Washing Dishes by Hand versus Dishwasher

I had a painfully awkward week.  In one week five different people told me “the fact” that dishwashers use less water than washing dishes by hand.    I  wanted to say that I think I use less water than a dishwasher, but in all  five cases I was immediately hushed and reminded that this is “a fact” therefore not open to any discussion.

After the fifth time, something fun popped into my head.  I remember somebody, somewhere, saying “never argue with somebody that buys ink by the 55 gallon drum.”  And, as it turns out, I buy ink by the 55 gallon drum.  Anybody need some empty drums?  Well, okay, there really isn’t any ink – but I’m not sure how to phrase the equivalent in internet bits.

So I made this video.  I just had to.  I needed to express my position.  I needed to prove my point!  Proof dammit!

So I set up my camera and proceeded to wash a load of dishes by hand. And when the
dishes were clean, I used the dishwasher as a sort of drying rack.  And PRESTO!   I crushed a lame, so-called “fact”.

The common misconception, that washing dishes with a dishwasher (versus by hand) saves on water usage, is an excellent example, in my mind, of how some of the greenest people succomb to the greenwashing of Madison Avenue.  The doing-it-by-hand technique that beats the most eco dishwasher under any  circumstances is pretty simple:  use a dishpan and  run just a tiny amount of water  (quarter cup) to wash the first thing.  Then use a tiny amount of water to  rinse that one thing, with the rinse water running into the dishpan.  As you are  on to the fifth thing, you have a bit more soapy water in the bottom of the  pan.  So you can start washing bigger things.  By the time you are done washing  and rinsing everything, there should be about two quarts of water used.

Eco dishwashers set to eco mode use about 9 gallons of water and usually  don’t get the dishes clean unless you clean them first.  Granted, it is  possible for a person to wash dishes by hand where they leave the water running  and waste lots and lots of water.  I am certainly not advocating that.  There are some new dishwashers that will use only 3 gallons of water, but these are very expense and there are still some who say they don’t do a good job of cleaning.

I do agree with those who say washing by hand, or not, can also be just a matter of personal choice.  Beyond the water usage issue, I prefer washing dishes by hand for many other reasons:

A)  I like to wash dishes by hand because when I am done, the dishes are all done.  I am not burdening my future self to finish loading.  Or to unload.  Nor am I leaving a “to do” for somebody else.

B)  Each piece meets my cleanliness standards.

C)  It’s the way my grandad did it – and I’m always keen on doing things the way my grandad did.

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