California is in a drought. My dishwasher is on the fritz. While these two statements appear to have nothing in common on the surface, they certainly clashed in my mind and got me to wondering . . . .
Would it be better for our state's water situation (and help me to achieve the recommended 20% reduction of water consumption) by continuing to wash dishes by hand? *hmmm* Two people, three meals plus a snack or two each day - this usually takes me a day or a little more to fill the dishwasher. We have ample dishes and utensils to accommodate that. Still there is always a little something that requires hand washing. So as long as I'm hand washing, why not just do them all?
But that really didn't answer my question. So I did what any able-bodied woman of the 21st century would do - I consulted Google. It seems that the answer is: whatever you want it to be.
I found a study conducted in Europe that clearly concludes that hand washing uses gallons and gallons more water per meal than a dishwasher. That study, however, makes it clear that the participants left water running in the sink the entire time they were washing dishes. Even while drying and putting away!
I found an article, published by the manufacturer of a major home appliance brand, that showed in no uncertain terms that a dish washing machine is far preferable to the drudgery that is hand washing. This article was quickly refuted as untrue in a rebuttal because it didn't take into account the cost savings from not buying that appliance in the first place.
The last article I read broke it down into actual cost per load of dishes, including buying the appliance, supplying and heating the water, and the electricity to run the dishwasher for a total cost of $3.80 per hour. The author concluded that time spent with her family while the dishwasher did the work was far more valuable than that paltry $3.80.
That's when I stopped reading and paused to reflect for just a moment. I spent time with my mom every day while doing the dishes. We did so after every meal. She washed. I dried. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I was allowed to wash. Even into adulthood, I could not be trusted to do a proper cleaning. So I dried. And as I dried, I thoroughly inspected every item hoping against hope that I would find a speck of something that would let me send it back to Mom for a re-wash. Those triumphs were rare, but I revelled each time.
There was a definite hierarchy to the order of things. Glasses and cups first. Next silverware went to the bottom of the sink while plates and bowls were cleaned. Up came the silverware, one piece at a time. Last but not least pots, pans and bake ware. As we neared that final round, I was quietly surveying what might take an extra long scrub to remove debris then begin my campaign to soak. Oh how I hated just standing there while Mom scrubbed and scrubbed with precision and dedication to detail like no other. Most attempts were futile, but we would both laugh heartily at my perseverance just the same.
I can say with all honesty that washing (or in my case drying) dishes has never been my favorite chore. I'm sure that for most of my teen years, my part was served up with plenty of eye rolls and heavy sighs. But now the memories of the time Mom and I spent in the kitchen warm my heart and bring a smile to my face.
I never did find the answer to my original question - will I conserve water with washing by hand or machine? What I have concluded is that time is our most precious commodity. Whether we spend it at leisure or in mundane tasks matters not, it's that we spent it together making memories with the ones we love most.