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

You might be surprised at the answer.


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 also a good chance you’re making at least one of these 7 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 three 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 HuffPost. “People rinse their sponges, but they really need to sanitize them. And that’s something people don’t do,” Tierno said. Make sure to avoid these common mistakes people make when loading the dishwasher as well.

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. But, before you load everything in the dishwasher, know the things you should never wash in your dishwasher.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman

Rachel Brougham
Writer and editor with a background in news writing, editorial and column writing and content marketing.