A young child helps a parent load a dishwasher. The best dishwashers for families have child locks for safety.

Considering how often babies and young kids eat and drink (like, all the time), a family could very well run their dishwasher more than once a day. These appliances need not only to do an exceptional job cleaning and drying dishes but also to stand up to the kind of abuses toddlers can inflict on appliances. Safety features that help keep kids from hurting themselves by, say, picking up sharp knives, are also important.

“The dishwasher is like a toy box for kids,” says Arvey Levinsohn, a certified childproofer and owner of A&H Childproofers in Chicago. “They just come running!”

If only they were helping do the dishes! Instead, kids constantly mess with the buttons, open the door midcycle, throw their toys in for a wash, use the door as a step stool, or unload the dishes ... onto the floor.

Before we go over the recommended models for families with young children, let's look at how certain features can help keep kids safe—and parents sane. For more on dishwashers and how we test them, see our dishwashers ratings and buying guide.

Safety First

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, between 2014 and 2017 there were 4,197 dishwasher-related injuries involving children under 10 that required a visit to the emergency room. Kids grab knives and cut their fingers or they fall onto the door or lower rack and hit their heads. To help keep your child out of the ER, we identified four safety features to look for.

More on dishwashers

Third rack. An extra tray at the top helps keep utensils and sharp objects out of sight and out of mind. “Not only are they higher and more difficult to pull out, but they’re also more hidden and less inviting to children,” says Karen Woolf, the pediatric ER director at the Medical Center of Aurora in Colorado.

Top-panel control buttons. Also good to keep out of sight: control buttons. Ones that are located on the top, rather than on the front, of a machine are harder for kids to see and reach.

Child locks. Some manufacturers offer locks for control panels, which keep your little one from inadvertently starting or interrupting a cycle. Of course, your child can still just yank the door open to stop a wash, which is why the next feature is also important.

Recessed handles. It’s hard for kids to open a dishwasher door if they don’t have anything to grab. A model with a recessed pocket handle rather than a bar handle can help keep your child from opening the door mid-wash or possibly breaking it, which could set you back about $250 to fix.

Squeaky Clean

Our testers smear a composite of sugars, starches, proteins, and fats—elements found in common foods—then bake it on to make it a challenge to clean. If the dishwasher can tackle this stuff, it can handle your kids' crusting egg yolks, sticky raspberry jam, and dried up spaghetti.

The results: Almost all of the dishwashers we test today—including the four models we recommend here—easily clean the caked-on residue with a normal wash cycle. In fact, all but one model in our rankings earn a rating of Very Good or Excellent for washing. The trickier test is drying plastic.

No More Drippy Sippies

Between the bowls, bottles, and sippy cups, kids go through a lot of plastic in a day.

“Plastic is more difficult to dry than glass and ceramic,” says Larry Ciufo, the test engineer who runs CR's dishwasher lab. “It doesn’t retain heat that would otherwise contribute to the evaporation process.”

To test a dishwasher’s drying capabilities, we use sippy cups. The models that earn Excellent ratings get plastic bone-dry. One tip: Put dishwasher-safe plasticware only in the upper racks, away from the heating elements at the bottom.

Do Not Disturb

You shouldn’t have to choose between clean dishes and a soundly sleeping baby. “Luckily, new dishwasher models have gotten even quieter than models from five years ago,” Ciufo says. Manufacturers list noise levels in decibels, but that rating is an average over an entire cycle, which isn’t all that useful because it doesn’t account for spikes in noise.

A better way to measure noise levels? Human ears. Ciufo and his panel of judges listen to each dishwasher we test through its entire cycle, noting peaks in noise—the moments that may wake a baby. The quietest models earn ratings of Very Good (you can hear them from a couple of feet away) or Excellent (silent unless you put your ear right up to the dishwasher’s door).

Dishwashers With Extras for Young Families

There are more than 140 models in our dishwasher ratings, and among those that rate Very Good or Excellent for cleaning, drying plastic, and noise, only four—a Bosch, Kenmore, GE, and Miele—have a third rack, control-lock or hidden buttons, or a recessed handle. CR members can read on for ratings and reviews of our picks.

Top Picks

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