dishwasher.jpg When it comes to dishes, I have always picked hand-washing over using the dishwasher. Hand-washing definitely felt like a quicker alternative for a college student with multiple roommates, and I thought I was saving energy and water. But it turns out I was wrong. According to a study done at the University of Bonn in Germany, dishwashers use one-sixth of the water, half the energy and much less soap than hand-washing. That’s a pretty big difference. However, this study cannot be universal, as every dishwasher is different. Some are more sustainable than others, while others are just plain old, so the statistics are not always black and white. With that in mind, then how much water and energy does each dishwasher use on average?

The dishwasher

While an older dishwasher can use up to 15 gallons of water per load, many newer brands are committing to being more sustainable – with some help from the government. Energy Star, for example, is a government agency that focuses on creating an international standard of energy efficiency for products of all kinds, including but not limited to white appliances and buildings. As of 2009, the agency required any dishwashers hoping to meet Energy Star standards to use no more than 5.8 gallons of water per load (the average modern dishwasher uses about six gallons). With regard to energy, dishwashers can use anywhere from 1200 to 2400 watts of power, and you can even calculate how much your dishwasher is costing you here.


Whether you have an older dishwasher or a new, more efficient model, you will still most likely use less water with it than if you washed the dishes by hand. A typical hand washing session will use about 20 gallons of water. And although the amount of energy used depends on whether the water is warm or cool, using more water still means using more energy.

The verdict

You could possibly be more efficient when hand-washing your dishes than with a dishwasher, but it would be really difficult. According to Treehugger, you would have to be able to wash a dinner plate with just about a cup of water. Try it! It’s not easy! If you don’t happen to have a dishwasher, there are options to help you make your hand-washing as efficient as possible. For example, it’s a good idea to turn off the water in between rinsing your dishes, and keep running water at low pressure. Additionally, you can also use a basin. Just put it in your sink, fill it up once, turn off the water and scrub away. However, this method should only really be used when you have a good number of dishes or pots and pans to wash. Don’t waste gallons on your cereal bowl! If you are lucky enough to have a home with a dishwasher (or can afford to purchase one), it is best to take advantage of the opportunity.

Tips for using the dishwasher most efficiently

When using the dishwasher, wait until it is completely full, so less energy and water is used all around. Every modern dishwasher has an energy-efficient option when it comes to heating the water, so make sure you choose that to save some energy. Even if it costs a little bit more upfront to have a home with a dishwasher, or go out and purchase one yourself, it will save you money in the long run. But, if having a dishwasher is not an option, focusing on using as little water as possible. It’s important for staying efficient with water and energy.