The hazards of buying a house include settling for the taste (or lack of same) of the folks who preceded you. A beautiful kitchen full of contractor-grade, textured black appliances can wear on a person; especially when, over time, each has developed its own unusual demands.
Recommend this product?
The decade-old Gibson dishwasher was quiet and effective, but a deteriorating gasket meant placing plastic cups at the door’s lower corners with each use. And be careful when you grab that junky upper rack – you may end up wearing it. After nearly two years of “settling for”, it was time to settle-up.
“Sears has everything!” (Advertising slogan from the 1960s.)
The above statement may be true in some places, but here in the hills, Sears sells major appliances, televisions and tools. Their wall of dishwashers on display included a half-dozen stainless steel models among those finished in bone, bisque and (heaven help me) black. Perusing dozens of consumer reviews posted at several major on-line vendors revealed a clear winner amongst the bunch.
The product that shall remain nameless . . .
The Maytag MDB8959AWS is an option-rich member of the Quiet Series 400 family of dishwashers. Positioned at the top of the conventional Maytag food-chain (the costlier MDD8000 is a double-drawer model), it’s packed with all the goodies the company could shoehorn in. Though most cycles and options are universal among brands, the Maytag’s top-of-the-line adds a couple that are unique and outstanding.
The MDB8959AWS is a dual-rack, three-arm, tall tub dishwasher featuring 6 cycles and 5 options. The mirror-finish stainless tub and door liner are made from real (non-magnetic) stamped sheet stainless steel. Both the spray arms and nylon-coated racks are finished in a two-tone gray motif as a complement to the attractive stainless interior. The brushed faux (magnetic) stainless of the door’s exterior features a 1.5 inch beveled contour on both vertical edges and a 20 inch-wide bow-style handle. A continuous sheet of compressed fiber sound insulation covers the top, back and sides of the unit.
As with most contemporary dishwashers, an integrated control panel covers nearly the width of the door’s upper edge. Cycle, Option and “Start” keys can be programmed with the door open, just prior to operation. Although hidden from direct view, when installed properly, sufficient access exists below counter's edge to allow for keypad selections when the door is closed, if preferred.
Maytag was the first to offer the Tall Tub feature, which lowers the bottom rack to allow access for larger items. In addition, the angled bottom of the height-adjustable, wedge-shaped upper rack favors left-hand placement of tall pots, platters and other former hand-wash items.
Adding muscle to the efficiency of the two 19 inch-long plastic spray arms is the full-time feature known as Silverware Blast. Centrally located above the upper control arm, an arched spray head is directed at the lower right side of the tub where the two 9 x 9 x 3 inch wide cutlery baskets hang from the rack’s upper rail. Plastic covers that snap-fit into the baskets contain 30 slots that separate utensils to insure proper cleaning. Removal is literally a snap, should you wish to wash larger items. The three fold-down stemware supports measure 9.5 inches and are also removable.
Auto Clean Plus
Maytag claims “Load Sensing Technology” is behind the dishwasher’s ability to measure soil level and determine the number of water fills necessary. Depending upon options selected, the manual estimates cycle times between 55 minutes and 3.5 hours. My measurement for a normal (moderately soiled) load was 2 hours, 29 minutes; without the use of either Heated Dry option.
Intended for crusty pots and pans. My Corning French White casserole with baked-on Mac & Cheese was completely clean after 2 hours, 7 minutes (all stated times reflect no heat options selected). For the purpose of this review, I ran the same dish with residue from the same recipe on the Normal cycle. It was equally clean after 1 hour, 35 minutes. Be green. Use Normal
According to the manual, the yellow Energy Guide label affixed to the appliance upon delivery is based upon power consumed during this cycle. In a nutshell, it will cost you $31 bucks a year (US) to run the MDB8959AWS four times a week at an average electric rate of 10.65 cents per Kilowatt hour. How normal is that?
Suggested cycle for glassware and lightly soiled items. I ran a load of regular-old (un-rinsed, assorted) dishes on this cycle and they were totally clean in 1 hour, 15 minutes (again… neither dry option selected). Be even greener. Consider Light the new Normal
The hands-down pick of the litter, this cycle involves an intensive, 30 minute wash / rinse session (no heat available). Same dishes, same soil, same results. I wouldn’t bet the farm on the Mac & Cheese test succeeding here, but I’ve never had to re-wash a dish run through this cycle since installing the cleverly named MDB8959AWS.
Keeps your dishes from getting crusty while they multiply. Cycle works fine, but I hardly ever use it.
After selecting a cycle, Heat Dry is the default setting. A single key press will get you Extra Dry and a second will disable the Dry feature completely. Seeing that I favor the less-costly “air dry” system that involves opening the door after the final rinse, I would prefer the unit default to a “no heat” setting unless requested – the way the old Gibson did.
With his option, the unit uses its own internal heater to bump water temperature to the NSF/ANSI* standard of 154 degrees Fahrenheit. The manual states that selecting this option “will add heat and time to the cycle”. No kidding. But how much? I live alone. I’m cheap. My cat and I are the picture of health. As a rule, I don’t do Sanitize.
This option adds “high-pressure” steam to the cycle “which makes glasses spotless”. I thought that was Jet-Dri’s job. Also sanitizes, claims the manual. In my experience, this process lengthens the Normal cycle by about 20 minutes.
Hi Temp Wash
Adds heat and time. Since it does everything the previous two cycles do, what’s the point?
Press this key to choose 2, 4, or 6 hour delay start after selecting cycle and options. Allows the user to run the dishwasher “later… or during off-peak hours”. Have yet to try this option. Up here where the air is thin, the whole world exists at off-peak hours.
Press Heat Dry for 3 seconds to disable the unit’s control panel. Repeat process to re-enable. Nifty feature if you have kids.
If you should choose to cancel a selected cycle at any time, press the Cancel/Drain key and wait at least 2 minutes before opening the door. Remember those old KitchenAid’s from the 1980s? You needed an engineering degree to cancel a cycle.
A series of small amber lights indicate chosen cycle and options. Both Clean and Sanitized indicators illuminate when appropriate. The Clean light on my 2002 Maytag would cancel 30 seconds after the door was opened. With the MDB8959AWS, the light remains on until the door is re-closed. Since I open the door to dry and rarely use the heat option, I need to open, shut and open again; making his feature mildly annoying.
Stuff I like . . .
Today, I baked a loaf of bread, a tuna casserole and a cheesecake. I stuffed all the dirty dishes accumulated from my adventures into the MDB8959AWS, threw in a Finish Power Ball tab (four came with the unit) and hit the Insta Wash key. Exactly 30 minutes later, everything was spotless. Insta Wash is the greatest thing since fresh-baked bread.
Though the outer door panel is not true stainless steel, it cleans easily with a damp-dry rag and shows no signs of discoloration. With a retail price of $949.00, one would think the folks at Maytag could spring for the real thing. In spite of this minor peeve, this is a classy looking unit that plays nicely with my other stainless appliances. The side bevels even match those of my cabinet doors.
Since Whirlpool’s mid-decade absorption of Maytag, I was concerned that the MDB8959AWS would be a badge-engineered Kenmore clone. In fact, all internal components are identical in style and quality to the pre-merger 2002 Maytag dishwasher I left behind when I sold my former residence. Seven years of reliable service was a contributing factor in my decision to purchase another dishwasher from the "Dependability People".
According to the reviews I read while researching, this unit has been on the market since 2006 – more than enough time for any inherent flaws to surface. The majority of reviewer assessments ranged between 4 and 5 stars (out of 5) and no reliability issues were mentioned.
Owner’s Manual - Though assembled on-the-cheap, this 12-page, newsprint-quality guide covers every aspect of the unit (including the One Year Limited Warranty) with clear text and comprehensive illustration. Just flip it over and upside-down and you can read it again in French!
My favorite like? Finding a $949.00 (suggested retail) dishwasher for $702.00, then buying it on "twenty-percent-off” day. When I used the right credit card, I saved another 5 percent. The $50.00 manufacturer’s rebate will pay for the unit’s electrical draw for the first couple of years.
Things I can live with . . .
Installation - In my kitchen, the dishwasher lives in an eight-foot bar / peninsula. The original installer brought the waste, supply and electrical along the kick to the 24 inch opening. Well, wouldn’t you know the engineers at Maytag would pick that very spot to stick-in a steel support? Plus, the 10-foot drain hose supplied was about 3 inches too short, so I had to use the old 12-footer.
One potential bugaboo involved the bow-style handle, which projects out a total of 2.25 inches from the face of the unit. Due to the mountain views that exist beyond the dining area, my favorite food prep zone is the expanse of counter located above the dishwasher. Would the handle interfere? Being 6 ft. 3 in. tall, the handle rests (slightly) mid-thigh and is not a problem. Your results may vary.
Noise - With a rating of 56 dB, the MDB8959AWS is not as quiet as the higher-end Miele Diamante (48dB), but it also retails for half the price, has a larger, more versatile capacity (16 vs. 14 place-settings), a 4-blade hard food disposer and a water filter that doesn’t require maintenance.
My kitchen occupies one corner of a 26 x 28 foot room with tile floors, a wall of glass and a cathedral ceiling – so excessive noise is a major factor. Since there’s no way to test drive a dishwasher, the potential buyer must have faith in the reviewer’s words and the manufacturer’s Decibel ratings.
Fortunately, aside from a bit of sloshing and some faint mechanicals, I can relax in the same room with the Maytag MDB8959AWS as it does its thing. As long as it continues to perform like a pro, I will continue to cook like an amateur.
*American Sanitation Foundation / American National Standards Institute
Maytag Brand Home Appliances
553 Benson Road
Benton Harbor, MI 49022
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Amount Paid (US$): 702.00