This is the second in a series of 10 posts on modern conveniences that we don’t choose to use. We do not intend to criticize, only to explain why we have chosen a different path.
I get satisfaction from working with my hands without relying on a machine. Washing dishes can be an exercise in mindfulness, or it can be an opportunity to listen to music. (We have a rule that whoever does the dishes chooses the music.) I wear latex gloves to protect my hands, and have developed a routine of turning off the water when I’ve finished rinsing a plate and turning it on again to wash the next one (as shown in photo below). The whole process usually takes me between 10 and 15 minutes.
I used a dishwasher during a two-day visit to a friend’s house last week, but felt no covetousness. It didn’t seem to me that the task took any less time than washing by hand, as each plate or utensil still had to be individually handled. I had to ask several times which pieces shouldn’t go in the dishwasher (good knives, cast iron, wooden spoons, non-stick pots, cans, etc.) and when I was done I had to listen to the drone of the machine.
In addition to an average of six gallons of water per cycle, dishwashers use between 87 and 159 kilowatt-hours of electricity, releasing between 1.16 and 2.13 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per load, according to one estimate. And that’s not counting the energy it took to manufacture the machine or to ultimately dispose of it.
The average dishwasher costs $500 and lasts 10 years. With an average of 215 loads a year, costing 46 cents per load, that’s an estimated total cost of about $100 a year, $135 if you count the cost of the hot water. (Our hot water is heated by the sun.)
I read one estimate that you’re paying yourself only $3.80 an hour to wash dishes by hand rather than using an electric dishwasher, considering the differential in costs. But to me that’s a good deal if you find a way to enjoy what you’re doing.