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Dishwashers vs Hand Washing. Which one saves the most?

Many of us have believed certain myths when it comes to saving time, money, or resources. One of these is the belief that using a dishwasher is more expensive than washing our dishes by hand. We grew up hearing things like: “Dishwashers are expensive and they waste more water and energy than hand washing.” or “You will waste more time and money washing a small load of dishes on a dishwasher than washing it by hand” And therefore we assumed that it was wasteful to use a dishwasher with a less-than-full load when we could simply hand-wash that stack of dishes in the sink, saving water and energy in the process. But, how trustworthy is that statement? What do the latest studies say about this? Should we doubt those beliefs? Here we will take a look at some facts, and analyze the best way to save not only water and money but also energy and time while taking care of the environment.

According to a recent study by detergent brand Cascade, hand-washing dishes uses more water and energy than even a small dishwasher load, this means that in terms of water and energy usage, certified dishwashers are much more efficient than washing dishes by hand, besides it can bring you other benefits like increase sanitization and effectiveness when it comes to doing your home chores. Let’s take a look.

Saving water

The study revealed that it takes an average person about 15 seconds and half a gallon of water to hand-wash a dish since a typical faucet spouts four gallons of water every two minutes. By comparison, an Energy Star-certified dishwasher uses less than four gallons per cycle, which means that it can save more than 7,000 gallons of water each year. In addition dishwashers with advanced technology have an improved water filtration that removes food soils from the wash water allowing efficient use of detergent and water throughout the cycle.

Saving Money

When it comes to talking about money, numbers speak better than words, so let’s take a look at some useful facts and data that will clarify this point perfectly. The energy and water costs of a standard dishwasher during its lifetime, that is an average time of 12 years, is only $463, in comparison, hand-washing your dishes during that same period can cost you about $1,300 more. This means that running a dishwasher is not more expensive than washing by hand, it actually can cut your utility bills by about $111 per year. As another curious fact, according to Energy Star, a standard-sized certified dishwasher costs about $35 per year to run, they have studied that homes with high-efficiency plumbing fixtures and appliances save about 30 percent of indoor water use and yield substantial savings on water, sewer, and energy bills.  (Click here for more info)

Saving Time and Energy

The appliance also allows you to skip rinsing, scrubbing, and drying your dishes, saving you over 230 hours of personal time over a year. That’s almost 10 days! Besides, a certified dishwasher with advanced technology uses about a quarter of the energy used when washing dishes by hand, due to the latest innovations that include soil sensors to test how dirty dishes are throughout the wash and adjust the cycle to achieve optimum cleaning with minimum water and energy use, as well as more efficient jets that use less energy to spray detergent and water over the dishes when cleaning.

Always remember that a certified dishwasher uses less energy than conventional models.

Saving Resources

As our population continues to grow, demands on precious water resources increase. Using a dishwasher can help us use household water more efficiently, reducing water consumption and therefore protecting our lakes, streams, and oceans keeping the environment healthy. In turn, reducing the water consumption can also reduce water and wastewater treatment costs and the amount of energy used to treat, pump, and heat water, this lowers energy demand, which helps prevent air pollution, and as dishwashers use less energy it reduces greenhouse gases caused by burning fossil fuels.

Other Benefits

But the benefits of running the dishwasher go beyond energy efficiency, water-saving, and environmental protection. Advanced technology dishwashers have innovative features like boosting temperatures up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which increases sanitization for a better clean than you can achieve in the sink, as well as innovative dish rack designs that maximize cleaning by strategically situating the dishes.


All these facts help us conclude that dishwashers are a better option, even with a small load of dishes, however, there are better practices that can help us take full advantage of our appliance, here are some of them:

  1. Run your dishwasher at night: Dishwashers use about the same amount of energy and water regardless of the number of dishes inside, so run full loads whenever possible, for example, at night when you have loaded it with all the dishes of the day.
  2. Scrape don’t rinse: Instead of rinsing the dishes, scrape the food off before loading them in the dishwasher, certified dishwashers and today’s detergents are designed to do the cleaning so you don’t have to.
  3. Skip the heat: Use a rinse agent and select the no-heat drying option. It gives good drying results with less energy.
  4. Wash by hand when needed: There are some items due to material and finish, for example, things like wooden bowls and cutting boards, cast-iron cookware, and delicate items such as your grandmother’s fine China, that you do need to wash by hand.
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