Doing the dishes: is it better to wash manually or in the dishwasher?

Which do you pour first, cereals or milk? Who was born first, chicken or egg? Do you wash your dishes by hand or in the dishwasher? These are the big issues that divide the world. On the first two, we dare not give an opinion. But we are here to end the debate on the third.

First, a warning: not all dishwashers are born the same. Some spend less water and energy than others; so, when looking for a new dishwasher, it is essential to consider the energy efficiency, functionality and capacity.

In terms of water savings, did you know that using the washing machine saves, on average, 85% of water compared to manually washing dishes? That happens because washing machines spend only a preset amount of water, not a drop more. Manually washing dishes increases consumption, especially if the tap remains open throughout the entire wash.

Besides saving water, a dishwasher also saves time: while washing the dishes by hand can take up to 30 minutes (or more), filling the dishwasher takes about 5 minutes. Not to mention the time you save while the machine does all the work.

Washing machines also reach higher water temperatures, which allows for a complete wash. And it does so without burning the skin – one thing that would happen with handwashing at the same high temperature. A full wash requires water temperatures above 60 °C – but beware that washing dishes at this temperature may not always be necessary and can cause higher energy expenditure.

As with anything else, it is essential to find the right balance and use higher water temperatures only when necessary. In the best-case scenario, running hot water from the tap can reach around 27 °C. However, the temperature of water in the dishwasher ranges from 50 °C to 60 °C, allowing for impeccable cleaning, removing fat and food scraps, and hygienically cleaning dishes, bowls, cutlery and glasses.

A semi-open tap running for about 15 minutes spends about 117 litres of water, while the average dishwasher uses 10 to 20 litres of water per wash – a difference of 416 cups of water!

How to use the dishwasher more efficiently

If you already use the dishwasher regularly, here are some tips for doing it even more efficiently:

Illustration of a full dishwasher with the door open.
  • Wait until the dishwasher is at capacity to turn it on

    It is the best way to save water, energy and money, as it is wasteful to use the machine partially filled.

  • Pay attention to the dishwasher efficiency

    Are you shopping for a dishwasher? Go for the new, energy-efficient and water-efficient models, which save water and energy in each wash.

What if I wash the dishes by hand?

If you usually wash the dishes by hand, keep this in mind:

  • Remove food scraps first

    Remove leftover food from plates and cutlery before washing – cleaning would be easier and faster and won’t clog the pipes.

Illustration of a kitchen sink full of kitchenware and tableware.
  • Soften the most ingrained remains

    Leave the crockery to soak with hot water and detergent in the sink – no need to fill the sink, just enough to cover the dishes.

  • Close the tap

    Avoid using fresh water to rinse dishes – if you have to wash the dishes by hand, do so without waste.

How to save water, besides dishwashing

Water is an increasingly scarce commodity. According to the United Nations, almost 40% of the world’s population suffers from water scarcity. This is what you can do to help:

  1. Turn off the tap while washing your teeth or hands.
  2. Avoid flushing the toilet more often than you have to.
  3. Have a quick shower instead of a long bath – a 5-minute shower takes about 80 litres of water, while a bath uses up to 200 litres.
  4. Turn off the water while applying soap or shampoo.
  5. Take advantage of leftover water from the shower to water plants or flush the toilet.
  6. Defrost food by leaving it out of the freezer – avoid using hot water.
  7. Fill the dishwasher before turning it on.
  8. Reuse water from cooking fish, vegetables or seafood to make broths and soups.
  9. If you have a swimming pool, cover it to prevent water from evaporating.