Why you shouldn’t wash your dishes by hand

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Do you hate washing dishes? Are you sick of yelling at your spouse or kids to help you with washing the dishes?

Good news! Consumer Reports finally has a solution: none of you should wash the dishes.

Why you shouldn’t wash dishes by hand

You’re wasting water

For a lot of people, the typical after-meal routine includes rinsing off the dishes before they’re placed in the dishwasher. Well, you should stop doing that.

First of all, you’re wasting water. That pre-rinse uses a lot of water for something the dishwasher is going to do all over again — and much more efficiently.

Read more: Scientists say a messy bed is a healthier bed

‘Pre-rinsing your dishes in the sink can easily waste more than 6,000 gallons of water per household each year,’ according to Consumer Reports.

You can try to do it more efficiently than the dishwasher, but…

“In order to wash the same amount of dishes that can fit in a single load of a full size dishwasher and use less water, you would need to be able to wash eight full place settings and still limit the total amount of time that the faucet was running to less than two minutes,” Jonah Schein, a technical coordinator in the EPA’s WaterSense program, told The Washington Post

Washing dishes by hand doesn’t make them cleaner

The sponge you use to wash dishes by hand is probably really dirty. In fact, it’s likely dirtier than your toilet seat. Sponges get wet, stay wet and collect bacteria. One survey that studied kitchen sponges and dish towels found that 10% of them contained Salmonella. To clean a sponge, just throw it in the microwave for 30 seconds.
Even without all those dirty dishes piled in it, your kitchen sink likely isn’t very clean either. “There’s more E. coli in a kitchen sink than in a toilet after you flush it,” according to Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

‘The sink is a great place for E. coli to live and grow since it’s wet and moist. Bacteria feed on the food that people put down the drain and what’s left on dishes in the sink. That’s probably why dogs drink out of the toilet—because there’s less E. coli in it.”

New rules for loading newer dishwashers

You have a dishwasher for a reason.


When you wash dishes by hand, you probably use lukewarm water — so you don’t burn your hands off — which is understandable. But when you do that, you aren’t really cleaning much. Our hands can’t take the heat required to truly clean dishes to the point of being bacteria free. Dishwashers use water that’s around 140 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

And when it comes to loading the dishwasher, Consumer Reports has some new guidelines to help you get the most out of your washer:

  • Read the manual for tips specific to your dishwasher’s model. Really, this is important, since the setup of racks and location of water jets differs across brands and models.
  • Glasses go on the prongs, which tilts them at an angle and keeps water out of many glasses with concave bases.
  • Scrape big food chunks off, but don’t pre-rinse — that just wastes water.
  • Instead of pre-rinsing, run the water in your kitchen faucet until it becomes hot before starting the dishwasher, to make sure the water doesn’t start flowing in while cold.
  • Put the heaviest and most soiled items on the bottom rack, keeping them in range of the spray arm. Arrange pots, pans, and plates however your dishwasher’s manual tells you to. If you’re a renter and don’t have the manual, you may be able to find it on the manufacturer’s website, or from a third party somewhere online.

Get more of the latest dishwasher tips from Consumer Reports here.

If you don’t have a dishwasher…

There are ways to making hand-washing the dishes a cleaner and more eco-friendly process.

First, clean the sink. “Clean the sink basin with a disinfectant product made for the kitchen,’ says Dr. Gerba. ‘Vinegar and lemon juice can clean some bacteria, but they can’t clean really bad pathogens, so the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t recommend using them as an alternative.”

And if you want to reduce the amount of water used, here are some ways to make hand-washing more eco-friendly.

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