Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hand washing vs Dishwasher

When Andrew and I moved in together after one month of dating we decided on "chores". I am a neat freak and was determined that we would have roommate rules with regards to cleaning. We've mostly stuck with them four and a half years later (thank goodness). One of Andrew's chores is washing the dishes. (I hate washing the dishes).

Sadly, we haven't had the luxury of a dishwasher in the four places we've lived in the past four years. We always had dishes on the counter- either waiting to be washed, waiting to be put away or both. After our wedding we were gifted with some money at Sears.... and a dishwasher shopping we went.

We considered apartment sized washers, but they were more expensive, wouldn't hold half of our larger bowls and cooking stuffs and appeared cheaply made. So a large, hook up to the sink dishwasher it is. And we LOVE it.

The plus side? A dishwasher is better for the environment than hand washing the dishes.

According to a study at University of Bonn, dishwashers use half the energy, one sixth the water and less soap than washing dishes by hand. New energy star dishwashers use 25% less energy than basic models (our dishwasher is an energy star).

This study tested 113 hand-washers in seven European countries (for variation in handwashing styles) vs modern machines. The average person used 103 litres of water, 2.5 kWh of energy and 79 minutes' time. The machines used 15 litres of water, a bit over 1 kWh of energy for a full load. (Ecoholic, 2006, Ecoholic Home 2009). WOOT!

Features to keep in mind if you too find yourself in a fortunate monetary moment:
  • Make sure you have an air dry button (or just open the door the moment it's done!)
  • Energy Star... all the way. It assures that the dishwasher uses 41% less energy and less water.
  • Read the EnerGuide papers in the washers when looking. We did- and based our choice on the one that used less energy.
  • Run full loads and scrape instead of double washing. I mean, if your brand new dishwasher can't handle washing your dishes..... ahem.

Okidoki, we got the basics covered- what about detergent. I was SO happy with our dishwashing liquid, and I really really hate the little pre-wrapped tab dealys. From what I had read on Crunchy Chicken that the best out there was truly Ecover. Which sucks because I'm not a huge fan of the company. Thank goodness for Adria Vasil of Ecoholic and her new book- Ecoholic Home. I adore this book, as it actually RATES products....

Bio-Vert, a Canadian company, was the hands down winner- against Ecover, Attitude, Seventh Gen and Nature Clean (woo!). I adore Bio-Vert, awesome clean products, their dish liquid and laundry detergent are fabulous too. Made in Quebec, mixed sources Forest Stewardship Certified packaging. The sad part is the pre-wrapped tabs, which they say are recyclable... but with no number on the package and restricted to recycling #1 and #2 plastics in HRM it's annoying.

My solution? If the dishes aren't that dirty we cut the tablet in half (which is most of the time). And you know what? I don't notice a difference. The dishes are spotless and perfect every time. The cheapest place to buy Bio-Vert in HRM is, weirdly enough, at Zellers in Bayers Lake. Yep, big box store... but money is money.

We adore our new dishwasher and although Andrew still has dishes to wash (like the bamboo stuff) the minimal amount means less water, less soap and money saved.


article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. i love how you always bring up things i never would have thought of. great post as usual :)

  2. I love that you photographed your dishwasher.

    I still have to go with Ecover but only because my grocery store sells it in the bulk aisle so no packaging required :) But would love to make something not produced in Europe!


  3. When we lived in St.Thomas and had to really conserve on water just because what we had was what we had until it rained (or we bought more). We def. depended on the dishwasher as our main source of dishwashing. I also set it so at the end the "grey" water would stand in the bottom and I could scoop it up for the plants outside. Now, we have no dishwasher and I am desperate for a machine. Mainly because I am so tired of acting as machine...but for eco purposes as well of course...;)

  4. Hi lovey! You won my stylish bloggie award!! come visit and see at

    Love me! YAY!
    the globetrotting gamine


  5. Men create dishwashers to clean the unclean but only make the unclean wet and sudsy.

    Only the gods make the unclean clean. But they don't work weekends.

    Can you blame them? Would you work weekends if you were a god? Or would you get some angel or demigod to fill in for you?

    Angels and demigods run the universe on weekends and holidays, after five, during lunch and coffee breaks, and when the gods have dentist appointments.

    Eating soap cleans my dirty words. Snorting dish detergent hurts my brain.

  6. Hi Lisa! Not sure if you remember me or not, but we went to STU together :) I wanted to mention that I love that I don't need to feel guilty about my dishwasher because I'm certain I'd never be able to give it up (I hate washing dishes too!)

  7. When my husband and I first got married, we had no dishwasher and after a month of fighting about doing the dishes, bought one of the attach to the sink ones that you have... it may have saved our marriage!

  8. As the resident dish keeper in our house, I love the dishwasher. My husband complains that because I pre-rinse the dishes, he can't tell when the dishes in the washer are clean or dirty, but like you say, scraping beats re-washing!

    However, I am kind of a stickler about what goes in the dishwasher: no knives (we use them too often), and no pots/pans (they take up too much space so the load isn't as efficient!).

  9. Congrats on your new dishwasher! I'm currently having to wash all of my dishes by hand and it's not my favorite. Mostly because I know it's not good for the environment and I'm not convinced I do the best job (ha!). I'm enjoy the resources you listed. I'll have to check them out when I make my next move.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Shanti! :)

  10. I used to see washing the dishes as a chore. Then I began seeing it as "being present time" - just looking at each plate and spoon and noticing it really helps me to understand being present. Also, it's daydreaming time, singing time, time for me and spouse to chat and practice our teamwork...

    My understanding is that the Bonn trials compared dishwashers to hand washing dishes under constantly running hot water. I put about 3 inches of warm water in a washing up bowl and do a day's worth of dishes in under 10 minutes.

    (My American mother-in-law has used a dishwasher for 40 years and believes that not rinsing every item under the tap after will result in us all being poisoned by the soap, and is completely baffled by the British habit of washing it and either drying it or leaving it to drain without rinsing doesn't result in us all being ill. She thought it was just me being weird before she visited and discovered a whole culture of Not Being Poisoned, bless her.)

    So I'm unconvinced by the trial, and am waiting for more comparisons. I am open to the possibility that I'm wrong. It'd be interesting to look at a range of standardised studies and see what the outcomes were so I could make a decision based on broader evidence.

    BTW, just found your blog, and am hooked!


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