It’s long been wondered and debated whether handwashing dishes is more energy-efficient than machine washing. Energy-efficient methods are useful since they save you money on your utility bill and help the environment. And now many dishwasher machine brands are claiming to use less water than other brands. If you’re looking to understand which method or which brand is most cost-effective for your monthly bills, you’ll need answers to a few questions. Just how much water does a dishwasher use per cycle? Does dishwasher use less water than handwashing? And what affects how much energy a dishwasher uses?

How Many Gallons of Water Does a Dishwasher Use?

The question actually isn’t as simple as “How many gallons of water does a dishwasher use?” You also need answers to questions like, “How much water does a dishwasher use per cycle?” and “How many gallons of water does the average dishwasher use compared to energy efficient dishwashers?”

Energy Star-rated dishwashers use an average of four gallons (15 liters) per cycle. Any other average dishwasher uses a bit more: six gallons (23 liters) per cycle. In some cases, an Energy Star certified washer could use three gallons (11 liters) per cycle. That is half the amount of water a dishwasher uses in an average brand appliance. If you are looking to be efficient, you might want to find yourself an Energy Star certified dishwasher to cut back on how much water you are using per cycle.

Is Handwashing Dishes More Efficient?

It depends, but typically it isn’t. You would need to take into account the amount of water you are using, the faucet you have in your sink, and the number of dishes you are washing by hand. Then, you would need to compare that amount to how many dishes you would have in your dishwasher.

Ultimately, it comes down to:

  • How much water does a dishwasher use per load?
  • How much water does handwashing a load of dishes use?

Most people leave the faucet on while they hand wash and rinse their dishes. This can use up to 27 gallons of water, much more than the amount of water used by a dishwasher. Even if you turn off the water while you hand wash the dishes and only turn it on to rinse them, you still need to work very quickly to match the amount of water per dish compared to a dishwashing machine. If you’re washing your dishes by hand and then placing them in the dishwasher for another wash, it’s not the best idea. This method is likely the worst option if you are looking for energy efficiency.

The Water Heater and Handwashing Dishes

If you are washing dishes by hand, you’re likely heating the water to warm it up a bit. You need to take this into account, as well, when considering how eco-friendly and energy efficient the handwashing technique is compared to using the dishwasher. It can be more efficient if the water is not boiling hot when you are washing and rinsing, but you do need to be mindful of how many dishes you are washing and avoid letting the faucet run freely without any dishes being actively cleaned. Running the water too long could result in your water heater having to do too much work. This can up your utility bill.

How Can the Dishwasher Increase its Energy Efficiency?

There are a few things you can be careful about to ensure your dishwasher is more energy efficient, whether it’s Energy Star or an uncertified brand. First off, only run the dishwasher if you have a full load in the dishwasher. You can also turn off the ‘heated dry’ option if it’s on your appliance. Even though the dishwasher is using heated water, by turning off the heat at the end of the cycle, you’re being more energy efficient.

How Much Water Does a Dishwasher Use Over Time?

Dishwashers are great. They save on time, as handwashing can be quite a process, especially after a messy meal. But what happens when you add up the loads all together? One model can save more water than another, but the average dishwasher uses several gallons of water to clean the dishes. You are likely using your dishwasher a few times per week. Depending on the number of people in your household, the number of monthly gallons of water used by your dishwasher will vary.

If you are using your dishwasher every day and it’s Energy Star certified, you’re using around 120 gallons (454 liters) of water per month. If your dishwasher is not Energy Star certified, then you’re using around 180 gallons (681 liters) of water per month. If you cut that in half, so you are only using your dishwasher every other day or so, you would use somewhere around 60-90 gallons (227- 340 liters) per month. Washing dishes less might be easier if you live alone or with fewer people, but families or people with roommates might have trouble lowering their dishwasher usage.

The Environmental Footprint of Your Dishwasher

Watching out for energy efficiency is about more than just saving money. It’s also about using Earth’s resources wisely. In comparison to your dishwasher cycle, the food you eat requires much more water. If you’re looking to cut back on your environmental footprint, perhaps start there.

The production of a pound of beef requires 2,400 gallons (9,085 liters) of water. 32 gallons (121 liters) of water are needed to produce a single glass of wine. 19 gallons (72 liters) are required for just one apple. The dishwasher uses a good amount of water, though is it too much in the big picture? That depends on other lifestyle and household choices you’re making.

If you’re looking to cut back on your utility bill, perhaps decrease showering time and turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth. Not only will that save you some cash, but it is helpful to the environment, as well. Or you can make other environmentally-minded adjustments to your dishwashing, such as using natural detergents.

How Much Water Does a Dishwasher Use?

Answering the question “how much water does a dishwasher use?” is complicated, as there are many factors. To cut back, ensure the appliance is full, heated dry is turned off, and perhaps cut back on handwashing before dishwashing if that’s part of your dishwashing routine. If you have not already done so, and can manage it, Energy Star certified appliances will also be of benefit in your dishwashing and household chores.