The Ultimate Battle of Cost Effectiveness: Dishwashers vs Hand Washing

dishwasher

We live in a technological era where almost everything is automated or it will eventually become. In that line of thoughts, handwashing dishes are a long-forgotten task due to the dishwashing machine. An unpopular fact, the dishwashing machine was invented in the 1920s, but it wasn't very popular with society until the 1950s when it became more common in wealthy residences. It wasn't until the late 1970s that the dishwashing machine became a regular sight in every household.

Dishwashing, everybody knows what it is, if not Google it. Nowadays you can do it with a dishwasher (the machine) or by hand. Using your hands, grab a sponge and detergent, wash and then rinse with clean water. Some people use rubber gloves because they are sensitive to either the cleaning detergent or hot water. Using a dishwashing machine is a popular luxury that most people take as a given and don't appreciate at all. Some households don't have dishwashing machines, as shocking as it might seem.

When I was growing up my parents always made me do the dishes. It was a chore that I literally hated and detested. My parent's words were that this will teach me responsibilities, which I was naturally lacking, at the time. I shared my 'pleasant' experiences with my friends and some of them had the same 'torture' from their folks, but some had a dishwashing machine. That was the time I heard of such a contraption, a machine that washes the dishes on its own. At that moment, I thought to myself that my dishwashing days are over and I'll use my time for something better. My parents killed that notion flat out, without giving it a second thought – it's too expensive and we can't afford it. For the time being, I had no idea could we really afford it or not, but that was my experience. Several years later I still wash my dishes on my own, it's how I was brought up and I haven't given a second thought about machines, until now.

Let's dig into washing dishes by hand. Have you ever asked yourself this - when the bubbles disappear from the hot water pot is it still effective? Understand that with soap I mean cleaning detergent and its purpose is to emulsify grease from the dishes. It was my assumption that detergents form bubbles, but once they are gone it implies that all the detergent has been used and it's time to add more. Sounds like a normal notion, for people that wash dishes by hand, right? This is where dishwashing by hand differs so much from dishwashers.

Practically everybody uses too much detergent. If there are bubbles forming after applying then, it's too much. The bubbles aren't necessary for the detergent to do its job properly, more like it's necessary for us to know that we have applied enough. Actually cleaning detergents are designed to produce bubbles when you've applied too much, not the other way around. When the bubbles disappear that doesn't mean the detergent has been used up. As long as the grease gets off from the dishes the soap is doing its job properly.

Now the question is which is most cost-effective, dishwashers or dishwashing by hand. If you're still washing your dishes by hand, you're actually wasting more than your time. What do you save and how is that calculated? Let's use the following baseline, water flows out your tap at the rate of 3 to 5 gallons (13 to 22 liters) per minute, for a single load – all the rest of the examples will be per single load. You can approximately calculate your average water consumption judging by the time you wash the dishes by hand. If it's too hard for you to try this dishwasher vs. washing up calculator. A regular hand washing consumes 2.5 kW of electricity and 27 gallons (122 liters) of water, however, if you hand wash efficiently it goes down to 1 kW and 8 gallons (36 liters). A dishwashing machine can get even better results, but to ensure that it needs to be certified by Energy Star, one of their new models. For comparison, an Energy Star certified dishwasher consumes water around 3-5 gallons (13-22 liters) and 1 kW electricity.

Is a dishwasher more cost-effective, indeed it is but is it more efficient, that is another story. Dishwashing machines are owned by people with busier and busier time schedules and dishwashing is only a time-consuming task, for which they don't have the time. It depends on how much you value your time. I personally don't trust dishwashers, I've seen results and not all are satisfactory. The dishwashers might really be more cost-effective, but in my opinion not efficient enough.

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