How much water does a dishwasher use?

Whether or not you think it’s better for the environment, almost everyone agrees that washing dishes by hand is not fun.

Sure, it can be satisfying to see them become clean before your very eyes, but not at the cost of pruny hands and the uncertainty of whether or not it’s really clean enough. But sometimes you brave it, thinking of how eco-friendly you’re being by not being lazy. However, what if putting all your dishes in the dishwasher was actually better for the environment?

Averaging it out

According to a study by the University of Bonn, the average amount of water a person uses to wash their own dishes by hand every day is 10.5 litres. It doesn’t seem like a lot when taking into account cooking of meals. However, the average household in Australia is between 2-3 people, meaning that it would be between 21-31.5 litres a day.

That still may not sound so terrible, but when compared to the average modern dishwasher on a full cycle, which consumes 15 litres, it’s not great. That’s stacked to capacity by your household, not just per meal. So if you’re like most households that only need to run their dishwasher once a day, you’ll want to drop your hand washing habits, stat.

Labels are your friend

If averages don’t satisfy you, and you need to figure out your exact comparison, there are some labels that will help you work it out. It’s understandably tedious to hunt down all the details of your dishwasher and try to figure out the exact amount of water and energy it uses per load, but these labels do all the hard work for you.

First of all, there’s the ubiquitous Energy Rating Sticker that you’d be able to find on any dishwasher, or other appliance, available for purchase. This is a government run program which provides a star rating based on the amount of energy it uses in a year, so you’re able to compare it to other dishwashers of a similar capacity. This means you can figure out how your dishwasher compares to others on the market – the more stars, the better.

Much like the energy efficiency rating, the government also has the Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme, shortened to WELS. Similar to the labels for energy efficiency, it works on the same six star rating, and notes the average number of litres of water your dishwasher uses per minute. This is an easy way to gauge how much water you use every time you put on a load. The most efficient dishwashers under this scheme use half the amount of water as an average model on the market, saving you money and offering peace of mind.

Brand benefits

Considering a dishwasher is an investment, and the average Australian keeps their dishwasher for over seven years, it’s worth seeing whether big brands are willing to try to cut costs to both you and the environment. Proven effective, this could sway the mind of any hand washing devotee.

Taking into account the aforementioned statistic that the average hand washer uses 10.5 litres a day to wash up, will modern eco-friendly dishwashers be able to compete?

Top-rated dishwasher brand Miele’s latest units can use as little water per cycle as 6.5 litres. This was part of the company’s plan to reduce the amount of water use by its dishwashers by 85% over the last 30 years.

Meanwhile Bosch dishwashers use ActiveWater technology, promising to maximise efficiency of dish cleaning through uses of targeted water distribution, filters, faster heating and increased water circulation. What that amounts to is a similar performance of only 6.5 litres to wash the dish equivalent of 13 meals.

The verdict

Have no fear for feeling guilty about dumping your dishes into the dishwasher – provided you’re using it correctly, it’s much more water and cost efficient than washing by hand. Even though there will be some things that require a gentle wash in the sink, if it can go in the dishwasher, it should go in the dishwasher. So congratulations, lazy people, on being given the environmental seal of approval to be totally lazy. Now, just how to figure out to compel you to unpack the dishwasher…

To find out if your dishwasher is the best it can be, head over to our consumer ratings guide.

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