How Much Water Does a Dishwasher Use

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How much water a dishwasher uses is an important question to consider when deciding between hand washing dishes or using the dishwasher. On average, a typical dishwasher using the normal or standard cycle will use between 10-15 gallons of water to clean a full load of dishes. However, the exact how much water a dishwasher uses can vary significantly depending on factors like the dishwasher type and age, the cycle selected, and the size of the load. Different cycles will impact the dishwasher water consumption, and new energy-efficient dishwashers generally use less water than older models.

Factors Influencing Dishwasher Water Consumption

The factors influencing dishwasher water consumption start with the type and age of the appliance itself. Older dishwasher models that are ten years old or older will generally use more water than newer energy-efficient ones.

Dishwasher Type and Age:

Within the factor of dishwasher type and age, there are variations in water usage amounts. As mentioned, older dishwasher models from 10+ years ago typically use the most water, averaging around 15 gallons per cycle. Slightly newer models from 7-10 years ago often fall in the 12-14 gallon range. 

However, the newest energy-efficient dishwashers currently on the market have significantly cut down water usage due to water-saving technologies. Top-loading and front-loading Energy Star-certified dishwashers made since 2013 typically only consume 9-11 gallons per normal cycle. This shows the importance of upgrading to a new water-efficient model for lowering how much water a dishwasher uses.

Dishwasher Cycle Selection Water Usage:

Most dishwashers now include eco cycles or options that can help save water. Normal and heavy-duty cycles will consume the most water, often 12 gallons or more depending on the dishwasher model. In comparison, an eco or light cycle designed for partial loads usually requires under 10 gallons.

Even shorter “express” or “1-hour” cycles that clean just residuals still often use 8-10 gallons. Therefore, only running full loads and choosing eco or shorter cycles can significantly decrease water used during each wash. Matching the cycle to load size is an important tip for watchful water usage.

Load Size:

The size of the load being washed also influences the dishwasher use. Partial loads do not block spray efficiently to dishes in all sections as a full load does. As a result, additional water is often needed with a partial load to properly coat and rinse every item. It is typically recommended only to run the dishwasher during a full load to maximize water efficiency. 

For example, full loads often require 10-13 gallons on a normal cycle versus a half-load using 9-12 gallons. By avoiding single-item loads and being mindful of capacity, a person can better manage the water needs of their dishwasher wash after wash. Combining partial loads into full ones is a smart practice.

Water-Saving Features:

Dishwashers made in the last decade have incorporated several advanced water-saving technologies. Some key feature upgrades include water-sense certified models, ultra-low-flow spray arms, sensors that monitor soil levels and optimize rinse cycles, and hot water-boosting elements.  These directly aid in lowering how much water the dishwasher uses. Newer dishwashers with a water-sense label specifically guarantee less than 5.8 gallons of usage per normal cycle. 

Ultra-low-flow spray arms deliver water more precisely at a highly pressurized rate, slashing wasted discharge. Intelligent soil sensors identify partial and lightly soiled loads to tailor water levels accordingly. Many recent machines can also boost cold water temperature to a hotter degree, enhancing cleaning power while using less water overall.

Dishwasher vs Hand Washing Water Usage

When comparing typical dishwasher water usage to hand washing, dishwashers often come out as the more water-efficient option. Hand washing dishes can use around 27 gallons of water per load when accounting for initial rinsing, soaping, and final rinsing. This amount is more than double the water used by most energy-efficient dishwashers. 

Even older dishwasher models that require 13+ gallons still end up conserving water against hand washing. Only washing a few dishes at a time by hand may out-conserve some lightly soiled partial dishwasher loads. However, most full dishwasher cycles still provide water savings versus doing the same job manually. This makes running the dishwasher the recommended choice for both water and time when possible.

Practical Tips for Reducing Dishwasher Water Usage

  •  Every load should be run full instead of partial amounts.
  • Each dish should be scraped instead of rinsed under water before loading.
  • Every time possible, select the short water-saving cycles.
  • Filters should be cleaned after each use for maximum spray power.
  • Adjust the water level to the recommended amount if your owner’s manual allows it.
  • Carefully measure detergent amounts rather than dosing generously.
  • Run the light cycle rather than heavy for standard dish loads.
  • Consider upgrading dishwashers every 10-12 years for new water-conserving models.


In conclusion, this discussion addressed the main question of how much water a dishwasher uses by covering multiple influencing factors. On average, a standard load washed on a normal cycle will require 10-15 gallons, but this amount depends greatly on appliance specifications and settings. Newer energy-efficient dishwashers, shorter eco cycles, and full loads all contribute to lessened water usage.

 Comparatively, dishwashers also emerge as more water efficient overall than hand washing large amounts of dishes. Guided tips shared how small adjustments like tap pre-rinsing, model upgrades, and maintenance can help wring out even more savings. 

Hopefully exploring all the related topics provided insight into optimizing dishwasher water consumption both short and long-term for any home or business. Please advise if any part of this summary should be modified or expanded.