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Can Dishwashers Save More Water vs Hand Washing?

Appliances Connection answers the question between Dishwashers versus Hand Washing

With the advent of energy conservation and ecological responsibilities, we have all taken part one way or another to play our role in preserving the environment. One of the biggest issues with major appliances, nowadays, is how well they can meet energy and resource conservation and still get the job done. There have been great strides lately on how well dishwashers can conserve water more than hand washing. It may come as a surprise that dishwashers use less water and energy to wash dishes, but even Energy Star promotes that using an Energy Star certified machine can save you money on your utility bills. The understanding that, on average, new dishwashers can save 5,000 gallons of water and $40 on electricity per year opposed to hand washing. There is also a widely cited research study done by the University of Bonn in Germany that's been circulating in recent years that provide evidence suggesting that dishwashers are more conservative than hand washing dishes. The study concludes that dishwashers are able to use one-sixth of the water, half the energy resources and less soap detergent when compared to hand washing.

Of course there is cause for skepticism as to how disciplined you are at hand washing dishes, what kind of model dishwashers are being used, and how often are dishes being done in your own home. Also, if you own an older dishwasher from before the 2000s then it wouldn't apply. Today's dishwashers are designed to be more effective in conserving water and energy than ever before. One of the biggest ways some new dishwashers with hard food disposers save more water is that they do not require pre-rinsing of dirty dishes. Some of us might be conditioned to pre-rinse, but that would negate any water conservation. Instead, try scraping food off of dirty dishes if need be. Additionally, dish detergent is more potent at removing food soil now more than ever. In combination with the heated water and pressurized spray, new dishwashers are quite effective at cleaning dirty dishes without wasting resources. Some new dishwashers even reuse old final rinse water for the next new pre-wash cycle.

There are some of us who may have never used the dishwasher even though we have one. A popular reason is that some believe hand washing conserves more energy and water than some machine. Hand washing dishes does have a distinct advantage in how well you can control the water. However, it's hard to gauge exactly how much water you are using when the water is flowing out of the faucet. Newer faucets are equipped to flow at 2.2 gallons per minute, but some faucets can flow anywhere from 3-5 gallons per minute on average.

In comparison, Energy Star certified dishwashers must use less than 5.8 gallons per cycle. This is a mandated regulation by the government for machines carrying the Energy Star label. Some of the best dishwashers on the market can conserve water use to about 1.95 gallons per cycle. That is a stark contrast in comparison to hand washing dishes.

Hand Washing

However, there are also some folks who are quite diligent and adamant at conserving water. They can use different techniques as reusing grey dish water in double basin sinks to pre-rinse dishes or reuse that same grey dish water to fill toilet tanks or water garden plants to offset the water usage for those activities. It really depends on how well you can conserve water while hand washing dishes and getting them clean.

Energy Conservation

Electricity is used to heat water that is used inside dishwashers to clean dishes and that is a big deal because humans don't run on electricity to clean dishes. Some folks use hot tap water to clean dishes. Another factor to take into account is that using hot tap water also requires the use of more energy with heating and such. Today's Energy Star rated machines are capable of using anywhere from 1.59kWh to 0.87kWh per load. A tip to conserve energy costs is to turn off the heated dry option and dry dishes with a towel if you really want to conserve more.

  • A kWh (kilowatt per hour) is a measurement of energy used and it is what determines how much your electricity bills cost. There is a decent amount of science behind kilowatts and kilowatts per hour, but to paint a picture that's easier to grasp; A 100-Watt light bulb x 2 hours 1000= 0.2 kWh.


It's easy to say that on average, dishwashers may be able to save more water and resources than typical hand washing. Some of us may not have the diligence and technique in the way we hand wash dishes to really make a difference, so today's newer dishwashers can alleviate the guilt and eco-conscious concerns we may have with turning on a major appliance like a dishwasher. The strict regulations and guidelines set in place by governments around the world are encouraging appliance manufacturers to create more adept ways at carrying out their respective duties while conserving resources. In correlation to the rise in innovative technology, new dishwashers being produced today are increasingly more effective at washing dishes.

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