How Much Water Does a Dishwasher Use: All You Need to Know

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When deciding on what kind of dishwasher to buy or whether you should get one at all, you might have some questions. You might wonder: How much water does a dishwasher use? How energy efficient is a dishwasher?

Or which is better for the environment: washing dishes by hand or using the dishwasher?

Sometimes these questions and others like them can seem overwhelming. Luckily, this question has a pretty straightforward answer, relative to many other questions about climate change and conservation.

A Short History of Dishwashers

Humans have been washing dishes since there were dishes to wash. In fact, prior to the 1800s, washing dishes was one of the least labor-intensive chores to be done. Most people valued the ease of leaning against a sink and washing up after a long day harvesting or planting.

The dishwasher wasn't invented for ease or convenience. It was invented by Josephine Cochrane, the granddaughter of John Finch, who invented the steam engine because her servants kept breaking her china. She later started the company that grew into KitchenAid.

Obviously, the dishwashers we have today are much more sophisticated. As technology has advanced, we've seen dishwashers increase their efficiency, add helpful features, and use less water.

How Much Water Does a Dishwasher Use?

SPT SD-6502SS: Energy Star 24 w/Smart Wash System & Heated Drying –...
  • 24" Built-in, top-mount
  • 6 wash Programs: Heavy, Normal, Delicate, Quick, Rinse only, Energy Saver
  • Top Cutlery Rack: Flat placement of fine utensils that might fall through the normal silverware basket

So how much water does a dishwasher use?

Well, it depends on the dishwasher you have. If you're lucky enough to own your home, you can choose the brand and model of dishwasher you buy.

For those living in an apartment, you have no say in what dishwasher you're provided. However, we can estimate the usage and definitely decrease our water bills using some easy tips.

Dishwasher vs. handwashing

man wearing green crew-neck t-shirt

Image via unsplash.com

It might surprise most people to hear this, but using a dishwasher is actually significantly more water-efficient than washing dishes by hand.

The water in the faucet flows at an average rate of two gallons per minute. This means that the average hand-washing household uses 13 gallons of water to wash the same number of dishes that fit into a dishwasher.

Average dishwasher

If you live in an apartment, you probably have an older model of dishwasher, or a cheaper model. This means that you're probably using roughly 10 gallons of water with each cycle.

However, you're still beating out handwashing. Because the average faucet flows at a rate of two gallons per minute, handwashing for only five minutes uses the same amount of water as running the entire dishwasher.

Want to decrease your water usage? Stop rinsing the dishes before you put them in the machine. Instead, scrape food off with a spatula and let your dishwasher do the work.

Energy Star dishwashers

hOmeLabs Compact Countertop Dishwasher - Energy Star Portable Mini...
  • CLEANS AS YOU GO - A convenient and small Energy Star certified dish washing machine for cleaning the dishes after...
  • USER FRIENDLY CONTROLS - With simple to use control panel and light indicators. Program selector has 6 wash cycle...
  • NO TOOLS REQUIRED - Features a quick connect assembly with accessories including inlet and drain hose and a faucet...

Newer dishwashers are much more efficient and use significantly less water than their older counterparts. In fact, a new Energy Star certified dishwasher will save, on average, 3,870 gallons of water over its lifetime.

Energy Star is a government-backed certification that allows consumers to easily find environmentally-friendly appliances. These appliances have to meet certain standards in order to qualify.

New Energy Star dishwashers use only about five to six gallons of water per wash and include newer features like soil detection and improved water jets to help you cut down on your water usage even more.

And conveniently, Energy Star appliances come in a variety of sizes. Built-in dishwashers can usually run more than eight place settings as well as six serving pieces -- all in only six gallons.

Even apartment dwellers who don't have a built-in dishwasher can take advantage of compact dishwashers available.

Outside influences on water usage

Of course, there are other variables that can affect the answer to the question, "How much water does a dishwasher use?"

For one thing, most dishwashers come with multiple settings such as "pots and pans" or "heavy soil." These increase the amount of water used. It's best to avoid using these when possible.

In addition, many households have turned down their water heater temperature. This helps save on heating costs and ensures a safer temperature for the family.

However, it also can limit the ability of the dishwasher to clean properly, which can result in having to run the same load twice. Consider buying a dishwasher with a heat booster so it can reach the recommended 150 degrees for proper cleaning.

Hard water can also affect water usage. The mineral deposits that are left when the water evaporates can build up on your machine and make it perform poorly. You can combat this by getting a dishwasher with a built-in water softener or using vinegar or rinse aid in the rinse aid compartment.

Now You Know Everything!

dishwasher with dirty dishes

Image via pixabay.com

So now to answer the final question: How much water does a dishwasher use? The answer is that it's up to you. Buying an Energy Star appliance, making sure hard water isn't damaging your machine, and using the proper setting can have huge effects on the dishwasher's water usage.

Making wise choices in your dishwasher purchase and usage can drastically lower your water usage.

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