Dryers that don’t dry, vacuum cleaners that don’t clean, and air conditioners that don’t cool may all be plagued by the same problem: a clogged or dirty filter. To keep many top-performing appliances in tip-top shape, you have to clean or replace the filter. When Consumer Reports tests vacuums, air conditioners, dishwashers, and other appliances, filter replacement is one of the things we consider as part of our ease-of-use score. Here are some recommendations from our experts.
Dishwashers are equipped with either an automatic filter that grinds food particles so they wash away with the waste water or a manual filter that you need to clean yourself. The grinders can be noisy so quiet dishwashers often have manual filters. They should be cleaned at least every three to six months depending on how often you use your dishwasher. And some manufacturers recommend cleaning the filter every two or three weeks so check the owner’s manual. “Dirty filters won’t damage a dishwasher but will affect its performance,” says Larry Ciufo, who tests dishwashers for Consumer Reports.
Tested models. The Bosch Ascenta SHX3AR7UC, $700, which is a CR Best Buy, has a manual filter and is one of the quietest models during fill, wash, and drain. In our dishwasher tests, it was especially energy efficient, using almost six gallons of water in a normal 93-minute cycle. Among models with self-cleaning filters, our experts recommend the Frigidaire Gallery FGHD2472PF, $700, which scored excellent in washing and features a soil sensor and a stainless-steel tub.
Yes, there are filters in microwaves. Over-the-range microwaves have a filter underneath to ensure that the vent has proper airflow and ventilation. A clogged filter doesn’t exhaust properly or adequately capture cooking fumes or grease particles, leaving a sticky film on appliances and kitchen walls. To keep it clean, wash the filter in warm, soapy water at least twice a year and more often if you cook at home every night. Some microwaves have dishwasher safe filters. “If your filter has grease buildup, it can start dripping on your cooktop,” says Ciufo, who also tests microwaves.
Tested models. Only two of the 75 over-the-range microwaves in our microwave tests received an excellent score in venting—the Kenmore Elite 8852, $550, and Panasonic Genius Prestige NN-SD297[SR], $430. They were also top-notch at performing their primary functions of cooking, reheating, and defrosting food.