Dishwasher v.s. Hand washing

Water is considering one of the most important resources to support human live. We can’t live without it. When I was young, I always help my grandmother do house chores such as wash dishes, but with the advancement of technology, we now have dishwasher that can help us wash dishes more efficiently. However, my grandmother still insist on hand washing because she believes that hand washing is more convenient and it can conserve more water. Therefore, in this post, I will argue that dishwashers can conserve more water, save money, and save more time than hand washing. Moreover, I will use the example in my house to calculate the amount of water saving from dishwasher than hand washing in one year.

Water plays a vital role in our daily life, and we need it every single day. Not only for doing house chores such as washing cloth, taking shower, and brushing teeth, but also for our own body. 70% of our body is composed of water, and we need to consume water in order to maintain our basic function. I realized that water might seem as a affluent resources; however, the total amount of available water for human used is actually fewer than we think. According to EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), “less than one percent of water is available for human.” The rest of the water is inaccessible for human such as salt water in the ocean, or fresh water frozen in the polar ice caps. Hence, we need to take action to conserve water.

In the aspect of conserving water, it is very common for people to pre-washing the dishes before putting them into the dishwasher because in some degree, it just feels a lot cleaner, and I admit that it is something hard for people to let go the thought. Of course, we need to scrap off the food before putting into the dishwasher, but in fact, it is unnecessary to pre-rinsing. According to Consumer Reports, pre-rinsing dishes waste more than 6000 gallons of water per household each year.

My method is to estimate how many water usage of hand washing per year, and then compared to the water usage of dishwasher. To start, in my house, we often use running water to wash our dishes, and the estimation is roughly about 2.2 gallons per load. (I measure how many water we need to complete cleaning for each time)

  1. If we are using hand washing, we need to wash dishes three times a day because we will wash dishes right after we finished the meal:

Every day use: \(2.2 gallons\times 3 =6.6 gallons\)

One year for using hand washing: \(6.6 gallons\times 365 days= 2409 gallons/ days\)

2. On the other hand, if we change to dishwasher with standard model: The usage of dishwasher is 5.5 gallons per load.

One year for using dishwasher:\(5.5gallons\times 365 days\approx 2008 gallons\)

3. Moreover, if we using the conserving model: The usage of dishwasher is 3 gallons per load

One year for using dishwasher:\( 3 gallons\times 365 days = 1095 gallons\)

As a result, we can save approximately 1300 gallons of water per year. The more dishes we wash by hands, the more we can waste.

When it comes to the debate of saving money on hand washing or using a dishwasher, the result is hard to precisely being compared, because there are too many factors to consider. However, we still can get a simple idea of how dishwasher compete with hand washing method in the area of energy, money, and time.

First, we assume that the dishwasher runs by electricity, and we used 2.5 kilowatt- hours (kWh) of energy for 12 place settings in hand washing, and compared to dishwasher with only 1.5 kWh to wash the same amount of dishes. Additionally, the cost is 12 cents per kWh in United States, according to Ovo energy. Hence, the total amount of money for using a dishwasher is around 66 dollars per year; in contrast, it costs 109 dollars each year for hand washing.

Many people assume that hand washing is less expensive, but as I mention above, this is not the case. Moreover, hand washing also requires both hot and cold water, which involved the cost of electricity to heat water and the cost of water itself, let alone we usually wash three times a day, but only wash once when we are using the dishwasher because we use the dishwasher when it is fully loaded. In addition, the bottom line for the cost to heat a gallon of water is about 1.5 cents in average. Continue with the data that I present above, it costs additional 36 dollars while using hot water to washing dishes.

Last, many people believe that dishwasher is not worth it enough because it only save little or no time at all. According to the result from a study conducted by Bonn University in 2011, 69% of participants purchase the dishwasher because of its timesaving advantage. Instead of spending time scarping off the leftover food, scrubbing, and rinsing the dishes by ourself, we can use the time more wisely such as writing one extra question for homework. Admittedly, dishwashers also have its own drawback such as it is expensive to buy at the first time, and the problem of needed to be repaired. However, I believe that dishwasher can save more for the long run and it can also protect the environment by reducing air pollution and decreasing the greenhouse gases caused by burning fossil fuels.

All in all, thank you for following along with me through our discussion of how to conserve water. As a result, we can see many unexpected benefit by using a dishwasher. Although dishwasher is prevalent, there are still many people insist on hand washing. So after reading my post, I hope people can also find the benefit of using dishwasher. Not only does the dishwasher save water but it also can help us pare down expenses. Furthermore, it can make our dishes cleaner, and save more time and energy. So we can let the dishwasher help us clean while we can do something else at the same time. I have realized that there are many different methods to conserve water, but changing from hand washing to dishwasher is one of the simplest ways. We, as human, can protect the world and environment together, and this small and simple change can cause significant impact on all human being.


  1. Daily health post, 2015. “Here’s Why Washing Your Dishes By Hand Is Less Clean And Efficient Than You Think”
  2. Rodale wellness, 2009. “This or That: Dishwasher v.s. Hand-Washing” 
  3. Ovo energy. “Average electricity prices around the world: $/kWh” 
  4. Office of energy efficiency and renewable energy. “Energy Cost Calculator for Electric and Gas Water Heater”
  5. The telegraph, 2014. “Dishwasher vs washing up: which is cheaper?” 
  6. EPA “how we use water.”
  7. The Christian Science, 2011. “Dishwasher vs. Hand-Washing: Which is Cheaper?” 


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8 Responses to Dishwasher v.s. Hand washing

  1. mpc5424 says:

    Hello! Your topic choice was really interesting! I enjoyed reading it. I like how you calculated the amount of gallons used in a standard dishwasher and a high efficiency dish washer since a lot of dish washers college students have in their apartments are old. I personally do not have a dish washer in my apartment so I have no choice but to hand wash my dishes, and it is nice to know approximately how much water I use. If all the apartments in State College upgraded their washing machines, they will probably save money in the long run by not having to supply as much water. Especially for my realtor company, AW & Sons, since there is just a flat rate for rent no matter how much water and electricity you use. Thanks for the read!

  2. kvm5732 says:

    I always thought that hand washing dishes saved more water than a dishwasher until I read this. I’ve never had a dishwasher so I never really thought about it, but I think it’s time I look into getting one! I was just wondering how using a dishwasher can reduce air pollution and decrease the greenhouse gases caused by burning fossil fuels? I thought since using a dishwasher used electricity that that would cause more air pollution/greenhouse gases? I’d love to see some research on those things as well if/when I go shopping for a dishwasher. Your article was very helpful & informative!

  3. Erin Kraeher says:

    That’s something that I always thought to myself, especially now living in an apartment I don’t have access to a dishwasher. This is a very useful essay! My dad has recently been boycotting our dishwasher at home, but I should mention this to him so maybe he will change his tone, since my family tries to be environmentally conscious. The point about more eco-friendly dishwashers is great. I can’t help but wonder, when I do dishes I tend to get all of my dishes damp then turn the faucet off to clean them with soap and a sponge. This way the water is only on for about 2 minutes rather than 10. Would this be even better than dishwashers?

  4. Jessica Dickey says:

    This is a great article, I have always thought that hand washing was easier and more effective in almost all of these ways. I did not have a dishwasher growing up either, not until I actually went away to college. I liked that you addressed the issue of “pre-washing” that so many people would do. I think that is an important thing to think about too because something I noticed in my own household was that then the costs were even higher with having to purchase two separate cleaners, dish soap and dishwasher cleaner. What realistically is the impact of that? I also think that there are better ways to hand wash dishes that don’t waste as much water or heat energy as you would think such as soaking and using other cleaning methods. While I think that this is a very interesting and good article, I still think there are other factors with this issue that can still be considered.

  5. Zhaoyang Wang says:

    In this article, he talks about which is the most efficient way to save water, the dishwasher or hand wash. I was surprise that using dishwasher is actually more efficient than using hand to wash the dish. I have dishwasher in my home, but I am not actually using it, because it takes a long time, like half hours to wash all the dishes, and sometimes I think the serval dish is not necessary to use the dishwasher. So, I think using dishwasher will spend a lot of water and it is feels so wasteful. But this article challenged my idea, the dishwasher is more efficient than hand wash, dishwasher is going to spend 70 gallons and hand wash will spend 150 gallons. In this way, it can save 77 gallons. that is a lot of water. And I didn’t notice that using hand to wash the dishes is so wasteful, because when you wash the dish by your hand, the water is actually run away. Which will spend more water than using the dishwasher. And it is so funny that he gives the picture about the gallon by showing the water bucket. I have no idea about what does 77 gallon looks like. But according to the picture he shows, 16 gallons is a big water bucket. So, the 77 gallon is amount of water that I can imagine. Besides, the work cited he provide is also interesting, it closely related to the topic he discussed. So to sum up, it is an article that challenged my old idea.

  6. cwa5234 says:

    Hello! This was a really interesting post to read, especially since one of my chores included the dishes. Before this, I would of never thought that hand washing uses less water then a dishwasher. Currently, living in an apartment with five people, we use a dishwasher that is about 10 years old almost every day. I can’t help to think that upgrading dishwashers in apartment complex would not only save us money (since we pay for electricity) but also the apartments across State College as whole. Another thing you mentioned was the money saved by not pre-washing. (which I am guilty of). This goes back to getting better dishwashers so we wouldn’t have to worry about dishes not being cleaned. Overall, I thought your post was very informative and will make me think twice next time I do the dishes.

  7. Trenton Quinn Wright says:

    I have a dishwasher in my apartment and i use it religiously. I also “pre-wash” as you talked about in this article. After reading your article i wonder why more property owners, especially on college campuses don’t look into installing dishwashers into their properties in order to save in the long run. One issue about hand-washing is many people leave the water running the whole time. If everyone made an effort to fill the sink instead of constant outflow of water maybe the water usage number could go under the amount of energy used by the dishwasher. Great article ! Very informative and relevant to must of us college students.

  8. gcg5081 says:

    Now I feel bad about my dishwashing habits! But, for good reason. I really enjoyed reading your essay as it brought up a variety of extremely valid points in an area that is often not considered when people think about environmental sustainability. However, as you eloquently stated in your essay, this is a prime area wherein a real difference could be made simply by conscious consumption. I am a religious pre-washer, and I’m not even entirely sure why… Knowing now that is both extremely wasteful and a waste of money is definitely enough of a push for me to change my ways in the future! I have an extremely old dishwasher, and hadn’t considered the amount of energy and water wasted by preferring to hand wash many of my dishes simply for convenience’s sake. I would definitely like to invest in a high-efficiency washer in the future, which will definitely help me, both to save time and avoid hand washing as well as being extremely less wasteful and a more sustainable alternative.

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