Washing up yourself is good for the soul

A dishwasher stacked with cups and plates. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I have to take issue with Jo Steranka (How you can do your bit in the war against climate change, Letters, 18 October). Dishwashers are typically much more efficient than hand washing in terms of energy and water consumption. Research carried out by Christian Paul Richter (Usage of dishwashers: observation of consumer habits in the domestic environment, International Journal of Consumer Studies, 2011) on 200 households in Germany, Italy, Sweden and Britain, found that households with a dishwasher used on average 50% less water and 28% less energy per cleaned item than households that didn’t own a dishwasher. Even so, a higher degree of sustainability was identified because 20% of dishwasher cycles were not fully utilised and 52% operated at a temperature that was higher than necessary.

Furthermore, Jo Steranka states that “opinion pieces don’t help if they don’t offer practical solutions”; er, has she tried digging up a paved garden? Getting around a city (that isn’t London) without a car? Not buying new clothes until the old ones wear out? Get real, Jo! (Although I do agree about buying local produce and turning off the lights at bedtime – are there people who don’t?)

Finally, let’s put the blame where it really belongs: the fossil fuel industry, big energy companies, the City and their mates in parliament who give us warm words and sympathy whilst blocking any real progress on climate change.
Eric Banks
Huntsham, Devon

• Colin Ferguson’s defence of the dishwasher (Letters, 19 October) is misguided. Washing by hand uses less water if you use a washing-up bowl. A dishwasher only does better if one washes under a running tap. But he makes the common mistake of treating flow, not stock. A dishwasher embodies significant energy and raw materials, and needs to be disposed of and replaced. Life cycle analysis figures have been used to justify dishwashers, but these usually assume that hand washing is done under a hot tap run at full blast for a prolonged period, and completely ignore the environmental impact of the electronic and plastic components.
Clare Hay

• Once built and installed, a dishwasher may well use much less energy and water than washing by hand, but how does it compare when the extraction of raw materials, the making and assembling of its component parts, and delivery into the home are taken into account?
Michael Robinson
Berkhamsted, Hertforshire

• Please can someone explain to me how washing up by hand (one bowl of hot water, dishes washed in order of cleanliness, obviously, possibly another bowl for extra dirty saucepans, after soaking) can ever use more water and energy than a dishwasher, which swishes around for an hour or so, at temperatures that make contents too hot to handle when finished? I cannot understand the comparison. But then I am a devoted hand washer-up. It’s good for the soul, all that thinking and observing the back garden!
Frances Middleton
Honingham, Norfolk

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