All the green-obsessed people out there know about the constant debate: should you wash dishes by hand or in the dishwasher? Back in 2005, a study from the University of Bonn found that dishwashers came off as the winner, with half of the energy and a sixth of the water being used in each load. The reality is that not much has changed in terms of dishwasher technology since then, and certainly not in the realm of handwashing technique. But fifteen years is a long time, so it’s worth seeing if something has changed.
As it turns out, there is a new study that came out in Environmental Research Communications searching for answers on the subject. The question of whether or not the dishwasher is more efficient hasn’t exactly changed-it still wins, but only when it is used properly. This means using best practice, like not rinsing the dishes ahead of time, using good quality detergent (come on people, a two-dollar difference), and having it on a normal cycle with heated dry and rinse aid. The dishwasher must also always be fully loaded, which most participants in the study reported doing anyway.
Similarly, people use bad practices when washing dishes by hand, namely leaving the water running while scrubbing away. The best way to wash dishes is simply to rinse them off once all together, then to lather them up well and finally to rinse them off all at once in the second basin on your sink. Avoid using a kitchen towel to dry them off because bacteria can build up on your dishes, and nobody wants that. Instead, invest in a large rack and cry when there are too many dishes littering up your counter. That’s what you get for letting them accumulate.
You would think that a dishwasher would have water constantly flowing while washing each load. But that is not the case, quite the contrary, today’s machines have an elaborate series of jets and filters that use and reuse the same two to three gallons of water per load. To compare, washing a full load worth of dishes drinks up ten to fifteen gallons depending on how efficient your sink is.
Dishwashers far prevail when it comes to water use. The projected stats are as follows: over the course of ten years, a dishwasher will use 16,300 gallons of water with daily use, while washing the same amount of dishes by hand will use 34,200 gallons. Before running out and buying the newest model of dishwasher, let’s point out that the study in question was sponsored by Whirlpool and that the participant pool was composed of their employees, who should, in theory, be better than most people at loading a dishwasher. Still, the stats were run by independent researchers at the University of Michigan, which is slightly more encouraging.
Finally, one huge advantage of the dishwasher is the fact that it saves a lot of time. It would take about twenty minutes to properly wash the number of dishes that an average machine contains, but only about five minutes to load a dishwasher and move on with your life. This is precious time you could use to read to your child or try on that cool new dress you picked up last week.
Well, this is all fine and well, but what if you don’t have a dishwasher and don’t have the money or the space to buy one? Not to worry, you can find some very affordable options on the market, and some nice portable versions exist that hook up to the sink to avoid significant renovations.