Dishwashers: European vs. American by Conal

Hey Appliance Fans,

I break out in hives every time I see one of his movies.

I break out in hives every time I see one of his movies.

Happy new year everyone and Welcome to 2013!  Let’s do a quick review of 2012 before we tackle today’s topic:

  1. The Mayans got it all wrong.  So many people bought into this Mayan stuff without thinking about it the Kieffer’s Guy way: how on earth is a civilization that doesn’t have antibiotics going to figure out that the earth would end, but we missed it even though we’ve created things like the computer, the internet, and Nicholas Cage’s career?  Baffling.
  2. Lance Armstrong is a dope (every pun intended), but his kitchen is still awesome.
  3. Chip Kelly is now the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.  I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.  We’ll have to ask the Mayans.

Most of my previous posts about dishwashers are extremely popular with my MILLIONS of readers so I thought I’d break down dishwashers into three main categories and explain what the major differences are between the three categories: American Style, European Style, and Gangnam Style.

Your 15 minutes is almost over, Psy.

Your 15 minutes is almost over, Psy.

Apparently one of my co-workers is telling me that Gangnam Style is a song by some weird Korean dude and it’s not an actual type of dishwasher.  I learn something new every day!  Anyway, European and American styles are very real types of dishwashers so here we go:

European Style vs. American Style Dishwashers

I’m going to paint with a broad brush here so please realize that there are differences from brand to brand and model to model, but all European style dishwashers basically operate the same way and American style dishwashers basically operate in the same way.

Internal Water Heater — European Models: The water leaves the wash arms at the correct temperature based on the wash cycle the user has selected.  American dishwashers have a heating element at the bottom of the tub and that’s how the water is heated.  This has no bearing on how your dishes are cleaned.  Hot water is hot water.  What an internal water heater does provide is that most everything is now dishwasher safe; specifically plastics that would normally melt.  We all know that we can put plastics in the top rack of an American Dishwasher but you can’t put them in the bottom rack because the heating coil will melt the plastic during the dry cycle.  Since there isn’t a heating coil in European models, you can put plastics anywhere in the bottom rack and I’m talking about the cheap takeout silverware you get at a pizza place.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes, they won’t melt.

Heating Coil – American Models: As I mentioned above, American dishwashers have a heating element at the bottom of the tub.  This heats the water during a wash cycle, but also provides a heated dry option.  It’s during the heated dry cycle that items in the bottom rack can melt.  European dishwashers don’t have a heated dry cycle.  They utilize condensation dry which means that after a cycle ends, the dishes are extremely hot, but the stainless interior of the dishwasher is cooler.  The cooler stainless steel draws the moisture off of the dishes and onto the sides of the dishwasher.  Some more advanced models (like a Miele Diamond dishwasher) have a little bit of space between the stainless interior and the exterior walls of the unit.  Cooler air is pumped into this space to further cool the stainless interior thus helping to draw even more moisture off the dishes.  A dishwasher with a heated dry option will use more energy than a European model.

Flush Design – European Models:  Dishwashers of the European variety can be installed flush with your cabinetry while American units are designed about an inch deeper.  This means that American models will stick out about an inch to an inch and a quarter.  No big deal, I have an American style at home and it doesn’t bother me; however, if you want to put a wood panel onto the dishwasher, then a European dishwasher is for you.  Let me repeat that, if you want to put a wood panel onto your dishwasher, chose a European brand because they can be installed flush.  If you’re not installing a wood panel on the front, but you still want a flush install, select a European model.

See how this Whirlpool sticks out from the cabinetry?

See how this Whirlpool sticks out from the cabinetry?

Notice how this Miele is installed flush with the cabinetry?

Notice how this Bosch is installed flush with the cabinetry?

Hard Food Disposer—American Models (sometimes) European Models (never):  Think of a hard food disposer as a garbage disposer in your dishwasher.  It grinds up bigger pieces of food that remained on your dishes after you scrapped them over a trash can.  SOME, I repeat SOME, American models have this feature while others don’t.  European models and some American models grind up food with a multi-stage filtration system.  Hot water pushes food particles through levels of filters which break up the food.  Remember that the main themes in dishwashing are quietness and energy efficiency.  Adding a hard food disposer adds noise and uses more energy.  When I say more energy, I don’t mean a glaring difference on your utility bill (you’ll never notice), but it does use more energy.


As I mentioned before, these are some major differences between American and European style dishwashers.  You will find some differences from brand to brand and model to model.  If you want to be bored with even more detail, call or stop into our showroom and one of our salespeople will be happy to help you.  Until next time, America!

Brands That Offer a European Style Dishwasher:

  • Gaggenau
  • Miele
  • Bosch
  • Thermador
  • Blomberg
  • Electrolux
  • Asko
  • Viking

Brands that Offer an American Style:

  • Kitchenaid
  • Whirlpool
  • Maytag
  • GE
  • GE Monogram
  • Frigidaire

-The Kieffer’s Guy

As always, don’t forget to visit the Kieffer’s website for all of your appliance needs in Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington DC!