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Because You Asked

Because You Asked: Can I Stop Pre-Rinsing My Dishes?

By Recyclebank |

Let technology take care of the dirty dishes.


Dear Recyclebank,

I always pre-rinse my dishes before I put them in the dishwasher, but I wonder if this is wasting water. Can I stop pre-rinsing the dishes, and will it really save that much water?

-Diana C., Indian Harbor, FL

Dear Diana,

Unless your dishwasher is more than a decade old, pre-rinsing your dishes does waste water. Modern dishwashers are well-equipped to handle reasonable amounts of food residue, and scraping off the excess food (especially any solid particles like bones or meat) should be sufficient. Consumer Reports notes that most of the models it tests make quick work of even the tougher residues. It helps that many models use features like soil sensors and strategic dish rack design to improve cleaning power, even while reducing energy and water use.

MORE: Dish cleaners that are tough on residue, easy on the planet

Skipping the pre-rinsing can drastically reduce the amount of water used to get dishes clean. “Rinsing dishes can use up to 20 gallons of water before the dishes are even loaded,” according to ENERGY STAR, and “Hand washing your dishes costs $431 more in energy and water” than using an ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher. Why add the resource costs of hand washing on top of the comparatively low resource consumption of a dishwasher?

How do you reduce water-use when you do the dishes? Tell us in the comments below.

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  • aria c. 3 months ago
    I've been dish washing for years and only use electric when have guests over. Use a wide bowl that fits pots and plates easily- after release a slow stream of water for rinsing. Better yet have a lever pull faucet and no wasted water.
  • Barbara C. 3 months ago
    Today's dishwashers are a disgrace! My father told me that the ice cream shops back in 1938 had electric dishwashers that washed and sterilized dishes (when ice cream actually had fat content and was hard to wash properly, too!) in 10 minutes! He complained about our home dishwasher that takes 45 minutes just to wash ordinary dinner dishes. I hate the dishwasher--too noisy, takes too long, wastes water. I haven't used it in 20 years and would dearly love to yank it out of the kitchen so I could use that space for a cabinet, instead. I use much less water washing dishes by hand.
    • Steven C. 3 months ago
      Barbara, have you ever measured how much water you use to do a dishwasher load of dishes by hand? I did it a few times to get an idea. I plugged the sink with the stopper and did a full load. I used almost 3 times as much water when washing by hand. I made sure I had a full load of dishes in the dishwasher. I proceeded to wash the entire load by hand. When the sink became full, using a wet vacuum, I vacuumed the sink dry. I had to do this 3 times. After the dishes were done, I couldn't believe how much water I used. Just to make sure I got an accurate account I did this on 3 different occasions. Yes, the dishwasher is noisier but it is MORE water efficient. ALSO, don't use the heater to dry the dishes. I air dry mine.
    • Steven C. 3 months ago
      Also, if your dishes do have a lot of food left on them, just give them a quick wipe with paper towel. All my food scraps and paper towels then go into the woods in my backyard.
    • Laura L. 3 months ago
      I don't know how today's dishwashers could possibly be using less water and energy when they run for 60-90 minutes. Even when you turn the heated dry off they use water that is scalding hot the whole time and I can hear it spraying and spraying for 60 minutes. Besides reading the dishwasher brand's claim (and we know what a huge problem false advertising is today) how could you know how much water your dishwasher is using? I've only seen 1 efficient dishwasher in my life and it was a 1995 GE. I've worked in other people's homes for 18 years and I've yet to find any good dishwashers besides that one.
  • Carla N. 3 months ago
    A consumer rep at Kitchen Aid told warned me about pre-rinsing. She said current dishwasher detergents are very efficient cleaners; if the soap doesn't have grease and soil to work on, it will work OFF the finish on dishes and glasses!
  • Penny H. 3 months ago
    want to point out that the dish washing packs are wrapped in plastic. i always use the liquid or f....h. im trying to minimize the plastic in my life
    • lisa p. 3 months ago
      I've always wondered about that. I thought the film that keeps them together is made from a vegetable based gelatin which is why it melts away so quickly when it gets wet. Real Plastic doesn't melt away in to nothing. Thgis is a question for Recycle bank to answer. I DO know that the gel pacs work against the manufacturer's profits since it contains the EXACT amount needed and consumer groups have done studies that show most consumers "over pour" both liquids and powders in the washing machine and dishwasher. it's one reason that the Pods have become so expensive. it's not the convenience or the technology, it's to make up for the fact that if it were lig.quid, most consumers would over-pour. I use a product called Drops which have no added colors, dyes or scents. They are meant for baby clothes but they do well for my clothes and my delicates. My husband --- well, I use a stronger product on his because of the sweat, dirt and other stuff. I like Drops very much. I do keep a bottle of Arm & Hammer dye-free, fragrance free on hand for small loads so I don't waste an entire POD on a small load.
    • Laura L. 3 months ago
      I would never use Pod soap packs for anything. A friend was using them on her brand new stainless steel "top of the line" dishwasher and it kept leaking and breaking down, the repairman from the manufacturer said do not use the soap pods because they don't get broken down all the way and they clog the drain, also if you are going to use them NEVER put them in the spot where it says to put the soap, throw them in the bottom of the dishwasher loose so it has a better chance of dissolving and not going down the drain in chunks. This friend's dishes are constantly dirty after coming out of the dishwasher with pieces of food and residue stuck all over them, even the silverware. So I don't believe in the claims made by the dishwashers or the soap pod companies.
  • tommy b. 3 months ago
    Today
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