How Much Water Does an Energy Star Dishwasher Use?

Matt Marandola
Written by Matt Marandola
Updated December 14, 2022
A smiling woman keeping plates in dishwasher
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  • Energy Star dishwashers, as of 2013, currently use around three to five gallons of water per cycle.

  • Handwashing your dishes may use upwards of 30 gallons per load.

  • Older dishwashers built before 1994 may use upwards of 10 gallons per load.

  • A properly maintained dishwasher should last around 10 years on average.

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Whether you’re tired of washing dishes by hand or looking to decrease the amount of water you use to clean dishes, switching over to an Energy Star dishwasher will save you money and water. The average Energy Star dishwasher uses around 3 to 5 gallons to get those dishes and cups nice and sparkly.

How Much Water Do You Save by Using an Energy Star Dishwasher?

An open dishwasher with clean dishes
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Energy Star dishwasher water usage is much lower than other models because they are more efficient at cleaning dishes and glasses than handwashing and older dishwashers. The model you are replacing will depend on how much water you’re truly saving.

Energy Star Dishwasher Water Usage vs. Hand Washing

Handwashing a full load of dishes (we’re talking multiple plates, pots, pans, bowls, utensils, and glasses) may take upwards of 30 gallons to clean fully. This doesn’t count the extra water you might need to scrub those stubborn food pieces.

Compare this to an Energy Star dishwasher, which will use around 5 gallons (or less depending on the brand you choose) to clean up the entire load, and you’re looking at roughly 1/6th of the water usage. This can equate to anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 gallons per year.

Energy Star Dishwasher Water Usage vs. Older Dishwasher

An older dishwasher is likely still a better option than hand washing. An older dishwasher (built before 1994) may use around 10 gallons per load, a third of the water usage compared to hand washing. However, an Energy Star dishwasher will still use half of the water as an older dishwasher.

An Energy Star dishwasher will likely save you around 2,000 to 4,000 gallons of water per year compared to an older model.

Dishwashing water usage comparison, with Energy Star dishwashers using around 5 gallons of water

Should You Rinse Dishes Before Putting Them in the Dishwasher?

Rinsing your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher may waste as much as 6,000 gallons of water every year. New Energy Star dishwashers have sensors to detect the soil level of the dishes. This will help the dishwasher determine how powerful the jets of water need to be and how long they need to run.

How to Save Water When Washing Dishes

If you want to save water when washing dishes, consider scraping the food into the trash can rather than spraying it down in the sink. Also, look for different scrubbing tools to match the correct dish to speed up the process.

Should You Replace Your Current Dishwasher With an Energy Star Option?

A proper lifespan for a dishwasher is anywhere from 9 to 12 years, depending on usage and maintenance cycles. If your dishwasher was built before 1994, an upgrade could drastically decrease your water usage. Even if you bought your dishwasher in 2013 when the new guidelines took effect, you still might want to look through a dishwasher buying guide to determine what your next one will be.

How to Increase the Lifespan of a Dishwasher

To increase the lifespan of your dishwasher, ensure you’re giving it a deep clean every month or two. This includes scrubbing any stains and checking the filter for any build-up. We recommend wearing gloves to avoid touching anything unpleasant.

You could also treat hard water by using a water treatment tablet and running an empty cycle. Removing hard water may help eliminate hard water stains on your dishes.

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