Is a Countertop Dishwasher a Convenience or a Nuisance in a Small Kitchen?

We spent two weeks testing the Farberware countertop dishwasher to determine if it was helpful enough to take up valued countertop real estate.
A Faberware Professional Countertop Dishwasher with clean plates and utensils.
Photo by Travis Rainey

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The Venn diagram that captures the target audience of a countertop dishwasher is narrow and specific: apartment dwellers unable (for space, plumbing, or landlord reasons) to put in a under-counter dishwasher or those who are committed to the #vanlife. That’s...pretty much it. 

When the opportunity to test Farberware's countertop dishwasher came up, I tried to approach it with an open mind, but to be honest, I was already a skeptic. A dishwasher? On my Brooklyn apartment’s barely-there countertop? I generate a lot of dirty dishes in my job as a recipe tester and in general, as an (overly) ambitious home cook. This thing was going to have to really pull its weight—all 44.9 pounds of it—to win me over.

The Farberware countertop dishwasher has glowing reviews from The Cut and more than 1,600 elated folks on Amazon, who claim it’s “worth the cost,” “pretty damn quiet,” “perfect for an apartment” (or, writes another, an RV), “a powerhouse,” “sleek, sexy,” and even “a depression-fighting minion.” It’s middle-of-the-road in terms of pricing; portable dishwashers can range from about $200 to nearly $800, with this one coming in around $350. It does have one feature that makes it more valuable than many: a convenient built-in water tank that lets the washer run without being hooked up to the faucet (or permanently plumbed in).

For background, my usual dishwashing situation is pretty minimalist: sponge, coir scrub brush, regular old dish soap and, instead of a dish rack, a dish towel spread to the right of the sink for piling up clean dishes, plus a perforated stainless steel cup for holding silverware as it dries. I let everything air-dry and swap in a fresh towel between sink-loads of dishes.

When the countertop dishwasher arrived, my partner and I hefted it up the stairs to our apartment and I got to work setting it up, which was easy: Clamp the provided plumbing hose to the back of the washer, guiding it into the sink so that dirty water can empty directly into the drain, and fill the machine up with water (five liters, or three of the included pitcher’s worth). The new dishwasher, a pretty good-looking, 16-inch cube, took over most of the space typically occupied by the dish towel, which was now relegated to a strip of countertop about half the size.

I have a large kitchen by New York City standards, which is to say I do have a little counter space to spare. I also cook a lot at home by anyone’s standards, and am very happy for a dishwashing break whenever I can get one. Even so, it was hard for me to really appreciate the machine. It managed to be both bulky and small. Here’s what I mean: For the sizable real estate it occupied, it could only wash a fraction of what was dirty—three or four plates or bowls, a couple of water glasses and coffee mugs, and a handful of cutlery. In my household of two humans and two animals, that gets used most days for just breakfast and lunch. The “normal” cycle runs two hours and 10 minutes and gets things clean, yes, but not especially dry; I could wash the same number of dishes in 15 minutes max.

And yet, we did use the countertop dishwasher at least once a day for two weeks. It was truly effective at washing plastic containers, and we appreciated being able to load in an emptied jar of long-forgotten salsa verde without having to get too close. It felt genuinely luxurious to wedge in dirty dishes, close the door, and climb into bed, enjoying some evening reading time as the machine made its soothing, sloshy aquarium sounds down the hall. And when, cannily, a plumbing emergency in our building left us with unpredictably available running water, I was incredibly grateful to know we’d have clean dishes to eat dinner on. There’s also a special setting for sterilizing baby items, which alone could make the machine a good buy.

Farberware Portable Countertop Dishwasher

So is the Farberware countertop dishwasher worth it? The answer seems deeply personal, hinging on how much you really hate washing dishes by hand. When we reached the last pod of dishwashing soap in the little sack of 20 I’d bought for this test, my partner (who even likes doing the dishes) admitted that she was going to be a little sad to see the dishwasher go. I, on the other hand, am eager to get my countertop back.