Stop Hand Washing Your Dishes

A girl cleaning dishes at the sink in a classic black and white photo

Photo: Bettmann / Contributor (Getty Images)

Great news for those who hate doing meals : if you have a dishwasher, washing your dishes by hand is really a colossal waste of water, power, time, and money, and you can verify it with math.


Most people drastically underestimate how much water their taps put out. Energy Star-certified dishwashers must use less than 270 kWh each year and 3. 5 gallons per cycle , but most kitchen faucets move one to two gallons a minute. In other words, running the tap for just four or five minutes can use more water than an entire dishwasher period. Older dishwashers perform use more drinking water, but still probably less than you think; except if yours is more than 10 years outdated (and somehow still working), there is a good chance that it’s nevertheless more efficient than hand-washing a kitchen sink full of dishes.


The exact quantity of water and energy you can save depends upon a number of factors, so whoever will pay the utilities should probably search for the usage stats for your dishwasher and faucet to see what they are working with. What they find might just be the particular push they need to finally spring for any new dishwasher.

Switching over to a fully-automated dishwashing lifestyle may take a load out of your energy bills—not to mention your feet, back again, and cuticles , especially now that you’re most likely eating at home more and making a lot more dishes—but it won’t save the entire world. Certain items will always need a hands wash, and anyway, your bath and washing machine use more drinking water than anything in the kitchen. Still, it is an easy way to save water with fundamentally zero drawbacks. I think they contact that a “win-win. ”

This post was originally released in November 2018 and up-to-date in October of 2020 to include additional context and a new header image, and to align the content along with current Lifehacker style.