Is it greener to hand wash or use a dishwasher?

In many homes a dishwasher is now considered an essential item, although it’s only estimated that around a third of UK households own one, compared with countries such as Germany where over half of households have a dishwasher.  To some they are seen as a luxury item, unnecessary or an environmental no-no.  But is it actually greener to use a dishwasher than to wash-up by hand? In terms of  water, dishwashers are now much more efficient, and when used to wash a full 12 place setting, use three or four times less water than washing the same amount by hand. Winning the argument on the energy-efficiency of dishwashers is not so easy, given that 75% of UK homes use gas to heat their water, which is more efficient and produces less CO2. However, if you have PV solar panels and use your dishwasher during the day it is a greener option.  Research undertaken by Bonn University, in 2003 demonstrated that dishwashing habits, both by hand and using a machine can vary enormously; I always twitch when I see cutlery being washed under a running hot tap, and we all know of the super quick ‘washer upper’ who fails to clean things properly! And that’s another reason for choosing a dishwasher; hygiene – even the most diligent pot washer with asbestos hands, can’t compete with the bacteria busting 60-65˚C dishwasher programme.

So our greener tips on using your dishwasher most efficiently are:

  • Run the dishwasher only when fully loaded.
  • Scrape your plates first – but don’t be tempted rinse them under the tap.
  • Choose an eco-setting or lower temperature, if available.
  • If you’ve solar panels use your dishwasher during the day.
  • When it comes to buying a new dishwasher look for the most energy-efficient model available, check the running costs and CO2 emission on Sust-it and also consider the longevity of a machine; buying a cheap model may seem the best option, but if the parts break or it needs replacing in 5 year, it’s not.

Top 10 energy efficient Dishwashers

Rank Photo Model
1 Miele G 6925 SCi XXL More info »
2 Miele G 6825 SCi XXL More info »
3 Miele G 6997 SCVi XXL K2O More info »
4 Miele G 6895 SCVi XXL K2O More info »
5 Miele G 6890 SCVi K2O More info »
6 Miele G 6860 SCVi More info »
7 Miele G 6820 SC More info »
8 Siemens SN26T597GB More info »
9 Siemens SN66T095GB More info »
10 Grundig GNF51040X More info »