How to Use Less Water When Hand Washing Dishes

How to Use Less Water When Hand Washing Dishes

How to Use Less Water When Hand Washing Dishes

Hand washing dishes can use a significant amount of water. Here are some tips to help you conserve water when washing dishes by hand:

Turn Off the Faucet While You Scrub

The easiest way to save water is to turn off the faucet while you scrub each dish. I simply turn the water on to rinse, and turn it off again while I scrub the dish with a sponge or cloth. This avoids wasting water as it runs continuously from the tap.

I find this is the most effective way to reduce water usage, yet still have enough water to clean each dish thoroughly. It just requires developing the habit of turning the faucet on and off.

Use a Basin or Plug the Sink

Another way to conserve water is to fill up a basin, tub or plug the sink to wash the dishes in standing water. Add a small amount of hot water, detergent and let the dishes soak. Then use the soapy water to scrub the dishes.

The key with this method is to use the least amount of water needed to soak and wash the dishes. Be sure to drain and refill with fresh water if needed. This allows me to reuse wash water instead of letting it all go down the drain.

Scrape Dishes Before Washing

It’s important to scrape food scraps off dishes before washing them. This prevents particles from washing down the drain which can lead to clogged pipes.

Scraping also allows me to remove stubborn baked-on food with minimal water. A spatula, gentle brush or damp cloth can be used to wipe away leftover food bits. Starting with cleaner dishes means I can use less water to wash them.

Use a High-Efficiency Dish Spray

A dish sprayer attached to the sink makes rinsing more water-efficient. The pressurized spray rinses off soap suds using less water compared to running the faucet.

Look for a dish sprayer that has an aerator or flow restrictor to reduce the water flow even more. Also be sure to turn off the sprayer while scrubbing each dish to save water.

Wash Full Loads

It’s best to wash full loads of dishes to maximize the amount of dishes cleaned per gallon of water used. Avoid washing just a few dishes multiple times per day.

I let my dirty dishes accumulate in the sink or dish rack until there is a full load. This improves the ratio of dishes to water consumed.

Washing fuller loads also reduces how often I have to run the dishwasher, which uses even more water per wash. So filling the dish rack enables me to hand wash less frequently.

Use a Water-Efficient Dish Detergent

Look for dish soaps labeled as ultra-concentrated or high-efficiency. These are formulated to cut grease and clean dishes using less water.

I find that only a small squirt of these detergents makes plenty of suds to clean a full sink of dishes. They allow me to wash dishes thoroughly with less water compared to regular detergents.

Install Low-Flow Aerators

A simple way to use less water at the tap is to install low-flow aerators on the kitchen faucet. Aerators mix air into the water flow to maintain pressure while reducing overall water usage.

For the kitchen, look for an aerator that flows around 1.5 gallons per minute (GPM) or less. Newer water-efficient aerators can reduce flow to around 1 GPM without sacrificing water pressure.

Consider Hand Washing Technique

Proper hand washing technique can also decrease water usage:

  • Position dishes to minimize splashing and wasted water.
  • Hand wash from the least dirty to most dirty dishes.
  • Soak burnt-on food before scrubbing to avoid lengthy rinsing.
  • Be efficient when rinsing to remove soap with minimal water.
  • Set dishes in a rack to air dry rather than rinsing repeatedly.

Focusing on washing efficiently can reduce wasted water from suboptimal technique.

Upgrade Old Inefficient Fixtures

Finally, replacing an old kitchen faucet with a new water-efficient model can make a big difference. New faucets often use around 30% less water than outdated models.

Look for faucets with aerators, flow restrictors and limited flow rates to conserve the most water. WaterSense labeled models will use at least 20% less water than standard faucets.


With a few simple habits and upgrades, it’s possible to conserve a lot of water when hand washing dishes. The key is using the least amount of water needed to clean effectively. Focus on turning off the tap while scrubbing, soaking dishes beforehand, and only washing full loads. Investing in water-efficient tools like sprayers, dish soap and faucet aerators can also significantly reduce water usage. Using these tips has allowed me to cut my dish washing water usage nearly in half!