Is a Dishwasher or Handwashing Better? Dishwashing vs Handwashing Energy Usage


This article is your guide to answering if dishwasher vs hand washing is better for saving you money! For every homeowner, a common kitchen conundrum arises: is it better to wash dishes by hand or use a dishwasher? And while many may think of this as a debate over cleanliness or convenience, there’s another essential angle to consider – energy and water efficiency.

As an apartment owner, our unit came equipped with a dishwasher, which we feel inclined to use. But, we are always asking ourselves, which is better to save water: hand washing or dishwashing? Let’s delve into this age-old question and break down the facts.

We hope you find this post helpful and if you are looking for different ways to become more energy efficient be sure to check out our energy savings calculator! 

The Energy Professor Electricity Rate Check Tool 

What is Better – Dishwashing or Handwashing?


To determine which method is superior, we need to consider several factors. For many, the primary concern is the amount of water used. Others might ponder about energy consumption, given the use of hot water in both methods. Let’s tackle these topics one by one.

Do dishwashers save water compared to hand washing?

The answer might surprise you. Modern dishwashers have undergone various technological advancements, and one of their primary goals is to be efficient. Most of the latest models use less water than one might think, typically ranging from 3 to 5 gallons per load. Compare that to handwashing, where it’s easy to use that amount just in the rinse phase!

Dishwasher vs hand washing water usage

To put it into perspective, using a dishwasher can save significantly more water than washing by hand. A study found that hand-washing dishes can use up to 27 gallons of water per load! Now, this is not to say every time you wash dishes by hand, you’ll use that much, but even a conservative estimate is significantly higher than the amount a dishwasher uses.

Related post: How Much Electricity Does a Dishwasher Use?

Does Handwashing Save on Water?


Contrary to popular belief, handwashing dishes often use more water than a dishwasher, especially when done without water-saving techniques. However, there are methods to reduce the water used.

  • Hand wash vs dishwasher water use: If you’re someone who lets the tap run continuously while washing dishes by hand, your water usage will be considerably high. Instead, try filling up a basin with soapy water to wash and another with plain water to rinse. This method can curtail water usage, making the hand wash versus dishwasher debate a bit more even.
  • How to save water when washing dishes by hand: Be vigilant. Using two basins, as mentioned earlier, can be effective. Also, scrape off food residues before washing, which will minimize rinse time.

While hand washing might feel traditional or even therapeutic to some, when it comes to efficiency, the numbers tend to favor dishwashers. But there’s more to consider than just water.

Dishwasher facts that might surprise you:

  • Modern dishwashers can detect how dirty the dishes are and adjust the water and energy use accordingly.
  • Many have “eco” modes that minimize water and energy use.
  • Does a dishwasher use hot water? Yes, and it’s often hotter than most people can tolerate when handwashing, leading to better sanitization.

Related post: How Much Water Does a Dishwasher Use?

Why Handwashing Dishes is Better for Cleanliness


When comparing dishwasher vs hand washing for cleanliness, handwashing might beat out the machine. Hand-washing dishes, while often seen as less efficient than using a dishwasher, has several unique advantages, especially when dealing with a smaller number of dishes. Beyond the conservation aspect, where hand washing can sometimes use less water and energy than a dishwasher would for small loads, it provides a tactile connection that ensures thorough cleaning by allowing individuals to feel for any residue or stuck-on food. This method is also gentler, making it the ideal choice for delicate items that could be damaged in a dishwasher.

Additionally, hand washing can be more efficient and immediate for a few soiled items, preventing the kitchen from becoming cluttered and keeping the space tidy and hygienic. Moreover, the act of hand washing dishes can offer a meditative, mindful experience, providing a form of mental relaxation and sensory satisfaction through the warmth of the water and the scent of the soap, which is a contrast to the impersonal nature of using a dishwasher

So, which uses less water, dishwasher or by hand? Modern dishwashers generally win in the water efficiency battle. But remember, it’s essential to run them only when full to maximize efficiency.

Are dishwashers more efficient than hand washing?

In terms of water and energy, yes. But hand washing can be more controlled and precise, suitable for particular situations. In conclusion, while a dishwashing robot might be the dream for many (and who wouldn’t want one?), the current dishwashers come impressively close in terms of efficiency. Whether you’re a team dishwasher or washing by hand, it’s crucial to be mindful of our water and energy consumption. After all, every drop counts.

Related post: Best Time to Run Dishwasher To Save on Electric Bill

Dishwashing vs Hand Washing FAQ

Do dishwashers save water compared to handwashing?

Yes, modern dishwashers, especially those with efficient settings, generally use less water than handwashing—often between 3 to 5 gallons per cycle.

How much water do hand-washing dishes typically use?

It can vary based on practices, but handwashing dishes can consume up to 27 gallons of water for a significant load, especially if the tap is left running.

Are there any water-saving techniques for handwashing dishes?

Yes, instead of letting the tap run continuously, use two basins: one filled with soapy water for washing and another with clean water for rinsing. Always scrape off food residues before washing to minimize rinse time.

Do dishwashers use hot water?

Yes, dishwashers use hot water, which is often hotter than most people can tolerate when handwashing. This hot water helps in better sanitization of the dishes.

Are there instances where hand-washing dishes is preferred?

Hand washing is ideal for very delicate dishes or when you have only a few items. It also allows for a tactile connection, ensuring spots or residues aren’t missed.

What’s the difference between dishwasher vs hand washing water usage?

Dishwashers tend to use significantly less water, especially modern ones with eco-modes. Hand washing can vary but often uses more water, especially if done without conservation techniques.

Is it better to wash dishes with hot water?

Yes, hot water is more effective at removing grease and offers better sanitization. Dishwashers typically use hotter water than handwashing for this reason.

Are there any modern features in dishwashers that make them more efficient?

Many modern dishwashers come equipped with sensors to detect the dirtiness of the dishes and adjust the water and energy use accordingly. Plus, eco modes in many models minimize water and energy consumption.

Do you Need Cheaper Electricity?

If you’ve taken the time to understand the information on your bill and discovered you’re paying more than you’d like for your electricity, have you looked around for a cheaper deal? The Energy Professor has a wealth of information on ways to save on your utilities, including details of top deals that could significantly reduce your monthly or quarterly electricity bills.

We hope you found this article helpful! If you are looking for ways to increase energy efficiency and sustainability in your home be sure to take a look at all of the latest renewable energy options in your area. The Energy Professor helps residential and small business owners find qualified energy suppliers in New YorkNew JerseyPennsylvaniaTexas, Ohio, Maryland, Illinois, and Massachusetts

Nik Chapman

Nik Chapman is the Executive Editor of The Energy Professor with lifelong passion for studying and exploring the natural environment. Nik has a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences and Biology and has specialized in work with Green Energy, Renewable Energy and Environmental Justice. Nik has worked directly with small communities and nonprofits to help make environmental education more accessible for everyone. Nik currently lives in Washington State and enjoys tide pooling on the Oregon Coast and taking hikes to local waterfalls!