clean? OK, so all new dishwashers claim that you don't have to pre-rinse dishes. Even the Kenmore that died made this claim, and I basically found it to be hogwash. But, being an open minded person I figured I'd give it a shot.
And much to my surprise, it actually does live up to this claim... with a few caveats.
First of all, it doesn't get the baked on stuff. I guess that's not terribly surprising. To be fair, I never would have dreamed of even putting this sort of thing into my old dishwasher in the first place, so I don't really have anything to compare it to.
But lasagna pans and other baked on stuff do require a bit of either pre or post scrubbing in order to clean off the baked on bits. But really it's more like a post cycle wipe than an actual scrubbing. Since I've entered "cheese probation" this has been less of an issue...
The other issue isn't so much with getting the dishes clean per se, it's with stuff getting re-deposited on the dishes. The first few times I ran the sucker I ended up with cat food and detergent residue stuck all over at least half of the dishes.
I've been running it on the automatic cycle, which "senses" how dirty the water is and determines how many rinses are necessary. So it could be that if I chose one of the other cycles (either normal or heavy) the problem might have been solved, but I never got that far. I'm also not using a rinse aid - which I will discuss later.
But I found that the residue problem was solved by simply doing a better job of scraping the dishes (like using a spatula rather than a spoon).
Now... to clarify, I don't actually have to scrape my dishes at all... but I am a card carrying member of the clean plate club... at OCD membership level, so I never leave anything meaningful on the plate.
CatMan, on the other hand... I have to scrape his dishes, as well as serving/storage containers. And with the cat food... well, I've found that it's easiest to just give those dishes a quick pre-rinse since I have to rinse the cans anyhow before putting them in the recycling. But scraping with a spatula worked there too.
|This is how I generally leave my plates...|
Now... on to the rinse aids. The manual says that you should always use Jet Dry or a similar rinse aid, and to be honest, this sort of rubs me the wrong way. I just don't like the idea of having to purchase yet another product, nor do I relish the idea of having god-knows-what-chemicals in the final rinse water.
So, I did some research, and here's what I discovered about rinse aids. They have basically three main components/purposes. First of all they generally have citric acid or some other acidic ingredient designed to keep hard water deposits from forming on the glasses. Do I care? no.
Secondly, they have alcohol, which is designed to help the dishes dry faster and more effectively. Eh... sort of nice, but really not worth worrying about in my opinion.
And finally, they contain a surfactant, which is essentially some sort of soap or other chemical designed to break the surface tension and make the water (as well as any food or detergent residue) sheet off of the dishes rather than getting re-deposited on them. This is probably the main reason that they recommend using a rinse aid, and why so many people report sub-par results without it.
Still, I'm not wild about the idea of ingesting said "surfactant" plus, I realize I'm splitting environmental hairs here, but I think that the impact of a tiny bit of pre-rinsing has got to be less than the impact of manufacturing and distributing the rinse aid... not to mention the waste water issue.
And speaking of environmental issues... the Bosch scores rather remarkably on that front. It only uses 2.7 gallons of water per load and the Energy Star label says that if you do 4 loads per week you'll only burn 279 kWh per year with an electric water heater, and even less if you have a gas water heater.
Those figures have done wonders for my environmental guilt, and have allowed me to use the thing to clean stuff like mixing bowls, serving dishes and pots that I normally would have done by hand. Maybe this is just rationalization, but I think ultimately it uses less energy to toss them in the dishwasher than to clean them by hand it it sure makes life a LOT easier!
And speaking of making life easier... I've never actually used the drying feature on a dishwasher before. This was partly to conserve energy, but I also had a few nasty melted plastic incidents which scared me off. But the Bosch turns this all on its head.
It doesn't actually have a heating element... the water is heated as it enters the machine sort of like an on-demand water heater. The stainless steel interior actually functions as a condensing plate in the drying process. When the washing and rinsing is complete the water condenses on the stainless steel walls where it trickles down and is ultimately pumped from the machine.
So the drying cycle uses no extra energy, and I've gotta say it's sort of life changing to be able to open the machine and put the dishes away immediately, rather than having to wait several hours for them to dry. It has all but done away with the piles of dishes in the sink because if I put the dishes away as soon as they're done, then the dirty ones can go straight into the dishwasher instead of ending up all over the kitchen.
The only other issue that I'll touch on here is the sanitize feature. I'm generally not overly concerned with issues like sanitizing things... I figure we're surrounded by germs and bacteria 24/7 anyhow, and the "clean world" fantasy is pretty much delusional.
But, recently Smoky developed a bit of feline acne, and everything I read says that this is generally caused by lingering bacteria on food and water dishes. Using the sanitize feature has totally cleared up his acne, so it's completely worth it! Plus, since I've started eating meat again, I do worry a bit more about bacteria on food prep items.
In some of the reviews that I read people had problems getting the water hot enough. Bosch's recommendation was to run the hot water in your kitchen sink until it got really hot before starting the machine. Ummm... pardon my saying this, but this would seem to negate any environmental benefit that the thing might convey!
I generally clean the cast iron and other hand washables right before running the machine so that sort of serves the same purpose, but I've run it several times without warming up the water first... and let me tell you, it takes FOREVER for the kitchen water to get hot in this house... and the dishes were still all hot and steamy at the end of the cycle.
So, all in all I am very happy with my new dishwasher. I just hope it lasts a good long time!