Few of us would dream of doing the laundry by hand, over 97% of of British households have a washing machine. When it comes to the dishes it's a different matter as of 2014 fewer than half of UK homes contained a dishwasher.
Perhaps the idea of popping the dishes into a machine seems self-indulgent and we've resisted the lure of this appliance on the grounds of saving energy or water. One thing that's for sure, we're not reluctant to buy dishwashers because we like washing up. It's a job that consistently gets identified as a least favourite chore and even as a significant cause of marital disputes.
The good news is, once you start to look at the facts behind using a dishwasher vs hand washing, the pros definitely outweigh the cons.
To some extent this depends on how you heat your water, but generally speaking, heating the amount of water you need, at the point where you need it is more efficient than having unused hot water sat around in a boiler.
This may be the outdated myth that explains why British people have been slow to make dishwashers a part of their daily lives, they do have a reputation of using a lot of water. In the past this was true, an older machines typically used anything up to 12 gallons (around 55 litres) of water. Newer, more efficient models will use between 4 to 6 gallons of water (18 to 27 liters), for a 12 cover load, which is a much more healthy figure. Assuming you're using your dishwasher sensibly, your water consumption will reduce when you switch to machine rather than hand washing.
This is where dishwasher really score:
The ideal temperature for washing dishes is 60°C, which is far too hot for your hands. You can remove food particles and dirt in cooler water, but you need the higher temperature to kill bacteria and hotter water breaks down grease far more quickly.. Washing up sponges are often filthy! - One study from 2012 found no less than 10 million bacteria per square inch on a typical kitchen sponge... making it around 200,000 times more dirty than a toilet seat... yuch!
Environmental impact of cleaning products
It is true that many dishwasher powders contain phosphates, which aren't removed by water treatment plants and which are bad for the environment. However, you can buy phosphate-free detergents. Studies show they can be just as effective, and overall you'll use less cleaning products in a dishwasher than you will if you hand wash.
Dishwasher tips and tricks
To get the most efficient use from you machine:
- Learn to load your dishwasher properly
- Don't overload, but do use your machine to its full capacity, even if that means only running a cycle a few times a week
- Scrape dishes before loading but only rinse if you have to
- Maintain your machine regularly to get the longest and most efficient use from it
Are dishwashers worth it?
There is the initial cash outlay of course, but if you've been asking yourself 'do I need a dishwasher', the answer is almost certainly yes. Invest in an energy efficient model that's the right size for your needs and you'll save time on a boring chore, get cleaner, more hygienic dishes and can rest assured that you're doing your washing up in an environmentally friendly way.