Dishwashers versus hand washing

Find out how to use your appliance (or not) for a carbon-friendly kitchen.

Water consumption

According to research verified by the University of Bonn, the average household will do two or three hand washes a day using 60 litres of water while a new dishwasher typically uses 12 litres per wash.

Appliance manufacturer Bosch, keen to promote its eco-credentials, claims hand washing consumes around 26,400 litres of water per year compared to 2,640 litres for a dishwasher.

Jacob Tompkins of Waterwise - a member of the government’s Water Saving Group - says washing up accounts for about 10% of a household's daily water needs, but using a modern dishwasher could reduce this to less than 2%. He says:

 If every household in the UK did this, it would save more than a quarter of a billion litres a day.

What this doesn’t take into account, however, is the total energy used to manufacture the dishwasher, the transport costs and raw materials used or hand-washing habits.

Top tips for hand washing

  • Always use the plug - a running tap will put 6 litres a minute straight down the drain.
  • Scrape as much food off pots and pans as you can to avoid the need to soak them first.
  • Wash glassware and cutlery first in the cleanest water.
  • Pile the draining dishes up before a quick dunk in half a basin of cold water.

Top tips for using your dishwasher

Dishwashing efficiency hasn’t changed enormously over the past few years, so if your machine still works you can improve its efficiency.

  • Ensure that it is full.
  • Reduce the number of times you use it.
  • Use the coolest setting possible.

Use a plant-based detergent to minimise your environmental impact further.

Buying a dishwasher

Dishwashers are rated according to energy and drying. Choose a model rated as 'A' for both, to get the best environmental performance.

Waterwise lists dishwashers according to water consumption. At the time of writing the Miele G1530SC full-size is the best, using just 10 litres per cycle.

However, Bosch claims its Bosch Logixx SGS65L22 uses just 9 litres during one of its cycles.

This article is based on an extract from Friends of the Earth's book How Can I Stop Climate Change?

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