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NAICS: 33-5228 Other Major Household Appliances

SIC: 3639 Household Appliances, not elsewhere classified

NAICS-Based Product Codes: 33-52285, 33-522851, 33-52285110, 33-52285111, 33-52285113, and 33-52285197


A dishwasher is a cleaning appliance that pushes multiple jets of water through spray arms onto neatly arranged, soiled dishes causing food, grease and grime to fall away, leaving dishes and utensils clean and ready to reuse. The development of the modern dishwasher has enabled people tasked with cleaning a kitchen after a meal to accomplish that task with ease. The device has one primary goal, washing dishes, glassware, pots and pans with higher temperature water and with specialized cleaning cycles that are more effective than manual methods of cleaning. The convenience factor alone has made dishwashers a standard fixture in the kitchens of the industrialized world in the twenty-first century.

Early History

The earliest patent noted in America for a dishwasher was in 1850 issued to Joel Houghton, who built a wooden machine with a hand-turned wheel that splashed water on dishes. The functionality of this machine was minimal. Later, in 1865, L.A. Alexander obtained a patent for a device that used a hand crank and gearing to spin dishes through the dishwater, again lacking in functionality and feasibility. Through the late nineteenth century other dishwashers were designed but, like the early machines for washing clothes, they were large contraptions that used steam and large supplies of heated water to soak many dishes at one time. In some models, the dishes were held on cradles that rocked through the water; others had paddles that sloshed water around the dishes or circular racks that held the dishes and rotated to circulate them through the water. There were machines designed with an assortment of propellers or plungers that drove water over dishes in an effort to clean them. As the designs for such machines evolved, all manner of systems were used to move the water over dishes usually held in a stationary racking system.

Josephine Cochrane is credited with designing the first hand-operated mechanical dishwasher. In a paper titled "Inventing the Dishwasher," John H. Leinhard tells the story of Josephine, who was born Josephine Garis in 1839. She married merchant and politician William Cochran and lived as a socialite in Illinois. Josephine Cochran was so bothered by the damage to her seventeenth century china that she began to do the washing of her own fine china. Frustrated with this mundane and laborious task, she set out to design a machine that would wash dishes. In the late nineteenth century, Cochrane established the Garis-Cochran Dish-Washing Machine Company to promote and sell the results of her invention, a hand-operated mechanical dishwasher. Cochran's big break came in 1893 when her machines were used in the vast kitchens at Chicago's World Fair. Nonetheless, for the mass market, this early dishwasher and others like it were ahead of their time. The machines required large quantities of hot water not available in most homes at the time—and the machines were bulky. Their only practical applications were in large institutional settings. Cochran's company grew through the years and later became a part of KitchenAid. In 1949 the first KitchenAid dishwasher based on Cochran's design was brought to market.

By the mid-1950s special low-sudsing dish-washing soaps were developed especially for dishwashers increasing their cleansing abilities. While the dishwasher remains one of the home appliances with the lowest penetration rate of all large household appliances, it has become a standard in many U.S. households.

Types of Machines

Dishwashers come in a large range of sizes and offer an extensive range of features. They fall into two basic categories: Portable Dishwashers (standard, countertop, and convertible models) and Built-in, Under-the-counter Dishwashers, (Built-ins, Dish drawers, and Fully Integrated models).

Portable dishwashers offer home owners the option of in-home dishwashers without the concern of permanent placement. Portable dishwashers are self-contained units that can be transported form one location to another. The intake feed is not permanently attached to a water source. When is use, a portable dishwasher is hooked up to a kitchen faucet using an adaptor. The water for the faucet is carried to the dishwasher through an intake tube and after cleaning is expelled through the output valve into the sink drain for disposal. A portable dishwasher is useful in kitchens short on space. The downside of this appliance is that, while in operation, the faucet it is hooked up denying water for other uses.

The current trend for portable dishwashers has seen the advent of the portable countertop dishwasher. These newly designed units offer the convenience of washing up to four place settings on the countertop while using less water than would be used during a manual hand washing cycle. The units are designed to fit under most wall cabinets with a total height of 17 inches and are created with a quick-connect faucet adaptor making hookups reasonably simple. The ease and simplicity of these devices outweighs their limitations in size for use in apartments, small galley style kitchens, break rooms, and mobile homes.

Convertible dishwashers bridge the gap between standard portable dishwashers and built-in dishwashers leaving the owner with the possibility of flexible or permanent placement. The convertible dishwasher, like the portable dishwasher, is rolled to the sink for operation. A tap adapter must be used to connect two hoses to the kitchen sink. One tap is for filling the dishwasher with water and the other is for removing waste from the chamber. The electrical cords and hoses connected to the dishwasher store neatly behind the unit. The convertible units are converted to built-in units by removing the exterior wall and rollers. The idea that a dishwasher can be portable today and built-in tomorrow, keep these units popular in many applications like apartments, older homes, and mobile homes.

Built-in dishwashers are permanently installed under a 36 inch high countertop, industry standard height, leaving only the front door and control panel exposed. The doors of the dishwashers are available in many finishes to coordinate with design trends in the kitchen industry. A standard dishwasher is 34 inches high, 24 inches wide, and 24 inches deep. Standard European models are slightly smaller but fit the same rough opening as models produced for the North American market. Built-in dishwashers are hard-wired for electrical purposes and are permanently installed on the hot water line with release into the drain tee or food-waste disposal line.

Drawer dishwashers are available under several brands depending on geographic location; Fisher & Paykel, Kenmore, KitchenAid, and Bauknecht are providers of such units in the United States. These dishwasher drawers are based on the concept of the filing cabinet with each dishwasher having two fully independent cabinets. They are marketed as either an individual drawer for small living spaces or as a double drawer for roomier kitchens.


The interior of a dishwasher, also known as the tub, can be comprised of plastic or stainless steel, the later being the current trend. Older model or lower-end dishwasher interior finishes are formulated of baked enamel on steel and are prone to erosion and chipping. The process to fix such chips in the baked enamel requires the finish to be cleaned of all dirt and corrosion and then patched with a special compound or a good quality two-part epoxy, leaving the interior of the dishwasher spotty at best. Stainless steel dishwashers do not have these corrosion problems. The stainless tubs also resist hard water staining, provide better sound dampening, and preserve heat to dry dishes faster. A stainless steel tub comes at a premium.

The addition of food waste disposals in dishwashing units is another trend in this industry. North American dishwashers in the mid- to high-end range claim these units can eliminate large pieces of food waste from the dishwasher by sending them through a disposal system similar to that of a garbage disposal. The benefit of such a system is that it makes a pre-rinsing of dishes unnecessary thereby saving both time and labor. KitchenAid offers devices with this feature in its high-end line of machines.

Modern dishwashers provide a control panel that includes digital displays on the front panel. The displays use computer chips and light emitting diodes (LEDs) to signal the status of the machine at any time. Products with built-in food elimination systems may also have turbidity sensors that determine the number of rinses needed to obtain the perfect wash.

Energy consumption is a key concern in the manufacture of environmentally friendly appliances. Water consumption or the amount of water required to run the programmed cycles varies by brand and type of cycle. On average North American dishwashers use 8 gallons of water per normal operational cycle. European dishwashers utilize 4 to 6 gallons of water per normal operational cycle. Energy Star-rated dishwashers beat the minimum federal standards for energy consumption. Products with such a rating benefit the environment and cost less to operate since they use less energy.


An analysis of the market for dishwashers begins with a look at the industry referred to by the U.S. Census Bureau as Other Major Household Appliance Manufacturing. Approximately 40 to 45 percent of industry shipments, the range depending on the year, is represented by dishwashers. The industry as a whole covers water heaters, both gas and electric; dishwashers; food waste disposers; trash compactors; and floor waxing and polishing machines. This industry as a whole, in the United States, saw steady growth over the period 1997 to 2005 with industry shipments growing 32 percent over this period or 3.5 percent per year. Industry shipments in 1997 were $3.23 billion and in 2005 they stood at $4.26 billion. Census Bureau data do not provide shipment data for dishwashers specifically.

Within that industry is a sector in which dishwashers are a major part, referred to by the Census Bureau as Household Appliances and Parts not elsewhere classified. Product shipments in this industry saw similar growth rates over the period 1997 to 2005, growing from $1.59 billion in 1997 to $2.13 billion in 2005.

A more detailed, product-level view is provided by the Census Bureau's Current Industrial Reports series which reports data on domestic shipments, imports, and exports of dishwashers as such. The available data series permits us to look back to 2001 with the most recent data provided being for the year 2006. In 2001 dishwasher shipments stood at $1.39 billion, increasing to $1.95 billion by 2006, producing a growth rate of 7 percent annually, double that of the total industry of which dishwashers are a part. In that the other category is dominated by water heaters, this growth rate indicates that the performance of dishwashers is shaped by special household initiatives rather than merely mirroring new residential construction being put in place. The pattern of sales over the 1997 to 2006 period is shown in Figure 79. Data for the period from 1997 to 2001 are estimates based on the broader category, Household Appliances and Parts not elsewhere classified.

Imports and exports play a rather minor role in this industry, particularly when compared with other household appliances. Dishwasher exports at the level of $108.6 million in 2002 were matched by imports of $77 million, giving the United States a trade surplus that year. By 2006 imports had increased to $163 million, exports stood at $155.2 million, producing a very small trade deficit of 7.8 million.

The penetration rate of dishwashers in U.S. households, equal to the percentage of households that have at least one dishwasher, stood at 60.5 percent in 2005. This means that nearly 40 percent of households did not have a dishwasher, representing a potentially large market for new dishwashers. However, more than half of dishwashers sold in the United States annually are replacements. The life expectancy of an average dishwasher built in the early twenty-first century stood at eleven years, although some low-end machines were only expected to last for three years. Appliance Magazine, in a 2006 overview of the appliance industry, projected that replacement sales of dishwashers in 2007 would represent 4.8 million units.


Seven manufacturers of dishwashing machines are competing for the consumer's purchasing dollar. The top two U.S. manufacturers are Whirlpool and General Electric. Leading foreign manufacturers are Electrolux, BSH Bosh und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH, LG Electronics, and Miele.

Whirlpool Corporation

Whirlpool, headquartered in Benton Harbor, Michigan, has brand names recognized by anyone who ever separated dark colors from light. Whirlpool is the number one U.S. home appliance maker and second worldwide, after Sweden's AB Electrolux. In addition to Whirlpool branded products the company sells products it makes under brand names including KitchenAid, Bauknecht, Roper, and Magic Chef. Approximately 14 percent of Whirlpool's 2006 sales came from its Kenmore products, produced under contract for retailer Sears Roebuck and Company. With the purchase in 2006 of Maytag, the company had secured this leading position for the foreseeable future.

Whirlpool has annual sales in the range of $19 billion and more than 80,000 employees worldwide. In addition to ovens, stoves and ranges, this company manufactures washers and dryers, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, trash compactors, room air conditioners, and microwaves ovens. It has a strong international presence and is a leader in the home appliance field worldwide.


Founded at the beginning of the twentieth century as Aktiebolaget Electrolux, this Swedish firm was first involved with floor-cleaning devices and later expanded into larger household appliances and commercial-grade kitchen machinery. In 2005 the company's worldwide net sales were $16 billion, and it employed more than 57,000 people in 150 countries. Nearly half of Electrolux's net sales are made in Europe with an additional 40 percent originating in North America. Latin America is its next largest market, and represented 5 percent of the company's net sales in 2005.

Fisher & Paykel Appliances

This company is a major appliance manufacturer located in Auckland, New Zealand. In November 2001 Fisher & Paykel Industries Limited was separated into two independent publicly listed companies, Fisher & Paykel Appliances Holdings Limited and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Limited. In October 2004 the company acquired Dynamic Cooking Systems, Inc. (DCS). DCS, a leading U.S. manufacturer and distributor of premium cooking appliances, was acquired for US$33 million in a debt free state. This acquisition allowed Fisher & Paykel the ability to leverage market presence while maintaining its higher quality of engineering. The DCS product line has been seen as complementing the existing Fisher & Paykel product line.

In June of 2006 Fisher & Paykel acquired Elba, the Italian cookware business from De Longhi. The purchase price for the acquisition of Elba was US$ 98 million. Elba, based near Treviso, Italy, manufactures and distributes cookware products including freestanding stoves, built-in ovens and cooktops. Elba exports to more than fifty-four countries.

BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH

Headquartered in Munich, Germany, this company is a 50/50 joint venture between Robert Bosch and Siemens. BSH is one of Europe's largest appliance manufacturers. BSH's major appliances include dishwashers, ovens, microwaves, washers and dryers, refrigerators, freezers, and vacuum cleaners. It also makes small appliances, such as coffee-makers and hair dryers, as well as motors and pumps. The company's primary brands are Bosch and Siemens, but it also produces its own brands, including Balay, Coldex, Constructa, Continental, Gaggenau, Lynx, Neff, Pitsos, Profílo, Thermador, Viva, and Ufesa.

General Electric Corporation

General Electric (GE) is associated with most the major modern technological markets. The company produces an enormous range of products including aircraft engines; locomotives and other transportation equipment; kitchen and laundry appliances; lighting; electric distribution and control equipment; generators and turbines, and medical imaging equipment. GE is also one of the largest financial services companies in the United States, offering commercial finance, consumer finance, and equipment financing. To round things out, the company also owns the NBC television network. Kitchen appliances were a very small part of GE's total revenues of $163 billion in 2006.

LG Electronics Inc. (LG)

This large company is based in Seoul, South Korea. LG makes many of the sorts of things that have excited game show contestants for decades. The company's seventy-five subsidiaries worldwide design and manufacture display and media products (TVs, VCRs, plasma display panels), home appliances (refrigerators, microwaves, air conditioners), and telecommunications devices (wireless phones, handsets, switchboards). LG owns Zenith Electronics and launched a flat-panel display joint venture with Philips Electronics (LG Philips Displays). After Asia, LG generates most of its revenue from sales in North America; the company established a North American headquarters in 2004. Founded in 1958 as Goldstar, the firm is a member of South Korea's LG Group.


Headquartered in Gütersloh, Germany, Miele is a manufacturer of household appliances, commercial and business equipment, and fitted kitchens. It was founded in 1899 by Carl Miele and Reinhard Zinkann and has always been a family-owned and family-run company. In additional to large household appliances Miele produces vacuum cleaners, commercial wet cleaning machines, lab glassware washers, dental disinfectors, and medical equipment washers. Miele was presented with an award in Munich on February 7, 2007, for being the most successful company in Germany that year. In the category Best Company, Miele beat the 2006 winner, Google, which came in second in 2007, ahead of Porsche which ranked third. Miele had fiscal year 2006 revenues of €2.54 billion (US$3.26 billion).


The production of any heavy, durable good requires a significant capital investment. Making dishwashers is no exception. Plastics, metals and other heavy materials must be transported to the manufacturing site and fabricated. Forging, injection molding, welding, baking and insulating are all factors in the design and development of a dishwasher.

Steel and plastic are the major materials formed into dishwashers. The basic structure is made primarily of a steel frame and a steel door panel. Sheets of stainless steel are purchased and fabricated into the required shapes by the factory. The door and the wrap-around cabinet for standalone models are purchased as coiled sheet steel. Other components are typically bought from vendors. The racks that hold the dishes are made either of steel or plastic. Steel is delivered to the factory as coiled wire. Once formed, the tines are coated with a plastic arriving in a powdered form, typically polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or nylon.

The inner box or tub that holds the racks and spray arms is a single piece injection molded in the plant. This does not include the piece lining the inside of the door. The injection molded component is formed of calcium-reinforced polypropylene. This polymer is used because of its exceptional strength and good performance in the presence of chemicals, water, and heat. Additional parts, including the cutlery basket, detergent containers, wash tower, and spray arms are also injection molded. Motors, pumps, and electric controls are typically sourced from the outside unless the company is also a major producer, as is the case with General Electric.

The componentry and materials used to make dishwashers are also commonly used in the production of a wide array of industrial and consumer products and are normally available in major manufacturing centers. No unusual logistical problems, therefore, influence the industry. Large manufacturing centers coincide with population centers, thus products rarely travel far to reach their consumers.


Producers in this industry sell through wholesale distributors who, in turn, supply retailers. The presence in the market of large mass merchandisers like Sears, Roebuck and Company; Home Depot; Lowe's; Wal-Mart; Costco; and others—companies that maintain their wholly-owned distribution centers—means that producers sell directly to the wholesale arm of a group of retailers. Other retailers purchase from independent wholesale distributors.

Built-in dishwashers, the dominant category, require professional installation. The plumber or electrical contractor who installs such machines is a part of the distribution channel and is required to make the machine functional. The installer may be employed by the retailer, by the builder of new homes, or by the contractor doing a kitchen remodeling job for the homeowner.

In recent years, rapid technological advancements and the globalization of economic activities have resulted in fierce competition. The concept of electronic/virtual distribution has taken a front seat both in the literal sense that the showroom is virtual and the soft sense that a portion of the sales activity itself takes place on the Internet. Consumers can evaluate a product by comparing competing models, feature to feature, by clicking around on a screen. Consumers can also buy products directly on the web. In direct purchasing from a large online seller, the consumer may be eliminating one level of the distribution and saving some money.


Dishwashers are used in commercial, institutional, and residential environments. Commercial and institutional users are functionally identical. Restaurants are a typical representative of the former and a hospital or a nursing home of the latter. Commercial and institutional buyers often require dishwashers of larger capacity engineered for heavy throughput and continuous use. Some institutional buyers deploy batteries of the same dishwashers used in the home. Residential users may live in houses or condominiums with space enough to accommodate built-in dishwashers or in apartments where space limitations can be overcome by using smaller portable dishwashing machines.


Is it more efficient to wash dishes by hand? Scientists in Germany at the University of Bonn studied this issue and found that the dishwasher uses only half the energy, one-sixth of the water, and less soap than hand-washing the same number of dishes, each batch soiled to the same extent. The study also showed that dishwashers delivered a higher level of cleanliness. The study concluded that dishwashers manufactured after 1994 used an average of 10 gallons of water per cycle, while older machines use up to 15 gallons. Newer machines also used less energy.

John Morril of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy advises that dishwashers are an efficient appliance if consumers comply with two simple criteria: "Run a dishwasher only when it's full, and don't rinse your dishes before putting them into the dishwasher." Morril also recommends not using the drying cycle as the water used in most dishwashers is hot enough to evaporate quickly if the door is left open after the wash and rinse cycles are complete.

The trajectory of the housing market has a strong bearing on the market for all household appliances such as dishwashers. Since the average house has six major appliances, the number of new houses built annually has an important impact on sales of all major household appliances. Housing itself, thus, becomes an adjacent market.

Although only approximately one quarter of the sales of dishwashers each year in the United States are directly associated with new housing stock, the strength of the housing market also has an important impact on sales associated with upgrading appliances. Since 1990 a kitchen remodeling project has been among the most popular ways to spruce up a home before trying to sell it.

The housing market in the United States soared to record levels during the period 2002 through 2005, buoyed by low interest rates and flexible lending practices. Housing starts as well as sales of existing housing stock have both set records during this period. Housing starts, as measured by building permits issued, grew every year from 2000 to 2005. Sales of existing homes peaked in 2005, according to the National Association of Realtors, reaching just under 6 million homes sold. The pattern of strong growth in the housing market came to an end in 2006 when sales began to slow and the inventory of housing stock on the market grew.

The food service industry is another market adjacent to dishwashers. The more people eat outside the home, the less wear-and-tear they cause to their dishwashers and the longer life those dishwashers are likely to have. The food industry, in turn, will buy more dishwashers. The tendency of Americans to eat out has been rising for several decades. Between 1986 and 1996, total food service sales in the United States grew 69 percent to $286 billion. Growth continued at a brisk pace and by 2005 had reached $476 billion according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The indirect impact that this has had on appliance sales is difficult to quantify but all cultural influences on food preparation do have some bearing on the fluctuating demand for kitchen appliances.


Research and development focus in this industry has been to improve energy efficiency. The motivation in this direction has been provided, in part, by initiatives undertaken by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in the department's energy conservation moves. DOE has funded research, some of it in cooperation with manufacturers. Curiously this general movement is a reversal of an earlier thrust in industry. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s industry took cost out of products by using less material, thus reducing insulation and increasing energy use to compensate for insulation losses. Since the late 1970s the industry has been working with materials able to insulate products better to bring down energy consumption. In the dishwasher industry, energy for pumping water, for heating water above temperatures delivered by water heaters, and for drying dishes are the chief focus of conservation. The industry has been successful in lowering consumption, achieving energy savings of approximately 30 percent between 1990 and 2005 when comparing models from those two periods.

Development of new materials is another continuing thrust in the industry aimed at keeping dishwashers cleaner, thus easier to maintain, and to produce better results for the ultimate user. An example is the development of stronger plastics with superior detergent resistance. Water conservation is a focus of research as is the modification of detergents so that less detergent is used; less of it therefore reaches wastewater, while the detergent itself delivers superior cleaning power. Such detergents, to be sure, cost more.


In the later years of the first decade of the twenty-first century, perhaps the most striking development directly affecting dishwasher purchases has been the virtual freeze-up of residential construction activity. Inventories of unsold homes were on the rise and new housing starts were plummeting. The consequent reduction in demand for new equipment for new construction has been a serious obstacle for all household appliance makers. This phenomenon is known as the sub-prime lending crisis and arose from reckless mortgage lending practices by one layer of the financial industry. Mortgage lenders had written a large number of contracts with home buyers in the early 2000s, thus with buyers only marginally or not at all qualified to service their loans. These poorly-secured and therefore sub-prime mortgages, along with others, have been sold and used as assets by their secondary buyers to leverage yet other loans. Widespread defaults by sub-prime borrowers created a crisis in credit in 2007. The ultimate resolution of the issue remained murky at the time this essay went to press. Observers in 2007 foresee at least two to three years of sluggish housing markets ahead.

Favorable technical advances in the product category, discussed in the Research & Development section, represent good news for the product category. Upward spiraling trends in energy costs, the costs of plastics, and the availability of clean water suggest that products that wasted such resources would suffer in the future. Dishwashers were well designed to adapt to these trends.


The target markets for dishwashers are all households large enough to accommodate fully functional kitchens. The dishwasher market is paced by growth in disposable income. The income of the upper fifth of households has increased at a much higher rate than the income of all households. This growth was likely responsible for rapid growth in dishwasher shipments. The industry's promotional activity is directed at the high income consumer indirectly, thus at: (1) homebuilders, developers, and architects who make decisions on which array of new appliances to install in new construction and, (2) at contractors and kitchen-retailers who sell into the kitchen-remodeling business.


The Alliance to Save Energy, http:///

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy,

The Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP),

Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM),

Building Owners and Managers Association,

North American Retail Dealers Association, http:///


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see also Microwave Ovens, Ovens & Stoves, Refrigerators & Freezers, Washers & Dryers