It’s probably not worth it.
Disclaimer: if you live in a big-city small-space rental, sweet historic cottage, or other dishwasher-less setup, stop reading now. It’s just disappointing news.
I always assumed that in scenarios where I didn’t have a dishwasher I was at least saving some water and energy. After all, it did force me to be more thoughtful with my dish use while cooking, because I sure didn’t want to wash a pan, cutting board, and utensil for each and every ingredient used. I thought a few dishes in and out of some hot water and voila, clean dishes with minimal waste.
But as it turns out, it’s near impossible to match the efficiency and cleanliness of a dishwasher. Cleanliness—not so surprising. Our hands can’t take the heat an appliance can. Dishwashers boast temperatures around 140 degrees. That does a number on germs and gunk, and you’re simply not going to recreate that in the sink with hand washing.
But did you know dishwashers are likely using less water and energy than, well, you are when you do the dishes by hand? According to the National Resources Defense Council, a person might use around 27 gallons just washing the dishes. ENERGY STAR appliances can use as little as three gallons. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, “Newer dishwashers use only 2 to 8 gallons per cycle; as of mid-2013 new standards limit water use in new dishwashers to only 5 gallons.”
While you’re at it—cut back on pre-rinsing dishes before they hit the dishwasher racks. Just give them a good scrape down. Pre-rinsing can be redundant, and lead to more water waste. (And time waste! You paid for the dishwasher—let it do its job.) And remember, wash only full loads. The dishwasher is going to use the same amount whether empty or full. Get your money’s worth.
So when your roommate or significant other asks why the dishes are piling up, you can tell them you’re waiting to run a full load. It’s saving time, money, and energy. Check out more dishwashing time-savers here and here. And a few things you shouldn't put in your dishwasher.