Dishwasher vs hand washing – which is better for your water bill and the environment?

We want this article to be as efficient as a modern kitchen appliance, so when answering the question of whether a dishwasher or hand washing is better for your water bill and the environment, we’ll get straight to the point: a dishwasher beats hand washing, hands down.

We’ve based much of our answer on a study by the University of Bonn in Germany. Germany is a nation renowned for its world-famous kitchen appliance brands: AEG, Miele and Gaggenau, to name a few, so when it comes to dishwasher-related topics, we’ll take their word for it.

The study revealed that washing 144 items by hand used, on average, 100 litres of water. At first glance, that average of 100 litres might seem a little over the top, but when you consider the typical Australian hand washing experience, it becomes more credible.

For a start, we usually run the taps for several minutes while we’re rinsing plates, cups, glasses etc. before putting them into a sink full of hot, sudsy water. After all, who wants to start washing the dishes with a sink already full of muck? One water conservation organisation in Queensland states that a running tap uses about 16 litres of water a minute. Hence, a couple of minutes already eats up a sizeable chick of that mythical 100 litres.

Then we fill the sink itself, using both water and gas/electricity to heat it. How much water and energy you use depends on the sink’s capacity of course, but it is still another big bite into that 100 litres. Let’s not forget that many homes now have a twin-sink set up which is often filled with cold water to wash the suds off the just-washed dishes. Or, the tap is left running for that task; now we’re really speeding up as we approach that 100-litre target!

Hot water doesn’t stay hot forever, and suds dissipate, so it’s not uncommon to refill the sink at least once when washing 144 items by hand. That’s to be expected as most people believe that hand-washed dishes need to be washed in hot water for maximum hygiene, and they’re right. This calls for more water, and more energy to heat that water…

When you take all that into account, that 100-litre mark isn’t pie in the sky at all. So, how does a dishwasher compare when it comes to cleaning 144 items, which was the benchmark used in the survey? Studies show that a modern dishwasher would use just 13 litres of water. As well, it is much more energy-efficient in maintaining hygienically hot water temperature.

While your home benefits from the use of a dishwasher, so too does Mother Nature. An American study found that hand washing, where you leave the tap running to wash off suds as you go, produced 5,620 kilograms of greenhouse gases over 10 years of washing 32 place settings per week. In comparison, a dishwasher created 2,090 kilograms of emissions over the same period.  By the way, the greenhouse gases we’re talking about primarily come from the energy it takes to heat the water.

All round, the great debate over hand washing versus a dishwasher seems to be a very one-sided argument. But there is still a place for hand washing: wooden chopping boards, high-quality chef’s knives, and non-stick pans will last longer when washed in the sink. But for everything else, it’s a dishwasher first, and handwashing a distant second.

Don’t hesitate to contact us for advice and installation for that cost-saving dishwasher!