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 lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.