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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Does Using a Dishwasher Actually Decrease Water Use?

Careful Loading


And How Much Electricity Does It Use?!


I have been asking myself these questions for far too long. Have you? We’re constantly being told that dishwashers save water – it is often among the top ten ways to go green on various internet lists. But is it true?


Finally, I did some research. Here’s what I found…


Baby and Bathwater


The Waterwise Study


In 2006, Waterwise studied the amount of water used in hand washing versus machine washing. According to their website, “Waterwise is a UK NGO focused on decreasing water consumption in the UK by 2010 and building the evidence base for large scale water efficiency. We are the leading authority on water efficiency in the UK.”


I could not find the study online, but according to several places it was quoted, the study found the average dishwasher uses between 12 and 16 litres (3-4.25 gallons) of water, while washing dishes by hand uses as much as 63 litres (16.5 gallons).


But the study failed to address the energy efficiency between the two methods…


Puppy


The University of Bonn Study


The University of Bonn also conducted a study of 113 people from 7 European countries (PDF), comparing their water usage with a dishwasher and without.


Interestingly, they categorized the different hand washers as “super dishwashers” (people who preclean, soap clean, and rinse), “dishwashing economizers” (people who squirt detergent on the sponge and try to use as little water as possible), and “care-free dishwashers” (people who used as much water and detergent as they wanted to without thinking about it). But noted that economizers didn’t always end up using less than the other two groups.


Each person washed 12 place settings. On average, hand washing used 27 gallons (103 liters) of water, and 2.5 kWh of water-heating energy. The human time it took to wash, rinse, dry, and put away was approximately 80 minutes.


The dishwasher used approximately 4 gallons (15 liters) of water, consumed 1-2 kWh of total energy, and required 15 minutes of human time (loading and unloading the dishwasher). All in all, the dishwashers got the dishes cleaner, in less human time, using less water and energy.


The study recommended these tips for maximum efficiency:


  • Remove large food scraps from the dishes with a spoon or fork.
  • If hand washing, wash right away before the food sticks. If washing by machine, the machines can clean dishes that have been stored without cleaning or rinsing for several days, so no need to pre-rinse.
  • Do not pre-rinse the dishes under running tap water, whether washing them by hand or in a machine.
  • Manual dishwashing is best in two sinks: one with hot water and detergent, the other with cold water for rinse. (The study noted that those who were “economizers” tended to use a LOT more detergent, which counteracted their low water usage.)
  • Use the amount of detergent recommended by the manufacturer.
  • If you can afford a machine, use one – preferably a new one that is the most energy-efficient.


Scratchy Tongue Cycle


The Environmental Protection Agency


The information provided by the EPA is in line with the previous study’s findings. It is unclear where the EPA received their information, but I do hope they’ve done their own research! Here’s what they say:


Washing dishes by hand uses much more water than using a dishwasher. Using an ENERGY STAR qualified dishwasher instead of hand washing will save you annually 5,000 gallons of water, $40 in utility costs, and 230 hours of your time.


Note also that the average Energy Star dishwasher uses 4 gallons of water, where the average non-Energy Star dishwasher uses 6 gallons.


The EPA recommends these tips to maximize your dishwasher’s energy efficiency:


  • Run your dishwasher with a full load. Most of the energy used by a dishwasher goes to heat water. Since you can’t decrease the amount of water used per cycle, fill your dishwasher to get the most from the energy used to run it.
  • Avoid using the heat-dry, rinse-hold and pre-rinse features. Instead use your dishwasher’s air-dry option.
  • Scrape don’t rinse: just scrape food off the dishes and load. ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers and today’s detergents are designed to do the cleaning so you don’t have to pre-rinse. If your dirty dishes are going to sit overnight, use your dishwasher’s rinse feature. **Pre-rinsing dishes before loading the dishwasher can use up to 20 gallons of water, where the pre-rinse cycle on a machine uses just 1-2 gallons.**
  • Using a dishwasher that is made in the past few years (or at least after 1994), and one that uses a booster heater (ie, it heats the water on demand vs using your water heater), you can save even more water and energy.


Puppy


My Analysis:


Water Efficiency


This is great, and certainly caters to my want to be told that it’s more energy efficient to be lazy. I’m convinced that using a dishwasher is more water efficient than hand washing, unless you are hand washing and then trapping your water for use in watering plants or flushing the toilet (which a few people I know do). Of course, best of all would be to trap the water from the dishwasher and use the grey water on plants or to flush the toilet.


But… I’m not convinced about energy yet.


Energy Efficiency


Problem #1: Have you ever bought an Energy Star compliant appliance and looked at one of those yellow cards that tells you its efficiency? If you haven’t yet done so, turn over the card to see the European standards for the same appliance. European standards are much higher. Many of our Energy Star appliances wouldn’t pass their energy inspections.


In other words, the two studies were done in Europe, where appliances are smaller and more efficient than in the U.S. This article tackles this problem more in depth. Make sure to buy the most energy efficient appliance you can afford.


Problem #2: These studies haven’t taken into account the energy and water used to manufacture a dishwasher. And once they are no longer wanted, how much energy is used to get rid of them?


Turns out I’m not the only one asking these questions. According to Smart Planet, up to 80% of the dishwasher can be recycled, if done properly. But the question about manufacturing energy still remains.


No studies have been done about this, at least no studies I could find on the internet. So until there is a study, we’ll have to do our best with the information we have:


*Rules Of Thumb For Machine Washing*

1. Run the dishwasher only when it’s full (but not over-full),

2. Scrape dishes clean but don’t pre-rinse under the tap,

3. Always air dry,

4. Follow the manufacturer’s advice for getting the most efficiency out of the machine.



*Rules Of Thumb For Hand Washing*

1. Wash right away, before the food sticks,

2. Scrape dishes clean but don’t pre-rinse under the tap,

3. Fill 2 sinks with water: one for soapy warm, one for cold rinse,

4. Capture the water and use as grey water for watering plants or toilet flushing.


The Real Dishwasher


What Do You Think?


Are you convinced? How do you wash your dishes? Has this changed your mind at all? Have you read any other studies that can help us all decide what to do?



Similar Posts:

134 comments to Does Using a Dishwasher Actually Decrease Water Use?

  • We just remodeled our horrible 1960′s kitchen last year, and bought a new, very efficient dishwasher. Wish I ‘d had it when the kids all lived at home! Our water bill dropped by a third almost instantly. I’m sure it was the dishwasher.

  • Thanks for this post! I’ve been wondering if what I’ve heard about newer dishwashers using far less water was true. So now I can machine-wash without guilt, while continuing to use the doggie pre-rinse!

  • I have had confidence on my energy star dishwasher- Even Ed Begley broke down and bought one for Rachelle when he discovered that it is more effecient than he can be hand washing.I always wash full, and always air dry. I don’t need my plates warmed. It don’t get that cold here that they should get warmed! LOL Did your study say what is more effecient for washing car parts?

  • I’m not convinced by dishwashers.

    With every single dishwasher I know of, the dishes have to be rinsed, and often scrubbed by hand, first. Most people I know (my parents, friends, brother, family members, us (!!)) do this under a running tap. I bet the checks don’t take this extra water into account with dishwasher efficiency.

    And, as you say, how much energy was used to create the bloody thing?

    Then there’s the issue of toxic chemicals. With our dishes we do by hand we use simple bar soap and a sponge cloth, with a scrubber for stuck-on nasties. But with the dishwasher we have to use a more caustic dishwasher powder.

    We personally use a ‘green dishwasher powder’ but most people I know use really nasty stuff you certainly wouldn’t want just washed out to your local beach and have a swim in. Yet our local council simply pumps raw sewerage out to sea with minimal treatment :-( So that’s exactly what *is* washing out into sea and to our beaches.

    My rule of thumb is, if I wouldn’t shower in it, I won’t buy or use it, but how many of the nasty dishwasher powders would do horrible things to marine wildlife and ecosystems?

    Then there’s the recycling dishwashers issue. I mean, even though maybe 80% of a dishwasher *can* be recycled, how many are, as opposed to just being dumped in landfill? That’s the old ‘best case’ vs ‘reality’ issue again.

    We have a dishwasher, and we use it, but I have never been impressed with either the current one (in our current fully-furnished rental digs) or the one we had in our old home we owned in our last city, and am seriously considering NOT having a dishwasher in any home we buy, now we’re looking to buy a new home.

    As far as I am concerned, the thing that dishwashers STILL do best is hiding dirty dishes when company comes over suddenly! They’re really good at that! ;-)

    Just my thought on it all. Yep, dishwashers are not the wonderful item they’re cracked up to be.

  • Em

    We don’t have a dw, and there are times I’d love one – just to hide the piles of dishes and clear the workspace in our small kitchen!

    Thanks for the summaries Melinda, very interesting read.

    I find it pretty hard to believe that we’d use 103L of water to wash 12 place settings. I reckon I’d use less than 30 litres for a huge washup like that. We are very conscious of water use though – have been on water restrictions for over 3 years here.

    And I don’t do wiping up, lol. There’s an art to stacking the draining rack ;)

  • I hope you’re counting me as one of the folks who hand-washes responibly! There is no way my dishwasher is more efficient than me. The dishwater all goes out in the garden. We only wash dishes once or twice per day, often soaking the really bad ones immediately after use with the leftover rinse water from the last wash. I hope you don’t mind if I link to my post on how I hand wash

  • I don’t have a dishwasher. I generally put a little hot water on one side of the sink with some soap and then rinse. I’m out of the habit of catching the rinse water for watering plants right now, but working on getting back to that.

    Your research mirrors everything I’ve read. It’s likely that I would use less water with a dishwasher, but I think the energy for building the actual dishwasher and the life expectancy/recycling issues make it the worse choice for this area (that rain just keeps coming). If I lived in a drought area, I’d probably get a dishwasher.

  • The dishwasher is the most water efficient for us since I have to have the water running when I hand wash… but as of late, the dog makes a heck of a pre-rinser LOL just don’t tell my husband because he might just dispose of both the dog and me!

    Honestly, FlyLady had a great recommendation of filling one side of the sink with water when you are cooking dinner to set dishes into. I do that early in the day and then load them into the dishwasher from there. It’s a rinsing for me… because no matter what the studies show, every time my dishwasher has broken down or backed up and needed repair… it always came down to food particles trapped down in the dishwasher parts; the detergents are strong, but they aren’t herculean.

  • And just to be fair… I have 7 children at home so usually always a full load of dishes and usually the kids scrap their plates rather than rinse when they have dish duty.

  • FWIW, the energy that’s used to make and recycle a dishwasher is likely about the same as the energy used to pump and deliver the water you would use to handwash and the energy required to run the sewage treatment plant if you’re putting ANY water down the drain. As someone that works for the energy efficiency department of an electric utility, and just spent time looking at the analysis of hand washing vs. dishwashing for our programs here’s what I would say:

    - Use a dishwasher
    - Run it only when full
    - Set your water heater down to 120 degrees and no warmer
    - Do NOT use a garbage disposal, instead compost your scraps
    - Do NOT pre rinse dishes unless they are legitimately a “soaker”
    - Use the air dry option and do NOT use the energy or heat boost options unless the load is very dirty or has sat for a few days
    - Replace any dishwasher older than 1997 which is when the energy codes changed

  • Carol

    I use about 6 liters of water handwashing twice a day for two adults (can’t bear to do the dishes more often). That’s about the same as the dishwasher, so in reply to Laura’s comment, I’m saving the energy that’s used to make and recycle a dishwasher, which is what I thought before reading this. I’m also saving the electricity used to run the thing.

    We have a combination boiler (instantaneous water heater — no tank), so I fill two old milk jugs with water for rinsing while filling the dishpan. More energy efficient to run the boiler for 90 seconds, then shut it off.

    Also, no need to earn money to pay for a new dishwasher! I prefer saving money so I don’t have to work at a job, rather than buying all this stuff that just breaks and needs replacing.

  • Great pictures!

    So I was having dinner at a friend’s house and during the meal I notice that some of the dishes have hard bits of food stuck to them. My friend is an excellent cook and the food was delicious, but I couldn’t keep from wondering about the dishes. As politely as I could, I asked about the dishes. He apologized and said that was as clean as cold water could get them. Being my friend, I didn’t want to push the issue. When we finished eating I helped him clear the table and as I walked into the kitchen he said to just put the dishes down on the floor and he’d get them later. When I walking out of the kitchen he calls out, “Here boy! Come here, Coldwater! Good dog!” (a joke, but maybe not too far removed from reality)

    We have a dishwasher and I don’t often rinse, but do scrape. Some to the trash, most to compost, and occasionally a bite or two for our dog. No pre-heating the water and only air-dry. I discovered if I open the door when the washer is finished, the dishes dry quite nicely. I don’t know if we’ll replace/repair/discard/recycle when this one breaks down. Repair an old one instead of replace with a more efficient one? Discard/recycle and replace? Discard/recycle and not replace? Too soon to say.

    As for the costs of manufacturing… Factor in those in addition to the water & energy considerations and there are likely as many different rationales for purchasing one as not purchasing. We just have to do the best we can for the situation we are in. Accounting for the societal, environmental, financial, familial aspects of every purchase can quickly become messy, personal and very overwhelming. Which brings to mind the whole “cloth vs. disposable vs. diaper-free” debate and I’ll let Google help you sort out that one.

  • I think… I see a dog in a dishwasher, and that’s kind of scary. o.O;

    I think this is a good thing to start thinking about, but it also seems that most of your commenters are pretty gung-ho about what’s right and what’s not. At home in California, we stopped rinsing our dishes this summer when we were put on drought restrictions. And for that reason, we use the dishwasher the most. Because conserving water is more important to us right now than conserving electricity. (Plus, we have solar panels, so we don’t worry too much about our electricity use, since we generate a lot of our own.) I found that, instead of scraping with a fork or spoon, using a sponge or dishcloth worked best, even if you didn’t rinse it beforehand. (I’d rinse it after loading all the dishes and scraping them all with it though…)

    I wonder how my school cafeteria washes dishes.

  • I long for a dishwasher, but for now have to put up with a hot water service that cannot be turned down (and takes ages to heat, wasting a lot of cold water) and washing our dishes by hand. We generally do it once a day (unless there’s a lot of baking or visitors), use two sinks with only a little water in each – just enough to immerse the bowls – and a little detergent. We also use cotton cloths that can be washed and re-used, but I’m pretty sure that despite how careful we are, we use a lot of water this way.

    For all the pre-rinsers I’d add one more dishwasher using tip: clean the filter on a regular basis. If your dishwasher is not clean, your dishes will not be clean. Actually, all appliances that have filters need to be cleaned regularly to work efficently, air conditioners, clothes dryers and so on.

  • Rob, No study for car parts that I know of! Guess you’ll have to lead that one. ; )

  • Thank you all for sharing your experiences and thoughts, and for spending the time and effort to seek out the most sustainable way to live your life!

    Daharja wrote: “That’s the old ‘best case’ vs ‘reality’ issue again.”

    I think we are all trying to find the best case and make it reality for us. That’s a part of living a sustainable lifestyle. Many of us seem to be set in how we wash dishes, which is ok by me as long as we are aware of our usage. The best case for hand or machine washing is to use as little as possible, with the least toxic ingredients, and reuse and recycle whatever we can. So let’s make that a reality.

    I’ve done this research simply so that we can all be more aware of our usage, and keep asking questions of ourselves as we continue on this path. The “Rules of Thumb” I list at the end – for both ways of washing – are based on research.

    If you don’t believe the research, I encourage you to do an experiment on your own: try washing dishes by hand, carefully measuring how much water you use for pre-rinse, wash, and final rinse. Take into account how much energy it is taking for hot water usage, how much detergent you use, how much time it takes you personally.

    Then compare it to your dishwasher’s manufacturing specs. If you don’t have those, note that each dishwasher uses 4-6 gallons in total. Add 1-2 gallons if you use the pre-rinse cycle. Also note that your dishwasher heater will heat water more efficiently than your hot water heater does when you hand wash, unless you have an instant heater like Carol does. Because of this fact, according to the studies, the dishwasher uses less energy overall.

    A lot of what many of us learned about dishwashers is old. In the 70s and 80s, those things were monstrous. Now, they’re much more energy efficient. (Hooray for legislation and for those who pushed for that legislation!) People in drought-ridden countries and US states are now encouraged to use dishwashers to save water.

    But if it doesn’t jive with your sensibilities and/or if you can be more efficient without a dishwasher based on your own experiments, definitely go with hand washing using the guidelines above (or your own if they’re more efficient). As I wrote above, I don’t know how much water or electricity these machines take to make. So if you have the time, energy, and efficiency to do better than a machine – after taking all the research into account – most likely it’s the right choice.

    Living sustainably is about asking these questions, searching for answers, finding ways to redefine what we used to see as normal, and being as mindful as we can about the impact we have on the planet as a whole as well as ourselves and our families.

  • I use less water when handwashing than when using the dishwasher, but I also probably don’t get the dishes quite as clean as some people do. There’s only two of us, so it takes several days to accumulate enough dishes to use the dishwasher, at which point everything gets sort of icky and stuck-on (not that there aren’t weeks when I wait that long to wash them by hand…). I heat up water for dishwashing in a hot pot, which is very efficient. I really, really wish I had one of those split sinks — I have to use the sink plus a plastic tub which takes up a lot of space on the counter. In this region, saving electricity is a lot more important than saving water, so I try to wash by hand even when I’m feeling lazy and use more water than optimal.

    The dishwasher is still very useful as a drying rack :-)

  • I find that my energy and water efficient dishwasher (an ASKO) fails to rinse the dishes completely clean, especially the glasses, and I end up with little food particles stuck to them. I’ll end up running them through again or hand-washing them. I find this very frustrating considering the dishwasher is only about a year old. AND it’s not really saving water, but causing me to give more time and frustration.

    I use Seventh Generation detergent, which I really like, and I’ve been looking for a rinse aid but can’t find one without the traditional ingredients. Any suggestions?

  • I think a lot depends on how you handwash your dishes and what kind of dishwasher you have. My husband, when he handwashes keeps the water on and washes each item individually which uses a ton of water. I do a prerinse to get the big stuff off and then fill the sink full of hot water and wash the whole counterload in that sinkfull.

    Our dishwasher totally sucks. You have to rinse each dish until it’s completely free of gunk before you put it in the dishwasher. Otherwise at the end of the cycle all the dishes are littered with food scraps stuck on them. I really hate our dishwasher, but it still works and it saves me a ton of time. One day I definately want to replace it, in the meantime I keep hoping that it breaks!

  • diana

    I also think my hand-washing method saves energy. I put a plastic tub in one sink for the rinsing. While I’m waiting for the water to warm up I fill that rinse container with that lukewarm water. I use 7th Generation detergent. The rinse water goes out on the garden. The dishes air-dry in no time (live in CO.)

    Like a lot of the other commenters everyone I know who has a dishwasher wastes water by prerinsing their dishes and handwashing various items like wine glasses, pots and wooden items. Their dishes also look “worn out”, the finish looks dull or something.

    Also, I would guess the sinks in my house are 30+ years old. How many dishwashers would I have gone through in that time frame? The cost of manufacture and disposal of these appliances should be considered.

  • suze_oz

    I wonder if there is Australian study to help with this. We have been on heavy water restrictions because of prolonged drought in a huge section of the country.

    Right now we are on handwashing because my Bosch dishwasher stopped working. I am sure our water bill will go up and this week I intend to read our meter and see if I am correct. Instead of running the machine once a day I now wash at least three times a day. I use hot water in 2 sinks but my second sink is very small. I also confess that once the water gets gross I move to the rinsing sink for the last few dishes. Also our water heater is a fair distance from the kitchen so we end up boiling the water in the kettle to save water. The real purists then use the dirty water in the garden. Putting the used dishes directly into water truly helps.

    I prefer the dishwasher as the dishes are cleaner. When my family washes many things are still dirty and greasy. Yuck! I then rewash the offending items because they are a health hazard to us and will attract vermin.

  • I had a discussion with Mike of PlanBe in South Africa a few months ago over this, if you’re interested you could probably find it in Google.

    Mike successfully complained to the advertising standards agency in SA that ads for dishwashers were misleading in their water and energy claims. After his complaint, they withdrew their TV ads! This was particularly true for a country where more than 50% of it’s population has to carry their own water, and so would be particularly careful when using it to wash dishes.

    In Mike’s case, he also collects all of his water from his roof and has a solar hot water collector, so he has no net water or energy use.

    Mike and I compared his situation with the 5 year old dishwasher I had that was the most efficient model I could find at the time. In the economy mode it uses 5 liters of water and 1Kwh per load, which is roughly what the currently available high efficiency models use now as well.

    Finding the right soap for it now is proving difficult for some reason, but with the right soap I never use anything but the economy setting. I don’t rinse my dishes, and with only a few exceptions even the most greasy of dishes comes clean. What doesn’t come clean is easily washed by hand afterwards. By European standards it’s quite a large machine. Perhaps it’s a little smaller by US standards, but still very reasonable for the two of us. We run it most days, but not everyday. We hardly ever run it more than once a day.

    It takes three hours to run a load, which some people might find unacceptable, but we just set it off before we go to bed at night.

    I can tell you I couldn’t wash dishes for less energy or water than my dishwasher does! I would use at least 3 times as much water, and twice the energy. It’s true that the soap the dishwasher uses is probably not very healthy for the environment.

    The problem is the energy use doesn’t include the manufacture, sale and installation of the appliance, which is considerably higher. Honestly, the next time our dishwasher is due for replacement I will give it careful thought if it’s worth doing, and I will try to keep this one running as long as possible.

    If you live in the US and are faced with buying a dishwasher that uses on the order of 4-6 gallons, that’s an astronomical amount of water! There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get one that uses the same 5 liters that mine does, and you probably will be able to get one within a few years. It’s just like we’ve been driving cars that get in excess of 50-70mpg here for more than a decade, and they are only now becoming available in the US.

    If you already have a dishwasher, fine, the best thing is probably to keep using it. If you are in the market for a new dishwasher and can find a reasonable looking one that uses 1.5 gallons of water, consider buying it. Otherwise, do everyone a favor and don’t run out to spend your money on another consumer appliance that will be obsolete in 5 years! It’s better to make due with what you have now, whatever that is.

    While you are making due with what you have now, give some thought to the installation of a solar hot water collector and think about collecting rainwater for household use, then a dishwasher could just become a non-issue. These kinds of things are sensible things for everyone to do, almost regardless of where you live, they aren’t just for everyone else!

  • Rosa

    I was a handwasher for about a decade, and we’ve owned a dishwasher for a year. It’s not the most efficient possible – it’s a freestanding one you attach to your sink, and we didnt’ find that much range of possibilities given that constraint.

    Compared to the way *we* do dishes, the dishwasher uses more water and more electricity. I tried plugging up the sink to reuse the water (which I do withour handwashing water) and the sink overflowed; I use about one sinkful when I hand wash (actually two basins, one for washwater and one for rinse water.) It uses hotter water, too, and there are always some dishes that come out of it needing to be rewashed (though that’s true when my partner washes, too, so it may be even.)

    But, watching the way my coworkers and friends hand wash dishes, with constantly-running very hot water and dumping and refilling the sink a lot, I think the dishwasher is probably more efficient for most people. Maybe what we really need is education about water usage.

    For us, the dishwasher is probably more efficient right now because, after I started working fulltime and before we got the dishwasher, we *never* got all the dishes done on the same day, so I was always having to soak icky old dishes. It is definitely more efficient than dishwashing with help from a toddler, which is my other choice.

  • I am so glad to read this. This problem has bugged me for years. Our new dishwasher and new washing machine clearly use substantially less water than the old ones (I bought the new ones for water and energy efficiency). My water bill dropped the first month I had them and has stayed low since but I have always wondered about the electricity.

    By not using my dryer I ever, I do save some electricity but I cannot seem to get my usage below about 520 therms. (for a family of four).

    Maybe I need to give up the computer.

  • Patrick, great points. I’m astonished that they are so much more efficient there. I knew the difference was bad but didn’t realize it was that bad!!

    Your points about South Africa are important. There is no blanket solution, except to be extremely cautious of your usage no matter the method. Here in the US we are so used to turning on the tap and not worrying about it, that I worry studies of water usage while hand washing would even find more usage if they were done in here. So for many American families it is probably a better option to use a machine. But in the many rural areas of the developing world I’ve visited in my life, where they are so cautious of their usage – and so poor – the notion of a dishwasher is ridiculous.

    If only education would work, Rosa… We’ll do the best we can to educate the people we know, eh? A public awareness campaign about dish washing might not be met with much excitement until we have more droughts…. Sigh.

    I’m amazed at how many people have brought up the detergent factor. I use a biodegradable detergent that can’t be much harsher than the hand washing detergent… unless you all know something I don’t??

  • Great discussion here. I blogged last year about what to do when our dishwasher died, with a bunch of pros and cons. Eventually we decided to buy a new dishwasher.

    A significant part of our reason was that our kitchen is very small and we can use the counter space. The time factor was a huge reason. We bought an inexpensive, yet efficient, model. We use Ecover soap and use the “eco” setting and no drying. I think it’s a satisfying solution.

  • Hi Melinda. I did a test on my own dishwasher vs handwashing last year because I didn’t believe the research. I found the research done in the UK study didn’t use a plug in the sink and the water was left running while the dishes were washed. I have never known anyone to wash up like that.

    I go between washing my hand, which I prefer, and washing in the machine. I generally use the dishwasher when we have guests. I know that washing by hand, for me, uses less water and energy, and I use homemade soap, not caustic chemicals.

    When our dishwasher dies, I doubt it will be replaced because I wouldn’t be able to justify the manufacture and delivery of a new machine when handwashing in my home uses less or the same amount of water, no electricity and far fewer chemicals.

  • Melinda:

    Here at least we have different dishwasher soap than you do. It’s made to work with less heat and less water. It’s ‘compact’ meaning you use a lot less of it, so little in fact that measuring it correctly is difficult. Mostly it comes in preformed tablets, so you don’t need to measure it yourself.

    It’s composition is so regulated, I can’t imagine there’s much to be gained by buying Ecover or any other brand that suggests better quality or environmental friendliness. I don’t even think Ecover sells it, and it must all be the same everywhere anyway.

    I don’t know of any special environmental concerns with it’s use, but it is pretty harsh on the skin and you don’t want to get it in your eyes. I wouldn’t want to save the grey water for use in the garden either. It’s not very nice stuff.

    There are a few different variations of it around, 2-phase, 3-in-1 and maybe some others. Depending on the age of your machine, some formulations are better than others.

    We also don’t really have the option to air dry our dishes. Dishwashers here don’t usually tell you exactly when the rinse cycle is, and in any case you can’t pre-program it to automatically stop, so it’s difficult to catch it at the right time. I think there’s very little heat involved in the dry cycle, and it’s mostly forced air anyway. It’s probably necessary to keep the dishes from spotting, given the small amount of water it uses and the fact the rinse water is probably a little on the dirty side.

    While most people in the US don’t bother with the rinse agent, you have to use it here or your dishes don’t rinse properly. The rinse water in not clean enough, and without the rinse agent to help the water sheet off, you just get lots of food stuck to your dishes. I think it works together with the dry cycle to help the food come off.

    Great post about using what you have!

  • Thanks, Patrick, for your compliment and for your enlightenment regarding European machines. LOL, everything is smaller there, including the dishwashing detergent! It sounds like you have very different machines, as ours clearly tells us when the dry cycle is so that we can turn it off. We also have an Energy Saver button, a Water Saver button, and we can turn off the hot air.

    But we don’t use a rinse agent – I haven’t even seen it since the 80s. I wonder if that is where the extra water comes in…?

    Rhonda Jean & Cheap Like Me, Thank you for your comments. Last year we had a dishwasher and didn’t use it, because it was old and we just didn’t believe that thing could possibly save water or electricity (I hadn’t done this research, but I also think it was an old model).

    In our new apartment here in Seattle, we have decided to use the machine because it is here in our rental unit, and it is an Energy Saver model. But I would really think hard before I bought one myself. I wonder if there are any refurbishers/recyclers/retrofitters of dishwashers out there… Maybe that is an option we haven’t considered yet.

  • Em

    Hi Melinda,

    I wanted to come back again to say thanks for this post – it was food for thought, and one of your comments above -

    “Living sustainably is about asking these questions, searching for answers, finding ways to redefine what we used to see as normal, and being as mindful as we can about the impact we have on the planet as a whole as well as ourselves and our families.”

    - resonated with me.

    Thanks for asking the questions through your thought provoking posts :)

    My first reply probably didn’t reflect how much I’ve thought about this – I usually try to make it brief, lol.

    But, simply, I know that the way we wash up, in the dynamic system we live, is more than just litres of water and kJ of energy – the simple task of washing up is connected to other parts of the whole. It is the whole that aims to be sustainable

    This is how we handwash : we wash once a day. I fill recycled plastic bottles with the run-off before the water is hot. This is then used on our food garden. The hot tap then runs slowly while I wash cleanest to dirtiest items (everything is scraped beforehand – recycleable to the compost and protein or meat to the freezer to store for garbage bin day). By the time the washing sink has enough hot water, the dishes are half done, and I begin rinsing in the 2nd sink under the slowly running hot tap. Once there is enough water in that tub the water is turned off.

    Depending on how dirty the wash was (vegetarian food is generally not so greasy as meat-based food), the washing water can be left in the sink and used for handwashing through part of the day. When it is let out it goes through our greywater recycling system onto our fruit trees.

    Water from the rinse sink is then used throughout the day to rinse dishes off (dippered out and poured over to keep the remaining water clean), wash homegrown veges, and wash hands with homemade soap. Again, as water goes down the plughole it is recycled back out to grow our trees in the garden.

    We are having a solar hot water system installed this week, so from now on the energy for our hot water will be, in part, from the sun.

    Our records show that our average total water use is less than 110L (or about 28 gallons) per person per day, so I’m happy that what we do is water conscious.

    So, I suspect it’s unlikely that a dishwasher would save overall energy/water in our household system.

    But I still appreciate your post – it has made me rethink options for the future if our circumstances change – and if anything, it highlights to me that many average people (those in the studies) are not conscious enough of how much they consume, and/or are unaware of what they can do to use less. I know I’ve learnt heaps of tips from others around the net over the years, and really appreciate the sharing of info :)

  • Em, thank you so much for your great tips for handwashing. When we lived in the country, we washed dishes in a surprisingly similar manner. In our apartment in the city, however, grey water is not so easily harvested. But I probably haven’t thought that through enough.

    The studies really are illuminating, aren’t they? I didn’t realize how much water is used for washing dishes on average, either. When we joined the Riot For Austerity, a group who is trying to reduce their CO2 output to just 10% of the average American household, I had a similar reaction. I had no idea how high the average American output was!

  • jay

    Im absolutely amazed (made me a little sick even) that someone would use 103 litres to wash dishes by hand. Half a sink full of hot sudsy water (8litres) then on to the drying rack people. Or if you are really keen to rinse the dishes a couple of litres in the next sink. 10-14 litres for a massive wash.

    I live in Melbourne, Australia, in a share house and we have loads of dishes every night(everyone cooks separately) but half a sink full does the lot. For smaller amounts a quarter of a sink full is heaps. Yes – we dont have as much water as some countries – but Ive always filled half a sink/basin and I’m done

    I’m tipping the people who use 103litres handwashing would say its not healthy to wash up in half a sink full then pop outside to light up a smoke or open up their 5th can of coke for a day.

    No wonder the world is running out of clean water.

    Think about it people!

  • Jay, thanks for your comment! I, too, was amazed. Many people here in the US or in Europe aren’t used to thinking about how much water they use. Or how much electricity, or gas, or any number of finite resources. Awareness is growing, but slowly. So – spread the word!!

    Your description for how you wash may indeed help someone who is just learning about all this. Thank you.

  • [...] Melinda at One Green Generation posted a great article recently analyzing the difference. [...]

  • Simona

    I don’t even know what language to use for my comment. Maybe English is better.
    This would have been a very interesting article with a high impact. But it is absolutly impossible to read it in Romanian as the translation is full of mistakes of any kind. I guess Google Translate was used for it. The problem is not Google Translate, but the fact that nobody took the time to correct the translation.
    Anyway, I hope you will pay more attention for the future articles.

  • Hi Simona, thank you for letting me know how bad the translation is. I write this blog as a volunteer, helping others along the path of sustainability. I provide the Google translations solely as a way to help others who don’t speak English. I am only fluent in English, and conversational in Spanish. So I couldn’t correct the Romanian translations even if I had the time!

    I’m sorry if the Google translator is not up to par yet. Hopefully it will get better. For us, this is the only resource for translating.

    You seem to be fluent in English. If you would like to read the article in English, it is here.

  • Graham

    The hand washing methods in the study do not match up with the experiences the other comments or with my own experience. I am left to wonder if there are other motivations for such a poorly conducted study.

    Furthermore, as a counter argument to the “laziness” factor: the more difficult it is to wash a dish, perhaps the less dishes will be used in the first place.

    As a final point: If it takes a hand dishwasher 2 more minutes per setting to clean dishes, how much more does a dishwasher owner need to slave at his or her day job in order to pay for the contraption in the first place?

    Just some food for thought, clean it off your plate however you wish to.

  • Graham,

    To your first point, as I’ve said in response to other comments, I think we would all be surprised at how much water “normal” people actually use when hand washing. Unfortunately the readers here at One Green Generation are not yet the norm, though we’re working on that!

    The Bonn study was an independent study published in a peer-reviewed journal I believe. The Waterwise study was conducted by an NGO whose mission is to reduce water wastage in the UK.

    To your other points, these are all good questions.

  • Janet

    I have been without a dishwasher as my family has grown from just myself, to me and my husband and our two sons. I have come to see that it is time for us to get a dishwasher. I was not trained to be a very efficient washer, and so my techniques are not up to par with the technology. I could learn, I know, but if an appliance can do the work with fewer resources in less time, then that is time and energy I can invest in other areas of my life.

    I resonate with Graham’s comment, that one would be more conservative about using dishes if one has to wash them by hand. In my college years, that was pointedly true. Unfortunately, the other members of my household don’t seem to mind making more dishes for me to wash. It takes constant nagging, and I have other battles to fight. Like turning the lights off, not tracking mud into the house, and putting dirty socks into the hamper.

    When it comes time to purchase the devise, it will be a modest, 18-inch-wide, high-efficiency model. We do not use enough dishes to fill one of those high-capacity monstrosities, and I suspect that these oversized units are at the heart of the water usage discrepancy. I will do my best to find one made by a reputable company that employs sustainable manufacturing processes and pays its workers a living wage. I look forward to reclaiming a bit of counter space in my small kitchen, and I anticipate a drop in our water usage will result.

    A machine is only as good as its design, but maintenance is just as important. You wouldn’t expect your super-fuel-efficient car to go very far if you never changed the oil, and you wouldn’t be getting very good fuel economy in the last few miles before the engine seized forever. If your machine isn’t performing according to specs, there’s probably a mechanical issue that needs to be addressed. A clogged filter and blocked orifices will initially show up as poorly rinsed dishes, and if they go unaddressed, will ultimately lead to the death of the seals and pump. Recycling dead washing machines is fine, but any machine must be properly maintained to prevent early failure and unnecessary waste.

  • Jcdinform

    A an Appliance technician for over 20 years, If you Have to rinse your dishes off by hand before placing them in the diswasher, then that should immediately send up a red flag that there is something wrong with either the Dishwasher and/or the Household water conditions.

    Obviously, you can not leave a heaping pile of food on dishes before you place them in a dishwasher, but all Dishwashers, old or new, should be able to adequately clean dirty dishes and silverware.

    Actually, rinsing dishes can shorten the life of glassware because it promotes etching which is tiny scratches in glass caused by strong detergent that has no food to chemically react with because their is very little food on dishes.

    If you “have to” rinse dishes before they go in the dishwasher, “have to” meaning that it is not just a habit of yours?,… then I would definitely investigate why the Dishwasher is not functioning properly.

    How hard is your household water?, Is the incoming water hot enough after it fills the Tub? Is the water level in the tub adequate?, Is the spray arms functioning properly, etc.

  • Jenny

    No competiton. Dishwasher is best. I lent my house with dishwasher to my daughter and boyfriend when I was sent to work in Belgium for a year. It broke down so they washed manually hot water running for each ariticle my 3 monthly water bill was up by 30% and my gas bill by 12%. The repair cost was 140 euros which I recuperated within 2 months of their residence.
    Now back in France, I use my 12 place dishwasher once or twice a week. Occasionally I use the rinse programme. I don’t pre-rinse my plates in the sink, obviously I scrape of my plates and do soak casserole dishes (in cold water overnight) and give them a quick rub over with a metal sponge to get of. the crusty bits. The dog helps out with this as well.
    Tips that maybe helpful
    1) Frying pans and greasy plates, soak up and wipe off the excess grease with freebie newspapers you get in the letterbox or Leader Price kitchen paper (enormous roll very cheap lasts ages).
    2) I have two frying pans with detachable handles – makes stacking the dishwasher much easier.
    3) I drink a lot of tea (teabags, not tealeaves) and always leave a little in the bottom of the cup. These dregs I throw directly into the dishwasher so avoiding having to rinse out the siink.
    4) Your dishwasher can be used for washing other things e.g combs, toothbushes, rubber beach scandales, glass lampshades, plant holders, vases, non fragiles glass decorations. The list is limitless.

  • Sally G

    Thanks for all the info. I just found this site through a mailing-list link, and will be back!

  • Carlin

    One gallon of water will easily wash and rinse dishes for 4 people. You do not need to fill the sinks with water in order to hand wash dishes unless you are washing tons of dishes. I put only 2 inches of soapy water in the wash sink and use the sponge to splash this water up onto each dish as I scrub. The same applies to the sink used for rinsing although here I use about 3-inches deep. All told, I use less than one gallon of water to wash all the pots/pans, dishes, glassware, and utensils for 4 people.

  • sueisrael

    fabulous, good reading material here, we just brought a dishwasher, now lamenting (abit) about not getting a “slim” model, we are 2 adults and 2 teenage sons. It is a different life with a dishwasher, but thankfully not too different. I dont waste a cycle as i still wash my pots and pans and large serving plates by hand, i’m chinese so i have lots of woks and chopsticks etc, which i’m told wooden utensils should not be dish-washed. It takes on average 2 days to fill the machine, by then I’m REALLY out of glasses and cutlery! Living in Israel, I can safely say we redefine “water-economic” when we hand wash dishes, first only with lather, then quick/good rinse. so finding this website to answer our questions about water guzzling and energy quenching in a enviormentally conscious society is great. With this consiousness heightened, we began using our grey-water for our plants and vegetable plot which I have just begun too!! It feels like a circle or chain, each a consequence to the other! I’m hoping to begin a trend of ‘green’ rooftops in Tel Aviv, sustained by grey-water and compost etc., look out for my website :)
    and thank-you so much for so much invaluable info and chat and inspiration!

  • CD

    I have a question. We use the water from our dishwasher to water our flower beds and lawn. We have hard water so we have to add salt to the dishwasher. My question is: Is this water bad for my flowers and lawn? Thanks for the help!

  • justin

    CD,

    In Australia, the ATA(Alternative Technology Association) conducted some research and found that over time sodium(salt), which is in most soaps and powders, will break down and damage the soils structure. How fast it breaks down is contentious, depends on the salt content.

    My suggestion is to move the outlet around every month or two, never leaving it in the same spot for too long. (Im no scientist though so look at other relavant info as well)

    Good luck

  • What Graham said is very important; if we can figure out how to use fewer dishes in the first place, that would be grand :-) I am realizing that for my kids’ lunches and snacks, I don’t need to use individual plates. A serving plate in the center is something they can all eat off of. I usually eat after they do, so I find myself taking one of their breakfast or dinner dishes and using it for my own.

    Regarding prerinsing for the dishwasher, I suppose most people just run water down the drain while they do it. I use my dishpan and scrub brush and use the same bit of water until everything is morsel-free; then I follow with the short wash cycle since I’m looking for soap action and not the high-power spraying to remove particles. Of course, that was when my dishwasher could be used. The seal broke on the garbage disposal and the dishwasher drains that way, so I can’t use it now. It makes a great dish rack though for hand-washed dishes to keep my counter space available :-)

    One other thing about hand-washing dishes: Dishwasher use presumes that electricity is available to consume. I always assume that my future electricity is going to be pretty small compared to now, and only if I live in a functionally-gridded area. I’d rather have it for my laptop and internet and lighting! So I’m trying to learn the most functional hand-washing system I can, urged on by the unavailable dishwasher. It seems to me the most important result of dishwashing is disease mitigation. I wonder if a nice vinegar bath at the end of a low-water cleaning process would do the trick?

  • Terry

    Definitions of efficiency can get tricky when you try to include the embodied energy represented by the manufacture and destruction of the unit. In other areas like windows or older well constructed buildings, the energy conservation represented by their long lives can be startlingly large. Usually the energy used in the operation of the structure or appliance is dwarfed by that used at each end of its life cycle. In other words, with the life expectancy of appliances today, they had better darn well be very efficient in operation if we are to reduce overall energy consumption.

    Personally, in a dishwasher I’d prefer a little less efficiency in terms of water and power consumption and a lot more on longevity and freedom from service calls. Even my 1966 KitchenAid Superba (made by Hobart at that time) with its 11 gallons per cycle saves water over hand washing, especially since hand rinsing isn’t usually necessary at all. Filling more than one detergent dispenser is optional since the machine is so powerful. I can usually let the prewash run without detergent with only the extended main wash running with a smaller amount of powdered detergent specified. I usually stop the machine from running the dry cycle which allows me to begin putting away hot, spotless dishes within 24 minutes of starting!

    Did I mention its been used regularly (every two or three days) for 44 years? BTW, its had minor service only twice in that period.

    I would be interested to know how this machine has stacked up in total energy (including construction and eventual recycling) in its lifetime up to now.

  • Susan

    I have always wondered about the study that concluded that a dishwasher uses less water than hand washing. I recently read about the European study in which participants were asked to wash 12 place settings. I question the basis of this as a reasonable study – how many of us even own 12 place settings, let alone wash them all at once with no serving pieces, pots & pans, etc.

    Our family of 2 adults and 5 cats only owns 4 place settings of human dishes. We hand wash once a day. We start out with glassware, move on to flatware & plates and finish up with the cat dishes, serving dishes, pots and pans. I capture the water and don’t even fill one sink, including the rinse water

    Even if I owned a dishwasher, I’d have to wash once a day or buy more dishes – which gets into another energy issue. I believe that there are folks who are profligate with water and those who use no more than, if not less than a dishwasher. We also pee outdoors – saves gallons of water every day!

  • we use to have a dishwasher at home but we never used it because we think it wastes a lot of water plus we are not sure how it could thoroughly clean every plates we have used. I think it’s still better to do the handwashing.

  • CDIsrael

    We have one large sink in the kitchen. We use two plastic trays that just fit in the sink. We wash in one and rinse in the other. We then put the water on our plants. We also catch our AC water. We get maybe five to eight gallons of water from our AC per day, and it’s clean cool water. We also catch our shower water to put on our plants. We bought round flat trays to stand in when we take a shower, and these catch most of the water. We also found a plastic tray that fits our bath sink to catch the water. It’s a little bit of a hassle to carry the water down the stairs to put in the garden, but it helps us stay in shape. We have a dishwasher, but we only use it when we have guest and use more dishes.

  • sue

    hi cdisrael,
    was wondering where do you live?
    collecting from the ac is a great idea, i live in tel aviv which should amount to alot of water, but then i try not to use the ac unless absolutely neccessary

  • CDIsrael

    Hi Sueisrael, I live in Netanya. We have a two story house, and we don’t use our AC till we have to. This is usually later in the day. We turn it off around 12:00 or 1:00 am. I have to have it a little cool to be able to go to sleep. We also keep our themostat set at 27 or 26 with fans running in most of our rooms. Keter has a number of different size trays and buckets, so it’s possible to find one that will fit your sinks or to collect water from other sources.

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  • Interesting article. I work in an office with a dishwasher but there it is obviously better than hand washing would be, given the average office workers habit of carrying on chatting to a colleague while letting water run for a whole minute to clean one spoon.

    At home we hand wash. We don’t use enough crockery to fill a dishwasher, we’d be sittign surrounded by dirty plates for a week before we got a full load. We’re very economic with water use too.

  • [...] according to this report by 1greengeneration, using your dishwasher as an ACTUAL dishWASHWER actually SAVES more water than [...]

  • [...] according to this report by 1greengeneration, using your dishwasher as an ACTUAL dishWASHWER actually SAVES more water than [...]

  • George

    just a quick question —-wouldnt using old dishwater ie grey water on your plants kill them?? with all the added detergent ??
    Just a thought!

  • Mary

    My husband chooses to hand wash the few dishes the two of us use because the hot water makes his arthritis feel better and warms his hands.

  • nancy

    i just washed a medium – large load of dishes by hand and measured the water i used…6 gallons. I wasn’t trying to be conservative -just the normal washing. How do you come up with these exorbitant amounts?

  • Hi Nancy, thanks for the info. First, I didn’t come up with the numbers – it was a study that surveyed many families. Second, remember this the average of many dishwashers. While you may think you are washing normally, it sounds like you are on the low end (scary, isn’t it?). Sounds like you should just keep doing what you’re doing.

  • Elethia

    I have just moved into a flat where they have a dishwasher, and all of them rinse their dishes under running water for as long as it would take to properly clean the dish and then put it into the dishwasher. This appalls me, added to the fact that when handwashing my family fills up the sink and washes all our dishes in that, using a max of 10 litres. We have always been water efficient because we have rainwater in a tank. In my opinion dishwashers aren’t even close to what they are cracked up to be, and they, like most modern appliances promote laziness, because people are now too busy to wash dishes, if you take the time to relax and feel the warm water, dishwashing can be both economical and pleasant!

  • Shannon and Ketura

    Me and my partner are doing History fair and want to know some facts about the dishwasher cause, our topic is the dishwasher. we want to know some facts like does dishwashers save water more then washing dishes by hand.we want to interveiw people.so if you want to be interviewed just email us!!!!!!!

  • [...] Re: need help ver hurt Show this to hubby….makes a very clear argument for dishwashers: Does Using a Dishwasher Actually Decrease Water Use? | One Green Generation [...]

  • [...] Star or European Dishwashing by hand: up to 16 gallons/load — dishwashing by hand uses both more water and more energy than using the dishwasher! Teeth brushing, hand washing, other sink usage: 1-5 gallon/min that the [...]

  • Scott

    I’m a fairly careful hand washer and haven’t had a dishwasher for 3 years until I just moved in with someone I’m dating who does.

    I use two small tubs just big enough to immerse plates for hand washing (one with soap, one for rinse water) I find I’m fairly well in line with what Nancy (above) says and I’m using about 6 gallons to fill these 6-8 inch tubs about 1/2 to 3/4 way and do any extra rinsing needed (like rinsing the tubs and any pots and pans that don’t fit in them). I think people posting here that use less are probably very, very efficient (more than 99.5% of most people) or maybe some might not be very good judges of how much water a gallon actually is when they put it in a different shaped container.

    If I don’t use basins, I rinse only what I need to at a tiny trickle, then soap with a sponge with no water running and then rinse everything that has been soaped at the same time so the water only runs when I’m actively using it. Even this way I find I use a similar amount of water over time.

    At the place I’m staying now we have a recent energy star, efficient dishwasher. No rinsing is necessary and it doesn’t heat-dry so it’s not high on energy usage. It gets things as clean or cleaner than I would unless it’s packed incorrectly and only needs to be run every 2 to 3 days. A few pans even fit into it. Even if stuff has sat in there for a day or two, it works well.

    My assessment for myself is that running the dishwasher at about 5 gallons a wash is significantly more water efficient than I am, even if I only do dishes once a day by hand. For me it uses about half as much water for two days’ dishes as I would achieve.

    Of course there are other questions about energy used to make the device, detergents and electricity to turn the motors (and most energy-intensive of all, to heat the water), but for me, the dishwasher already exists in this house, so no energy in manufacture is saved if I decide to hand-wash.

    I’m certain there are people who can do better than a dishwasher if they plan and work things just right, save gray water, and focus on saving water at all times.

    I’m fairly water conscious when washing dishes compared to most people I know. I think the studies are a bit crazy since that amount of water is really a lot more than I use when hand washing (though 12 settings is much bigger than my usual hand-washing load). However it doesn’t surprise me to know that many people actually use this amount since they leave the water running, soap and wash each dish individually and 12 place settings is a lot bigger than most people wash on average after a single meal, or even after a full day of dishes build up.

    So yes, it’s not a clear cut decision for everyone to use a dishwasher because some people can do better and because of the energy used to make the appliance, the energy it uses, and detergent. However, I’m still pretty convinced for me that using a dishwasher is probably better than not using one in most cases (less water, not having to run the water until the hot water comes through the pipe for removing grease, etc) and for the average person in the US, it’s probably a no-brainer aside from the unknown manufacturing energy and water over the life of the device.

    It would be interesting to get estimates of energy and manufacturing costs for a dishwasher to be spread over the life of the appliance, but since one already exists where I am, I’m using it.

  • [...] water, and chemicals than a dishwasher, and is less likely to leave a soap residue on the dishes. (There are arguments about hand vs. machine washing. I believe efficient hand washing is best, but it is also [...]

  • Thomas

    Two person household and we would use no more than 10 litres a day to hand wash our dishes.
    And I still dispute that a dishwasher can properly clean dishes that have not been pre-rinsed, my experience with them is that unless dishes are washed straight after use they never come up completely clean. Not to mention the electronic waste to dispose of when the thing breaks down. Find me a dishwasher that uses less than 10 litres a load and always leaves them sparkling, then I’ll start buying into this.

  • Zan

    I bought some “eco” brand of dishwasher detergent at Wal Mart, and it has caked and flaked all over the bottom of the machine as well in the wells one is supposed to put it into. Then I bought some “Finish” brand, not eco, and it is doing the same thing, and now flakes/particles of both are on my dishes and in my cups. Maybe there is something wrong with the machine? We have tried to clean it with vinegar, bleach, and elbow grease, but the remnants won’t dislodge.

    As far as saving water, I don’t see how I could possibly be doing that. I can’t leave anything with food particles on it, much less any dried proteins, or it the machine will not get them off. So we have to wash and rinse prior to, and as far as I am concerned, the machine is only good for “sanitizing” the items to some extent. It still leaves soap and spots. (I do use Jet Dry, too.)

    My machine is Energy Star compliant and it is not that old, about 5 years, I believe. So is it the manufacturer, or the producer of the dishwasher liquids that don’t work? I’m afraid I’m going to have to buy the more expensive and less “green” Cascade, as this is the only product that doesn’t make such a mess!

    Personally, I feel that the way I USED to wash dishes when I was a young woman was better. I pre-soaked everything in plain cold water in one sink. When I went to wash, I used a brush and liquid detergent and made sure everything was clean, and then I rinsed them well and allowed them to air-dry on the rack with a drainboard. I thought it took longer to do than using a dishwasher, but now I wonder…

    The one thing I DO like about dishwashers is the heat-dry that so many of you don’t approve of. I don’t mind washing dishes, but I sure hate to dry them!

    If someone could tell me what brand of under-the-counter, energy compliant, eco-friendly, leave the stuck on pasta and the dried milk in the glasses dishwasher I should replace mine with, I’d be grateful. I can’t really stand up long enough anymore to do the dishes “old style”, but I still want my dishes to be clean!

    Thanks!

  • Brad

    We use 6litres a day handwashing, one wash at night. 2 adults and 2 kids. We do a lot of baking and cooking our own meals too(when there is a lot we would do 2 washes). We have a composting toilet, but a flush toilet will use a lot more water than handwashing.

    The question is why to dishwashers have these features that are energy consuming? because people use them. So at the end of the day they end up using heaps of power.

    The manufacture of a washing machine definitely has to be taken into account. Recycling uses a lot of energy and as someone else pointed out most often than not it will simply be dumped into a big hole at the end of it’s life.

    Also doing the dishes with your partner at the end of the night is a good opportunity to talk to each other.

  • Rich

    Just letting you know, I’m doing a research project on appliance energy efficiency and the average dishwasher uses almost 10 gal. of water per cycle (even more before 1995).
    This might even the dramatic ratio of water usage compared to hand-washing dishes.

  • George

    A very thoughtful and open evaluation of: How green are dishwashers? Kudos to One Green Generation. Here are my thoughts;

    Our household washes dishes usually once a day, sometimes twice. 4 adults. I just measured our sink. We use 4 gallons of water for each wash, unless its the Christmas turkey in which case it takes 2 fillings. One sink is filled with hot soapy water. Everything is washed, then put on a rack to air dry (we’re masters at stacking!). I’m not aware on any studies that I risk ill health by not rinsing dishes. If the washed stuff is warm, it drains off very well. Conversely, if I have to keep dirty dishes laying around until the dishwasher is filled, well, no thanks. This water consumption places us on par with European dishwashers (in practical terms, dishwashers get used when partly full) and therefore ahead of North American guzzlers.

    My sink and taps are 15 years old and going strong. Haven’t even replaced washers yet. How many dishwashers can boast that? No comparison is valid without a full life cycle anlysis. Sinks and taps are low-tech, low-maintenance durable goods compared to dishwashers. They are made of high-quality easily recycled stainless steel. And don’t require energy to operate. In a measure of resources consumed during manufacture and decomissioning ie energy, metals, plastics, pollution, I’m confident the sink will win several times over.

    Finally, washing dishes is real quality decompression time for us at the end of the day. A dishwasher won’t give you that!

  • Strategic Planning Process

    It is hard to believe that dishwashers may save water but apparently they do. If I had to say that they save water over how I wash I would say no but my dish water ends up looking like soap so I don’t really know how clean the dishes end up. If I compared them to how my dad washes up then I would say that dishwashers save water. He will run a full sink of water to wash up a few cups.

  • thank you

    we live on a old well for water that has capacity problems – has be known to run dry in late summer. My husband have discussed for years on a dishwasher. He said they take a ton of water. i said no they do not. washing dishes by hand takes mush more water. thank you. —- i finally get my dishwasher. Connie — from Dubuque Iowa USA

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