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How Much Water Does a Dishwasher Use? Facts & FAQ

built in dishwasher in the kitchen

The dishwasher is one of the largest appliances in the kitchen. There is no doubting its labor-saving capabilities. It is much easier, quicker, and more convenient to stack dishes in the dishwasher than it is to wash them by hand. However, it does use power to warm the water and to pump the water around the dishwasher, and it obviously uses water to clean your pots and pans, but how much water does a dishwasher use?

Generally, the amount of water one uses depends on the age and size of the dishwasher in question, the year it was manufactured, and the cycle or program you use. Newer dishwashers use between 3–5 gallons of water, while older models can use 10 gallons or more. Read on for more information on dishwashers’ water consumption levels and how it compares to other items around the house.

Divider 2 How Does a Dishwasher Work?

Water is taken from the main supply before being heated by an internal heater. A detergent is released into the washer at a set time and the mixture of soapy water is sprayed on the dishes via a rotating arm. The dirty water is then drained away.

woman using dishwasher
Image Credit: More Than Production, Shutterstock

How Much Water Does a Dishwasher Use?

There are actually federal limits placed on the amount of water that dishwashers can use in the US. For those appliances manufactured after 2013, standard-sized appliances can use a maximum of 5 gallons per cycle, while compact units can only use a maximum of 3.5 gallons. Energy Star dishwashers can use a maximum of 3.5 gallons if they are a standard size, and a maximum of 3.1 gallons if it is a compact dishwasher. Most manufacturers stick close to these limits, so a modern dishwasher uses anywhere between 3–5 gallons of water per cycle.

Prior to 2013, there were no limitations on the amount of water that could be used per cycle, and there are no laws prohibiting the use of older dishwashers. Old models could typically use anywhere up to 10–15 gallons of water per cycle.

Dishwasher Water Usage Compared to Other Appliances and Fittings

Appliance Water Usage
Dishwasher 4 gallons
Washing Machine 19 gallons
Toilet Flush 1.6 gallons
Bath 30 gallons
Shower 20 gallons

Dishwashers typically use around 4 gallons of water per cycle. This might sound a lot, but it is less than it usually takes to wash the same dishes by hand, and it uses considerably less water than it takes to wash your clothes or yourself. It is roughly equivalent to two and a half flushes of the toilet.

dishwasher in the kitchen_onlynoodle_Pixabay
Image Credit: onlynoodle, Pixabay

Is It Cheaper to Hand Wash or Use a Dishwasher?

Surprisingly, the dishwasher uses less water than it takes to hand wash dishes, although it does depend on the number of dishes and how dirty they are. To wash the equivalent of a full dishwasher load, it takes an average of between 10–30 gallons of water to wash by hand.

However, when it comes to the financial cost, a dishwasher not only uses water, but also uses electricity. However, according to reports, as long as you do not rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, and only remove scraps of food from the plates, it is cheaper to run a dishwasher than to wash dishes by hand.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, using an Energy Star-certified dishwasher can save you as much as $465 per year in heat and water costs.

Should You Rinse Dishes Before Putting Them in The Dishwasher?

There’s no need to fully rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, and doing so increases your water consumption. You should remove bits of food debris, however, by wiping or clearing them off.

open dishwasher door
Image Credit: Leszek Glasner, Shutterstock

Does Economy Mode Save Water?

Different dishwasher cycles use different amounts of heat, water, and time. The economy mode actually runs for longer than the standard and other modes, but because the water and detergent come into contact with the dishes for longer, it means that the water doesn’t have to be heated to as high a temperature and the appliance can use less water. The exact differences depend on the dishwasher itself, however, and some may use as much or nearly as much water, offering savings in energy instead.

How Much Electricity Does a Dishwasher Use?

The amount of energy used by your dishwasher depends on the age and model of the machine, as well as the cycle or program that you run it on. Generally, a dishwasher will use between 600 watts and 2.5 kilowatts of energy, with an average of 1.17 kilowatt hours per cycle. A standard household will use 21 kilowatts of energy per month and just over 250 kilowatts of energy per year running their dishwasher.

Divider 2 Conclusion

Dishwashers are more energy and water efficient than washing dishes by hand. The exact amount of water used depends on the type of dishwasher, when it was manufactured, as well as the cycle that you use to wash dishes. However, modern dishwashers use between 3–5 gallons of water per cycle.


Featured Image Credit: More Than Production, Shutterstock

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