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Jessie Raymond: Dishwasher provides an education

Two weeks ago, our 15-year-old dishwasher went from “sometimes makes it through the whole wash cycle,” which I had been coping with for years, to “doesn’t turn on,” which, to my mind, made it almost not worth having.
I’d resisted buying a replacement for two reasons: (1) I’m cheap, and (2) a dishwasher is not a necessity, like a fridge or a panini press. I have a hard time justifying the cost of a replacement when I know we could get by without one. But in recent weeks, I’ve learned something about myself: My desire to avoid hand washing dishes is greater than my aversion to spending many hundreds of dollars on a new machine.
So I’ve been dishwasher hunting. My, how things have changed.
Our old dishwasher had a couple of options: normal wash or heavy-duty wash. (I never tried the heavy-duty setting, but I liked knowing it was there if I needed it.)
These new models, however, do everything but empty themselves, and they do it so quietly that online I found several one-star reviews from customers who actually complained that they couldn’t hear when the machine was running. When our dishwasher got going, the kitchen registered only a few decibel levels lower than the tarmac during a space shuttle launch. I looked forward to the silence.
New machines, in addition to washing in stealth mode, have hundreds of different options, most of them frivolous. I like to think I’m too practical to fall for gimmicks, but by the end of my search I was talking to myself: “Sure, we could probably get by with a base model that only has six wash cycles and four rack positions. But do we want to live like animals?”
Moving to the higher end, I found a model with 12 wash cycles and nine rack positions. It even had a wash setting just for champagne flutes. Are you serious? But then I thought how handy it would be if we ever threw a fancy New Year’s Eve party. And if we owned champagne flutes.
I even found a model that came with Wi-Fi. (I’m not kidding.) It promised that with Wi-Fi you could not only “download new wash cycles” but also remotely monitor your washer’s progress.
I could just imagine the possibilities. Me, out to dinner with friends: “Excuse me, I just have to check my phone for one second.”
Friends: “Is everything OK?”
Me, squinting at my screen: “Um, yes. Looks like my dishwasher reached its final rinse stage seven minutes ago.”
Friends (whispering to each other): “I told you not to invite her.” “Well, I felt so bad for her after she wrote about how she was going to grow flax like a pioneer woman….”
After comparing brands and features and mulling all the important questions — Do I need an adjustable third rack for silverware? Do I need to hold 12 full place settings at a time? If I go with the model featuring Intelli-wash, will I regret not getting the one with the MagicRack? — I was left more confused than ever. But then I had an idea: I’d call the only person who knew my appliances better than I did: my repairman.
He told me exactly which brands to avoid and which ones to consider. And he confirmed what I suspected: Nothing is made as well as it used to be, so no matter which machine I bought, I should plan on having it repaired in the next few years. (I think I even heard him giggling and rubbing his hands together, but he denies this.) In the end, we agreed that I might as well just go with the brand he most enjoys working on.
By reading online reviews, I narrowed my choices down to model numbers XJ75719, XC75341 and XR78332. From what I could tell, they were pretty much the same, except one had a state-of-the-art tine configuration in the upper rack, and two featured a “smart” silverware basket, whatever that meant.
At the store, the salesperson tapped away at the computer and sighed.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “With that brand, the closest model we carry is the XT74993.”
“I’ll take it,” I said, without even looking up the specs. I was done.
Turns out, it wasn’t a bad choice. It didn’t come with Wi-Fi, but the smart silverware basket has already changed my life.

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