Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Water Usage Math for Washing Dishes by Hand

We don't have a dishwasher because we stopped short of putting in our planned kitchen island 7 years ago.  We were tired of renovating and the accompanying drained bank accounts.  Instead, we kept on washing dishes by hand as we had in the years before we were home owners and home renovators.

In the meantime, with all that time spent in the dishpan, I have been thinking.  And then I did a little research.

I figured out how many gallons of liquid my dishpan holds without messy pouring of water:

Length in inches x width x height = X, then X/231 = volume in gallons

14" x 11" x 6" = 924"  and 924/ 231 = 4 gallons

My dishpan was 3/4 full after washing that full dish-drainer-load, plus a pan on the stovetop (we use the stovetop like an overflow dishdrainer if no one is drying dishes) and the bag-dryer.

I figure I routinely use about 3 gallons of water total to wash a small dishwasher load of dishes. I've been around dishwashers enough to know their general capacity.  In my research, I read that the average Energy Star dishwasher uses 4 gallons of water per cycle and the others use about 6 gallons (although Energy Star says it differently).  And here is another article with food for thought.

The way I use so little water to handwash that many dishes is thus:

1.  squirt dish soap in pan and run in an inch or less of hot water.
2.  Wash a dirty something and turn the water on over the dishpan briefly, rinsing the soapy thing.
3.  Place the clean wet thing in drying rack.

See, I capture the rinse water right in the dishpan and use it to build up my dishwater. One of the things I didn't see addressed in the articles is that if you ideally wait to run the dishwasher until it is full, then you might need to have more dishes than I do.  I can wash a small load, and often do if I'm clearing the decks for a canning or baking project, with the same efficiency as a large load.  I also re-use dishes for several projects rather than getting a clean item every time; for example, tonight during supper prep, I used the same glass measuring cup for milk for biscuits, cream for a pie, boiling water for the same pie, and tomatoes for a soup. 

The hidden problem in my dishwashing scenario is that it takes a long time to get the hot water up to our kitchen faucet, so sometimes we run the water for a while to get hot.  In the right mood, I capture this water in my houseplant watering can.

Actually, I'm not a militant water-saver.  I started researching dishwashers vs. handwashing out of curiosity and it suits my personality to discover how little water I use in contrast to what the bigwigs think I use.  Humph.  I like the intricacies of kitchen life, that's all.


Sew Blessed Maw said...

How interesting Margo..
I have a dishwasher [and I don't want to do with out it,lol].
However, I don't use it every day/night. I usually run a sink of dishwater, and wash as I cook, then after supper [with it just being me and hubby], there is so few dishes, I just hand wash..
On the days, I cook a lot, or have the kids over.. Love having the dishwasher..

Margo said...

yeah, I do wish for a dishwasher when we have guests over! They sometimes feel bad, too, leaving us with a stack of dishes, but socializing over the dishpan is not usually what I had in mind. . . so yes, a dishwasher would be nice for a crowd.

Polly said...

I grew up without a dishwasher, whereas my husband cannot imagine life without one. I've always begrudgingly doubted all those who say that dishwashers use less water. I always felt I was pretty efficient. When we have guests I'm more likely to hand-wash dishes for 2 reasons: 1) I've stashed dirty pots and pans in the dishwasher and 2) I use my nicer plates and I don't put anything I value in the dishwasher. It's not as bad as people would think, to just *wash the dishes*. Of course, now I have that choice. I might sing a different tune if our dishwasher went kaput tomorrow.

May I ask a question? Why do you fill the dishpan with water, instead of just using the sink itself? I've never used a dishpan, and I've always SEEN dishpans and wondered what people did with them (I use them to hold fresh folded laundry--each person has a dishpan, and the children put theirs away and I put the adults' laundry away.) Maybe it keeps the sink less prone to spottiness? That's something I do not like about our stainless sink...spots.

Lisa said...

Just last week my co-worker was telling me that since their dishwasher died, and they weren't in any hurry to replace it, she noticed her electric bill was thirty dollars less each month. There are three living there, with her college kids home on and off. I had been wishing for one, but that did it for me - it doesn't take that long to wash dishes.

Polly - I also have a stainless sink - after washing dishes, I just wash around it with soap and rinse, probably three or four times a day. No spots, and it doesn't take but a minute. You don't need cleanser, just a bar of soap.

Rozy Lass said...

In response to Polly about why using a dishpan: I use one because our old sink is wide and if I fill it with water I have no place to dump or rinse anything. I've use a dishpan in double sinks also because glasses and dishes chip and crack when bumped against the sides and bottom of a porcelain sink.
Margo, I've been doing dishes by hand for a long time and I never thought to do it the way you do. I'm going to begin, I can see that would save a whole lot of water. Thanks for sharing. I like doing dishes by hand because it is a "brainless" job and I get some good thinking time in. Or if I'm doing it with one of my children we get some good conversation time in.

Rhonda said...

I know I use more water than you for hand washing dishes but even still, our utilities bills are lower with hand washing instead of using the dishwasher.
I use the sink to wash in and a dishpan in the sink with garbage disposal for rinsing.

I like how muh quieter our evenings are without the dishwasher running.

Polly said...

Lisa, that's what I do as well! But the battle against spottiness continues (probably b/c I allow my dishes to dry in the sink. and I'm using the sink/kitchen constantly!). I can give it a good scrub with steel wool and shine it up, but it is a constant battle. My aunt (who is compulsive about cleanliness) replaced her ss sink with another kind *just because of the spots* (which I could never see because she kept it....spotless).

Margo said...

Polly, I was so struck by your question because really, there is no good reason! I think it's because my mom used a dishpan that I do - but she had a porcelain sink, so the dishpan really cushioned the dishes better and prevented breakage. For a little while, my sink stopper leaked and then I brilliantly figured out that I could buy a new one (duh), so I could actually use my sink instead of a dishpan.

As for spots in my stainless steel sink, I'm just not very picky and I should scrub my sink more often anyway. I also have heard people fuss about water spots on their granite countertops, but as long as mine are crumb-free, I'm happy.

Margo said...

Rozy, I'm really hoping for some deep talks over the dishes in the future! My 7 year old can dry dishes quite well and would really like to graduate to washing. I'm trying to brace myself for the broken dishes.

jenny_o said...

I am a handwasher, too - and do it close to the way you describe. And I use a dishpan because it takes less water and cushions the dishes. I like the thinking time I get when I do repetitious tasks like dish washing and ironing. Things seem to percolate to the surface of my brain that otherwise I forget or never find time to just sit down and think about. I notice in the linked article that the low water usage claimed by dishwasher proponents has been obtained from European sources, where the appliances are smaller and more efficient, and the use of water when handwashing may be based on running water continuously, which some people do.

Zoë said...

Margo, Jada (5) and Tage (3) wash/rinse dishes and we haven't had any broken yet! But we also use the dishwasher so we only hand wash some of the time. I want them to learn how to properly do tasks like that so we hand wash when there's time and machine wash when we are rushed!

I hand wash dishes just like you, minus the dishpan.

Lisa said...

Polly, I see what you mean - I put my dish drainer on a small piece of countertop next to the sink, and leave them there out of the way for two hours (or all night.or all day.)

nancy said...

We do the same handwashing mode once in a while. I've actually thought about getting rid of our energy star dishwasher, and converting the space to some nice finished shelves. Hubby vetoes:) I think he's afraid he'd do the dishes! We only do a load every other day, with just 2 of us, unless I'm doing having baking/canning, etc. While I love it IF I ready need it (large holiday groups, etc.) I'd still like to have the extra space...

Jo said...

Hi margo, I have been enjoying reading your blog recently. It is such a friendly, happy corner.
We didn't get a dishwasher until our fourth child was 4. It was everyone's Christmas present that year! We do fill it up twice a day with lots of baking and visitors, and it is wonderful, but I think I could live without it again when the children leave home. It will have to do 10 years sterling service before that, though!

Polly said...

I am relieved. I thought I was potentially breaking some sort of rule of proper dishwashing. I mean, you never know!!!

Margo said...

Jo, thank you! and welcome.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm late to this thread, but I had to throw in my "two cents" about dishwashing by hand. I've never done the math, but I know that our dishes look & feel better when washed this way, as opposed to when we used the machine. And, now that said machine is not working, I have no inclination to replace it any time soon (though, I will admit that it's a big help at Holiday time, or other larger gatherings).

And yes....some of the conversations with our children during kitchen cleanup time are beyond priceless. We've solved, or at least tried to solve, a good many issues & problems during that time. :o)



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