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Do dishwashers save water?

Do dishwashers save water? Image shows woman loading dishwasher
(Image credit: Getty)

Do dishwashers save water? Well, when you compare washing dishes by hand with using one of the best dishwashers or the best countertop dishwashers, the latter option can be a lot more economical. And the good news is there’s plenty you can do to keep the costs down even further.

The general advice is to run your dishwasher when it’s fully loaded, although some sources, including Cascade, say even a half-load is still more economical than washing by hand. However, if you do wait until you have enough to completely fill the dishwasher, try not to overload it otherwise the dishes will not clean properly, and you will need to run another cycle.

With most modern dishwashers, there’s no need to rinse dirty dishes in the sink first as this wastes water. Simply scrape the food away and your dishwasher will take care of the rest, as most have excellent filters. 

When shopping for a new dishwasher there are things you can look out for to ensure maximum efficiency. First, check to see if the dishwasher has an Eco cycle as this will use less water. Also, look out for an Energy Star certification. If your dishwasher meets Energy Star requirements then it will be capable of using less than 3.5 gallons per cycle. Energy Star also focuses on electricity too, and for a full-size dishwasher, an Energy Star approved model will use no more than 270 kWh per year. 

Energy Star bases its figures on a standard full-size dishwasher that accommodates eight place settings or more, as well as pots and pans. For more compact countertop dishwashers, the Energy Star ratings are based on fewer than eight place settings, and certifies appliances that are capable of using 3.1 gallons per wash and 203 kWh per year. In other words, no matter what the size, if your dishwasher has an Energy Star certification then it will likely use less water and electricity than washing by hand.

dishwasher with dishes

(Image credit: Getty)

How much water do dishwashers use? 

How much water you actually save when you use a dishwasher is up for debate, and it can depend on how old your dishwasher is and how often you run it.  Generally, the average dishwasher uses between six and 10 gallons per wash cycle, whereas older dishwashers might use up to 16 gallons per cycle. Also, remember that using your dishwasher more often than say five times a week, will wear it out quicker. Based on average use, a modern dishwasher should last you around ten years. 

An average figure given by USGS states that a typical load of dishes washed by hand can use between eight to 27 gallons of water. It also states that newer kitchen faucets use about 1.5 to two gallons per minute, while older faucets generally use more. 

If you have to wash by hand, there are still things you can do in order to save water. This includes pre-soaking any pans with dried-on food to avoid scrubbing away under a running tap.

Overall, using a dishwasher not only saves you time and money, but you will also be doing your bit for the environment too.

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