This Little Aesthetic Feature Makes a Big Difference on a Dishwasher

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Left: ppart/Right:BalancePhoto)

If you haven’t been dishwasher shopping in a while (or ever), know this: Dishwashers have gotten pretty fancy! Like, really fancy. Not only do they clean your dishes, but many now also come with built-in sensors to determine how soiled your dishes happen to be. They also have all sorts of settings and rack configurations (silverware caddies verses drawers or adjustable tines, for example). You’re gonna have a ton of choices and things to think about when you get to the store.

One very important decision seems mostly aesthetic-related: Do you want the controls to be on the face of the door or integrated into the top of the door? Did you even know that’s an option? Crazy, right? To help you pick, we’ve broken down the pros and cons of each style.

(Image credit: Gina Eykemans)

The Pros and Cons of a Front-Facing Control Panel

This is the classic dishwasher — the thing that comes to mind when you picture a dishwasher. With the buttons on the front of the door, these dishwashers are timeless and easy to operate, but they actually have some cons, too.

Pro: It’s a classic look.

Front panels have evolved from knobs to buttons to full-on touch screens, but one thing always remains: This has been the classic dishwasher style since the appliance hit the general market in the 1950s. Whether you’re investing in a remodel of your kitchen or just replacing a broken dishwasher, it’s nice to know that it will never look particularly dated.

Pro: You can find an inexpensive option.

You can get a decent, basic dishwasher — with the controls on the front of the door — for a few hundred bucks. Dishwashers with integrated controls typically start a couple hundred dollars higher.

Pro: The buttons are where you can see them.

Not sure if the dishwasher has finished its cycle? (They’re so quiet these days!) With the controls on the front, there’s usually some sort of countdown that will let you know where the machine is in the process. With integrated controls, it can be harder to tell when the cycle is over (unless the door has a built-in indicator light or a window, which is a newer option to hit the market).

Con: The buttons are where you can see them.

Some people just want a clean, sleek look and those pesky buttons mess that up.

Con: It’s easier for the buttons to be accidentally pushed.

This is especially true if you have kids in your house, or narrow pathways in front of the dishwasher. If you have a front control, sometimes even the slightest push can alter the rinse cycle or start the machine. And it comes as no surprise that those buttons and knobs are almost irresistible to little kids in your home!

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

The Pros and Cons of Integrated Controls

The main reason to get a dishwasher with integrated controls is aesthetic-based: Perhaps you prefer clean lines? You may gravitate toward this option, but there are a few things you might not have considered. Here are some of the biggest factors worth keeping in mind.

Pro: You’ll get a seamless look.

If the goal of your kitchen design is a minimalist and elevated look, choosing a top-control dishwasher could be the right choice for you. The smooth finish and lack of any front controls and lights keep it looking a little bit chicer than options with buttons in the front. You can also add a panel to match your cabinetry if you want it to truly be disguised.

Pro: Kids are less likely to be enticed by the buttons.

With the buttons hidden at the top of the dishwasher door, its way less likely that little kids will mess with them while you make dinner. You know the saying: Out of sight, out of mind.

Con: It can be hard to tell when a cycle is over.

The cycle and start buttons are on the top of the door, so you press them before you shut it, and then wait for the machine to start running. Without a front-and-center display, you might feel like you’re in the dark about what the heck is going on in there, so there are bound to be times when you open the door, only to interrupt a cycle. Note: There are some models that have small indicator lights or even windows, although the panes may detract from that seamless look you were going for.

Con: The controls are often smaller.

There’s not a ton of room on the top edge of a dishwasher door, which means touch panels or buttons are going to be limited in terms of size. But at least the buttons are facing up, so you wont have to crane your neck too much.

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