Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Wash Dishes By Hand

Good news for everyone who hates to wash dishes by hand: it's time to put down the sponge and use your dishwasher! Your dishes will be safer, and it's more eco-friendly, too.

The dishwasher is like a magical kitchen creature: feed it dirty dishes and you’ll receive sparkling clean ones in exchange. It’s almost too good to be true, so it must save water to wash dishes by hand, right? It certainly feels like you’d be doing a solid for the environment, but it’s actually more eco-friendly to put down the sponge and use your dishwasher.

Psst: Did you know there is a right way to load the dishwasher?

Dishwashers are way more water efficient than your faucet!

It turns out that using your dishwasher is a thousand times better than washing dishes by hand. According to the EPA, the standard flow of a kitchen faucet is 2.2 gallons per minute. That’s a lot of water! You’d use an estimated 27 gallons by washing an entire dishwasher load by hand.

In contrast, ENERGY STAR® dishwashers use no more than 5.5 gallons of water for the entire load (and some of them use as little as 3 gallons). Even older dishwashers only use 10 to 15 gallons per cycle, which is still half as much water as handwashing. New dishwashers also have sensors that detect how much grime comes off the dishes, using only as much water as required until the water runs clear. You’d have to you wash an entire load of dishes in less than 2.5 minutes to compete with that.

The dishwasher sanitizes your dishes, too.

It’s not just about water conservation, either. The dishwasher can heat your water to extremely hot temperatures–from 140° F to 155° F–which sanitizes the dishes as they’re washed. Even while wearing gloves, I don’t think I could handle water that hot. These high temperatures mean you can stop wasting time (and water) by pre-rinsing your dishes in the sink. Just give them a quick scrape into the trash to remove excess debris and let the dishwasher handle the rest.

No matter how much you use the dishwasher, there will always be items you have hand wash—like your cast iron skillets, that expensive Chef’s knife and any wooden utensil or cutting board. But go ahead and be lazy for the rest of the time: load that dishwasher up, guilt-free. Just make sure to only run it when it’s full. Since it uses the same amount of water regardless of its contents, you’ll save money by loading it up.

Now get cooking!
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Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay has been writing for digital publications for seven years and has 10 years of experience working as a professional chef. She became a full-time food writer at Taste of Home in 2023, although she’s been a regular contributor since 2017. Throughout her career, Lindsay has been a freelance writer and recipe developer for multiple publications, including Wide Open Media, Tasting Table, Mashed and SkinnyMs. Lindsay is an accomplished product tester and spent six years as a freelance product tester at Reviewed (part of the USA Today network). She has tested everything from cooking gadgets to knives, cookware sets, meat thermometers, pizza ovens and more than 60 grills (including charcoal, gas, kamado, smoker and pellet grills). Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, especially when she can highlight local, seasonal ingredients. As a writer, Lindsay loves sharing her skills and experience with home cooks. She aspires to motivate others to gain confidence in the kitchen. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her cooking with fresh produce from the farmers market or planning a trip to discover the best new restaurants.