Is it Better to Hand Wash Dishes or Use the Dishwasher?

When it comes to washing dishes—believe it or not—as long as you have a newer model dishwasher, it’s better to run the dishwasher than to hand wash.

The dishes are piling up in the kitchen sink. Should you grab the sponge or load them in the dishwasher?

When it comes to washing dishes—believe it or not—as long as you have a newer model dishwasher, it’s better to run the dishwasher than to hand wash.

There’s a good chance you’re making at least one of these seven dishwashing mistakes.

Hot, Hot, Hot

Even if you use hot water to hand wash those dishes, the water is nowhere near hot enough to make dishes truly bacteria free. “Our hands just can’t take the hot water temperatures—140 or 145 degrees Fahrenheit—that many dishwashers use to get stuff really clean,” The Washington Post reports.

You need to stop doing this when washing dishes.

Water Consumption

Even though a dishwasher constantly sprays water, an Energy Star certified dishwasher can use as little as 3 gallons of water per load, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The council also notes that an energy-efficient dishwasher can save almost 5,000 gallons of water per year, when compared to water consumption when you hand wash dishes.

When your dishwasher isn’t working, try these repair tips.

That Sponge is… Gross!

When you wipe food remnants with your sponge, all that bacteria ends up filling those tiny holes, and then new bacteria grows at a rate of once every 20 minutes, Dr. Philip Tierno, a clinical professor at the Microbiology and Pathology departments at NYU Langone and author of The Secret Life of Germs, told the “People rinse their sponges, but they really need to sanitize them. And that’s something people don’t do,” Tierno said.

This is how to clean your dish scrubber.

There is One Benefit to Hand Washing

A Swedish study found children from families who hand wash their dishes were about 40 percent less likely to develop allergies than kids in homes that used a dishwasher. The idea is that when you hand wash dishes, it leaves them with more bacteria than a dishwasher and thus that exposure can make you more resistant to allergies.

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Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham spent years working in newsrooms, for television and newspapers, and has won several awards for her writing. In 2015, she left her full-time job as a newspaper editor to focus on freelance writing and editing. She has been a Family Handyman contributor since 2017.
In 2019, Rachel lived through a major remodeling project on her home, and she uses that experience to inform her Family Handyman content. She's also an avid gardener (both native plants and vegetables), enjoys keeping up with decor trends and spends a lot of time traveling, cooking and hanging out with her family and their giant dog.