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Dishing It Out: How Dishwashers are Better Than Hand Washing

The invention of the dishwasher revolutionized the way you use your kitchenin the most significant way since the refrigerator. But some people think that there must be a big cost to this convenience, and wonder if we should use dishwashers at all instead of traditional hand washing. You may morally object to relying on a machine to keep things clean instead of hard work, but science and research doesn’t lie: it’s physically better than hand washing in just about every way. Putting a dishwasher in your home can be beneficial for your health, your bills, and your sanity.

Putting dishes in a dishwasher means not having to put your hands in murky sink water to rinse everything (by Architecture Matters Pty. Ltd.)

I’ve lived in homes with and without a dishwasher as an option and I’ll gladly let the robots take over in that department if it means avoiding nasty sink gunk. If your hand washing turnaround is with dishes isn’t basically perfect, anything left in the sink starts to have a smelly, slimy residue on it, which then makes washing them more than just a chore–it’s plain gross. Especially in a large household, a single meal time can leave your sink looking like it survived a dish landslide, and that feels incredibly overwhelming to have to wash all by yourself. Having a dishwasher helps slow that buildup by keeping dishes out of your sink and en route to cleanliness quicker than if you attempted to do it all yourself. It’s also much easier to run a dishwasher cleaner through your machine than it is to scrub your sink clean, and likely to do a better job of cleaning the entirety of it too.

People are pretty bad at maximizing the usage of the water that comes out of the faucet for cleaning, and so a lot of good water goes to waste when hand washing (by Connors & Co.)

If you’re looking to use less water when cleaning your dishes, leave it to the machine to be more efficient. Dishwashers use less water and soap than hand-washing do to clean more dishes in a single run. The water you do use also heats up faster in a dishwasher than manually in the sink, and can go to a disinfecting temperature hotter than your bare hands can handle. The efficiency of the machine affects how much water you save per run, but most boast being able to halve your water consumption (or better!), with the added bonus of the water not cooling in the sink partway through washing.

In a busy kitchen, any space not taken up by dirty or clean dishes is space you need to get your meal prep done right (by David Heide Design Studio)

Not only can you save water and energy by using a dishwasher, you also can save space. Use your dishwasher as a drying rack when you’re not running it, and free up your counter for more important tasks like meal prep. This in turn makes it easier to do the dishes in the first place, as you don’t need to sort through the dish pile to find that pan you realized you need to cook with, or extra plates for unexpected guests.

Replacing an old, working dishwasher may feel like a waste, but you’re wasting water and energy every time you use it over a more efficient model (by Rossington Architecture)

If your concern with owning a dishwasher is the energy usage it puts out to clean, take the time to do a little research into “green” appliances. There are lots of highly energy and water efficient models out there designed to fit an eco-friendly lifestyle. There are also ways to run your dishwasher for less, like turning off the heated dry function and not overloading it in order to reduce energy consumption. And while keeping up on the newest trends may not be a priority, keeping up to date on your appliances can also help your utility bills at the end of the month. Older dishwater models are almost always less efficient and have a higher carbon footprint than their newer counterparts.

Pre-washing before using the dishwasher is a big debate in itself, but in some ways a sponge can get that grime off better than a power rinse (by Eric Roth Photography)

There’s a lot of talk about whether or not you should pre-wash your dishes before running the dishwasher, if it wastes too much water or adds bacteria to your dishware instead of taking it away. Dishwashers are great, but they’re not miracle workers. If you leave food glued to your plates and bowls, there’s always a chance it won’t come off in the wash. Personally, I think a little elbow grease on your messiest dishes before running the dishwasher ensures there are no surprises when you open the dishwasher afterward and makes you feel like you’re not using it as “easy way out” of cleaning messes (though I’m all for those, too.)

I’ve never been a big fan of hand washing, and so dishwashers are a luxury I look for in every home. But whether or not you find soaping up a sponge to scrub your dinner away disgusting or soothing, keep in mind that the benefits of a dishwasher are much more than just your time and energy; it’s good for your house’s as well.