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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 22, 2024


Editor’s note:  The Environmental Planning and Policy Commission (EPPC) is an ASUCD commission that works to create a more environmentally sustainable campus. Every week, EPPC will answer questions from readers or share stories on green living.

Which is greener: hand-washing dishes or using a dishwasher?

I know a lot of you are expecting me to preach to you about how lazy you are and how much you could help the environment if you’d just put in a little more work. Well, this isn’t one of those times. There are a ton of variables that go into determining which is greener – washing dishes by hand or with a machine. So let’s take a quick look.  

The average dishwasher uses six gallons of water per cycle, the average Energy Star dishwasher uses four gallons and the average faucet flows at two gallons per minute. Let’s say your dishwasher holds eight place settings and six serving dishes – you’re looking at around 50 items (forks and all). To stay under the four-gallon washing machine mark, you must wash each item in less than 2.4 seconds and use less than 10 ounces per item. Yes, you can save water by hand-washing, but it’s damn close, and you have to want it.  

A recent study by the University of Bonn in Germany shows that the average mechanized dishwasher uses half the energy, one-sixth the water and less soap than someone hand-washing dishes. 

Sorry grandma, but it looks like technology wins this one.  

Just make sure you fill the dishwasher every time (no half-loads) and don’t rinse the dish before putting it in. To put this issue in perspective: doing a load of dishes in four gallons of water is roughly equivalent to the amount of water you use in 96 seconds of showering (2.5 gallons per minute). Stay skeptical, green nation.  

Ask EPPC questions or tell us how to live green every week.  Submit to margaret.link@gmail.com and win a green prize worth your effort.


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