Dishwashers vs. hand-washing

Let’s face it – nobody enjoys washing the dishes. But is it more environmentally-friendly to use a dishwasher, or to wash-up by hand? Let’s take a look.  

Let’s face it – nobody enjoys washing the dishes. But is it more environmentally-friendly to use a dishwasher, or to wash-up by hand? Let’s take a look.  

Sofia Hutson
From the Energy team
3
minute read
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Posted 11 FEBRUARY 2020

Is a dishwasher more energy-efficient than hand-washing dishes?

You’ll be pleased to learn that studies have shown that a dishwasher is indeed more energy-efficient than washing dishes by hand. However, it’s a grey area, as it depends on how you hand-wash your dishes.

For example, some people use the tap to pre or post-rinse dishes. Some leave the tap running non-stop and others opt to fill the sink and leave the rinsing. Then there’s washing-up bowls. Some fill the bowl right to the top, whereas others use a lot less water.

On average, the majority of modern dishwashers use 11-13 litres of water per cycle. Hand-washing, on the other hand, can call for up to nine times that amount.

Is it cheaper to use a dishwasher?

This, again, depends on your dish washing habits. As long as you only run your dishwasher once it’s fully loaded, it should cost you less than hand-washing.

Research has shown that a single dishwasher cycle costs the same in energy and water as turning the hot water tap on for six to nine minutes, or filling up four to six washing-up bowls (depending on whether the household has a metered or unmetered water supply).

How much does a dishwasher cost? 

New dishwashers typically cost from £170 up to £1,400. Many Britons worry that the initial cost of buying a dishwasher is more than their budget can handle. But, if you factor in the energy-saving potential and opt for a dishwasher that’s on the lower side of that price range, this might not be the case.

How can I make my dishwasher even more eco-friendly and energy-efficient? 

Did you know that many UK households waste approximately 6,000 gallons of water by pre-rinsing dishes, every single year? Skip the pre-washing and pre-rinsing. Most modern dishwashers only require a quick scrape of any leftover bits of food before you load your dishes.

It’s also worth using the ‘Eco’ cycle, if your dishwasher has it. It’s the most energy-efficient and could save you up to 20% in electricity and water. But why are Eco cycles so long on modern machines? Well, it’s actually due to a clever redesign, which maximises water and electricity by having a longer run time but using much less water to clean your dishes.

Just remember, switching on a half empty dishwasher will cost you a lot more than a full one, in the end.

How can I make hand-washing dishes more eco-friendly and energy efficient?

Use a washing-up bowl, rather than running a tap. And don’t fill it right to the top – half a bowl will do the job just as well. It’s also a good idea to pre-soak any really stubborn pots and pans in warm water, instead of rinsing them.

How can I save even more money on my energy costs? 

Have a look at our guide to which appliances use the most energy – and how to keep costs down. And when you need to replace household appliances, make sure you choose an energy-efficient model.

One of the easiest ways to potentially save is to switch your energy supplier regularly. That’s where Compare the Market can help – get a quote and see if you can save.

And if you’re concerned about the environmental impact of your energy, you could consider a renewable energy supplier.

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