Use a dishpan or sink plug
Use a dish pan or sink plug to hand-wash dishes by filling one side of the sink or a dishpan with warm soapy water and the other with cold rinse water. By not running additional water and washing dishes fewer times a day, you use significantly less water than by running your dishwasher.
How to use a dishpan or sink plug
Most people prefer the convenience of their dishwasher—and most of the time using one consumes significantly less water than washing dishes the old-fashioned way. However, if you don't have a dishwasher or prefer a hands-on approach to after-meal cleanup, here are some water-saving tips that can help you outperform your dishwasher.
- Make sure dishes are washed soon after eating so food doesn’t stick. Stuck-on food requires extra soaking and more water.
- Fill one dish pan or sink basin part-way (plug in place!) with warm soapy water and another with cold rinse water. Then keep the faucet turned off.
- Save up dishes throughout the day so you only have one load to wash. Multiple daily loads boosts water use significantly.
- While you’re waiting for hot water from the faucet, collect running water in a container and use it on house and garden plants.
- Use leftover dishwater (called graywater) to rinse out recyclable cans, jars, and bottles. Or flush the toilet with it. Never put graywater on indoor plants—even if you use natural dishwashing soap—because the ingredients may be harmful. Properly treated graywater can sometimes be used on lawn and landscape plants.
Using a dishpan or sink plug helps you go green because…
- It uses half the water a dishwasher uses.
Hand-washing dishes typically uses significantly more water than running a dishwasher because most people tend to leave the faucet running or wash dishes several times a day. In fact, statistics show that the average US dishwasher uses nine to 12 gallons per load (less for energy-efficient models) versus up to 20 gallons for hand-washing. However, hand-washing by filling a dishpan or sink basin and refraining from running additional water is shown to consume half of what a dishwasher uses per load.
Doing dishes by hand can be even more water-efficient by installing low-flow aerators on faucets (which mix air and water). Aerators limit water flow to anywhere from 0.5 to two gallons per minute (gpm) compared to the 3.5 to seven gpm released by standard faucets. That can mean a 13 percent cut in water consumption for each household member and a 10.6 percent drop in hot water use (which accounts for about 15 percent of a typical home's total energy bill).
- Portland Tribune - Dishwasher vs. Hand-wash?
- Arizona Water Resource - Human Dishwashers' Water Efficiency Studied
- California Energy Commission Consumer Energy Center - Dishwashers
- Santa Barbara County Water Providers - Home Water Efficiency Tips
- California Urban Water Conservation Council - Faucet Water Savings