It seems that every home has a different method for washing dishes. We’ve seen scrub brushes, wash cloths, sponges, and steel wool – letting the tap run constantly, filling the sink with water, or filling just a small container (camping style). And what about the different dishwashers out there? What’s the most eco-friendly method?
To get us started, we’ll lay out a few hard facts about water usage:
- New dishwashers use around 6 gallons of water per cycle.
- Eco-friendly ones use around 4 gallons.
- Old dishwashers can use anywhere from 8 to 15 gallons.
- Letting the tap run (for hand washing) uses 2 gallons a minute.
If you let the tap run the entire time, you’ll easily use 40 gallons of water for one load’s worth. If you leave it on half the time (like most of us), that’s still 20 gallons. Dishwashers win.
It’s also good to consider the energy needed to heat the water – newer dishwashers are far more efficient than house heating systems for hand washing. So, the end verdict is – use dishwashers for most things, but run them only if you’ve got full loads. You can also save a lot of money in electricity if you upgrade an older dishwasher (e.g. pre-1995).
But this isn’t the end of the story! We all need to do hand washing for many reasons, whether for items not intended for dishwashers (wood, knives, plastics, over-sized pans, iron or copper pots), or for only a few items at a time. So, what’s the best method for hand washing?
There are lots of arguments out there. Our advice: if you fill a container with soapy water to get off the worst stuff, then a quick rinse of many items all at once or in a row, you’ll be doing pretty well as far as minimizing water usage while getting clean dishes.
But after all of this nit-picking, it really is helpful to put this into perspective. Using a simple water-usage calculator will instantly show you that the dishwasher is the least of our concerns. Watering the lawn can easily use 30 times the amount of water! And flushing toilets for a full house will be next on its heels.
Perhaps it’s time to convert our lawns into vegetable gardens? Or invest in eco-friendly toilets?
We’ll leave those choices up to you – and if you do, please share your story and pictures with us! We’re all in this together. If we can figure out how to live in the best ecologically friendly way and share it with others, the positive impact will be that much greater.