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The Eternal Question: Dishwasher or By Hand?

23 May 2012

A recent discussion with a friend prompted me to research whether dishwashers or hand washing uses less water. As my friend claimed while hand washing dishes, “There is no way a dishwasher uses less water then what is in this sink”.

This article from compares the resources needed to wash 8 full place sets and 6 serving dishes- which is an average full dishwasher load.

Water use:

  • One dish washer load uses 4 ( Energy Star rated) to 6 gallons of water.
  • Your faucet flows at a rate of about  2 gallons per minute.

So the simple math of this is if you can wash the equivilant amount of approximately 54 dishes with the amount of water that flows out of your faucet in 2 to 3 minutes, or about 4.4 seconds per piece, then you are just as well off hand washing. According to the article, this does mean that you have about 1 cup of water to wash a dirty plate…

Energy use: Unlike hand washing, dishwashers also use energy – about .8 to 1.5 kilowatt hours. Or about the same amount of electricity as leaving a 60 watt incandescent bulb on for 2 hours. By hand washing you can save this extra electricity use-but with the water saved its is a toss up.

End point: The dishwasher uses less water than hand washing, which can make your dishwasher are more ecological and energy efficient choice, although this is dependent on a very important detail: that you always run full loads in your dishwasher!

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