Pros: Great Space Saver Sparkling Clean Dishes Saves Water and Detergent Easily Serviceable Great Customer Support
Cons: Lengthy Cycle Slightly Cryptic Controls Irregular Racks Working Parts Exposed Underneath Short Cord and Hose
After living for 8 months in an apartment where we had to do dishes by hand, my partner and I swore that we would NEVER live in a place that didn't have a dishwasher ever again.
Well, as I've learned, never say never.
When a job promotion forced us to move last year, we had all of two days to find a place to live, and not much time to be picky. Within a day, we were fortunate enough to find a beautiful little ranch-style house for rent in a very nice district; It was an older house, but it was set back on some beautiful wooded property that we just fell in love with. The house itself was actually very nice as well; it had all hardwood floors and mostly spacious rooms, and the price was definitely right for the area. The only drawback in the whole deal was that the house had a very small kitchen, and -- you guessed it -- NO DISHWASHER. But since that was the only drawback and we were pressed for time, we decided to take the place and deal with washing dishes by hand.
Needless to say, it didn't take us long to remember just how much we both hated dish duty. We pondered solutions to the problem, but installing a dishwasher seemed to be out of our reach. The kitchen was small and crowded as it was, with very little counter or cabinet space. To make matters worse, the washer and dryer hookups were in the kitchen as well, leaving even less space to work with. The sink was a single-basin porcelain farm-style sink with a drain ledge to the left that didn't offer much clearance to install anything underneath, and the dryer hook-up was to the immediate right of the sink, making installation impossible there as well. And while our landlady was fine with the idea of us installing a dishwasher, we didn't really want to invest in an appliance that we would have to leave behind at some point.
A portable dishwasher seemed to be the only solution available to us, but most of them were $500 or more, and we really didn't have the room for a full-sized 24-inch dishwasher in the kitchen without removing other vital appliances. We looked at the small countertop dishwashers, but none of them seemed to hold more than 4 place-settings at a time (to speak nothing of pots and pans, which would have been impossible to fit), and we really didn't have that kind of counter space to waste anyway. Finally, after doing some more research, I came across the perfect compromise -- Danby's 18-inch portable dishwasher. It was listed for about $300, which was a little more than half the price of the other portables we looked at, and its 18-inch width made it the perfect size to fit in the one last open corner of our limited kitchen space. A few clicks of the mouse online, and it was on its way.
As excited as I was to get the dishwasher on delivery day, I was equally disappointed when I attempted to run a cycle and found water leaking onto the floor. Upon inspection of the underside, I found that the plastic water softener compartment had been cracked during shipping. I immediately envisioned long fights with the warranty folks on the phone, a large repair bill by the local appliance shop, or weeks to months waiting for the repair parts to arrive and complete the fix. To my surprise and elation, when I called the Danby service number, I immediately got to speak to a HUMAN BEING in the parts department, who shipped off a brand-new water softener compartment for free under the warranty. I received it just a few days later, and made the EASY repair myself. I must say that whoever did the engineering for this little machine did a terrific job of making it service-friendly. Within 5 minutes, it was up and running perfectly, with no more leaks. We have since been very careful about how we move the machine around, since most all of the working parts are exposed just underneath the machine, which is unfortunately a trade-off for being so service-friendly, but is a workable situation nonetheless.
And I have to say, that I have NEVER owned or used a dishwasher that has ever gotten my dishes so CLEAN. This little machine has an amazing 0.77 energy factor by the EnergyStar program (67% better than the minimum federal standard), uses very little water and probably less than half the amount of detergent as a regular dishwasher, and our dishes come out SPARKLING CLEAN every time, no matter how dirty they went in. Regardless of the fact that it is 6 inches narrower than a standard dishwasher, the unique racks make such good use of the available space, that I dare say I can load almost as many dishes into this little portable as I could into any standard-sized dishwasher. Granted, it is a little trickier to load than your average dishwasher -- the racks are designed differently, and I may spend 5-10 minutes creatively rearranging dishes to get them all to fit -- but in the end, I can usually load an entire overflowed sinkful of dishes, glasses, silverware, pots and pans into it with very little problem.
Just a few other cons (and they're really not much to speak of, just some things to know about before you buy): The cycles are a bit lengthy -- a full cycle on "plus" setting runs about 2 hours, a standard cycle runs about an hour and 15 minutes, and a short cycle runs about 45 minutes -- due to the fact that it uses the heating element to heat the wash water before it progresses through the cycle. But the trade-off is that if I start the machine after dinner and watch a couple of TV shows, I am rewarded with the cleanest dishes I have ever seen in my life. The controls seemed a bit cryptic at first, with only pictures to indicate the different cycles, but a quick read-through of the user's manual was all it took to figure out what everything was -- after that, it was very intuitive and easy to run. The power cord and fill/drain hose are a little short also, but they are long enough to reach the sink and the nearest electrical outlet, so I can't really count that as a problem for us. Best of all, the cord and hose tuck neatly into the back of the machine for storage when the cycle is over; I've read complaints about similar machines from other companies whose cords and hoses simply dangle off the back of the machine because there is nowhere to store them at all!
I have read all of the other reviews in this section about the Danby 18" portable, and I have to say that with few exceptions, I found other users of this dishwasher to be equally satisfied. This little machine has been a real sanity saver when it comes to dish duty, and it more than earns its keep in our house. The few small drawbacks that it may have are made up for many times over by the amazing job it does cleaning the dishes. I highly recommend this machine to anyone in a similar situation with limited space or inability to install a full-sized dishwasher.