Eco-friendly reasons not to be upset if your old dishwasher dies

by sophie on August 29, 2007 · 2 comments

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So our dishwasher broke a couple of weeks back and I really don’t like washing up, which is ironic considering how much of it I create. It’s NOT therapeutic and it DOES make your hands all wrinkly.

Anyway I thought I’d make the effort and try washing up for a while, to be more eco-friendly y’know. It turns out that I wasn’t being environmentally friendly and that there is much more to this dishwasher business than meets the eye:

It isn’t more eco-friendly to live without a dishwasher
Yay, the best news – washing up by hand uses more water and energy than a dishwasher! If your old dishwasher dies, don’t be sad, it’s not evil to replace him. The biggest study looking into this was carried out by researchers at the University of Bonn in 2004 who showed that modern dishwashers are more water and energy efficient than human washer-uppers from a number of different nations. For all you hand-washers out there, you too can come close to the efficiency of dishwasher by perfecting your dishwashing technique (you can read more about this over at the Guardian website)

New dishwashers are much more energy efficient than older ones
According to the UK Environment Agency our new dishwasher will use around half the amount of water and energy than our old machine bought ten years ago does (or did, before it died).

It’s still eco-friendly even if you use the dishwasher for big stuff like saucepans
I’ve always tut tutted at my other half for filling up our old dishwasher with just a few huge pans and colanders, but it turns out that even washing big items is more energy efficient by dishwasher than by hand. But, get this, the sums only add up if you don’t use extra water rinsing the pans before putting them in. So you get to be doubly lazy and not even rinse the pans, never mind scrub them. This fact made me smile for an entire week.

Some dishwashers are even more eco-friendly than others
We visited a few shops and looked online and found that nearly all new dishwashers have an ‘A’ rating for energy efficiency (meaning that they are very good). Most models use 16 or 18 litres of water per wash but after careful label reading we found one which cost a little bit more but which uses a tiny 12 litres of water per wash (tip: we saved the extra fifty quid this particularly dishwasher cost by getting a really good deal from our little local electrical dealer, who we were suprised to find was much cheaper than the big retail park shops).

New dishwashers have clever insides
I heart my new dishwasher. I really didn’t think I could get excited about such a thing but this one is just so much better designed than the old one. The major improvement is that the plate racks in the top and bottom fold down so that you can make a flat surface to wash the aforementioned large items – frying pans, saucepans, mixing bowls etc. The top tray is a much better design than the old one and actually fits our cups and glasses, with a little shelf that folds down over the mugs so that you can wash some of your utensils in there too. It also has a clever attachment (not yet tried) that lets you wash really big things like baking trays by taking the top drawer out. And it does all this while being much quieter than the old one. Everything goes into the dishwasher now, with the exception of my global cooks knives and a few expensive glasses.

It’s all in the way you use it
To reap the benefit of all this energy efficient technology you do need to fill the dishwasher fully each time before you run it (not a problem if you can put everything in it). You can make your dishwashing even greener by washing on a lower temperature setting (on ours this is via the “Eco” button but on other models this may be an economy or temperature choice button).

Don’t forget the soap
The decisions don’t end with the dishwasher. If you’ve gone to all that effort then it is worth taking one last step and looking at which dishwasher detergent you use because conventional dishwasher cleaning tablets are high in phosphates which are highly polluting to our rivers and waterways. I’ve used eco-friendly brands in the past and haven’t been overly impressed but given that we are using the dishwasher a lot more I think its time to give them another go. If you’ve tried particular brands yourself I’d love to know what you thought of them?

Want to know more
The UK Environment Agency has a good article outlining some of the sums involved
How to green your dishwasher from Treehugger has beginner level and more ‘hardcore’ tips


Joanna August 29, 2007 at 18:17

SO good to hear, as I put everything in my dishwasher all the time, I just don’t do washing up. I use Ecover products, all fine, and I very often use a programme which takes less than 30 minutes, just does a quick wash and not very much drying. Fine if nothing’s too dirty. I use the delay to put it on overnight (cheap electricity, but even without it’s a good thing to do, because it evens out the spikes in electricity consumption). I have always loved every dishwasher I hav ever owned, so I perfectly understand your excitement … been there, done that, know I’ll do it again!
SO good to sing the praises of such an invisible but essential piece of kit

Sophie September 2, 2007 at 17:21

Thanks Joanna – I was so pleased when I found that replacing my dishwasher *would* be the eco-friendly thing to do!
I’ll try ecover – we tried it a while ago and it wasn’t so good but I think they’ve reformulated it since (according to a friend of ours who works in this area)

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