Dishwasher Vs Hand Washing: Which is More Eco-friendly?

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Using a dishwasher vs hand washing is one of the debated topics among eco-conscious consumers nowadays.

While some suggest using a dishwasher helps save more water, others insist that washing dishes manually without electricity is the more sustainable way to go.

So, we decided to provide a definitive answer whether using a dishwasher or hand washing your dishes is better for the welfare of our planet.

We took a closer look at various studies on how these two dishwashing methods fare against each other on different environmental factors such as water usage, energy usage, and more.

What we found out is interesting.

Dishwasher Vs Hand Washing: Eco-Friendliness Comparison

DishwasherHand Washing
Water UsageUsing a dishwasher generally helps save more waterHand washing dishes typically uses 3.5 times more water than average dishwashers
Energy UsageENERGY STAR certified dishwashers are generally more energy-efficient than washing dishes by handMore energy efficient than low-end dishwashers
PollutionDishwashers effectively helps reduce pollution in air and water systemsHand washing creates 5,620kgs of greenhouse gasses in 10 years
Dishwasher Vs Hand Washing Comparison Table

Water Usage

Comparing a dishwasher vs hand washing in terms of water usage, it appears that using a dishwasher is more water-efficient.

How much water does hand washing dishes use?

A study revealed that hand washing dishes typically uses 3.5 times more water than average dishwashers. When compared to the more efficient dishwasher models, handwashing can consume up to 5 times more water.


For instance, ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers can save you 3,870 gallons of water (on average) over its lifetime compared to hand washing the same amount of dishes. 

This is made possible because Instead of needing a constant supply of running cleaning water from the faucet, modern dishwashers use advanced technology that reuses water throughout the dishwashing process until the maximum cleanliness of your dishes is achieved.

So the answer to the question “which saves more water between using a dishwasher vs hand washing dishes?” Dishwashers.

Energy Consumption

Not having to use electricity every time you wash dirty plates and spoons made many consumers believe why hand washing dishes is better for the environment.

So, how much electricity does a dishwasher use?

A study entitled Comparison of Hand-Washing and Dishwasher Machines conducted in 2013 revealed that a 2008 energy-inefficient dishwasher use slightly more energy than hand-washing.

However, its worth mentioning that the study compared energy consumption between hand washing and an inefficient older model of dishwasher.

Newer and ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher models are actually very effective in helping reduce energy consumption in your home as they can use less than half the energy of washing dishes by hand.


And let’s not forget that the tap water running in our homes is made possible by electricity.

So unless you can hand wash (and rinse) a sink full of dirty dishes with the tap water running in less than 2 minutes, hand washing is likely to use more water (which translates to using more energy) than washing the same amount of dishes with a dishwasher.

Moreover, you will also consume energy to heat water to remove oil, grease, and solidified food particles on plates when washing dishes by hand.

Meanwhile, you won’t need to heat water separately when washing dishes with modern dishwashers as these machines can take in cold water and then heat it internally.

But what do you think? Dishwasher vs hand washing, which uses more energy?

Environmental Pollution

By helping consumers use less water and energy every time they wash their dishes, dishwashers are effectively helping reduce pollution.

Moreover, ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers come with new bills and whistles such as soil sensors and improved water filtration to help protect our lakes, streams, and oceans.

Moreover, dishwashers will also help you use less detergent.

Compared to hand washing dishes where you can easily spill or use too much dish soap, dishwashers use a controlled amount of detergent.

This helps you save money and reduce the amount of waste and chemicals you contribute to the streams and lakes.


Speaking of chemicals from dish soaps, you can get rid of them and protect yourself and the planet by switching to zero waste dish soaps when using your dishwasher.

But back to which is more eco-friendly between using a dishwasher vs hand washing, did you know that according to a study, around 5,620kgs of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) are produced over a 10 year period from hand-washing dishes? 

On the other hand, dishwashers only produce 2,090kgs for the same period according to the same source.

Do the Math.

Dishwasher Vs Hand Washing: Which is Better for You

If you’re still washing your dishes by hand, then there’s a couple of reasons why you might want to consider getting a dishwasher.


According to Angi, a well-known resource for home projects and services, getting a dishwasher requires an upfront investment between $400 and $700 today (depending on the model and the brand).

However, dishwashers help save significant water, energy, and time compared to hand washing dishes. You can save up to $465 a year on water and energy bills

For instance, an ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher will only cost you about $35 per year to run.

However, the operating cost will ultimately depends on your dish washing habits

But if you want to save more money, energy, and water, we advise you to only use your dishwasher once it’s fully loaded.


It all comes to preference.

If you’ve gotten used to washing dishes by hand, and it’s what you find the most comfortable way of washing dishes, then by all means, keep it up.

However, if you want to save water and reduce your overall carbon footprint, then studies suggest using a dishwasher.

Moreover, using a dishwasher instead of hand washing saves you time.


Some sources claims that washing dishes with a dishwasher for a year saves you an average of 230 hours of manual labor, time that you could use for something else.


As for the question, dishwasher vs hand washing, which cleans dishes better and kills bacteria, dishwashers comes out ahead. Why?

Dishwashers are generally more hygienic as they use much hotter water to wash dishes, effectively killing most of the bacteria that has been growing on your dirty dishes and sink.


And while studies revealed that dishwashers don’t remove 100% of bacteria, even those dishes that don’t come completely clean in the dishwasher have less bacteria on them than most hand-washed dishes.


There you have it ladies and gentlemen. 

Because a dishwasher uses less water and less energy, this means the carbon footprint of a dishwasher is actually smaller than if you wash by hand

And based on different credible sources we cited above, we can concur that handwashing is therefore better for the environment and the most economical way to wash dishes.

But you are free to share your thoughts and own research in the comments below.

After all, the best way to achieve a greener solution to our daily habits is to discuss it among ourselves. 

So, a dishwasher vs hand washing, which is greener in your opinion?

Frequently Asked Questions

Is hand washing dishes better for the environment?

Based on multiple studies we shared and discussed on this article, using a dishwasher can help save water, reduce energy consumption, and provide cleaner dishes than hand washing.

What is the most hygienic way to wash dishes?

While dishwashers won’t kill 100% of bacteria on dirty dishes, plates and cutlery washed in a dishwasher still have less bacteria on them than most hand-washed dishes, according to studies.

Is it cheaper to wash dishes by hand or use the dishwasher?

Looking at the general picture, including regular operating cost from water bills and energy bills, using a dishwasher, especially the efficient dishwasher models is cheaper than hand washing dishes in the long run.

Is it better to use the dishwasher or hand wash?

It all depends on your preference and washing habits. But studies suggests that using an ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers with full load is cheaper and more eco-friendly than hand washing.

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