Dishwashers or Hand Washers?

Like most people, Martin and I have done our fair share of dish washing.  I’m pretty sure we’ve hated just about every minute of it, too.  So while I’ve introduced you to our tiny oven/microwave combo, the 2-burner stove, and our dorm fridge, I haven’t shown you the Most Important Addition to our apartment:  our dishwasher.


For as long as I’ve known, Germans have preferred to cover their appliances with cabinet fronts, which is a wonderful breath of fresh air from the stainless steel mania in the US.  Lucky for you, this part of our kitchen is varnished, so maybe that makes looking at a wood-covered dishwasher a little more exciting as we remodel.  You can probably guess that with a small kitchen, we can’t handle a dishwasher bigger than this half-sized fella.  We don’t have room for something bigger OR enough dishes to fill it.  We worship it just as it is.

The Age-Old Question:  Should you use a dishwasher or hand wash to save energy (and money)?

Every so often, I read about women who claim they are saving money and water by washing dishes by hand.  While this theory sounded very probable (especially when you have a water meter running beside you like we’ve got), I set out to find out what the most energy efficient method really was.  The truth, of course, is that I want to be sure that my laziness is actually helping the planet.  Let’s see:

Hand washing is more efficient when:

  • You pre-rinse all of your dishes.  That little gesture pours upward of 20 gallons of water down the pipes every load, and new machines don’t even need it if they have built in garbage disposals or pre-rinse options
  • You run the dishwasher when it isn’t full. No need to worry about this at our house.
  • Your dishwasher is old and not very energy efficient. The Energy Star guide and manual are the best way to tell in the US.  Other countries have their own ranking systems, and Martin says the German manuals are fascinating.  Every family needs a manual reader.
  • Dishwashers are more efficient when:

  • Your machine is energy efficient. You’ll save 5,000 gallons on an Energy Star appliance compared with hand washing in one year.
  • You want more sanitary dishes. Dishwashers use hotter water than we can handle on our little paws (140 degrees F?  Not this Frau)
  • You skip the heat dry cycle. I swear we’ve heard this one a million times in every magazine known to man, but I’ve gotta add it to the list.
  • Umm you want more time for something else (ANYTHING else).   Using a dishwasher will save you 230 hours every year.  So heck, you could learn how to build a dishwasher in that amount of time or be with your family on Christmas Day.
  • So I’ll give you a hint as to what wins over at our house every time:

    dishwasher open

    The Old-Age Question: What  do you do when a dishwasher goes Kaput?

    Finally, where would we be on Making This Home if we didn’t talk about what to do with the old clunker?  As previous used appliance hunters, take our word that dishwashers are the most sought after used appliance.  When your dishwasher breaks or is ready to retire from your house, make sure you:

  • Donate it. Used appliance and repair shops or thrift shops will gladly take them.  They’ll give you a discount on something new or a tax deduction
  • Put an ad in the paper or online. Sell it and make a few bucks.
  • Head on over to the scrap metal place. They’ll pay you to recycle your dishwasher.  Way cooler than a trip to the smelly dump if you ask me.
  • So there you have it.  No more prune hands or doing dishes in the bathroom for us.  Now we just need some inspiring meals to whip up.  We’d love to know about the many ways you and your family test your dishwasher with yummy treats.  There’s nothing like a little eye candy to get us drooling in the morning.

    (Images by Katie for Making This Home.  Data from Green up Your Cleanup and Living Like Ed.)