It is easy to look at a small kitchen and think “oh great, I’ll just never cook again. Or have friends over for dinner.” But it does not have to be that way. Your tiny kitchen can have any of the things large kitchens have. You just can’t have all the things large kitchens have. But if you really want a dishwasher, there are more options than you’d think, and you do not have to drain your savings account.
So let’s talk dishwashers — regular size dishwashers — before we narrow our focus down to small ones. A standard size dishwasher is 24 inches wide, 24 inches deep and 35 inches high. Any dishwasher 18 inches or narrower is considered small. A standard dishwasher can clean 12 place settings at a time, and this same size is considered big enough for a family of four.
Before you go shopping for a dishwasher of any size, you need to be sure there is room to install it, even if its only 18 inches wide. Dishwashers almost always need to be installed next to a sink. But even if your kitchen is so oddly set up that you can’t fit a dishwasher next to the sink, you can still go with a counter top dishwasher. More on those in a moment.
So now that we’ve defined standard, let’s talk small. Small dishwashers — dishwashers 18 inches or narrower — are actually pretty common these days. Amazon.com has a few of them for sale, as does Sears, Best Buy, Lowes and others. You can get them for $400 or less. The thing to pay attention to is how high they are. If the dishwasher you want is a different height than your counter, it is not the end of the world, but you will have to make some adjustments if you want your counter top to stay level. It is easy if the dishwasher is shorter than the counter top — your installer just puts the dishwasher on a little platform to make it even. But if it is taller than the counter, you’ll have to get used to having a bit of counter space a few inches higher.
The ideal size for a small dishwasher is whatever width your cabinets are next to the sink. Standard cabinet widths are 12, 15 and 18 inches. There are plenty of 18 inch dishwashers for about $400 each. They typically fit eight plate settings, which would work for a family of three. 15 inch dishwashers are far and few between — none of the major retailers has one. So if the cabinets next to your sink are 15 inches or less, you may want to skip an under counter dishwasher all together, and try one of the newer counter top dishwashers.
Counter top dishwashers are also called “portable dishwashers”. If you are working in a truly minuscule kitchen, being able to pack up the dishwasher and put it in a closet when not in use might be a good thing. Otherwise you will need to sacrifice some of your already reduced counter space for the dishwasher. The good news is that these counter top dishwashers cost about $250, and they usually fit four place settings, which is enough for two people. So if you can find even 24 inches of counter space in your little kitchen, you can still get a dishwasher.