Dishwashers vs. Hand-washing – Which is More Efficient?

In a recent episode of Fresh Off The Boat, Evan goes over to a white friend’s home for a family lunch, and is shocked to learn that the real use of a dishwasher is not to be used as a drying rack, but to actually wash dishes!

When I posted this video clip on Facebook, this really resonated with a lot of my Asian American friends – since most of us could relate – some of the comments I received:

  •  Lol….growing up we never used our dishwasher either. We were told it wastes water and electricity. I think ours was still unused 20 years later when we moved out to a new place. I still remember my mom’s dishwasher was a yellow Whirlpool with silver push buttons.
  • My family did. But we had to hand wash them first. The dishwasher was just to sanitize them. Now that I’m on my own. I almost exclusively rely on the dishwasher.
  • My parents bought a brand new (new construction) home in 1973, it included all brand new kitchen appliances including an avocado green dishwasher. We never used it in the 35 years they lived there. It was still unused when they sold the house and moved out.

While growing up, our family never used the dishwasher – it was considered wasteful. Additionally, as Jessica in Fresh Off the Boat, I think considered being lazy using a machine to wash dishes. But what is really more efficient – a dishwasher or hand washing dishes? According to this analysis:

“These numbers indicate that it’s possible to be more efficient when hand-washing, but it’s pretty tough. Can you successfully wash and rinse a soiled dinner plate in just over a cup of water? If you can keep the water use low, equal to an efficient machine, you’ll require less energy, but doing an entire load of dishes in 4 gallons of water is roughly equivalent to doing them all in the same amount of water you use in 96 seconds of showering (using a showerhead that emits 2.5 gallons per minute).

So, as long as you don’t often run your dishwasher when it’s only half full of dirty dishes, or unless you are very miserly with your water use (or have an old, inefficient dishwasher), the automatic dishwasher is likely to be more efficient. That is to say, it’s possible to use less water and energy by hand washing your dishes, but it’s not easy. Of course, if you do it just right, it might just be a wash.”

As an adult, I definitely use the dishwasher whenever I can – usually saving up enough dishes for the dishwasher to be full. It’s just easier and saves time.

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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