* Prices may differ from that shown
I HAD ONE BUT THE WHEELS FELL OFF For once we were in the right place at the right time, if you can call having your 9-year old dishwasher fail just in time for the January Sales the 'right place' and 'right time'. Our Zanussi had ceased to be the 'Appliance of Science', in favour of 'The Application of Dilapidation' having started to rust quite badly - who'd have thought it eh? Hot water and salt, corrosive - well I never! This not only manifested itself as surface rust on the outside, but the plastic-coated baskets were starting to corrode from the inside out. Likewise, the wheels for both the upper and lower trays were going 'crystalline' and fragmenting or just plain falling off. Anyhow, that's how we found ourselves in our nearest 'big' Currys. CHOOSING ITS REPLACEMENT - What's In A Name? This time we were going to try to find something a little more in keeping with the rest of our kitchen hardware, which bit by bit has become stainless steel in appearance, and the old Zanussi was the last item of 'white goods' to actually be white! I built the kitchen myself but didn't want to fully commit to built-in appliances, as at the time, most of our kitchen hardware was new-ish and of standard dimensions. Over the past few years, what with new washing machines et al, I've had occasion to be thankful for that decision if only because I can install them myself and save a few bob. This must have been the easiest sale of the day for the fortunate salesperson that chose to befriend us. We'd browsed, we'd read up on the subject, we'd 'ummed' and 'aahed' over 'triple AAA' ratings and we'd counted the Good Housekeeping and Energy Saving stickers - OK I admit it, we'd forgotten to check 'significant' opinion sites. As it turns out, I was the first to review this on both Ciao and Dooyoo anyway. The SMEG had the lot, and despite still being £299* after being reduced by 50 quid was what we went for in the end. It was also the only stainless steel-fronted one on show. * If I recall correctly, this is still less than we paid 9 years ago. It goes without saying, that, despite being a vast 'warehouse' Currys, it wasn't actually in stock apart from the demo model, but to be fair, the delivery was well handled and with plenty of 'information' coming my way without asking. You ring a number the day before delivery, and by keying in your order details, a mechanised system tells you your '4-hour delivery slot'. On the actual day, they ring you 30 minutes before getting there from the truck. If only it wasn't called 'SMEG', although I guess that Red Dwarf has a lot to answer for in that field. New electrical appliances, particularly white goods, now comply with an energy rating in much the same way cars do. In the case of a dishwasher, an A rating in the energy category needs to be backed up by two more vital A ratings. For example, it's all very well being frugal with the spark-juice and miserly with the H²O, if the machine doesn't get pots and pans clean and leaves nasty drying marks over everything, hence the other two 'A ratings', one for its washing ability and the other for drying. The SMEG officially passes all three with flying colours. A lot of sceptics poo-poo the idea that dishwashers can be eco-friendly possibly more so than hand-washing, but since they can work with water hotter than you could yourself stand, there is less need for so much detergent. Most modern washers only get through 20-odd litres of water per wash, even for a full '12-place setting' load, which I suspect is a damned sight less than all the water that passes through your hands, quite literally, when washing AND rinsing manually on such an amount of crockery. Yes, using electricity is an expensive way to heat water, but compared to heating a hot tank with gas and having it go cold partially, it only uses what's wanted on demand. Then of course, there's the de-cluttering effect of having all your dirty crocks out of sight, leaving you considerable work surface to start on your next mess! From a hygiene point of view, letting hot crocks dry off naturally is better than wiping them with the same ever-damper tea towel recycling bacteria as you go. INITIAL SETUP Since dishwashers tend to be 'cold fill', there's usually only one hose to be connected to the cold water main. However, unlike a washing machine, it's preferable to have a sealed outlet pipe, teed directly to the waste pipe of your kitchen sink, thereby making in nigh-on impossible for the pump to make anything overflow. Obviously, a nearby electrical point is needed, preferably behind the machine and below the work surface. I was only replacing an existing machine so it was only a case of 'one-in, one-out' for me, and so I was able to turn down Currys' offer to install it for me, for a fee. I did however avail myself of their offer to strip off the new packaging and take it away with my old machine. I was a little surprised to find that this machine, despite only having one hose could be used as a 'hot fill' job too provided your hot tap wasn't hotter than 60ºC. This will sound strange but we don't bother heating our water by gas on a daily basis just to have it sit around cooling off in a tank, since all our uses for hot water are taken care of by the likes of instantaneous electric showers, electric kettles and a cold fill washing machine, so cold fill suits our usage. LOCK AND LOAD I frequent a lot of school staff rooms, so I get to put a lot of coffee mugs in a lot of different dishwashers so despite being a geezer, I notice the oddities of each brand, vis-à-vis loading. The SMEG has some interesting little variations on the theme. Kitchen knives can be laid horizontally in a special rack, rather than have them vertical in a cutlery basket just waiting for you to trip and impale yourself on them. There are two cutlery baskets, one that can be set for the vertical hanging of spoons and forks, 'business end' upwards, whilst the other can be adapted to sit smaller knives blade downwards. As you'd expect, there are also provisions for heavy loads of wine glasses - essential in our house, which can be folded back for the more prosaic odd coffee mug or 12. It might be my imagination, but the sliding mechanism of the trays feels slicker than my previous experience. Unlike our previous machine, you can vary the height of the upper basket to allow for taller items in the lower basket. At the business end, the rotors that dispense the water to all points of the interior don't just spin. The lower rotor actually has a smaller rotor on the end of it, so I envisage an entire 'Spirograph' pattern of water distribution inside - pity you don't get to watch really. At least it'd be more entertaining than ITV3. PRE-FLIGHT CHECKS You load the salt 1.5 kilos at a time into a screw-top container with a nice wide cap that's easy to grip and undo. The first time we did this the 'salt light' wouldn't go out, but I can only assume that the salt has to get wet for the sensor to work. There's a five-point dial inside which I'd never seen before. This is the water hardness calibration and I suppose it determines the rate at which you use up the salt. It comes set to 3 until you find out otherwise from your water company. Unhelpfully, the instructions only refer to the German and French standards of hardness, and I'm not talking football terraces here. Surprisingly, the drop-down hatch in the door, which for years we'd always used for dishwasher detergent in tablet form (in the Zanussi), is only for detergent in powder form in the SMEG. You just place a tablet somewhere convenient like in the cutlery basket. Also in the door is the rinse-aid reservoir - unlike the Zanussi, even this has a low level warning light to alert you to the fact that it is running out. NOISE LEVELS It's VERY quiet, giving off the merest swirling noise which is important if you have an overnight economy tariff for your electricity and you avail yourself of the 3, 6 or 9 hour delay timers so that it will run while you sleep. Its official noise level is declared as 51dB but I find official noise level ratings meaningless and discredited by the Government's claim that aircraft are getting quieter quoting dB as proof - bugger the fact that they are getting more frequent to more than make up for it! On a scale of things we'd recognise, the SMEG's somewhat noisier than a fridge but nowhere near as noisy as a washing machine or even a tumble drier. SETTINGS To turn it on, you merely press the master button on, and select one of 5 programmes, via several presses of the Select button. Each programme has its own green LED, so unlike the Zanussi, there are no rotating dials to knock off and swear blind it wasn't you. I won't bore you with all five, but they range from 'Soak' which is not really a washing programme as such, but it's useful to keep a part load from starting to smell whilst you wait till there's enough for a full run. This only needs 6 litres of water, takes 15 minutes and uses 0.03 units of electricity. By contrast, the 'Super' setting is intended for heavily soiled and crusted-up pots and pans, and needs nearly two hours, 24 litres of water and 1.77 units of electricity. Somewhere in amongst this comes the now-to-be-expected 'Eco' setting, which despite taking three hours gives a full wash to 'not very dirty' pans and dishes with 'dry residuals' uses less resources. Despite taking longer, it manages to use only 14 litres of water and 1.05 units of electricity, which is considerably cheaper and kinder to the environment than the 'Super' setting. RESULTS Well it's difficult to get too excited about something that does the washing up for you, but yes, the dishes are clean, relatively smear-free and relatively dry. I may sound luke-warm on the last two, but it's difficult to judge the 'smear-freeness' of glasses that have already had months, nay years, of salt damage leaving them looking a bit, hmmmm, cloudy. It pays to put nothing you're proud of in a dishwasher. Drying was reasonable but I'm not sure it fully justifies its A rating, and the next time we put some NEW glassware in it, I'll be able to comment on its washing abilities. To be fair, it shifts dried-on detritus better than our last machine. As usual, it pays to make sure that in the upper drawer at least, you should place nothing that could retain water after the event otherwise all the drying in the world won't keep the lower basket's contents from getting wet all over again as you remove the offending item. OTHER PLUS POINTS? This is more a list of where it is better than the Zanussi. The electrical elements are not on show - in the previous machine they were, like in some kettles. This led on more than few occasions to stray bits of plastic (like those fragrant dangly bits you buy to make everything smell lemony) falling onto the elements and welding themselves there for quite a while afterwards. The base of the SMEG's interior is commendably flush. I had my concerns over the stainless steel finish, since in my experience, rust proof or not, it is a cosmetic nightmare, fingerprint-wise. The SMEG's finish is, however, heavily lacquered so hopefully it can be polished with any non-abrasive cream cleaner suitable for 'white goods'. DOWNSIDES? Well in some perverse way, I do occasionally feel nostalgic for plunging my hands into hot sudsy water, but it soon passes as you feel to first piece of edible detritus squelching between your fingers! Likewise if there's only two of you, you tend to need a larger-than-life amount of crockery to make it worthwhile running a full load. I don't like to complain but......the Energy Saving Trust sticker peeled off, leaving horrid, sticky goo behind. I'll probably have to use something entirely environmentally-UNfriendly to get it off now. If only I used nail varnish remover. Thanks guys. One of the current breed of orange-zest based cleaners shifted it in the end. DIMENSIONS AND OTHER DATA Width = 599mm Free-standing depth = 600mm Height (adjustable) = 850>870mm Water pressure range = 0.5 > 0.9 bar Capacity = 12 standard place settings. POSTSCRIPT If you look on the official SMEG website, there seems to be a conspiracy of silence when it comes to this precise model. I have a theory that since it's just about the only SMEG dishwasher you'll see in the likes of Currys or Comet, it's a 'built down to a price' version for supermarkets and mail-order stores - in fact it was the only Smeg appliance of ANY smeggin' kind in my local Currys warehouse store. You'll see from Dooyoo product listings that there are plenty of others in the series, some sporting the same stainless steel, but they all seem to have more facilities (e.g. nine programmes no doubt including half-load settings, and as many water temperatures), but then they also sport somewhere fancier price tags! Never mind, "Which?" and "Good Housekeeping" had heard of it!
Short name: Smeg DF612SDX