Hand Washing vs. Dishwasher: Which is More Energy-Efficient?

Written by Camilla Jessen

Apr.23 - 2024 2:04 PM CET

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Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com
I hate washing dishes by hand, but my husband claims it's cheaper and more eco-friendly. Is he right?

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When it comes to washing dishes, the age-old debate is whether it's better to use a dishwasher or wash by hand.

Let's break it down to determine which is more energy-efficient, considering factors like energy use, water consumption, costs, and overall cleanliness.

Energy Efficiency

Washing dishes by hand with cold water saves energy, but it's unlikely to get them completely clean, especially if there's grease or food residue. Hot water is necessary for effective dishwashing, but heating water for hand washing consumes a lot of energy.

In contrast, dishwashers, especially when using the eco-program, can be more energy-efficient per wash, provided they're properly loaded. Dishwashers also tend to wash at higher temperatures, ensuring better cleanliness and sanitation. But even the eco-program might not get everything spotless, as it washes at a lower temperature of about 45°C (113°F).

Killing Bacteria

To ensure proper sanitation, water must reach a temperature of at least 62°C (143.6°F) to kill harmful bacteria. This level of heat is too risky for hand washing, as it can cause burns, giving dishwashers the advantage when it comes to sanitation.

Water Consumption

Dishwashers generally use less water than hand washing, especially if you leave the tap running during the washing process. Dishwashers operate with a set amount of water, while hand washing can consume several hundred liters if you're not mindful of the water flow.

Initial Costs

Dishwashers come in a wide range of prices, with some models being quite costly. As with most kitchen appliances, you get what you pay for, so investing in a more expensive dishwasher might offer greater efficiency and durability over time.

On the other hand, hand washing requires just a basin, a brush or sponge, and a few dishcloths, making it much cheaper initially. It also has the added benefit of taking up less space under the sink.

Time Efficiency

Dishwashers can take between three and five hours to complete their cycles, especially the energy-saving ones. That being said, they're quick to load and unload, and you don't have to stand over the sink for hours.

Hand washing is faster if you need your dishes or cutlery for the next meal, but it involves more manual effort.

Conclusion

Overall, dishwashers are typically more energy-efficient than hand washing, especially when used with energy-saving programs and fully loaded. They also tend to use less water and offer better sanitation thanks to their high temperatures. On the downside, dishwashers come with a higher initial cost and longer cycle times.

Hand washing, while potentially more costly in terms of water and energy if not done efficiently, can be quicker and cheaper upfront, requiring minimal equipment like a basin and a sponge.

Ultimately, the choice comes down to your priorities—whether you value energy efficiency, sanitation, cost, or time.

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