True or false: Hand washing dishes saves water.

Answer: False.

Hand washing dishes might be a great opportunity to talk with your daughter about her day while she does the rinsing.

But it’s not efficient ...

Tagged: dishwasher, saving water, energy star

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True or false: Hand washing dishes saves water.

Toddler hand washes dishes.

Hand washing dishes might be a great opportunity to talk with your daughter about her day while she does the rinsing. But it’s not efficient in terms of work or water use.

Key Points

  • Hand washing dishes generally uses more water and energy than running your dishwasher.
  • Energy Star-approved dishwashers use no more than five gallons per batch.
  • A new countertop dishwasher expected to be on the market this year will use only a half gallon. 

Answer: False.

Hand washing dishes might be a great opportunity to talk with your daughter about her day while she does the rinsing.

But it’s not efficient in terms of work or water use.

When you wash dishes by hand, you probably fill one sink with soapy water for the washing and keep the faucet running in the other to rinse off the suds (or in my case, let your 5-year-old essentially rewash the dishes to be a good helper).

That wastes a lot of water and also makes your water heater work overtime to keep up.

To start saving, make sure your dishwasher has the Energy Star seal of approval. Energy Star-approved full-size dishwashers use only five gallons of water per batch, and compact ones use no more than 3.5 gallons.

If you want to go all in, there’s a new dishwasher that uses even less water.  

The new Tetra Countertop Dishwasher uses only a half-gallon of water per load. Granted, it’s much smaller than traditional models, but that can help double down on your efficiency efforts by forcing you to only run full loads.

It doesn’t require a water hook up. Instead, you pour water into a reservoir for each use. The creators hope that even this visual cue will remind people of how much water they use each time they run a load.

In my house, an appliance has to earn its way to take up precious counter space. But this device might be worth it. It can also sanitize bottles, wash your baseball cap and cook fish. Just not all at the same time (I’m assuming).

The dishwasher will be available to buy in about a year and will likely be used mostly in small apartments without space for a traditional dishwasher.

But even if you aren’t in the market for a tiny fish-cooking countertop dishwasher, you can follow these tips to make sure you’re using your current model efficiently:

  • Always run a full load.
  • Don’t pre -rinse. Your dishwasher can get off more gunk than you think.
  • Let your dishes air dry instead of using the heat cycle.

Now, who wants to break the news to my daughter that she’s been demoted from her esteemed position as chief dish washer helper? Anyone? 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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