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Which uses less water: washing dishes by hand or running them in a full dishwasher?

Published: Tuesday, Mar. 18, 2014 - 11:58 am
Last Modified: Wednesday, Mar. 19, 2014 - 8:36 am

Q: Which uses less water, washing dishes by hand or running them in a full dishwasher? – Greg Steur, Fair Oaks

A: The dishwasher almost always wins this water-saving argument.

According to industry studies, the average automatic dishwasher uses about 6 gallons per load. Energy Star-rated efficient dishwashers whittle that water usage down to about 4 gallons a load.

Now, turn on the tap. Kitchen sink water flows at an average rate of 2 gallons per minute. Can you do all your dishes in less than three minutes?

Another study compared dishwasher capacity to water use. Most dishwashers hold enough dishes (plates, bowls, cups and glasses) plus flatware to serve eight people. That averages about 9 ounces of water per dish. If you were to wash those dishes by hand with the same amount of water, that works out to 4.4 seconds of faucet time per dish.

If hand-washing dishes, you could cut down on water waste by turning the faucet on to a trickle or re-using your rinse water. But even with those allowances, it’s hard to beat automation.

Submit your question for The Sacramento Bee’s water team.

Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.

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