From the bar to the kitchen, your commercial dishwasher is an essential element of your hospitality business. Take a look at our comprehensive commercial dishwasher buyer's guide to ensure the machine you buy is ideal for your venue’s needs.
This guide outlines the common terms you will hear and explains the differences between models. It also shares the pros and cons of some popular dishwasher brands. As you read, you’ll also start to understand which is the best commercial dishwasher for your venue and how much to spend.
Every venue is different so every venue needs a different commercial dishwasher. While this guide is aimed at helping you figure out what to look out for, you may also wish to speak to a professional consultant who can discuss your needs and point you in the right direction.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at SilverChef if you have any questions about how to buy, rent or lease a commercial dishwasher.
Here’s what our commercial dishwasher buyer's guide covers
1. Types of commercial dishwashers
2. Commercial dishwasher terminology
3. What are the main things to consider when buying a commercial dishwasher?
4. Some of the best commercial dishwasher brands
5. Top questions to ask before you buy a commercial dishwasher
6. Commercial dishwasher FAQ
Types of commercial dishwashers
The types of commercial dishwashers are commonly known as conveyor (or flight type), hood (or pass through), glassware and commercial under bench dishwashers, aka front loading dishwashers.
The main difference is the amount of dish racks they can wash per hour. Size varies greatly between these different types of dishwashers and the one you choose will depend on your needs.
Take a look at the different types of dishwashers you could have in your kitchen or bar…
What is a conveyor dishwasher?
If you need to wash hundreds of plates every hour, a commercial conveyor dishwasher will definitely come in handy. This machine allows you to clean dishware at high volume, using an automated conveyor feature, almost like a car wash. Many models of commercial conveyor dishwasher also feature a drying function so the dishes finish the cycle being ready to use straight away. These are large pieces of equipment so you will need a lot of space to install and operate one at your venue.
Some vendors refer to conveyor dishwashers as ‘flight type’.
Image: Meiko conveyer dishwasher
What is a hood dishwasher or pass through dishwasher?
A ‘pass through dishwasher’ or ‘hood dishwasher’ has a hood that lifts up so you can easily slide racks of dishes in and out. These sit between your kitchen benches instead of under them and require a flat surface on each side so you can use them effectively. These models often start operating automatically when you pull the hood down over the dirty dishes so you don’t have to press a lot of buttons. Some also lift the hood automatically at the end of a cycle.
A pass through or hood dishwasher is more user friendly than a commercial under bench dishwasher because whoever is operating it doesn’t have to bend down to stack and unstack dishes. The user can also be loading an empty rack on one side and emptying a full dishwasher rack on the other while the cycle is in progress.
What is an under bench dishwasher?
Also known as front loaders, these under-bench dishwashers are often used in bars or smaller kitchens. In comparison to the dishwasher you have at home they have a faster wash cycle so you’re not waiting an hour or more for your dishes to be cleaned. However they only wash one rack at a time.
Commercial under bench dishwashers are useful in businesses like child care centres, where there is a commercial kitchen but food is not prepared at high volume, and sanitisation is extremely important.
What is a glass washer?
A glass washer is a dishwasher suited to washing wine glasses, pint glasses, tumblers and other glassware. These machines can withstand high commercial dishwasher temperature requirements but use less water pressure, in order to protect fragile glassware from breaking.
Image: Hobart glass washer
What is a utensil washer?
Pot and utensil dishwashers are designed to clean and sanitise pots, pans, large containers and bowls. If your kitchen is large enough and busy enough, you may find it makes sense to have this model of machine in addition to a ‘universal washer’.
Commercial dishwasher terminology
Take a look at some of the words you’ll hear when you’re shopping for a commercial dishwasher. It helps to be familiar with the terminology so you can understand what to look out for.
Cycle: The cycle is the time your dishwasher takes from start to finish and the different functions involved, e.g. rinsing, washing and drying dishes and glasses. A commercial dishwasher cycle can be as quick as 60 seconds and up to ten minutes.
Filter: Your commercial dishwasher’s filter is designed to trap food particles, however you should be ensuring everything that goes into the dishwasher is well rinsed beforehand. Think of the purpose of the dishwasher as more about sterilising, than removing food. Your staff should keep an eye on the dishwasher filter and make sure it is always empty and clean.
Wash arms and rinse arms: Your dishwasher has two arms – the wash arms which spray water and cleaning chemicals; and the rinse arms which spray rinse water.
Non slip mat: A non slip floor mat can prevent falls in the wet area around a dishwasher.
Pot washers: Your pot washer is suited to washing heavy-duty, large cooking equipment like pots. These models have big racks that slide up and out to make access easier.
Rack: Your commercial dishwasher will come with racks that can be stacked with plates, bowls, cutlery and other dirty dishes. You will notice dishwasher user guides refer to how many racks can be washed in an hour, rather than individual dishes. This is because the number of dishes you have on a rack will fluctuate.
Chemical dispenser: The best commercial dishwashers often have built-in dispensers for cleaning chemicals and rinse aid so you aren't constantly having to top up the supply.
Temperature: When you use a commercial dishwasher, temperature is important so dishes are thoroughly and hygienically cleaned. All commercial dishwashers will have a temperature control which would be set at 64 degrees for wash and 82 degrees for rinse. Make sure your dishwasher meets the temperature requirements.
Wash curtain: Some conveyor dishwashers have curtains which stop the water spraying everywhere. The wash curtains also make for a soft entry and exit for the dishes.
"Dishwashers can remove greater than 99.9% of the bacteria with the removal of food residue and other soil".
What are the main things to consider when buying a commercial dishwasher?
Like with coffee machines, commercial deep fryers and other essential hospitality venue equipment, there is an overwhelming array of options for commercial dishwasher manufacturers, brands, importers, dealers and distributors in Australia. You will find a few models that are made in Australia but the bulk of commercial dishwashers are imported from Asia or Europe.
Take a look at some of the options to consider when purchasing a commercial dishwasher.
Size and weight
A conveyor dishwasher is incredibly convenient for washing hundreds of dishes, however these models are very big and will take up a lot of room in your kitchen.
Similarly, a hood or pass through model requires space on either side for your kitchen team to operate. If you’re designing a new commercial kitchen, make sure you take this into consideration as you will need stainless steel benches to go with the model of dishwasher. For a hood dishwasher, you also need to consider clearance height, whether your dishwasher needs extraction, including mechanical ventilation or a canopy over the top. You need to be able to lift the hood high enough so that the racks of dishes can be slid in and out of the machine without getting stuck.
For front loading dishwashers or under bench dishwashers, the size usually corresponds with standard kitchen and bar bench height, however, double-check the height of your benches to make sure you don’t accidentally purchase a stainless steel commercial dishwasher model that won’t fit in with your bench space. Check that you have the width right too when fitting out your kitchen with a commercial dishwasher, so that there's enough space around the dishwasher for chemicals to be mounted on walls or shelves, and there's adequate room for hoses and drainage.
If space is tight, talk to your dealer about a compact dishwasher.
Commercial dishwashers use a great deal more power than their domestic counterparts and not many models operate by being plugged into a standard wall outlet. Their higher power capabilities allow them to wash quickly and efficiently so you aren’t waiting a long time for each cycle to finish.
If you’re installing a larger model of stainless steel commercial dishwasher in your kitchen, you will more than likely need an electrician to hardwire it to the building’s electricity connection.
Think about where you’re placing your dishwasher and whether it will be easy to connect it to the right power source.
The amount of water a commercial dishwasher can go through in a day also varies. Talk to your dealer about the water efficiency of the models you are looking at and how it will impact your bottom line.
Some models are more efficient than others, using advanced jet spray technologies that cleans dishes with less water. A higher purchase price may be offset by lower water use and faster cycles.
Water pressure is a really important part of a good-functioning commercial dishwasher. Your commercial dishwasher should maintain water pressure between 200kpa and 350kpa.
Check the water pressure at your kitchen to make sure it will meet the needs of your commercial dishwasher. If it doesn’t, you may need a rinse booster pump to add to your dishwasher purchase.
Water temperature/Commercial dishwasher sanitising temperature
According to the Australia New Zealand Food Authority, “dishwashers can remove greater than 99.9% of the bacteria with the removal of food residue and other soil; and the heat used to clean is critical in contributing to the total heat needed to effectively sanitise (by heat) the utensil or food contact surface.”
If you’re wondering about the best commercial dishwasher sanitising temperature, the water your dishwasher uses should be at around 60-70 degrees Celsius during the wash cycle then around 80 degrees Celsius during the rinse cycle. If the temperature is too low, your staff will be forced to re-wash dishes. You may also end up with bacteria still on your plates.
While it may sound counterproductive, you may wish to investigate the option for a machine that has a cold water connection. This doesn’t mean the machine uses cold water to clean, but that it draws cold water, then heats the water itself, rather than relying on a hot water system that keeps water hot all day. Just bear in mind that the dishwasher might take longer to heat up.
A good dishwasher will have a feature that shows you the water temperature while it is operating so your staff can make sure the dishes are being washed correctly.
Of course, all the water you are using to wash dishes needs somewhere to go—the drain is that place.
Your options for drainage are gravity or a powered drainage pump. The right option will depend on where your dishwasher is placed. For a pass through or hood type dishwasher, a gravity drain is probably all you will need as the water will drain naturally.
Talk to your vendor and the people fitting out your kitchen about drainage to make sure your stainless steel commercial dishwasher won’t have issues disposing of water.
When considering drainage, make sure your used dishwashing water is being disposed of according to local government regulations.
Most commercial dishwashers have rapid cycles of under 120 seconds so your staff can make the most of them throughout the day.
If you have a kitchen that gets overwhelmed with dishes, the difference of a minute can mean a lot to the flow of service.
Different areas of Australia have different water quality. ‘Hard’ water has minerals that can build up in your dishwasher, causing limescale. Once limescale is significant, your dishwasher will struggle to perform at its best. It may even end up breaking down.
One option for a kitchen with hard water is to look for a stainless steel commercial dishwasher with a built-in water softener feature. This will reduce the minerals in water that lead to the build-up of limescale.
Alternatively, you can attach an external water softener or get your staff to add water softening products manually to help reduce the problem.
Most large-model commercial dishwashers will have automatic wash chemical and rinse aid dispensers that don’t require constant topping up. If you’re using an under counter dishwasher, make sure you talk to your dealer about how to add the chemicals and rinse aid. Discuss whether particular brands are recommended to optimise the machine’s performance.
Some machines have ‘heavy’ wash cycles for caked on grime as well as ‘light’ cycles for dishes that have been pre-rinsed. Your wash cycles and settings shouldn’t be too complicated to activate or staff won’t bother.
Commercial dishwasher capacity
Avoid buying a dishwasher that isn’t the right volume for your kitchen. Too large and it will be sitting empty all day, or doing half-full cycles, which are a waste of money. Too small and the flow of service will be interrupted while staff wait for plates, pots and utensils to be cleaned.
To break capacity down into the different models of dishwashers, a conveyor dishwasher can wash up to 200 racks per hour. A hood dishwasher can handle approximately 70 racks per hour, depending on cycle length. A commercial under bench dishwasher will clean about 20 racks per hour. You will also need to consider the amount of time it takes your staff to load the dishwasher.
Usability and cleanability
As mentioned, an under bench/front loader dishwasher can be a compact commercial dishwasher option and all you need for a small venue or bar. However, these models can be cumbersome to use. If your staff are going to be operating this commercial dishwasher constantly throughout their shift, think about the ergonomics involved.
For a hood dishwasher, make sure the hood itself isn’t too heavy for some arms to operate without straining. The best commercial dishwasher models that have hoods are light and easy to lift. Some even lift automatically.
Cleanability is important as well. During a shift, a dishwasher is likely to have larger food particles stuck in it. To clean it, staff can remove and rinse filters, properly clean and strip spray nozzles in case they have food stuck inside them. Regular cleaning of the rinse filters and spray nozzles may be required throughout the day.
When you buy a new commercial dishwasher, it will have instructions for cleaning it. Have a session to train your staff or tape the step-by-step instructions somewhere easy to see.
Commercial dishwasher warranty and maintenance
Like with any piece of kitchen equipment, take a look at the manufacturer warranty before you buy. Mostly these warranties will cover parts breaking down, not things like limescale or damage from misuse.
Maintenance and repair are elements to consider as well. Does your vendor have or recommend someone who can visit regularly to repair the machine? How much will it cost and how often will you need them to come by.
Talk to your dealer as well about what will happen if your dishwasher breaks down. Are spare parts easy to acquire and is there a professional nearby who will know how to fix a broken commercial dishwasher?
There are some different parts and equipment that may come included with your dishwasher purchase.
Commercial dishwasher drain hose
Make sure your commercial dishwasher drain hose doesn’t have kinks in it to prevent water from backing up and overflowing. If your dishwasher won’t drain, check the drain hose doesn’t have a blockage. This part can be removed and replaced if it begins to leak and water starts getting on your floor.
Commercial dishwasher filter
Inside your dishwasher is a filter. This part acts to prevent large particles of food from going down the drain. If you’re getting poor wash results, gritty deposits at the end of a cycle or chunks of food still present at the end of a cycle, you probably need to clean your filter. Speak to your dealer or consult your instruction manual to find out how to do this properly and safely.
Commercial dishwasher lease vs buy
A high-end conveyor model of commercial dishwasher can cost more than $20,000 so leasing is an excellent option. When you purchase a machine this way, you pay a regular monthly fee to ‘borrow’ the machine over a period of a few years. At the end of the period, you have the option to buy the machine outright or return it and renew your lease agreement with an updated model.
When you are fitting out a kitchen from scratch, a lease to buy option for your equipment may make sense so you can make steady repayments instead of investing a large sum of cash upfront.
Second hand commercial dishwasher
A used commercial dishwasher is definitely an option if you are kitting out your new venue’s kitchen. It can make sense to save money, however be aware of false economy.
Looking on a website like Gumtree for a second hand, reconditioned or used commercial dishwasher can be risky. Even if it looks like a good deal and the vendor says it has hardly been used, check for a service history and try to have someone with experience look over the machine.
Another option is to browse SilverChef's range of Certified Used equipment, which is fully refurbished, run tested and tagged so you can be confident it will work the way you need it to. Certified Used equipment is often less than 18 months old and comes with a warranty. Our Certified Used range can also be rented through our Rent-Try-Buy finance product, allowing you to see how the equipment fits with your business before deciding whether to purchase it.
'A conveyor dishwasher can wash up to 200 racks per hour, a hood dishwasher can handle approximately 70 racks per hour and a commercial under bench dishwasher will clean about 20 racks per hour.'
Some of the best commercial dishwashers
There are many different models and brands of commercial dishwashers. The model you choose and the best commercial dishwasher for your venue will depend on your kitchen and your requirements.
Take a look at some of the most talked about commercial dishwashers, their price points and their pros and cons.
High end commercial dishwashers
If you’re looking for a high end commercial dishwasher for sale, there are many options. Some come with the high commercial dishwasher price because they are larger models. Others offer excellent results with every clean as well as being efficient when it comes to the use of water and energy.
Winterhalter commercial dishwasher pros and cons
Winterhalter commercial dishwashers are made in Germany and there are many different models available. They often offer custom programming and timing, as well as a polish free finish that is helpful for glassware and cutlery. Some models have energy saving features and are designed to limit the steam that is released when they are opened. A premium model of commercial dishwasher, these can be pricey.
Meiko commercial dishwasher pros and cons
A Meiko commercial dishwasher will wash almost anything. These machines have well-engineered washing systems and have very fast cycles. There is a large range to choose from and some models have heat recovery systems to prevent the escape of water vapour, which can fog up glasses and be annoying if your dishwasher is near customers. The main drawback of a Meiko dishwasher is that they are at the more expensive end of the scale. However, you could see your purchase as an investment.
Hobart commercial dishwasher pros and cons
The Hobart commercial dishwasher was named as one of the best dishwashers of 2020 by fulfilledinterest.com. With energy saver mode and the capacity to wash up to 200 racks per hour, these machines are highly recommended. This can be a high end model with a high end commercial dishwasher price tag to match.
Electrolux commercial dishwasher pros and cons
Electrolux’s professional dishwasher range includes glasswashers, undercounter, hood type, rack type, utensil washers and flight type dishwashers. In addition, this brand offers the whole range of accessory, handling and waste management system to facilitate an ergonomic and friendly washing environment. You can speak to your dealer about models that save on energy, water and detergent, while still achieving clean and sanitary results. Because they are a high end commercial dishwasher, Electrolux machines can end up costing more. Look for a lease to buy option if you want this type of dishwasher in your commercial kitchen and don’t want to pay a large sum up front.
Mid range commercial dishwashers
Mid range commercial dishwashers can be ideal for restaurants and smaller venues that aren’t overwhelmed with dirty dishes, pots and pans. They are usually reliable and go for a long time without needing repair.
Washtech commercial dishwasher pros and cons
Washtech is the largest manufacturer of professional dishwashing equipment in Australasia, with manufacturing facilities in New Zealand. The range has a lot of capabilities so you’ll spot Washtech dishwashers in restaurants, bars, offices, hospitals and other venues. Washtech machines are easy to use and have simple controls. They wash extremely well and are energy efficient, robust and easy to service.
Norris commercial dishwasher pros and cons
Norris commercial dishwashers are manufactured in Australia by an Australian-owned company. The brand is committed to producing a superior range of products using the latest technology. Fast, efficient and hygienic, Norris dishwashers are suitable for a busy establishment. New machines are backed up with a warranty.
Eswood commercial dishwasher pros and cons
Eswood dishwashers are described as cost-effective, efficient and reliable. Many models offer single-touch operation as well as temperature displays. The range includes pass through, glass washer and under bench commercial dishwashers. You may need to shop with another brand if you’re looking for a larger model of machine.
Smeg commercial dishwasher pros and cons
smeg has a small range of commercial dishwashers which are built in Italy and designed to accommodate the needs of bars, restaurants and residential facilities. They feature a high-tech washing system which promotes efficiency while boosting hygiene, quality and performance. They are very quiet but there is not a larger, conveyor-style dishwasher in the smeg range; you are more likely to find glassware dishwashers, front-loading dishwashers and hood dishwashers.
Culinaire commercial dishwasher pros and cons
Culinaire commercial dishwashers feature low water use, double skin insulated doors and a self-cleaning cycle. Their under counter glass washers are recommended due to the range of wash cycles, starting from a 60 second cycle. While Culinaire has a wide range of kitchen equipment, the brand’s dishwasher selection is limited when compared to some other brands.
Comenda commercial dishwasher pros and cons
Comenda commercial dishwashers come in multiple varieties across three ranges so you can tailor your choice to your business. Platinum is their high-end range which has all the standard inclusions plus various higher-end options, with a higher price range to match. Blueline is the middle range with standard inclusions and competitive price points, and Redline is the value end of the range with simpler dishwashers at lower prices.
Entry Level Commercial Dishwashers
Entry level dishwashers are ideal for smaller venues and places like day care centres.
Adler commercial dishwasher pros and cons
Global brand Adler has a range of affordably priced commercial dishwashers that are made in Italy and available in Australia. They have features including stainless steel wash arms, digital temperature display and short cycles. These machines generally come with a 12 month warranty but smaller models won’t be suitable if you have a large-scale industrial kitchen.
Sammic commercial dishwasher pros and cons
Ideal for smaller spaces, Sammic commercial dishwashers deliver professional-quality results every time and are very easy to use. The range includes a smaller, compact model and a model with a tall base as well as a utensil/pot washer. They look great in your kitchen but do tend to be on the smaller side.
"Avoid buying a dishwasher that isn’t the right volume for your kitchen. Too large and it will be sitting empty all day, or doing half-full cycles, which are a waste of money. Too small and the flow of service will be interrupted while staff wait for plates, pots and utensils to be cleaned."
Top questions to ask before you buy a commercial dishwasher
When you are looking for a commercial dishwasher for sale, you’ll find everyone has a strong opinion about which model is right for your kitchen. For this reason, if you talk to too many people you will end up going in circles and never making a decision.
Before you buy, limit your questions to a few people you can trust, including industry peers and reputable Australian dealers.
To help you decide which commercial dishwasher to buy, here are some things you can ask your industry peers:
Which commercial dishwasher brand do you use and why?
How often does your dishwasher break down or need repairs?
Is the provider reliable when you need their help?
Do your dishwashers and other staff find the machine easy to use?
What was your experience buying a used commercial dishwasher?
Would you recommend the dishwasher you have to others?
Here are questions to ask your dealer or supplier about the best commercial dishwashers for sale or lease:
Will this machine suit the needs of my venue?
What warranty is included?
How easy is it to get spare parts from the factory if they are needed?
What happens if I need an urgent repair for my commercial dishwasher?
How much are hourly callout fees? What about on weekends?
Can any of my staff easily operate this dishwasher?
Why do you recommend this machine yourself?
Commercial dishwasher FAQ
There is a lot to consider when looking for a commercial dishwasher for sale. Take a look at some of the answers to commonly asked questions from venue owners and operators.
Does a commercial dishwasher need a grease trap?
According to Sydney Water, “wastewater from food preparation areas, floor wastes, kitchen sinks, dishwashers and garbage areas should all flow to the grease trap. The grease traps should be as close to the source of grease as possible, so pipes between the kitchen and the grease trap don’t clog with grease. If you can’t avoid long pipe runs, such as in shopping centres, you can use a heat trace or increase the grade.”
Check your own city’s regulations to determine if you need to connect your dishwasher to a grease trap.
How to descale a commercial dishwasher
Lime and scale can build up in the jets and filters of your commercial dishwasher, especially if your water source is ‘hard water’. To clean it, the general instructions are to drain the tank and refill it with fresh water, to add a deliming/descaling product and to then run the machine through a cycle. Your owner’s manual should tell you how many cycles to run for.
You then need to remember to drain and refill the water again. Note that different machines have different instructions for the deliming and that they may recommend a different type of chemical to use in the process.
How to drain a commercial dishwasher
Your commercial dishwasher should drain automatically but if it doesn’t, take a look inside the machine to check if the filters are clogged with food and give them a clean. Follow the instructions to make sure you don't cause damage to the machine. Make sure drain lines aren’t being interrupted by something outside of the machine. You can also check the wash arms to see if they are blocked. If you can’t identify the cause of the blockage, call a licensed professional.
What temperature should a commercial dishwasher be?
Wondering about commercial dishwasher temperature requirements? Your machine needs to use water that is hot enough to remove bacteria from dishes as well as dirt. Generally speaking, this means around 70 degrees celsius for the wash cycle and at least 80 degrees celsius during the rinse cycle. Be careful touching dishes as you open a dishwasher after a cycle as they may be hot, and be aware of steam coming out of the machine.
How much water does a commercial dishwasher use per load?
Your dishwasher will have a ‘litre per rack’ water use estimate when you buy it. This can range anywhere from 1.5 to three litres per rack or much more for a larger model. Newer models of dishwashers may have systems that enhance performance so less water is required.
How much does a commercial dishwasher cost?
The maximum you will pay for a conveyor commercial dishwasher can exceed $25,000. However, a more compact commercial dishwasher, a used model or a reconditioned commercial dishwasher will be more affordable, with prices that start from around $2,000.
Thanks for reading this Commercial Dishwasher Buyer's Guide
Hopefully this guide has helped you to understand the different types of commercial dishwasher, from conveyor to pass through and through to the more compact glasswasher models. If you are looking to buy a commercial dishwasher outright or lease a commercial dishwasher to buy, take a look at the range on offer from SilverChef.
Thanks go to Cathy Goodwin CFSP for providing her deep knowledge and insights to us for this commercial dishwasher buyer's guide. Cathy is an independent equipment consultant with over 35 years industry experience providing advice to cafes, restaurants and QSRs on their equipment choices and the implementation of best practice equipment maintenance and hygiene.