Which is better for the environment – using a dishwasher or washing dishes by hand?
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Participants of last week’s challenge shared some top tips for reducing water usage when clearing up after a meal.
One of them shared that when washing the dishes by hand they filled up the sink with water instead of using a running tap. Another said that she turned the water off while washing up and put it on again to rinse.
One of the best ideas was to reuse dishes and cups throughout the day. This is something we do at home; we each have our favourite cup, and as we mainly drink water they really don’t need washing any more than once a day. Plates that have only crumbs on them are scattered outside for the birds and the plates are wiped clean before reuse.
For people with dishwashers, it’s best to only run the machine when completely full in order to save both electricity and water. And if you check some dishwasher reviews, you’ll find some models that have eco friendly settings for even more savings.
But it is better to use a dishwasher or wash by hand? This is something that’s been on my mind for many years since reading that the impact of using a dishwasher was less than washing by hand.
I don’t actually have the answer, but here are some of the things I’ve been thinking of:
PRO WASHING BY HAND
- If you heat water to wash by hand using say, a gas combi boiler or tankless water heater, or in our case, wood, is this better than a dishwasher which heats water from cold using electricity? (Assuming the electricity is not sourced from solar or other renewable energy).
- I’ve not yet found anyone who claims to have found an effective eco friendly dishwashing detergent; whereas when I wash up by hand I don’t use any detergent apart from cleaning greasy items. Friends have had to replace their glassware too due to etching.
- How much energy is contained in the manufacture and running of a dishwasher and its final disposal, compared to say a washing up bowl and some cloths?
- I can wash up an entire meals’ worth of crockery and cutlery in a bowl of water unless it’s greasy. A dishwasher only uses around 16 litres of water for a full load (6-8 place settings) which seems incredibly low. But in all honesty, I sometimes run the hot tap and I think many people do this too.
- If you’re using an immersion heater to heat water for washing dishes, it’s less economical than using a dishwasher. To heat an immersion tank uses around 2.5kWh of energy. To run a dishwasher uses, on average 1.4kWh
- If you have a dishwasher with an ECO mode you’ll be pushed to be able to wash up by hand as well by using the same resources! You’d need to be using about a cup of water to wash a plate; and that’s pretty impossible.
It seems that taking modern technology into account, the cost of managing a dishwasher is less than washing by hand. But I’m still not convinced about the overall impact when you take into account the manufacturing and end disposal.
What do you think? Which is better for the environment – washing by hand or using a dishwasher?
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