I just got back from my annual trip to Yellowstone with a long-time friend that has a family “cabin” on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. It is not like we were roughing it or camping outdoors, it is actually a house with indoor plumbing, electricity, spring sourced running water that can also be heated for showers, and a Playstation 2 to enjoy a game of Katamari. The only thing this place didn’t have was a dishwasher. That got me thinking that all my domiciles have been equipped with a dishwasher. From my childhood home to previous apartments to my old condo and current apartment, they are all equipped with a dishwasher and it is consistently utilized.
What this trip has taught me is that washing dishes by hand is not that bad at all, which is especially surprising coming from my dishwasher-dependent background. I decided that after returning from my trip this year, I will try and live for 1 week dishwasher-independent, not turning on the Kenmore. I will explore the pros and cons on both sides of the dish washing aisle. I will attempt to compare the amount of water used and ultimately identify what is more environmentally friendly in the long run for my habits, yours will vary.
Lets take a look at what surprises lurk in your dish washing detergent:
- Phosphates: Water softening mineral that can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. It can also cause skin irritation. Phosphates are not good to drain into oceans, lakes and rivers because it acts like a fertilizer causing overgrowth of algae, depleting the water’s oxygen supply and resulting in the killing off of fish and other organisms
- Chlorine: May cause skin irritation and redness. Its fumes can irritate eyes, nose and airways, and it can be fatal if swallowed. If combined with other cleaners that contain ammonia it can cause toxic gases to form. It is also bad for the environment. Chlorine bleach combines with carbon molecules, creating harmful organochlorines such as dioxin. Dioxin is a known carcinogen.
My “eco” dish washing detergent is “friendly to lakes and streams” since it is phosphate-free, but it still contains chlorine. Here is a list of dishwasher detergents that identifies those products with chlorine and/or phosphates and those without.
Is it more environmentally friendly to hand wash or to dish wash? That is the real question I would like to answer with this exercise. Here is one opinion floating around the “Internets” along with some tips below on hand washing and using your dishwasher:
Tips for hand washing:
- Wash right away so less food sticks
- Scrape dishes clean into trash or compost, but don’t pre-rinse with water
- Fill 2 sinks with water: one soapy warm and another with cold to rinse
- Capture water and use for watering plants or toilet flushing
Tips for dishwasher use:
- Run the dishwasher only when it’s full (but not over-full)
- Scrape dishes clean but don’t pre-rinse under the tap,
- Always air dry
- Follow the manufacturer’s advice for getting the most efficiency out of the machine.
How to videos from semi-professional dishwashers:
How do you clean your dishes? Do you have any tips for a newbie hand washer?
– GreenUp! Guy