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Dishwasher Showdown: Hard Food Disposer vs. Filtration

by Olly Mason

Shopping for a dishwasher comes with its own list of important questions. Do you want a third rack? Is quiet operation more important for you? Which brands have the best performance? These are the obvious questions that most buyers focus on, but as anyone who’s done any appliance shopping can attest, there’s an equally substantial list of features that go largely unnoticed.

To that point, do you know the difference between a hard food disposer vs. a filtration system? At first glance, many assume the two are distinct functions on standard dishwashers when, in fact, the two serve largely the same purpose: ridding your dishwasher of food particles.

Still, the two use different methods to clean your dishwasher, and unless you’re aware, you could be operating your dishwasher incorrectly. Follow along to see how.

dishwasher door ajar with full top rack slightly extended

How a Dishwasher Food Disposer Works

Much like your sink’s garbage disposal, dishwashers with a hard food disposer pulverize food particles and then clear them from the water before it’s recirculated into the wash. On top of eliminating the need to manually clean the filter (i.e., it’s maintenance-free), hard food disposers also ensure spray arms and water pipes remain free of debris. As a result, dishwashers with built-in disposers boast spotless performance and keep your drains and pipes from getting clogged.

product image of hard food dishwasher disposal

How a Dishwasher Filtration System Works

The alternative to hard food disposers is a dishwasher filtration system that collects food particles in a basin at the bottom of the dishwasher tub. On more advanced dishwasher models, the filtration system is comprised of an ultra-mesh filter that essentially emulsifies foods down to miniscule particles. From there, they are rinsed through a kitchen’s pipes, leaving the remaining wash water clean.

 fine mesh dishwasher filter shown removed from tub

Still, even basic, dishwasher filtration systems produce effective results at the small expense of manual cleaning. Depending on how often a dishwasher is used, that could be once every couple of weeks up to a month. While not maintenance-free, when it comes to the cost difference between built-in disposer dishwashers and disposer-less dishwashers, many buyers consider the latter a more-than-considerable trade-off.

Dishwasher Filtration System vs. Dishwasher Disposer

man and woman crouch to inspect new dishwasher

All in all, no matter which dishwasher you use, achieving the best performance comes down to understanding how to operate your dishwasher. On top of following the manufacturer’s recommendations, most dishwasher experts suggest using rinse aid during every cycle and resisting the urge to rinse off dinnerware (this helps guard dishes from powerful detergent enzymes).

Still, there are some considerations when it comes to a dishwasher with a filtration system versus one with a built-in disposer.

For one, many manufacturers are making the switch to manual filters because of how much quieter they are compared to dishwasher disposers. While factors such as a stainless-steel tub or inline drive motor can help reduce a dishwasher’s noise level, a hard food disposer may still be too noisy for some.

However, because they are maintenance-free, users enjoy being able to operate disposer dishwashers without the residual odors or clogging that often happens with filter dishwashers. Additionally, a blocked dishwasher filter can also decrease water pressure and flow, leaving washes ineffective. When this occurs, users are forced to first troubleshoot the issue, fix it, then run a wash cycle again, costing extra time and money.

Final Takeaway

While buyers can anticipate there being fewer built-in disposer dishwashers on the market, many domestic brands continue to manufacture models with the feature, providing shoppers with more options. Ultimately, it all comes down to whether or not you mind using a little elbow grease, or if you expect your dishwasher to do it all for you.

Shop Where Reliability Comes Standard

Thankfully, we’re here to help you find a dependable, new dishwasher that meets your needs and taste in style. Start your search with us — we’re stocked with a wide category of dishwashers from brands you know and trust! Shop, browse, and compare online or in-store today! 

father and child unload clean dishes out of dishwasher