You might congratulate yourself as you finish up washing a gargantuan pile of dishes by hand. Whereas others would have caved and thrown everything in the dishwasher, you put in the effort to wash it all by hand and not use the water and energy necessary to run the machine.
We’re sorry to say, we’ve got some bad news for you — the cavers might actually be being greener than you.
Let’s compare the water efficiency of using a dishwasher or washing by hand. You might be surprised which one uses less water.
Water Consumption of a Dishwasher vs Handwashing
How much water and energy your dishwasher uses depends on the size, model, and age of the machine. However, on average older machines use 8-15 gallons of water per cycle and dishwashers built after 1994 use between 7 and 10 gallons.
How does that compare to washing by hand?
Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany found that handwashing the same amount of dishes as what fits in a typical dishwasher used about 26 gallons of water. Even the most careful hand washers could not beat newer, energy efficient washers at water use, energy consumption, and even the amount of soap used. Hands down, dishwashers win at producing less waste.>
Comparing Dish Cleanliness Between a Dishwasher and Handwashing
Another important consideration is the fact that dishwashers typically do a better job getting the dishes clean than hand washing. Think about it, you’re passing the same sponge over all the dishes and a dirty sponge can end up leaving behind harmful bacteria and pathogens on your “clean” dishes.
Inside a dishwasher however, water hot enough to kill off most types of bacteria is being flung at all your dishes. Rest assured, your plates will be clean enough to eat off of!
The Proper Way to Use a Dishwasher
Of course, it is necessary to use the dishwasher properly to get the most benefit from the wash cycle. The number one rule is to never run a dishwasher until it is full. The machine will use the same amount of water and energy regardless of how many dishes are inside. The next thing is to avoid using the dry cycle. Simply prop the door open when the cycle has finished. The dishes are hot enough that with just a bit of air circulation, the water will evaporate with little trouble. Another thing is to avoid running pre-rinse or rinse-hold features. Newer models offer these features but they are inefficient and typically unnecessary. Finally, don’t rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. The washer will make quick work of any food bits and rinsing them will use a significant amount of water before you even start washing the dishes!
Is Handwashing Dishes Ever a Good Idea?
Is there ever a time when washing dishes by hand contributes to conscious living? Yes, handwashing still has a place, even in a green kitchen.
Anytime you need to wash a few items but don’t have a full load ready, wash those items by hand. Additionally, there are some common items that you can’t put in the dishwasher, such as wooden cutting boards, certain types of knives, and non-stick pots and pans.
Dishwashing by hand will always have its place, but as far as having to spend your time up to your elbows in suds after every meal, you can relax, the machine can actually do it better than you!
Looking for some new (and of course, dishwasher-safe) dishes? Head on over to our kitchen section to browse some gorgeous items!