Dishwashers are not really popular here in Asia. Most of us still like to wash our plates, cups, forks and spoons together with pots and what-nots by hand. When I was first introduced to the idea of a dishwasher – popular in Europe – I wasn’t exactly sold on the idea, probably more from habit and ignorance. We didn’t have space for one in Switzerland so poor Nil was left with doing the dishes. Then when we moved to Singapore and eventually, bought a place of our own, he wanted to get a dishwasher – it was a matter of life and death, no way around it. Never mind that we don’t really have allocated space for it unless we remove some countertops, a sink and maybe even a door together with its non-Baldwin door hardware.
After doing a little research, we settled for a dishwasher (I can hear him going “FINALLY!”) and here is are some of the things I discovered as a newbie to the whole dishwasher-user community.
While both machine and human utilizes energy to wash dishes, a dishwasher will need to heat up water. So if you’re handwashing your dishes with regular water, you will definitely cut back on some energy consumption. However, if you’re heating up water and using that plus handwashing, you’d probably draw even with a dishwasher.
Verdict: Tips slightly in favour of handwashing.
If you haven’t pre-rinsed your dishes, your dishwasher – on a full load – can help you cut back up to 35% of water. Trouble with handwashing is that we don’t leave a pile of dirty dishes in the sink and wash everything in one go. The more often you handwash dishes, the more water you flush down the sink.
This of course is assuming that you don’t do a pre-rinse of your dishes (you shouldn’t anyway) and a dishwasher should run just once a day. Otherwise there is no point in getting a dishwasher in the first place. Newer design dishwashers also consider one factor – the use of hot water. A dishwasher will only heat the amount of water needed as compared to a household water heater where heat will be lost during transit from the storage unit to the outlet (your tap). The standard size dishwasher (24 inches, I think) can hold up to eight place settings (8 sets of dinner plates, side plates, pairs of forks and spoons, glasses, etc) but the newer ones are designed to hold more – so you end up using less water per item without compromising on the cleanliness.
Verdict: Tips slightly in favour of the dishwasher.
We all know it takes time to wash a sinkload of dishes, glasses, pots, pans and what-nots. This coupled with the fact that a lot of us use breakable items and at times, expensive dishware. The dishwasher has always been labour saving – you load it, you power it and that’s it. When it’s done, you open it and store your items.
Verdict: Tips in favour of the dishwasher.
Today, there are plenty of eco-friendly, phosphate/bleach/whatever-free soaps around so if you’re just looking at soaps, it’s a draw between the two. The dishwasher here loses out simply because the process of manufacturing, selling and distributing contributes to your carbon footprint. A typical dishwasher contains both metal and plastic parts and is, well, something most of us can live without.
Verdict: Tips in favour of the handwashing.
At the end of the day, if you handwash your dishes several times a day, a dishwasher, especially those that score well on an Energy Star label, will help you save on the water. Consider getting one IF you do small loads with more water (larger loads and moderation of water use makes handwashing more efficient).
You’ll need to be sure to use a dishwasher in the right way first – no point getting a super great dishwasher that scores high on the Energy Star label but you use it poorly or get the steps all wrong. Do the following:
- No pre-rinsing. Scrape off excess food (you can waste up to 95 liters of water by pre-rinsing). Your dishes should and would be just as clean.
- Make sure your dishwasher has a good or excellent energy rating. These are at least 50% more efficient and that helps you cut back on water and electricity consumption.
- Only run a full dishwasher – not half, not quarter.
- If you can, skip the heat- and air-dry function for your dishes. This can cut your dishwasher’s energy use by 50%.