It may sound counter intuitive, but in many households it’s still common practice to wash dirty dishes by hand before putting them in the dishwasher. Perhaps it’s habit, harking back to a time when less efficient appliances did a poorer job. Or maybe it just feels cleaner that way. But a team of experts including the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Program, the Natural Resources Defence Council and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy suggest it’s actually a wasteful practice and kinder to the environment to simply let the dishwasher do its job.
The announcement comes with a couple of caveats; of course you should scrape off any left-over food before putting plates etc. in the dishwasher and to conserve water and energy it’s important to only run full loads. But these assumptions aside, it is far more eco-friendly to use a dish washer than washing by hand.
In fact, Jonah Schein, Technical Coordinator for Homes and Buildings in the EPA’s WaterSense program comments, “In order to wash the same amount of dishes that can fit in a single load of a full size dishwasher and use less water, you would need to be able to wash eight full place settings and still limit the total amount of time that the faucet was running to less than two minutes.”
While modern appliances may have become incredibly efficient at preserving water and energy, how well they clean remains a subjective matter. Though it’s worth noting dish washers can clean at temperatures as high as a germ-busting 145 degrees Fahrenheit, a heat that our hands simply couldn’t with stand.