3 Benefits of Washing Dishes by Hand

Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.

Couple washing dishes by hand
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Want your dishes to sparkle? Consider sending your dishwasher out to pasture.

As it turns out, washing dishes by hand using a “two-basin method” gets your dishes cleaner and is more environmentally friendly than using a dishwasher, according to a study by the University of Michigan.

Originally published last year, the study found that “clean scores” for dishwasher machines range from 83 to 90. By contrast, the clean score for manual washing using best practices is 95. Best practices were defined as soaking and scrubbing dishes in a basin of hot water, rinsing them in a basin of cold water, and air-drying them.

A second reason to use the hand-wash method is that it significantly cuts greenhouse gas emissions, which are tied primarily to the energy used to heat the water, the University of Michigan says.

Recently, Consumer Reports picked up on the University of Michigan study and reported that the findings fall in line with CR’s own theory about washing dishes. Larry Ciufo, who is charge of dishwasher testing at CR, suggests the following hand-washing process:

  • Scrape off leftover food.
  • With a two-basin sink, fill one basin with hot water and a few squirts of dishwashing liquid. Fill the other basin with cool water. Use a plastic tub or bucket as your second basin if necessary.
  • Soak dirty dishes in the hot water before using a sponge to scrub them. Start with the least soiled items first, and be sure to keep knives out of the water, washing them individually for safety.
  • Remove the suds by dipping the item in clean water. Place clean dishes in a drying rack with enough space to let air circulate. Toweling off glassware and metal can prevent spotting and rusting.

Using the right technique is important when washing dishes by hand. The University of Michigan notes that its tests “demonstrate manual dishwashing has much more variability in the range of [clean] scores received while machines had less variability.”

In addition, the study authors say washing the dishes while keeping the tap running the entire time — another example of poor manual-washing technique — actually uses more energy and water than all other methods of dishwashing.

If cleaner dishware and a healthier planet are not reasons enough to cause you to turn off the dishwasher, consider this third benefit to washing by hand: A 2015 study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that families who washed dishes by hand have children who are less likely to be diagnosed with allergic diseases.

The study authors speculate that washing by hand “may induce tolerance via increased microbial exposure.”

For more on overlooked ways of cleaning, check out “17 Surprising Things You Can Clean in a Dishwasher.”

Get smarter with your money!

Want the best money-news and tips to help you make more and spend less? Then sign up for the free Money Talks Newsletter to receive daily updates of personal finance news and advice, delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our free newsletter today.