The dishwasher is a staple appliance wherever kitchens are found, but not all kitchens are compatible with the installation of a traditional built-in dishwasher. The portable dishwasher is a great alternative for apartments, offices, gathering facilities, and homes. Designed to hook up to your kitchen sink, you can run your portable dishwasher and then tuck it out of the way until the next load of dirty dishes is ready.
If you don't have room for a built-in dishwasher, a portable dishwasher might be the perfect option for you. We'll go over the features of a typical portable dishwasher and compare countertop dishwasher models to full size portable dishwashers. We'll also review a popular Whirlpool portable dishwasher and Danby countertop dishwasher, too! (For more information on choosing a new dishwasher, take a look at our dishwasher buying guide.)
Table of Contents
- How Does a Portable Dishwasher Work?
- Whirlpool Portable Dishwasher Review
- Danby Countertop Dishwasher Review
An Introduction to Portable Dishwasher Types & Options
If you don't have the space for a traditional dishwasher and have taken a look at other compact dishwasher options like drawer dishwashers and 18-inch dishwashers (click the links for our reviews of these dishwasher types!), you might be considering a freestanding portable dishwasher or a countertop dishwasher model. These compact dishwashers are still a better option than hand washing to clean dishes when it comes to water usage and sanitization, so you're on the right track.
What you'll typically find when researching portable dishwashers are the freestanding models. These dishwashers are the same size as a standard built in dishwasher:
~24 inches wide
~36 inches tall
~26 inches deep
There are also narrower 18-inch wide models for smaller spaces. A countertop model is usually around:
~22 inches wide
~17 inches tall
~20 inches deep
You'll want to make sure you can fit this size of appliance into your space, both in the area where you'll be using it and the area where you'll be storing it. A portable dishwasher moves around easily on casters, so you can push it into the pantry or into a corner when it's not in use. If you have floor space near your kitchen sink but not counter space, you may prefer one of these portable dishwashers to a portable countertop dishwasher.
If you're looking for a countertop dishwasher, check out the weight of the model and see if you can comfortably move it around - they can weigh up to 50 pounds!
Compared to built in dishwashers, portable dishwashers:
Are smaller in capacity
Are louder (typically 60+ decibels)
Require a threaded faucet spout for the water hookup
These models are louder than most built-in dishwashers because there aren't any surrounding walls or cabinets to dampen the noise of operation, and any insulation must be hidden inside of the dishwasher's finished sides, which can then reduce the overall capacity (find out more about dishwasher decibel levels in our article).
How many dishes can you fit into portable dishwasher models? For a freestanding portable dishwasher, you can usually fit up to 12 place settings, which is equivalent to some smaller built-in dishwashers. However, it can be as few as 8 place settings. A portable countertop dishwasher usually fits anywhere from 4 to 8 place settings.
Full-sized portable dishwashers are typically available in basic black or white with front controls. As of this writing, GE offers some top control models in stainless steel for a nicer look. Unlike countertop dishwashers, portable dishwashers have enough room inside to wash pots, pans, and other bulky items. They typically use 3-4 gallons of water per load.
Countertop models use closer to 2-3 gallons. Considering that hand washing can easily use over 20 gallons of water, getting a machine to do it for you is a good idea! Countertop dishwashers are often about half the price of freestanding portable dishwashers, but the capacity is obviously the biggest tradeoff between the two types.
How Does a Portable Dishwasher Work?
Portable dishwashers need two things: access to water and to power. A unicouple with a faucet adapter allows the dishwasher to pull hot water from your kitchen sink faucet and drain dirty water into the sink. A power cord plugs into a nearby wall outlet.
Make sure your faucet is compatible: you'll need a threaded faucet spout, or an adapter if available.
Check the length of the power cord: do you have an outlet within reach? You should not use an extension cord with a portable dishwasher (or any major appliance) - it's a fire hazard and a shock hazard.
The height of the sink basin should be at least 27" tall and no higher than 48" from the bottom of the dishwasher - Try to keep the drain hose as low as possible, so your dishwasher doesn't have to work extra-hard to pump out dirty water.
People typically keep the dishwasher tucked away in a corner or use it as part of the counter when not in use, and roll it over to the sink when it's time to run a wash cycle. Many portable dishwashers come with adapters that allow you to use the faucet while the dishwasher is in operation (as long as it's not actively filling up or draining water).
Cleaning performance is typically a little lower than a good built-in dishwasher, so pre-rinsing dishes of solid, baked-on debris is a good idea - light to medium soils are fine, but a casserole dish caked in grease and sauce should get a little extra attention.
These models have internal water heaters to get the water up to the ideal wash temperature, but running your sink faucet until the water is hot before hooking up the dishwasher will help make the wash cycle faster (less time spent heating the water - see more in our dishwasher runs too long article).
Whirlpool Portable Dishwasher - 24" Heavy Duty Model
One of the most popular portable dishwashers is the Whirlpool WDP370PAHW, available in white or black at $799 MSRP. With a decibel level of 64, this dishwasher operates at a volume about 25% louder than the typical conversation volume, but it's still quieter than older pre-2000s dishwashers of the past that were louder than a hair dryer or vacuum cleaner while in operation!
This model has room for 12 place settings, with a plastic tub featuring a roomy Tall Tub design and vinyl racks, which aren't as durable as nylon racks (click the link to read more). The soil sensor automatically adjusts the Normal cycle to ensure your dishes come out clean. It includes a heated dry option and high temperature wash option. The laminate butcher block top allows you to use it as extra counter space. Whirlpool is known for having the fewest dishwasher repairs for 20 years in a row, so this heavy duty portable dishwasher is a great option if you're looking for durability and reliability!
If you're looking for a model with more bells and whistles, you might want to consider the Frigidaire FFPD1821MB at $799, which is a smaller capacity 18-inch portable dishwasher that's Energy Star rated with a stainless steel interior and a few more cycles and options.
For more options, check out our best portable dishwashers of the year.
Click here to read over 100 real customer reviews of this product!
Danby Countertop Dishwasher - Compact 6 Place Setting Model
If you're looking for a portable countertop dishwasher model, the Danby DDW621WDB is a must-see and prices at about $320. This countertop dishwasher has room for six place settings, including a silverware basket, and is Energy Star rated. It weighs about 67 pounds.
You'll find a stainless steel tub inside, which is ideal for durability, ease of cleaning, drying power, and noise reduction. It operates at 52 dBA. The electronic controls include a 2-4-6-8 hour delay start option and six wash cycles: Normal, Intensive, Economy, Rapid, Glass, and Soak. Danby improved the spray arm and filter with this model for better cleaning results, too.
For a sleek silver look, a control panel with a black LED display and more cycle options, check out the Danby DDW631SDB, available by special order starting at $347.
Most other countertop dishwashers are made by a single company going by many different names - Midea. You can find countertop dishwashers from brands like hOmelabs, Black & Decker, and others. One nice thing about buying a countertop dishwasher from a local appliance retailer is that they may offer in-house service and easy access to parts should your dishwasher ever need repairs.
That concludes our introduction to portable dishwashers and a review of a couple of great models available. You can find more in-depth information on buying a dishwasher in our Dishwasher Buyer's Guide or explore more models in our best portable dishwashers of the year.
What do you think of the Whirlpool portable dishwasher and Danby countertop dishwasher in our reviews? What has made you look into portable dishwashers rather than built-in models? Leave us a comment below - We'd love to hear from you!
Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in August of 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy as of the publication date noted above.