People often ask our sales staff - "How quiet is this model?" We try to give the most precise answer that we can by using decibel (dB) rating. The quietness of a dishwasher wasn't an issue when dishwashers became a staple household appliance in the 1970s, but today consumers are willing to pay more for appliances that operate quietly. Bosch was the first to offer quieter models in the early 2000s, and other brands were quick to follow as demand rose.
Quieter dishwashers are recommended for homes with open floor plans - where sound can easily travel from the kitchen to other areas of the home - and for homes where the kitchen is a central gathering place. Older dishwashers are noisy enough that trying to carry on a conversation in the kitchen while it's running might be a frustrating task!
Dishwasher decibel levels are a way to describe exactly how quiet or noisy a dishwasher is while in operation. We'll explain what these ratings mean for you and explore why today's dishwashers can be so quiet! For more information on choosing a new dishwasher, check out our dishwasher buying guide!
Decibel Levels - What They Are & How They Impact Dishwasher Prices
The decibel level is a measure of the noise level of the dishwasher while in operation - decibels measure the intensity of a sound. The dB rating shows how quiet (or noisy) a dishwasher will be, based on an average taken from the dishwasher in operation. Dishwasher decibel levels will range from about 38 dB (quietest) to about 62 dB (loudest). Any dishwasher with a rating of 52 dB or below will be a good choice and very quiet compared to most older dishwashers.
To give you a point of reference, the typical conversation takes place at around 50-60 decibels, while a whisper is about 30 decibels - hence why some dishwashers can literally be called "whisper-quiet!" Even a 50 dB dishwasher will operate at 25% of the loudness of a 60 dB dishwasher - a huge difference from older machines.
You may also see "dBA" measurements, or "A-weighted decibels" used for dishwasher decibel levels. These decibel values have been adjusted to reflect the way the human ear hears, and are commonly used to measure environmental noise. They usually filter out the higher and lower frequencies that we don't usually hear well or at all, but don't take into consideration that sudden changes in noise level are more noticeable than a flat, even tone. When it comes to dishwashers, there is not much difference between dB or dBA and you can treat them as interchangeable.
Dishwasher decibel levels are based on an average taken over the course of the dishwasher's cycle. So your dishwasher may not operate at exactly the listed decibel rating at all times, although manufacturers have tried to reduce the duration of louder sounds like food particle disposals or drain pumps. If you find yourself struggling to decide between models with a difference of one or two decibels, the difference is so minimal that you're better off comparing their other features and options than focusing solely on operation noise.
Like many things we buy, the better performance or features, the higher the cost. When you ask - How quiet can a dishwasher be? That often depends on how much you are willing to spend. If you want to spend from $999 to $1,599, you can get a dishwasher with a dB rating of 38 to 43, which is almost silent. Some of us don't want to spend that much, or have other factors we weigh more highly than operation noise when buying a new dishwasher (check out our dishwasher buying guide for more info).
You can get a good dishwasher with a dB rating of 44 to 52, which will be very quiet compared to most older models and will not break the bank. These dishwashers start at about the $499 price point and will go up to about $999 depending on the brand, model and dB rating that you choose. Lower-end dishwashers priced from $299 to $499 will be noisier, with dB ratings up to 62, and may not be much quieter than your old clunker.
How Manufacturers Make Dishwashers Quieter
Manufacturers have done a lot to expand the features and options of today's dishwashers. There are many factors that can affect dishwasher decibel levels. For example, a stainless steel interior dishwasher is generally quieter than a plastic tub. A dishwasher with a self-cleaning filter may be louder than a model with a manual clean filter because the dishwasher has to grind up and wash away any food particles caught in the filter.
New sound damping technologies are also a big deal: liquid-applied sound damping technology offers serious sound damping while being easy to apply and inexpensive. This is more effective than traditional insulation methods, and combined with better insulation around core areas like the motor, we can experience much lower dishwasher decibel levels than ever before!
Other improvements include variable-speed motors (rather than the motor running on high power all the time), quieter water pumps, and changes to spray arms and dishwasher racks to reduce sounds from the water and dishware moving around the interior.
What do you look for in a new dishwasher? Do you find decibel ratings helpful? Leave us a comment below - We'd love to hear from you!
For more information about all brands, models and styles of dishwashers and the entire dishwasher buying process, feel free to download our FREE Dishwasher Buyer's Guide. It is packed with information to help educate you so you can make a great purchase.
Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in August of 2017 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy as of the publication date noted above.