Good News: Washing Your Dishes By Hand Is a Waste of Time, Energy, and Water
Often, being a friend to the environment means giving up some of the conveniences of modern life—trying to drive less, eating fewer delicious steaks, forgoing fast fashion, taking the time to separate all your recycling, turning down your AC. But there’s one way to reduce your carbon footprint that’s actually more convenient than the alternative. Use your dishwasher.
Washing dishes by hand isn’t just laborious. It wastes a lot of water. According to Lifehacker, a kitchen faucet might shoot out up to 2 gallons a minute. An Energy Star dishwasher, by comparison, uses less than 5.5 gallons per load. Older dishwashers use more, still only 10 to 15 gallons. A manual sud session just can’t compete. You’ll just end up working harder and wasting more water than if you stuck everything in the dishwasher.
Your dishwasher likely saves electricity, too. Newer dishwashers tend to have more efficient heating mechanisms than your average home water heater, according to CNET. Energy Star estimates that an efficient dishwasher can save you $40 a year in electricity costs.
Newer designs ensure that even with less water, you’re still getting your dishes as clean as possible. Dishwashers heat water up to levels you wouldn't be able to handle while manually washing dishes—Energy Star certification dictates that a dishwasher has to heat up to 140°F—meaning that it can disinfect those gross plates better than you could yourself. Internal sensors can detect the amount of grime in the water, according to NPR, so that the dishwasher only uses as much water as it needs, and manufacturers have tweaked the design of dish racks to make sure each dish and utensil gets as much contact with the water as possible during that brief period.
That’s why experts NPR spoke to recommended scraping your plates clean before putting them in the dishwasher, rather than giving them a pre-rinse. If you must scrub by hand, it’s better to fill up a large metal pot to wash in rather than filling a whole sink.
But why waste your time? Go ahead, throw it in the dishwasher—just make sure to wait until it's full to run it.