Hand-Washing vs. Dishwashers: Which Is Better?

Which is better—hand-washing your dishes or loading up the dishwasher and running a cycle? If you’re trying to practice water conservation at home, your best option is to run the dishwasher. It is not only environmentally friendly, but it’s faster and usually more convenient than laboriously washing a bunch of dishes by hand. You’ll save time, effort, and money on household goods, like dish soap. Plus, the concentrated cleaning power of dishwashing detergent is more effective than dish soap, so your dishes will get sparkling clean in no time at all.

Note: One exception is cleaning your water bottle, where it’s preferable to wash by hand with soap, hot water and a good scrubbing bottle brush.

Getting dishes clean in the sink can use up to 27 gallons of water per load, according to CNET. An Energy Star-certified dishwasher can use as little as three gallons per load (around 11 litres), according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Energy Star-certified dishwashers can save almost 5,000 gallons of water per year if the appliance is newer than 2013, which is when new standards were put in place. Keep in mind that dishwashers built before 1994 can waste more than 10 gallons of water per load.

It’s important to make sure your dishwasher is working properly to really maximize these environmental benefits. If your dishwasher is malfunctioning, the cost to repair it could be covered by your home protection plan. A home warranty could save you anywhere between $150 to $1,000 and your provider will schedule an appointment with a contractor for you, so all you have to do is file a claim.

Why is hand-washing less environmentally friendly when it seems like you’re using less water overall? One reason is that in order to wash dishes by hand, your water heater has to work to heat up all that water. Most dishwashers today have internal heaters that work faster and more effectively for the specific purpose of washing dishes. In addition, you don’t need to rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher either. Dishwashers can handle small bits of food. Consumer Reportseven states that pre-rinsing actually wastes more than 6,000 gallons of water per household every year.

Keep in mind that these savings of water, heat and energy only apply to fully loaded machines. If you live alone, don’t do dishes much, or otherwise can’t seem to fill up your dishwasher, use the rinse-and-hold feature if your dishwasher has one. This will prevent caked-on food from sticking and becoming a problem until you fill up the machine and can run a full load.

Still aren’t convinced by the many reasons that dishwashing is superior to hand washing? Think about this—water needs to be 140 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (60 to 62.7 degrees Celsius) to clean dishes with full sanitizing and antibacterial benefits. Your skin can’t handle temperatures that high, and you certainly don’t want to burn yourself. So be environmentally friendly and let your dishwasher do the dirty work.


By Paige A. Mitchell

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