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Just a few years back, it was as if having a dishwasher was only reserved for the elite. Having the ability to load up a day’s worth of dirty dishes on a specialized machine instead of going back and forth to the kitchen sink to manually wash your kitchenware felt so luxurious back then.
While not everyone has a dishwasher, such machines have become more mainstream and are considered a common kitchen appliance in most modern homes.
With this enhanced presence of dishwashers in daily human lives also came various controversies and questions that people felt needed answering.
One of these is whether the constant use of dishwashers is ultimately bad for the environment. Many now wonder whether or not using dishwashers is the ‘greener’ option compared to traditional hand washing of dishes.
To give you the answer straight, previous research has conclusively proven that using a dishwasher is the more eco-friendly option among the two. That is, if you know how to use the machine optimally.
With that being said, what are the environmental effects of using a dishwasher? How is it more ecologically friendly than traditional hand washing? How can one use a dishwasher in a more eco-friendly option?
Related Article: Hand-Washing vs. Dishwashers: Which Is Better?
Let us answer all those questions below while also sharing some facts and statistics concerning the ecological footprint of dishwashers. Let us begin.
How Dishwashers Affect the Environment
As much as we try to convince you that using a dishwasher isn’t all that bad for the environment in the grander scheme of things, there is no denying that these machines, especially now that they are more prevalent than ever before, have a considerable impact on our environment.
Dishwashers contribute to greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing, shipping, and installation process. These machines use natural gas to heat the water used with every wash cycle, and on average, they use about 4 gallons of water and 1 kilowatt-hour of energy per load.
Thankfully, most dishwashing models today now have an eco-friendly setting in place. Companies have specifically crafted these machines to reduce CO2 emissions, and almost all dishwashers maximize the amount of cleaning done, given the amount of water used. You shouldn’t feel bad using them on a day-to-day basis.
To give you a clearer picture of how using dishwashers is the greener option, let us also look at how washing dishes by hand affects the environment. Beware, some of the findings are quite shocking.
A German study found that washing 12 dishes by traditional hand washing on the sink uses an average of 27 gallons of water and 2.5 kilowatt-hours of energy to heat that water load. That is six times the amount of water and twice the amount of energy used by a dishwasher for the same load!
As shocking as these numbers may be, they are actually based on behaviors people show while washing dishes by hand on their kitchen sinks.
An analysis conducted by the Dutch Ministry of Environment has also proven that most people run hot water continuously while hand washing dirty dishes, leading to excessive water usage, especially when dealing with a day’s worth of load.
Furthermore, many of these hand washers aren’t effectively cleaning their dishes by hand, leading to more time spent running the water and more water wasted.
Looking at it this way, the human aspect within each of us is ultimately hurting the environment. And since dishwashers are devoid of that, it is only natural that they are the more efficient option.
Assuming that we miraculously remove that side of us and become as efficient as dishwashers in washing dishes in our kitchen sinks, the average environmental impact for dishwashing and handwashing is roughly the same.
Dishwashing may use slightly more energy because it is still a kitchen appliance that runs on electricity, while hand washing will slightly use more water. All studies on the environmental effects of dishwashing and handwashing agree that the most crucial factor in determining their impact ultimately has nothing to do with them. It is how we use them.
So, maybe it isn’t ‘what is the more eco-friendly option’ that we should be asking; maybe it is how we can use our dishwashers more efficiently so that it doesn’t leave a large footprint in our environment that we should know.
Eco-Friendly Tips When Using Dishwashers
Below are several tips on how you can use your dishwashers in a way that doesn’t leave a considerable impact on our environment but still perform at its best.
Only Run Your Dishwasher When It’s Full
There is a unanimous agreement between experts that for a dishwasher to be more energy-efficient and have a smaller adverse impact on the environment, you best run it only when it’s full. Loading the machine up with just a few dishes and running a full load wastes water and energy.
It is better to load up your dishwasher with a day’s worth of dishes than run it now and then to ensure that you don’t have any unclean dishes lying around in your home.
Do Not Pre-Rinse
As prevalent as dishwashers are in current homes, many people still believe they need to pre-rinse their dirty dishes before placing them in the machine. This is but a misconception. You really shouldn’t be doing it.
Dishwashers are more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly than hand washing unless you use hot water to pre-rinse your dishes.
Almost all modern dishwashers have ‘soil sensors,’ depending on how dirty the dishes you feed them are; they will wash more or less. So, lessen your worry. Your machine will get the dishes clean – it is their main purpose.
Related Article: 9 Common Mistakes You are Doing on Your Dishwasher (The Ugly Truth)
Better Skip the Dry Cycle
As tempting as turning on the dry cycle option on your dishwasher may be, experts suggest it is just a waste of energy. They argue that the option is unnecessary and is just there to entice consumers with extra features.
Since dishwashers use very hot water, if you open the door after the rinse cycle is finished and allow the water to evaporate by itself, you shouldn’t need the dry cycle option. Your dishes will be dry as a bone just the same.
Only Go For ENERGY STAR Certified Machines
To ensure your dishwasher is as energy efficient as possible, you should always be on the lookout for an ENERGY STAR certification or rating when purchasing a machine. Appliances with this illustrious ENERGY STAR logo are expertly tested to ensure that they aren’t only a top-notch product but also offer the best in energy savings and environmental protection.
Research shows that the average family can save up to $40 a year by using an ENERGY STAR-rated appliance. Furthermore, using a dishwasher with such certification can save up to an average of 5,000 gallons of water a year and as much as 230 hours of personal time. Simply put, there is no reason why you shouldn’t just purchase an ENERGY STAR rated appliance.
What Does ENERGY STAR Certified Mean?
The ENERGY STAR program is run by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the US Department of Energy (DOE). The program establishes energy and water-saving requirements on manufactured appliances to reduce their overall carbon footprint.
Having the ENERGY STAR certification means an appliance successfully meets these particular requirements and is suitable for use without the fear of adversely affecting the environment.
Visiting its website, you’d see that the ENERGY STAR is a government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, providing simple, credible, and untainted information to help customers and businesses make well-informed decisions on the appliances they are looking to purchase.
To give you an idea of how eco-friendly ENERGY STAR-certified appliances work, dishwashers awarded with such certification are said to be 12% more energy efficient and 30% more water efficient than models with none.
Moreover, the website claims that ENERGY STAR-certified appliances save over 17,600 Liters of water over their lifetime. If that isn’t eco-friendly enough, then we don’t know what is.
12 Facts & Statistics about Dishwashing
Below are 12 facts and statistics about dishwashing that you might not be aware of:
- The average dishwasher costs about $35/year to run. ENERGY STAR certified models are much cheaper
- Dishwashers tend to use a lot of energy – a tad over 1 kilowatt per cycle
- Heating the water to then use to thoroughly clean dirty dishes is responsible for approximately 84% of the total energy consumption of an average dishwasher
- Most dishwashers today now have an eco option in their cycle offerings
- Dishwashers actually use less water per cycle
- 27 gallons of water washing dishes by hand would only be equal to about three gallons in the dishwasher
- Hand washing dishes is much less hygienic than using a dishwasher, study says
- A single dishwasher cycle can run for between 90 minutes and 4 hours
- Although roughly 68% of the US population owns a dishwasher at home, only about 20% of them actually use the appliance daily
- The typical dishwasher can last up to 10 years, with frequent maintenance, one can prolong its lifespan to about 15 years
- Dishwashers used to have built-in garbage disposals; nowadays, they are interconnected with a kitchen sink’s garbage disposal with an integrated filter assembly
- Bosch sells the most dishwashers in America; closely followed by KitchenAid and then Whirlpool
The bottom line is even though dishwashing is indeed still affecting our environment for the worse, it is a much better alternative compared to traditional hand washing. The dishwashing industry has come a long way in an effort to reduce its overall carbon footprint, comforting the inner environmentalist in all of us.
To give a conclusive answer to the question: “are dishwashers bad for the environment?” No. Dishwashers, when used properly, aren’t bad for the environment. In fact, it is more eco-friendly to own one instead of sticking to hand-washing dirty dishes.
Would you like to know the top dishwasher this 2023? We got you covered! Follow the link and take a look at our picks.
- Determination and verification of possible resource savings in manual dishwashing: University of Bonn, Germany (2011)
- Overview on Energy Star Dishwashers
- Dishwashers: Department of Energy
- Dishwasher Electricity Usage
- Dishwashers | EGEE 102: Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection
- 9 Tricks to Save Tons of Water
- Dishwashers or hand-washing? Science settles the score
- Dishwashers Often Go Unused, Survey Finds
- How Long Does a Dishwasher Last
- Top-ranked Kitchen Dishwasher Brands in America’s Most Trusted Study