Are Portable Dishwashers as Good as Built-in Dishwashers?

Last Updated on April 1, 2022 by

Are portable dishwashers as good as built-in dishwashers? If you live in a small apartment that does not fit a built-in dishwasher, you want a portable dishwasher for the space. However, you are scared that portables may not be as good – that is wrong.

Portable dishwashers are as good as built-in dishwashers. They can handle the loads in your small household, and you get thorough cleaning without wasting water, space, and energy. However, portable dishwashers are louder and reach up to 50+ decibels compared to full-sized/built-ins.

Note that portable dishwashers are different and larger than compacts. They have wheels and are usually about the size of a mini fridge. You can stick your portable dishwasher in a closet, and some portables are even convertible to full-sized built-ins.

Are portable dishwashers as good as built-in dishwashers?

Portable dishwashers are capable compared to built-in dishwashers. They will keep the kitchen tasks running so smoothly that you forget they are not the full-sized counterpart.

Some portable dishwashers can be pretty much installed in any kitchen. You only have to connect to the faucet and drain to the sink.

If your small household does not generate massive amounts of dirty dishes daily, a portable dishwasher is a better option than conventional built-in dishwashers.

Portables can handle loads, although smaller, you get a thorough cleaning with no excess water, energy, or space consumption. Most portables are designed to clean and dry the dishes more like built-ins. The racks and wash cycles are also similar.

A portable dishwasher consumes as little as 3 gallons, which is about 11 liters, per load. Similar to a built-in and more efficient than handwashing, which consumes up to 27 gallons of water, according to the USGS.

Thus, a portable dishwasher supersedes hand-washing dishes in the sink. This also comes down to the number of dishes washed.

What is the difference between a portable dishwasher and a built-in dishwasher?

If you initiated a portable vs built-in dishwasher contest, built-ins will not get away with so many because some portables are as good.

Portable dishwashers are typically on wheels, making movement from one spot to another, or one room to another more comfortable.

For a portable, you move it next to the sink, hook it to the faucet, and use it. You can as well unhook it and move it back to where its primary location after running.

A typical built-in sits under the kitchen counter and receives water from the sink. A convertible portable can do the same, so it never gets moved. It acts as a trash compactor, only wider, but takes dishes and not trash.

Regarding cost, it is cheaper to buy a portable dishwasher. Built-ins generally cost more. Quality brands cost as high as $1,000+.

In terms of noise, portables are louder. The reason is that built-in dishwashers include insulated surfaces that make most loads run whisper quiet.

Can you use a portable dishwasher as a built-in?

Generally, portable dishwashers with top-mounted controls and load from the top are not convertible to built-ins, which sit underneath your counter.

However, some portable dishwashers can be converted to built-ins. Here is how:

  1. Have a permanent power source

Pick a permanent source of power for the portable dishwasher. You can either install an outlet below your counter or use an existing outlet positioned above your counter. It is better to use an existing outlet if you have no electrical expertise.

You need to drill a large enough hole in the counter for threading through the power cord of the portable dishwasher, which will be placed under the counter.

If you prefer to install an outlet beneath the counter, have a professional complete the steps if you have no electrical experience.

Otherwise, you have to run an independent power line from the breaker box to your new outlet location. Secure the outlet box to a stud, thread through the power line into the box, and connect it to an outlet.

  1. Connect the water line to a permanent source of water

Get a flexible water line, water line adapter, contact cement for connecting the waterline of the portable dishwasher to a permanent hot-water source.

Your first hot water source option is to tap in the hot water line of the kitchen. Your second option is to run the hot water line from your water heater independently.

  1. Build a permanent drainage system

Tap into the drainpipe for the kitchen sink. Cut the PVC drain pipe, and use a pipe adapter, coupler, and contact cement to connect the drain line of the dishwasher to the PVC drain pipe.

Reconnect all the pieces to make an enclosed drain system, and wait for the contact cement to dry before you check for leaks.

  1. Trim your portable dishwasher

You want your portable dishwasher to look like a built-in, so you have to trim it out. Get pre-manufactured trimmer pieces from your local home improvement centers in the cabinet department.

You could also DIY using plywood. However, you would have to stain the trim or paint to match the finish on your cabinets in the kitchen.

A portable dishwasher that can be built-in

This section of the publication lists the best portable dishwashers out there that are convertible to built-in dishwashers.

This basically means to make your portable act fully like a built-in.

Maytag Jetclean Plus Series MDC4809AWW 24 Portable Dishwasher

The Whirlpool MDC4809AWW is one such portable dishwasher that you can convert to a built-in dishwasher. It is designed to clean dishes as quickly as built-ins.

Its unique wash cycles provide you with the option to get a washing cycle that matches the level of your soiled dishes with the soil sensor.

Below are reasons to invest in this portable dishwasher:


Features up to 14 place settings at once with 4 automatic cycles for your various dishwashing needs.

Coated racks

Features 2 vinyl coated racks, and are spaciously designed for ample space for your dishes and glassware organization. Its removable silverware basket allows for all utensils to be seamlessly accessible.

4 wash cycles

A portable convertible dishwasher with up to 4 cycles, including heavy, normal, rinse, and china/light. Each cycle offers the most exotic wash experience for your dishes and other kitchen utensils.

Food disposer

This is a portable dishwasher with a hard-food disposer that can eliminate your need for pre-rinsing dishes.

Heated dry

This machine can heat-dry to make sure your dishes are quickly ready for use or put away immediately after a cycle.


Direct Feed

This machine has a direct feed.

Fill hose/power cord

Fill hose and power cord are included in the pack.

Removable silverware basket

This machine is built with a removable silverware basket.


This is a convertible dishwasher you can convert to use as built-in.

Hi-temp wash

Yes, this is available.



The sound rating is 64 decibels, quite noisier than dishwashers between 40 and 50 dBa. Portables are generally noisier though.

Fan assisted dry

This machine does not use a fan heated dry.


There is no NSF-certified sanitization for this dishwasher.


Just a 1-year limited warranty (like many other dishwashers though). Perhaps, more years would be a great idea for prolonged coverage and easy access to replacement parts.

RVs compatibility

This is not a dishwasher for your RV. Best for small apartments of small households.

Finish resistant

No special coating for fingerprint resistance to ensure easier cleaning.

Energy Star

Does not have Energy Star rating.

GE GPT145SSLSS 18″ Energy Star Portable Dishwasher with 8 Place Settings Autosense Cycle Pocket Handle and 53 dBA in Stainless Steel


GE Appliances brings good things to life, which is evident in the GPT145SSLSS portable dishwasher. This company’s objective has always been to improve consumer expectations through delivering quality.

If you want to share in the tradition of having automatically squeaky-clean dishes after the meal, GE’s GPT145SSLSS is the go-to solution.

Features to enjoy include:


This is a sensory cycle that uses a light beam to measure the soil levels on your dishes to determine the needed water temperature for a perfect cycle time.

Hard food disposer

With this feature, your GPT145SSLSS portable dishwasher ensures consistent cleaning. This stainless steel blade rotates at up to 3,600 RPM to seamlessly pulverize food particles, in turn preventing the wash arms from clogging to large particles.

Sanitation certification

An NSF-certified portable dishwasher. Its high-temperature cycle is capable of rinsing to sanitize and reduce bacteria by 99.9% on dishes.


Capable of flatware, pans, pots, and dishes. It can also get rid of tough stains and fried food crusts for the best washing results.


Safety listing

This is a UL safety listed portable dishwasher convertible to built-in.


The upper rack is adjustable, creating space for taller kitchen utensils.

Built-in convertible

A convertible portable dishwasher to play the role of a built-in.

Energy Star

100% Energy Star-rated.

Child locks

Designed with child safety locks.



The noise level is rated at 53 decibels. Not the quietest, but also not loud for your small apartment. Portables are generally louder anyway.


A little heavier than some portables but no way near the weight of a built-in dishwasher.

Finish resistance

The GPT145SSLSS dishwasher does not resist your fingerprint.


This is not an ADA-compliant portable dishwasher.

RCA RDW1809 36-in 47-Decibel Portable Dishwasher


RCA RDW1809 portable dishwasher makes dishwashing more convenient. You get an even better result than some built-in dishwashers.

Some of the things to expect from this machine include the following:


This is an 18 in. wide and 36-in long dishwasher for your mobile home, apartment, or cabin. It is capable of 8 piece place setting despite its portability.

Wash programs

This machine features 6 wash programs to select from depending on the level of soil level on your dishes.

Energy rating

This is one of the Energy Star-rated dishwashers for year-round energy and cost-saving.


Installation could not be easier than this. Just connect it to your water tap and you are done. Remember that you can permanently use it as a built-in.



You can convert this portable dishwasher for use as a built-in.


Surprisingly quiet at 47 dB unlike most other portable dishwashers that reach 60+ dBa.

Safety listing

This is a UL safety-listed machine. You should not have a problem with it in your small kitchen.



Does not use a hard food disposer but uses filtration.

What’s the point of a portable dishwasher?

A portable dishwasher is just another regular dishwasher, except that it is not full-sized and is easily moveable when necessary. You hook it to your faucet and start a wash cycle. Portables can be permanently installed to function as built-ins.

Like a built-in, a portable dishwasher can draw clean water and then pump the dirty water into the sink.

Portables are typically noisier than their built-in counterparts. The reason is that most built-ins use insulated surfaces capable of making even heavy loads run so quietly.

Portable dishwashers do not feature this buffer, so you get to hear every swoosh and bump, as well as the hiss during wash, rinse, and dry cycles.

A portable dishwasher is perfect for a small household of about 3 that does not generate too many dirty dishes every day. Built-ins are best for larger households, and cost more for their size.

Do not judge portables by size but by ability. After all, size is the significant difference between a portable and built-in dishwasher.

You also get the squeaky-clean wash without wasting space, water, or energy just like a built-in dishwasher. The racks are similar, and some are adjustable to accommodate taller kitchen utensils.

Why are portable dishwashers cheaper than built-ins?

Portable dishwashers are cheaper than built-ins generally because of size. Limited access to the sink does not really count since some portables are convertible to built-ins.

Portables also cost lower since the general design is for smaller households that do not necessarily need full-sized built-in dishwashers.

How long do built-in convertible portable dishwashers last?

A built-in convertible portable dishwasher typically lasts up to 9 to 16 years with an average of 12 years of life expectancy. The lifespan of a dishwasher is relatively predictable but your machine can reach the 16-year mark with an appropriate maintenance culture.

Remember that not all portables are convertible. If you are buying a dishwasher different from these recommendations, question the retailer or manufacturer about using it as a built-in.