Every business or institution that deals with food preparation and serving foods and beverages in non-disposable dish- and glassware requires a good dishwasher. Commercial dishwashers are what we would call dishwashers that have a lot more power, more capacity and more speed than the regular, residential dishwashers. After all, a small residential dishwasher is designed to meet the needs of an average household, while a commercial dishwasher is designed to meet the requirements of a busy restaurant or a large university cafeteria with several hundreds of students dinning at the same time.
However, not just any dishwasher will do. There are several very different types of commercial dishwashers with different features, so picking the right dishwasher is not a task to be taken lightly. The dishwasher that you choose for your business will directly influence the efficiency of your kitchen, the speed at which the guests or visitors are served, and the time at which your staff can wrap everything up and can finally go home after a busy night.
This article is meant for those who are planning to get a dishwasher for their establishment, but don’t know much about where to start. We’ll provide guidelines on how to choose the right commercial dishwasher for your business, so, at the very least, our guide should point you in the right direction.
#1 Commercial Dishwasher Dimensions & Capacity
Buyer tip: Dishwashers must be carefully sized to match the expected load. The load is typically measured in racks of dishes washed per hour.
The key to choosing an appropriate dishwasher for your business is recognizing machine’s size and capacity that would benefit your business. A dishwasher that doesn’t deliver enough clean dishes fast enough is an equally wrong choice as a dishwasher that is too large for your kitchen and meant for busier establishments.
So, before you start looking, make sure you know what you are looking for. Think about how many washware needs to be processed daily, think about your busiest times of the day or the week, and think about where the machine could be placed in order to fit and to be out of your employees’ way.
After you come up with some numbers, it’s time to choose the correct type of dishwasher for your business. There are a few types of commercial dishwashers, so you’ll first look at your numbers, then the dishwasher capacity and speed, and then finally its size. In case you serve 100 people each day, you don’t need to waste time looking at massive dishwashers that can process 350 dishes per hour, now do you?
Undercounter Commercial Dishwasher
Undercounter dish machine is the smallest and most compact type of commercial dishwashers. With an average height of 38″ or less, width of about 24″ and depth of 25″, these machines take up as much space as the residential dishwashers do, only with one important difference: they are much much faster. In fact, commercial undercounters can process 30-35 racks per hour with each cycle lasting for about 2 minutes.
Due to their size, undercounters are an excellent choice for establishments that serve less than 100 meals per hour, such as small diners, bars, cafes, nursing homes, daycare centers or churches. They come as both low- and high-temp varieties.
Door Type Commercial Dishwasher
Door type dishwashers are also designed to conserve space, so they are about 25″ wide and 25″ deep, while the height varies between 60″ and 90″. The single or double-rack washing compartment with wash arms and door that slides up or down is located at their center. The single-rack dishwashers can process between 40 and 60 racks or 160 to 175 covers per hour, depending on the model. This means that the wash cycle can go under a minute. They come as both low- and high-temp varieties and some even have a conveyor for constant processing.
Due to their capacity, width and the fact that they are fast and very easy to use, the door-type dishwashers are most commonly used in most restaurants and any establishments that process between 100 and 500 meals per hour.
Commercial Conveyor Dishwasher
These dishwashers got their name due to conveyor belts that run through the dishwasher. The belts carry dishracks from one side to the other through the wash-compartment where stationary spray arms wash, rinse and sanitize the dishes. They are the largest type with a height that can measure up to 10′ and width of 44″ or 66″. There are two types of conveyors: Single-tank (with a tank for wash water, followed by a final sanitizing rinse) and Multiple-tank conveyors (with one or more tanks for wash water and one or more tanks for pumped rinse water, followed by the final sanitizing rinse).
They come as both low- and high-temp varieties and can process 400-450 racks per hour, which makes them perfect for large cafeterias that serve between 500 and 2000 meals per hour.
Flight conveyors are the biggest commercial dishwashers on the market, consisting of separate compartments or washing zones that come together to represent an entire washing system. They are large conveyors with a difference of not using dishracks (also referred to as rackless conveyors). Flight type dishwashers can process up to 45,000 dishes per hour, but they must be custom built for each establishment, so there are differences in both capacity and design. They are usually used by very large institutions such as schools, universities, hospitals, large work canteens, large event venues or other establishments serving more than 2000 meals per hour.
Buyer tip: Keep in mind that the dishwashers can be really loud. The more power, the more louder the noise. If for any reason a loud dishwasher would cause issues, make sure you go through reviews and specifications and look for decibel ratings.
Commercial Glass Dishwasher
The most common glasswashers are the under-counter models with average dimensions of 72″ wide, 22″ deep and 38″ high. Glasswashers use low-pressure water, so that the glasses can be thoroughly cleaned without causing them to break by the water pressure. Since they can process anywhere from several hundreds to several thousands of glasses per hour, glasswashers are primarily used in restaurants and bars that use high volume of glassware.
In-sink glasswashers also exist and are a good option for bars, because they can fit in the bar sink. They have rotating brush set that is set in hot water to scrub used glasses. However, these glasswashers are operated manually, and therefore, cannot handle more than an employee can manage to wash.
Besides the glasswashers that are quite frequent, there are a couple of specialty machines designed for specific types of warewash, such as utensil and pot & pan washers. Utensil washers are suitable for larger establishments that need to process hundreds of utensils daily, so this unit would be an excellent addition to your conveyor dishwasher.
Pot & pan washers are suitable for restaurants that deal with a lot of pans and pots, as cleaning those is not as easy as cleaning other dishes, such as plates and bowls. These washers use higher water pressures and typically include features like heavy-duty racks, an external pre-rinse wash-down hose, high-velocity spray nozzles and many more.
# 2 Commercial Dishwasher Temperature Requirements
Most types of commercial dishwashers come as low-temp and high-temp varieties. As you can assume just by looking at the names, the difference lies in the temperature used during the washing cycle. High-temp commercial dishwasher uses high-temperature water of 150-160 degrees to wash the dishes and a final rinse temperature of at least 180 degrees to fully sanitize them. Low-temp commercial dishwasher uses lower-temperature water of between 120 and 140 degrees, which means that it is sometimes unable to completely remove stubborn stains, such as lipstick or greasy residue in just one wash, and that chemical sanitizing agents must be used during the washing cycle.
A clear consensus on which type is better still hasn’t been reached and it will be entirely up to you to decide based on your business size, traffic and overall requirements. Both options, however, have their pros and cons. For example, high-temp models cost more and require more energy than the low-temp models, but they don’t require chemical sanitizers on a regular basis, which is an item that won’t be a part of your monthly expenses. Contrariwise, low-temperature dishwashers can save you money on energy bills, but the sanitizers do represent an additional cost and obligation.
And not just that, as sanitizers are typically a solution of ammonium, chlorine or iodine, they tend to damage certain types of dishes, are known to leave a slighter or stronger aftertaste on the dishes, and can harm or damage certain dishware materials, such as aluminum, steel, silver, some plastics, peter and other alloys. In case you choose a low-temp unit, make sure you know what your serving products are made of and consult the chemical vendor to avoid chemical degradation.
However, due to the intense heat, high-temperature commercial dishwashers produce more steam and need a condensate hood, which, while an excellent addition, it represents additional initial cost and requires additional space. Important to mention is that some models have built-in condensers, or some use the steam to heat the next-cycle wash water, after which the steam gets dispersed down the drain, so that’s another thing to look out for. On the other hand, low-temperature units are easier to place, since they may not require a condensate hood. Also, since they don’t create steam and don’t raise the room temperature, they are preferred for locations near customers.
High-temperature dishwashers may also need a cold-water line installed to the machine’s drain, because you’ll need to cool it down from the sanitizing temperatures to a level that is safe for the wastewater system.
When it comes to the environmental aspect, although high-temp dishwashers consume more energy than the low-temp models, leading manufacturers usually produce them to be energy efficient (we’ll talk about the Energy Star certificate a bit later), which means that the units are designed to use as less water and energy as possible. Also, since high-temperature units don’t use chemicals, there’s no chemical waste dumped in the drainage system, which is another ecological benefit.
High-temp dishwashers tend to clean dishes better on the whole, and they clean and dry dishes faster as they don’t have that extra rinse with chemicals at the end and they use hot water for rinsing. This fast-drying ability means that the dishes will be ready to use sooner, which is crucial in case you run a busy restaurant, but it’s not so crucial in case you are running a smaller coffee shop.
Hot-temperature dishwashers might not be a good choice for busy bars, as warm glasses can warm up beverages that are served cold, and you’ll lose time waiting for the glasses to get cold. On the other hand, sanitized glasses can prevent the formation of beer foam, which will influence the flavor and force you to pour more beer into glasses to fill them up – also not good for the profit in the long run.
In the end, it all comes down to the costs. As mentioned, low-temp machines have lower initial cost of as much as several thousands of dollars, but you’ll need to find sanitizers that are suitable and fit your budget (not possible in case you are renting or leasing the dishwasher, as you’ll be required by the contract to use that company’s products). Even though high-temperature dishwashers seem like a whole lot of money both in terms of initial costs, additional utilities and energy, it is generally accepted that low-temperature dishwashers tend to become more expensive over time.
Booster heater is considered an accessory for dishwashers that are not producing enough heat to meet required sanitation needs. Booster heaters raise the temperature of the rinse cycle water providing cleaner results and faster drying times.
There are two types of booster heaters: electric booster heaters and gas boosters. Electric boosters are a good choice for establishments such as restaurants with low-electricity utility costs. As for gas boosters, they heat the water twice as faster than the electric ones and are 30-50% cheaper. However, you’ll need to vent them out.
# 3 Commercial Dishwasher Racks Used
The dishracks are used to maximize the effectiveness of cleaning by enabling the largest possible dish surface to be exposed during the cleaning process. The racks either remain stationary or are revolved on an axis inside the dishwasher while the dishes get washed and rinsed.
The size of a standard full-size dishrack is 20″ x 20″ and most commercial dishwashers are designed to accommodate them. However, there are also half-racks that are designed for smaller units. Dishracks are usually designed to accommodate a specific type of warewash, so these are four standard types:
- Glass racks – these are designed for glassware, and come as either ware-specific or all-purpose models; they have multiple compartments and optional extenders for stacking rows on top of each other;
- Flatware baskets – these half racks are designed to hold the flatware upright during washing;
- Peg racks – these racks are designed to hold pots, pans, lids and dinnerware upright during washing;
- Flat racks – these have a tight grid on the bottom to prevent pieces from falling through and are perfect for flatware.
Door type dishwashers are also called Rack dishwashers and they come as single rack and double rack varieties. As the names suggest, single-rack dishwashers can accommodate one rack, so these machines are a preferred choice for small restaurants, bars or cafes with low-volume traffic. On the other hand, double-rack dishwashers can accommodate two racks, and therefore, can clean more dishes than the single-rack models and are suitable for larger establishments.
Buyer tip: When choosing dishracks, make sure you pick the ones that are designed to accommodate the types of dishes that you use, and make sure you get enough racks as required by the washing frequency.
#4 Corner Commercial Dishwasher
Besides being offered as single or double-rack varieties, door-type dishwashers are designed as straight or corner models. Both were designed not to influence your kitchen traffic, usually being placed either against the wall or in a corner.
Straight dishwashers have doors either on both sides, or in the front and back. In both cases, the dish or glass racks pass straight through, either from side to side, or from front to back.
Corner dishwashers, on the other hand, have the dish or glass racks inserted from the front, while they exit from the side. There are also combo dishwashers that can be used as either straight or corner units.
#5 Energy Star Commercial Dishwasher
Water conservation and energy saving have become an important subject in many regions across the United States, as both continue to become a growing concern. In their efforts to save energy and lower water consumption, manufacturers of commercial dishwashers continue to develop new technologies that would enable maximum unit performance with as less water and energy consumption as possible, as dishwashers are typically the largest water and energy consumer in commercial kitchens.
For example, manufacturers have identified the idle time during the dishwashing cycle as something that can have a huge impact on the overall energy consumption. Dishwashers can spend a lot of time in a stand-by condition and these ide energy and water consumption rates are where they learned they could make a difference.
Some innovative technologies for increasing water efficiency include multi-staging rinse water reuse for pre-rinse application, efficient rinse nozzles, and advanced sensors to conserve water during idle time. When it comes to energy saving, some of the strategies include sophisticated controls and sensors, low-power mode during extended periods of non-use, automatic pump shut-off during idle times, heat recovery technology and so on.
Energy Star requirements apply to all commercial dishwashers, except the flight type: undercounter (with wash cycles of 10 minutes of less), stationary single-tank, door type dishwashers, pot, pan and utensil type dishwashers, conveyors (single- and multiple rack varieties), and single- and multiple-tank flight type dishwashers. Ineligible are gas, steam and other non-electric models.
Important to mention is that an efficient dishwasher is cost-effective when the lifetime energy savings exceeds the up-front cost in comparison to a less efficient option. So, not only does an Energy Star sticker mean that the dishwasher will consume less water and energy (speaking of which, Energy Star certified dishwashers use 40% less energy and water than other standard models), but it also means that such an eco-friendly machine will save you about $5,500 for the conveyor-type dishmachines and about $1,300 for other eligible dishmachines per year on average on your water and energy bills. You can be an environmental superhero while saving a few extra bucks each month.
User tip: Make sure your dishwasher is always fully loaded and turn the machine off as soon as possible to avoid idle energy use!
# 6 Additional Features to Consider
There is a lot of different dishwasher accessories, such as the ones intended to improve user comfort and efficiency or various items for specialty needs and so on. Important is to recognize whether your dishwasher is quite sufficient or if you need to invest in some of these additional features. Some of them are:
- Rinse Stations/Hoses – these can help improve efficiency and dishwasher cleaning results by removing large pieces of debris before placing the dishes in the machine;
- Drying Racks – drying racks are a great addition to low-temp machines as you’ll avoid the practice of manually drying the dishes after the washing cycle is over.
- Grease Traps – these are connected to the flow restrictors on the inlet side to slow down the incoming water flow. The water slows down and the grease that is unfit for processing in wasterwater gets trapped at the top of the static water;
- Disposers – these are used to separate some of the food waste before the dishes are placed into the dishwasher;
- Waste Disposal Systems – things such as pulpers and extractors are a great way to reduce waste removal costs, as they can process hundreds of pounds of waste. Similarly, dehydrators and biodigesters also reduce waste removal costs and help the environment;
- Dishwasher Chemicals – no matter if you choose a low- or high-temperature dishwasher, you are going to need some sort of chemical. Low-temp machines will need sanitizing chemicals, all machines will need a detergent and water softener, so finding a company that delivers high-quality dishwasher chemicals is very important.
User tip: Never store wet dishes, and the moist is an excellent ground for breeding bacteria and mold. In case you don’t dry the dishes manually or don’t have drying racks, give the dishes as much time as needed to air dry.
# 7 Commercial Dishwasher Manufacturers
After you get a clearer idea about the dishwasher type that is most suitable for your business, you should check out the options that different brands offer. This is where everything will come down to specifications and cost.
Since dishwasher is such a precious piece of equipment, you probably should back off from considering cheap, no-name appliances. The safest and the right way to go would be to only compare offers from trusted brands with respectable reputations. You can’t go wrong with a brand that is well-known for high-quality products and that has established itself as one of the industry leaders.
We came up with a list of few names in case you don’t know much about commercial dishwasher manufacturers, or you are familiar with the names, but not the reviews.
CMA Dishmachines is a California company that started pioneering its concept of “Low Energy” glass- and warewashing equipment in the early 1970s. Today, CMA delivers high-quality low- and high-temp dishwashers that include conveyors, upright dishwashers, glass washers, under-counter dishwashers (most are Energy Star products) and scullery series, and various warewashing accessories, such as booster heaters, dishtables, dishracks, work stations and so on.
Customer reviews say that their dishwashers are very easy to use, compact, durable, powerful, fast, and most importantly, they deliver impressively clean and shiny glasses.
ADS – American Dish Service
ADS is a company with over 50 years of tradition and impressive history. Namely, it all started when two gentlemen from Miami, Oklahoma received patents for the most innovative concept to reach the market – the revolutionary sanitizing low-temp dishwasher. One of the gentlemen eventually moved his then rental company to Kansas City, Missouri and gave it the name ADS (abbreviation for “Always Direct Sanitation” at that point). After selling Chem Mark International, ADS took up manufacturing as primary business and expended its line.
Today, ADS offers double tanks, glasswashers, high-temp dishwashers, undercounters and its star – the conveyor, with the 44″ conveyor being voted the best 44 in the country. Another highly praised product is the high-temp door type dishwasher with an amazing 45-second cycle.
Jackson WWS, Inc.
Jackson dishwashers have strong reputation of being products that are built to last. The company itself has a long history of more than 90 years – the Jackson Dishwasher Company was founded in 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Company’s prime focus is developing eco-friendly machines, so, for example, their DynaTemp and RackStar machines have the lowest water consumption in their respective categories. Customers described them as being fast and durable.
Other Dishwasher Brands
Some of the well-known global leaders are Ecolab and Hobart, while other respectable brands with good reputation worth mentioning are Miele, Jet-Tech, Fagor, Miele and Nobel. All products are praised for their speed and quality, with some having more negative reviews from the other when it comes to different features, such as price, difficulty to use and so on.
This is a well-known company that specializes in high-quality and innovative commercial-grade products for bars, restaurants, hotels, event catering and convention facilities, and is the leading manufacturer of 5-brush portable electric glasswashers.
Since its 1961 five-brush Electric Glass Washing Machine was voted the “World’s Most Efficient Glass Washer”, BarMaid continued to evolve its products and has developed a wide variety or brush styles and the line of products called “Best in the Bar”. Bartenders choose BarMaid products for durability, efficiency and size of its products.