Dishwasher vs Hand Washing: What Is the Best Cleaning Method

Comparison between dishwasher and hand washing

Is handwashing more water- and energy-efficient than using a dishwasher? These are common questions people ask that prompted the dishwasher vs hand washing debate.

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These are common questions people ask that prompted the dishwasher vs hand washing debate.

So to know which washing method is more cost-effective, and better for the planet, we’re embarking on this hand washing vs dishwasher debate.

Now let’s explore the differences between a dishwasher and handwashing.

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What Are the Main Differences Between Using A Dishwasher vs Hand Washing?

The main difference between doing the dishes with a dishwasher and hand-washing is in their water efficiency. Per cycle, the average modern dishwasher is 3.5 to 5 times more water-efficient than washing place settings by hand. This is because a dishwasher uses a little amount of water that it recycles all through the cleaning process.

The second main benefit is in their energy efficiency. A dishwasher is more energy-efficient than handwashing as it uses one-half the energy required to wash by hand. Also, the energy used by the heater in modern dishwashers is less than the energy required to heat water in your kitchen faucet.

To better understand which is better between using a dishwasher and hand washing your dishes, let’s look at the two washing methods individually.

What is a dishwasher? A dishwasher is a kitchen appliance for cleaning and rinsing dirty dishes, cookware, and cutlery. Dishwashers do this by generating the mechanical action necessary to spray small amounts of water, distribute detergent around the dishes, and rinse the items with water.

A dishwasher is convenient to use and it gives you the time to do other chores as it uses an automated process. 

Also, a dishwasher is designed to be energy efficient and water efficient as its setup reuses the clean water at the beginning of the cleaning process to wash more dishware and cookware.

When washing, an Energy Star-rated dishwasher uses 3.5 gallons of water per cycle while the average modern dishwasher uses a maximum of 5 gallons. Although you’ll use more water if you pre-rinse the dishes before loading them in the dishwasher.

Hand washing, on the other hand, which is a manual method of washing dishes is not as water-efficient as using a dishwasher. The average kitchen faucet spouts about 2.2 gallons of water per minute. If it takes 10 minutes to wash a full load of dishes, that’ll amount to around 20 gallons.

A study by the University of Bonn in Germany shows that on average, handwashing a full load of dishes uses over 26 gallons of water per cycle.

Secondly, it takes a longer time to finish washing dishes by hand, especially if you entertain guests. Plus the time you’ll spend doing the dishes by hand can be spent doing more important things around the house.

Also, hand washing requires more hot water. This makes it not so energy efficient as the heater will be running more.

What are the advantages of using a dishwasher when compared to hand washing?

The advantages a dishwasher has when compared to handwashing are that it’s more water-efficient, energy-efficient, hygienic, and convenient to use.

More convenient

When compared to hand washing, it’s more convenient to clean dishes with dishwashers. All you have to do is load the dishwasher with your dishware and other utensils and let the dishwasher do its job while you attend to other chores.

Washing with your hands doesn't afford you the luxury of leaving your cleaning to an appliance: you have to manually go through the entire cleaning process.

More water-efficient and economical

The average modern dishwasher uses a maximum of 5 gallons of water per cycle while Energy Star-certified dishwashers use 3.5 gallons for cleaning. This makes the dishwasher more water efficient than hand washing.

In contrast, handwashing uses around 26 gallons of water per load. 

Also, dishwashers have a lifetime expectancy of 10 years, while hand washing supplies have to be replaced or changed every few years.

More energy-efficient

Compared to washing by hand, dishwashers are more energy efficient as they use half the energy (1.5 kWh) it takes to run a load of dishes by hand. The average Energy Star-certified dishwasher uses between 0.87 kWh and 1.5 kWh per cycle.

More hygienic

When compared to washing dishes with the hand, using a dishwasher is more hygienic. It produces high water temperatures of around 140 to 145 F which kills bacteria. When handwashing, the faucet doesn’t produce water of such high heat, so there may be traces of bacteria remaining on the dishes.

Secondly, if you don’t use gloves when handwashing, the water and dish soap can make your skin dry out.

Greener for the environment

Modern dishwashers save more energy than hand washing. A study in the Environmental Research Communications journal showed that dishwashers are good for the environment. The appliance emitted 2,090 kg of greenhouse gases when used to wash 32 place settings for 10 years.

On the other hand, the same study showed that washing by hand released 5,620 kg of greenhouse gases in the same period and conditions.

What are the advantages of hand washing dishes when compared to using a dishwasher?

The advantages of handwashing dirty dishes over using a dishwasher are that it’s cheaper, saves your time, and allows you to clean tough spots.

Saves time

When compared to using a dishwasher to run a load of dishes, handwashing saves more time. It could take around 10 minutes to hand-wash your daily dishes. Despite the dishwasher using an automated process, it takes about 1.5 and 4 hours to complete a cycle.

Some cookware are not dishwasher-safe

Some cookware and other kitchen items such as sharp cutlery, cutting boards, cast iron cookware, non-stick pans, hand-painted ceramics, etc., are not dishwasher safe. These items will have to be washed by hand.


It’s cheaper to wash kitchen utensils with your hands than with a dishwasher. The supplies you need to wash dishes with your hands such as dish soap, a non-abrasive scrubber, rubber gloves, and sponges, etc., typically cost less than $200.

Dishwashers cost around $250 and $3,000. Unless you want to go for a high-end model, you can get a good dishwasher between $400 and $1,000. Secondly, you may have to renovate your kitchen if you don’t have enough space to fit in a dishwasher. And you’ll have to repair the appliance if it becomes faulty at some point.

Deep cleaning

When washing by hand, you can target and scrub tough spots like stuck-on grime and burnt food at the bottom of the pot or pan. Dishwashers can’t do this.

Dishwasher and hand washing comparison

Which One Is More Usable in the Kitchen Between Using A Dishwasher and Handwashing?

Except for a dishwasher’s ability to do many dishes at a time, handwashing can wash and clean more items and tougher stains than a dishwasher.

When you wash dishes with your hands, you can target spots (like burnt food) and stains (like grime) that are difficult for dishwashers to clean. Washing with your hands also allows you to clean more cookware, cutlery, and kitchenware that are not dishwasher-friendly.

And when you wash with your hands, you can easily clean a few dishes rather than waiting for days till you have a sink filled with dirty items to load in the dishwasher.

And if you’re asking, “Is using a dishwasher the same as handwashing?” These washing methods are not the same. Washing with a dishwasher involves using a kitchen appliance to run a large number of dishes while handwashing is a cleaning process where you manually clean dirty dishes with your hands. Here's how to use a dishwasher.

What kitchen tools can you wash in a dishwasher?

You can wash the following items in the dishwasher; 

  • Plastic utensils
  • Microwave trays
  • Drip pans
  • Kitchen sponges and brushes
  • Vacuum cleaner attachments
  • Vases and glass art items
  • Exhaust fan filter
  • Fridge shelves and bins
  • Cabinet drawer and hardware
  • Silicone trivets and oven mitts
  • Sports equipment: golf balls, baseball cap, shin guard
  • Gardening tools
  • Metal fixtures
  • Bathroom accessories: rubber tub mats and soap dishes and toothbrush holders
  • Grooming tools: manicure and pedicure tools, hair brushes and combs
  • Kids and pet toys: collars, leashes, food bowls

You can find some of the best uses of dishwashers here.

You should not wash these items in your dishwasher;

  • Sharp knives and hollow-handled knives
  • Non-stick cookware
  • Acrylic dishware
  • Stemmed wine glasses and hand-blown glasses
  • Chinaware with metallic decorations
  • Wooden items: cutting board, utensils, and bowls, etc.
  • Cast iron pots and pans
  • Copper pots and pans
  • Insulated pitchers, mugs, and drinkware
  • Pizza stones
  • Aluminum cookware
  • Gold-plated kitchenware
  • Bronze, brass, or pewter
  • Lead crystals
  • Sterling silver
  • Plastics that aren’t dishwasher-safe

What kitchen tools can you clean with your hands?

You should handwash the following kitchen items;

  • Wooden tools
  • Knives
  • Cast iron pots and pans
  • Fine glassware
  • Decorated items like painted ceramics
  • Chinaware

Can a dishwasher and hand washing be used together in a kitchen?

Yes, you can use a dishwasher and handwashing in cleaning kitchenware as they both have different roles to play in the kitchen. A dishwasher can easily run more loads of dishes at a time while you can handwash items that are not dishwasher-safe.

What are the instance where you can use a dishwasher and handwashing together?

You can use a dishwasher and handwashing techniques to wash dirty dishes when you host a lot of guests.

When you have a large family or host lots of guests or parties, a dishwasher can help you run loads of dirty dishes faster than you can wash with your hands.

And for days when you have a few dishes to clean, you can hand-wash them instead of allowing plates to pile up in the kitchen sink over a couple of days. 

Also, if there’s a power failure or your machine becomes faulty, you can always wash your plates with your hands.

What are the instances where a dishwasher and hand washing should never be used together?

When washing dirty dishware, kitchenware, or items that aren’t dishwasher-safe, do not use a dishwasher. Instead, wash these items with your hands.

Furthermore, when washing a few daily dishes, you don’t need to use a dishwasher. You can quickly clean up these items by washing them with your hands.

What to Consider when Buying A Dishwasher?

The modern dishwasher comes with a lot of features. But which of these features matter to you? Let’s find out.

What dishwasher capacity should I choose: Standard or compact size?

The capacity of a dishwasher determines how much water, electricity, and detergent the unit uses to wash in one cycle.

That said, a compact dishwasher (18-inch model) is great for a young couple or small families with three members. It can carry between six to eight place settings. While a standard-sized dishwasher (the 24-inch model) is great for a family with four or more members. And it can carry between 12 and 14 place settings.

What type of dishwasher should I get?

There are three types of dishwashers; countertop, portable, and built-in dishwashers.

Countertop dishwashers are the most affordable models, and they’re good for small families (of 3 members) with small kitchens. Portable dishwashers are great for small families living in rented apartments as they’re mobile.

Built-in dishwashers come in standard sizes and have larger capacities to cater to the cleaning needs of larger families (of four members and above). So they’re the most expensive dishwashers.

What energy-saving feature should I consider?

Dishwashers that are certified Energy Star or by the Consortium of Energy Efficiency are more energy-efficient than models without these ratings.

What kind of stacking and racking can I get?

Oftentimes, standard dishwashers come with two racks. However, you can get models with three racks, adjustable shelves. Some models can fit odd-shaped items and tall items such as glasses.

Washing cycles

There are different washing cycles, and they consume different amounts of energy, detergent, and water. The washing cycles are light wash, regular wash, heavy wash, and other economy features.

So go for a model with more washing features: however, more features will command higher prices.

Difference between Dishwasher and Hand Washing

What are the best brands for dishwashers?

The best brands making the best dishwashers are Bosch, Fisher & Paykel, KitchenAid, Whirlpool, Viking, and Samsung.


Bosch makes some of the best dishwashers. Their products are mid-priced and come with lots of interesting features.

Fisher & Paykel

Fisher & Paykel is a luxury brand that makes high-end dishwashers. They’re also the only brand making dishwasher drawers. However, their units are not full-sized.


KitchenAid is another brand making some of the best kitchen appliances. And they brought their expertise into making very efficient dishwashers.


Whirlpool is known for making high-performing home appliances. And their units are moderately priced.


Viking is reputable for making appliances with professional features. This makes their dishwashers to be priced highly.


Samsung is reputable for making some of the best home appliances, and their dishwashers attest to their quality. Their units are priced in the mid range.

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