Reviews

I Tested the KitchenAid FreeFlex Dishwasher: Does the Handy Third Rack Justify Its Price?

A dishwasher has one job: to clean dishes thoroughly. I tested the KitchenAid FreeFlex, which comes with some noteworthy extra features. Find out if they’re worth it, and see how this dishwasher performed in my kitchen.
A photo of the PrintShield Finish stainless steel door of the KitchenAid FreeFlex dishwasher
Photo: Becky Helzer for Bob Vila

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I knew the time was coming to replace our 16-year-old dishwasher, and as I began my research into the best dishwashers, I was intrigued when I came across the KitchenAid FreeFlex dishwasher. KitchenAid has a reputation for producing high-quality kitchen appliances, and its iconic stand mixer is perhaps its most well-known product. The FreeFlex dishwasher has the unique feature of a third rack for cups, glasses, shallow bowls, and flat utensils such as spatulas and knives. This extra rack was of great interest to me, but the high price tag on the dishwasher gave me pause.

When my old dishwasher gave out just 2 weeks before a family get-together that involved a lot of cooking, I was ready to make my purchase, and I was happy to find the FreeFlex on sale. The dishwasher receives high marks, and I was eager to test it for myself in a kitchen that sees a lot of action—and a lot of dirty dishes. Find out what I most like about it, things I might change if I could, and my thoughts on it now that I’ve lived with it for several months.

KitchenAid FreeFlex Third Rack Top Control 24-Inch Dishwasher: At a Glance

The KitchenAid FreeFlex dishwasher viewed from the side with the door open and all three racks out to show its capacity
Photo: Becky Helzer for Bob Vila

Rating: 9.5/10

PROS

  • A third rack near the top of the dishwasher provides extra space for washing cups, glasses, small bowls, spatulas, and knives
  • Very quiet at only 44 decibels; you can barely hear it when it’s running
  • Stainless steel door with PrintShield Finish resists fingerprints and smudges and cleans easily with soap and water
  • Adjustable middle rack allows more room for taller items such as platters, pitchers, and blender jars
  • Dishes come out sparkling clean without the need to prewash

CONS

  • Top-mount controls are sensitive and easy to accidentally press when closing the door
  • If flatware isn’t loaded correctly, it can slip through the bottom of the utensil basket and preventing the spray arm from turning
  • High price point

Get the KitchenAid FreeFlex dishwasher at:

What is the KitchenAid FreeFlex dishwasher?

The KitchenAid FreeFlex dishwasher has all the features you’d expect from a quality dishwasher, but with the added bonus of an angled third rack near the top for glasses and mugs up to 6 inches tall and a removable utensil tray for knives and spatulas. It also comes with a middle rack that can be raised or lowered for washing taller items (like mixing bowls and pitchers) and a very quiet 44-decibel noise level. In addition to its ability to hold 16 place settings—quite a boon for those who have big families or like to entertain—it’s also Energy Star certified, meaning it uses less energy.

The bottom rack of the KitchenAid FreeFlex dishwasher extended with the utensil basket on one side
Photo: Becky Helzer for Bob Vila

How easy is the KitchenAid FreeFlex dishwasher to use?

The KitchenAid FreeFlex dishwasher couldn’t be easier to use. It has five wash cycles (Rinse Only, Express Wash, Normal, Tough, and ProWash, which sense soil levels and adjust water temperature and wash time as needed), so it’s able to handle everything from delicate glassware to dirty pots and pans with just the touch of a button. The middle rack is easy to adjust to provide more space as needed for taller items, and adjustable tines in the middle and lower racks can be angled or even folded down so you can wash oversize dishes (such as a big KitchenAid mixer bowl). And although the utensil basket took some getting used to with slots designated for different types of flatware, I like how the design helps keep the spoons and forks from nesting together to achieve a more thorough clean—and the top part of this basket can be removed if desired. To achieve clean dishes, the dishwasher continuously circulates water over all three racks and uses microfiltration to ensure all food particles are removed. After the wash cycle is finished, a heating element and fan combine to dry the dishes completely (the only exception here is for dishes that have deep indentations that collect water; the extended heat- dry option helps with that, but those types of dishes may still need a little hand drying).

Does the KitchenAid FreeFlex dishwasher do a good job washing dishes?

It really does. With other dishwashers I’ve had in the past, I’ve had to prewash crusty dishes before loading them to ensure they get clean. With the FreeFlex, though, even when I’ve let dishes sit overnight so I could run the dishwasher with a full load the next day, I’ve been impressed with how well it removes food—even peanut butter and baked-on cheese, both of which are notoriously difficult for a dishwasher to remove. For nearly all types of cleaning needs, the Normal setting gets the job done (this cycle takes 2 hours and 40 minutes in total). I like how I can lower or reposition portions of the middle and lower racks to accommodate odd-shaped dishes, and I also appreciate that the majority of my dishes come out of the dishwasher virtually dry, although using a rinse aid such as Finish Jet-Dry seems to enhance this process.

Is the FreeFlex dishwasher worth the price?

The KitchenAid FreeFlex is not cheap. However, with the features it offers (most notably that convenient third rack and adjustable middle rack) and the thoroughness with which it cleans dishes, I consider it worth the higher price tag. Additionally, its interior lighting makes it easy to see inside the dishwasher for easier loading and unloading. The PrintShield Finish on the door resists smudges and fingerprints so well that I rarely have to wipe it, which is quite a contrast with my previous dishwasher, whose stainless steel finish required daily wiping to keep it free of fingerprints. Also, at a quiet 44 decibels, this dishwasher’s sound is a nonissue; even in our open-concept house, we can watch TV with the dishwasher running and not be disturbed by the sound at all.

The KitchenAid FreeFlex dishwasher with the middle rack fully extended
Photo: Becky Helzer for Bob Vila

Should you buy the KitchenAid FreeFlex dishwasher?

With the variety of wash cycles, fingerprint-resistant finish, bonus third rack, adjustable middle rack, and very quiet 44-decibel rating, this dishwasher has a lot to like. It looks sleek in my kitchen, and it does an excellent job cleaning the dishes, even those with stuck-on or baked-on food. However, it does come with a higher price tag than many other dishwashers. But with the features the KitchenAid FreeFlex provides, I’m very pleased with my purchase and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to those who are looking for a dishwasher that comes with some thoughtful and practical extras.

Where to Buy the KitchenAid FreeFlex Dishwasher

Get the KitchenAid FreeFlex dishwasher at:

Meet the Tester

As the lead copy editor at BobVila.com for several years, Becky Helzer reviews nearly all of the content for the product reviews team. She’s an avid home cook with a particular interest in baking, and as a result, she regularly generates and washes a lot of dishes. Through her recent experience of researching and replacing the dishwasher in her kitchen, her goal is to provide an honest and thorough review with easy-to-understand information that is relevant to most consumers.

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