I often think about ways I can reduce my environmental impact in everyday life. One area I’ve focused on is cutting down on excess water usage when hand washing dishes. With a few simple tricks and habit changes, I’ve significantly reduced the amount of water I use for this daily task. In this article, I’ll share everything I’ve learned on how to hand wash dishes while conserving water.
Assess Your Current Dish Washing Habits
Before making any changes, take a moment to observe your current dish washing routine. Here are some questions to reflect on:
- How long do I leave the faucet running while washing each item?
- What is my process for washing plates, bowls, cups, pots and pans? Do I pre-rinse everything?
- How full is my sink with water while I wash? Do I wash in standing water or let it drain out?
- Do I hand wash first and then run dishes through the dishwasher? Or vice versa?
- When rinsing, do I let the water run continuously over each dish?
Simply being mindful of your current habits will help identify areas where you may be waste water unnecessarily.
Optimize Your Process
Here are some tips to optimize your process for using less water:
Only Fill the Sink Halfway
- When filling up your sink to wash dishes, only fill it halfway rather than all the way to the top. This uses less water to begin with.
- If you wash in standing water, be sure to drain out the dirty water and refill halfway through washing if needed.
- It’s usually unnecessary to pre-rinse dishes before washing, unless there are large food particles stuck on that need to soak.
- Let your dish soap and scrub brush do the work of removing food and grease during washing.
Wash Largest Items First
- Wash the largest items first when the wash water is cleanest. As you progress to smaller items, the water gets dirtier.
- Pots, pans, and plates have more surface area, so wash those first.
- Cups, utensils, and bowls can be washed later in the cycle.
Don’t Let Water Run Continuously
- When washing each individual item, only let water run as needed for rinsing.
- Turn off the faucet in between rinsing each dish item. This avoids wasted water just going down the drain continuously.
Re-Use Wash Water
- For multiple loads, instead of draining wash water after use, leave it in the sink and re-use it for the next load.
- Dump it out and refresh once it gets excessively dirty.
Upgrade Your Equipment
Investing in some simple equipment upgrades can also help reduce water waste:
Install a Low-Flow Faucet Aerator
- Aerating faucet nozzles introduce air into the water flow. This maintains pressure while reducing overall water volume.
- Low-flow aerators use around 1.5 gallons per minute compared to standard models at 2.2 GPM.
Get a Sink Divider
- A sink divider creates two sections in your sink basin.
- Wash dishes in one side, then move them to the rinse section to conserve water.
Use a Wash Basin
- Wash dishes in a separate basin placed in your sink rather than filling up the whole sink.
- Smaller containers require less water to fill up. Look for plastic basins, dish tubs, or bus bins.
Try a High Pressure Nozzle
- Attach a nozzle to your faucet that increases water pressure in a focused stream.
- This allows you to rinse dishes efficiently using less overall water. Look for pressure nozzles or sprayers.
Change Habits & Be Mindful
Changing a few habits around when and how you use water while washing makes the biggest difference. Here are some key mindset tips:
- Turn off faucet when not actively rinsing. Don’t let water run needlessly.
- Re-use wash water for multiple loads instead of draining after one use.
- Wash largest items first when wash water is cleanest.
- Be mindful of letting water run while scrubbing dishes. Shut off between rinses.
- Don’t pre-rinse unless absolutely necessary. Let soap do the work.
With some adjustments to equipment, process, and habits, I’ve been able to cut my dish washing water usage dramatically. Try out some of these tips to reduce your environmental impact from this daily necessity. Small changes add up for big water savings over time.