Does handwashing dishes clean them as well as a dishwasher? Does a dishwasher cost more in terms of repairs and replacement or energy usage? There are a few areas such as cleanliness, cost, time and consistency that must be considered when determining which method of washing dishes is better.
Let's begin with cleanliness. According to Real Simple, a water temperature of 140° is necessary to kill bacteria. The hot water from the facet will not reach this temperature, and for a good reason- it would burn your skin. Based on water temperature, the dishwasher is superior at sanitizing dishes. However, bacteria can still be eliminated in the dishwater with the use of antibacterial dishsoap or a small amount of bleach. Each of these has a significant drawback, though. Bleach, for instance, poses significant health and environmental risk. Antibacterial additives to soap has recently raised concerns as a contributing agent to a growing antibiotic-resistance in the environment. I do not use either of these substances in my dishwater. If a dirty dish has sat on the countertop or in the sink for a while which would promote bacterial growth, then I would use another method. For everyday meals, good ol' soap and water is sufficient to clean dishes in my opinion.
A second aspect in the dishwasher versus handwashing debate is the matter of cost. Both methods require some degree of cost. Handwashing dishes involves the expense of water usage multiple times a day. A dishwasher also requires the expense of water usage, as well as electricity usage and the cost of eventually needing to repair or replace the appliance. With a price tag of about $300-500, the sudden expense of replacement can hit a family budget pretty hard. With regard to electricity use, an energy-efficient dishwasher uses only 1kwh of energy (source: Huffington Post). Lastly, the dishwasher uses less water than handwashing if the dishes have not been pre-washed prior to loading into the dishwasher. I have always thoroughly rinsed my dishes prior to loading them into the dishwasher because as a renter I haven't always been able to rely on the older dishwashers in the units. This practice, however, adds to the cost of using the dishwasher.
Convenience and time requirements are also a consideration. Automatic dishwasher have lessened the work and time required by domestic tasks. It would by far take more time and energy to wash every dish by hand after every meal. As wonderful as it is be alleviated of this demand, I also believe there is a great good than can come from not having a task completed for me. Great gains can be found in domestic work! For example, my grandmother once wisely told me that your more resourceful and appreciative of how you use your dishes to cook when you've had to spend time and effort bending over the sink to wash them. I find myself not as mindful and well..spoiled and lazy when it comes to caring for my possessions, including my kitchen dishes.
The last consideration is in regard to lifestyle. When I had a residence of my own prior to marriage, I would wash by hand because if not I'd run out of dishes before I could fill the dishwasher. Now, I cook full meals a few times a day and never lack in filling the dishwasher. Yet, I have a bad habit of leaving dishes for a later clean-up. By the time "later" arrives, I'm also needing to cook a meal but have little work space or cooking utensils. Or, someone drops by to visit and I'm too embarrassed of the mess to extend an invitation inside (our home has an open floor plan, so there's no avoiding the kitchen). I've discovered the best means of combating this bad habit of mine is to wash all the dishes after each meal. I tend to have so many dishes and cookware that are not dishwasher safe that I have to wash by hand even if I'm using the dishwasher. So, I decided to just wash everything by hand after each meal, and the kitchen stayed cleaner. (Of course, knives or cutting boards that dealt with meats or eggs were placed in the dishwasher anyways). Even though the dishwasher is more efficient, it's been more beneficial for me to develop better habits the old fashioned way. If you find yourself with piles of dirty dishes all the time, I suggest to begin washing by hand to: 1) develop a better mindfulness of your (over)usage during meal prep and 2) develop a better habit for keeping dishes caught up. In time, you can shift from the sink back to the dishwasher.
Up Next: Part 2 (How to properly handwash dishes and load the dishwasher)
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