It’s common knowledge that using the dishwasher is more eco-friendly (and wallet-friendly) than washing dishes by hand.
But, most people have no idea how much water their dishwasher uses per cycle, or how that compares to other household appliances.
In this guide, I provide 25 real examples showing you how much water dishwashers actually use per cycle.
Plus, I show you how much the water usage varies by cycle type.
By the end of this guide, you’ll learn:
- How much water dishwashers use on average
- What factors have the most significant impact on water usage
- How water usage varies by cycle
- Which brands make the most water-efficient dishwashers
- How dishwasher water usage compares to other household appliances and systems
- And how to minimize dishwasher water usage
Let’s get right into it!
Use the links below to navigate this guide:
- How Much Water Do Dishwashers Use? The Short Answer
- Actual Water Usage of 25 Popular Dishwashers
- Dishwasher Water Usage by Brand
- Dishwasher Water Usage by Cycle Type
- Factors Impacting Water Usage
- Dishwasher Water Usage in Context
- Dishwasher vs. Hand Washing
- How to Reduce Dishwasher Water Usage
How Much Water Do Dishwashers Use? The Short Answer
So, how much water does a dishwasher use?
On average, standard-size dishwashers use 4.2 gallons of water per cycle, and compact dishwashers use 3.5 gallons per cycle.
According to EnergyStar.gov, dishwashers that earn the ENERGY STAR label are even more efficient.
Standard-size ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers use an average of 3.2 gallons of water per cycle, and compact models use an average of 2.7 gallons per cycle.
Actual Water Usage of 25 Popular Dishwashers
Now that you know how much water dishwashers use on average, let’s get into some real examples.
In the chart below, you’ll find 25 of the most popular dishwashers compared by water usage and type.
A few things to note about the data in the chart:
- ENERGY STAR keeps a database of hundreds of dishwasher models, and the information below is a sampling of that more extensive database.
- All of the dishwashers in the chart are ENERGY STAR certified and manufactured since 2015.
- Water Usage is based on one normal cycle under typical conditions. As you’ll see in this upcoming section, the actual water usage varies significantly by cycle type.
|Dishwasher Brand/Model||Type/Size||Water Usage (gallons/cycle)|
|Beko DDT38530** WS||Standard||3.0|
|Fisher & Paykel 81220||Compact||1.6
|Fisher & Paykel DD24SCT*9||Compact||1.8
|Magic Chef MCSCD6B5||Compact||3.1
Dishwasher Water Usage by Brand
According to the ENERGY STAR database, the most water-efficient dishwasher brands are Viking, Beko, and Electrolux.
When comparing standard-size models, Viking dishwashers use an average of 2.58 gallons per cycle, Beko dishwashers use 2.59 gallons per cycle, and Electrolux dishwashers use 2.65 gallons per cycle.
Here’s how the top 15 brands stack up in terms of water usage (standard-size dishwashers only):
|Dishwasher Brand||Water Usage (gallons/cycle)|
|Signature Kitchen Suite||2.77|
Dishwasher Water Usage by Cycle Type
One of the most significant factors impacting how much water a dishwasher uses is the cycle type.
For example, a rinse cycle can use as little as 1 gallon of water, while a heavy-wash cycle can use up to 9 gallons.
Most new dishwasher models have sensors that monitor the level of soil in the unit during the wash cycle.
So, the wash time and water usage, may not be the same for every load, even when you choose the same cycle.
Additionally, new dishwashers often have several optional add-ons, such as Sanitize, ExtraDry, and ExtraScrub, that can impact the amount of water used during the cycle.
To make this more real, I researched seven popular dishwashers to see how much water each cycle uses.
Here’s what I found:
KitchenAid Top Control Built-In Tall Tub Dishwasher (view on HomeDepot.com)
The KitchenAid consolidated user manual for this model states the following water usage per cycle:
- ProWash: 3.8 – 7.7 gallons
- Tough: 8.4 gallons
- Normal: 2.7 – 7.9 gallons
- Light: 2.7 – 7.9 gallons
- Express Wash: 6.2 gallons
- Rinse Only: 2.4 gallons
- Download Specialty Cycle: Variable up to 7.87 gallons
- Sani Wash (cycle add-on): 1.2 – 6.2 gallons
- Hi-Temp Wash (cycle add-on): 0 – 3 gallons
Frigidaire Built-In Tall Tub Top Control Dishwasher (view on HomeDepot.com)
The Frigidaire consolidated user manual for this model states the following water usage per cycle:
- Heavy Wash: 7 – 9 gallons
- Normal Wash: 4 – 7 gallons
- Top Rack: 4 gallons
- Rinse Only: 2 gallons
Whirlpool Top Control Tall Tub Built-In Dishwasher (view on HomeDepot.com)
The Whirlpool consolidated user manual for this model states the following water usage per cycle:
- Sensor: 3.38 – 7.4 gallons
- Heavy: 7.4 gallons
- Normal: 2.4 – 7.4 gallons
- 1-Hour Wash: 7.87 gallons
- Soak & Clean: 7.4 gallons
- Hi Temp Wash (cycle add-on): 0 – 3.86 gallons
- Sani Rinse (cycle add-on): 0 – 3.86 gallons
Maytag Front Control Built-In Tall Tub Dishwasher (view on HomeDepot.com)
The Maytag consolidated user manual for this model states the following water usage per cycle:
- PowerBlast: 9 gallons
- Auto: 4.5 – 6.9 gallons
- Normal: 3 – 7.4 gallons
- Light: 3 – 7.4 gallons
- Quick: 5.5 gallons
- Rinse: 1.3 gallons
- High Temp (cycle add-on): 0 – 3.3 gallons
- Sanitize (cycle add-on): 0 – 3.7 gallons
Bosch 300 Series Front Control Tall Tub Dishwasher (view on HomeDepot.com)
The Bosch consolidated user manual for this model states the following water usage per cycle:
- Heavy: 4.9 – 6.4 gallons
- Auto: 3.4 – 6.4 gallons
- Normal: 2.3 – 5.5 gallons
- Speed60: 3.8 gallons
- Rinse: 1.1 gallons
- Half Load Heavy: 4.7 gallons
- Half Load Auto: 2.7 – 4.4 gallons
- Half Load Normal: 2.8 – 3.7 gallons
- Sanitize Heavy: 4.9 – 6.4 gallons
- Sanitize Auto: 3.4 – 6.4 gallons
- Sanitize Normal: 2.3 – 5.5 gallons
- Extra Dry Heavy: 4.9 – 6.4 gallons
- Extra Dry Auto: 3.5 – 6.5 gallons
- Extra Dry Normal: 2.4 – 5.5 gallons
- Extra Dry Speed60: 3.8 gallons
LG Front Control Built-In Tall Tub Dishwasher (view on HomeDepot.com)
The LG consolidated user manual for this non-steam model states the following water usage per cycle:
- Auto: 3.6 – 5.9 gallons
- Heavy: 5.4 gallons
- Delicate: 5.2 gallons
- Normal: 2.4 – 5.2 gallons
- Turbo: 7.3 gallons
- Express: 4.5 gallons
- Rinse: 1.8 gallons
- Machine Clean: 3.2 gallons
Samsung Front Control Dishwasher (view on HomeDepot.com)
The Samsung consolidated user manual for this model states the following water usage per cycle:
- Auto: 3 – 6 gallons
- Normal: 3 – 6 gallons
- Heavy: 7.3 gallons
- Express: 4 gallons
Factors Impacting Water Usage
When running a dishwasher cycle, several factors will impact water usage.
Some are directly related to the appliance, and others are more about the efficiency of your plumbing and the water pressure in your home.
The amount of food debris on your dishes will matter as well, as you’ll need to run a more aggressive cycle to produce clean dishes.
Let’s break down some common scenarios that can affect the amount of water used before (pre-rinse) or during a cycle.
In partnership with manufacturers and energy efficiency advocates, the U.S. Department of Energy established a standard that all standard-size dishwashers manufactured on or after May 30, 2013, will not exceed 5 gallons per cycle (3.5 gallons for compact dishwashers).
So, when you’re evaluating the water-efficiency of a dishwasher, a general rule-of-thumb is that dishwashers built after May of 2013 are more efficient than dishwashers built before that date.
Before DOE set this new standard, water usage varied significantly. Back then, the average dishwasher used 10 gallons per cycle, but some wasted even more.
New dishwashers models come with cycles such as “half-load” and “rinse-only” that are incredibly water-efficient.
But, as you learned in the previous section, not all dishwasher cycles use less water.
If you use cycles such as high-temperature, heated-drying, or sanitize, you are adding even more time (and more water) to the dishwashing process.
A dishwasher is designed to not only remove varying degrees of food debris but also to process the excess just as a garbage disposal would. Yet, many people do a full re-rinse of all dishes before placing them in the dishwasher.
Many times, a simple wiping or scraping of a plate or dish is sufficient. Allowing the kitchen sink faucet to continuously run while rinsing all dishes can contribute significantly to water use.
For example, according to federal standards, the maximum flow rate of a kitchen faucet is 2.2 gallons per minute. Imagine running your faucet for just five minutes straight to pre-rinse—that would be 11 gallons of water used even before you start the dishwasher cycle.
On the flip side, if your dishes are especially soiled, you may opt for a longer cycle. As you know, these extended, intense cycles end up using more water.
So, you have to strike a balance. Perhaps you run a longer cycle occasionally when the dishes are filthy, but don’t fall into the trap of using those cycles for every load.
Instead, opt for regular or auto cycles most of the time.
Plumbing Issues and Water Temperature
How is your water pressure? Are your pipes allowing water to run freely? Have you checked your water heater to see if it is set at the right maximum temperature?
The ideal temperature for cleaning dishes is 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
You may want to run your kitchen faucet on hot for a few minutes before starting your cycle. It will help to heat your water more efficiently and prevent your appliance from running longer to heat the water properly, which could, in turn, reduce the water use.
Dishwasher Water Usage in Context
You may be surprised to find that a dishwasher uses less water than some of your other household appliances or systems.
To give you an idea of water usage among common fixtures and appliances you use daily, take a look at this breakdown:
Toilet: Older conventional toilets can use up to 7 gallons per flush. Low flow toilets can use as little as 1.6 gallons per flush. On average, a person flashes five times a day, so that could be anywhere from 8 to 35 gallons of water usage by just one person, daily.
Shower: Regular shower heads usually have a flow rate of 5 gallons per minute, so a 10-minute shower can use 50 gallons of water. If you install a low flow showerhead, you can cut the flow rate in half to 25 gallons of water in that same scenario.
Bath: The average bath uses 35 to 50 gallons of water.
Kitchen/Bathroom Sink: The average sink flow rate is 2.2 gallons per minute. If you allow it to run for 20 minutes a day between washing hands, rinsing dishes, or watering plants, it is easy to see how you can use 40 or more gallons of water a day. Just like toilets and showers, you can install a low flow faucet and save on water usage.
Washing Machine: On average, washing machines use 19 gallons of water per load, but some older models (10 years or older) may use up to 40 gallons. Newer, ENERGY STAR certified models use an average of 14 gallons per load.
Sprinkler System: Running a sprinkler for one hour a day, three times a week, can use up to 12,240 gallons of water per month.
When you consider how much water you are using daily, running a dishwasher cycle starts to seem negligible. But, those cycles add up over a year, and they really add up over your lifetime.
Dishwasher vs. Hand Washing
If you think you are saving money and water usage by hand washing, consider that you can use up to 27 gallons per load doing it by hand. By contrast, using an ENERGY STAR-rated dishwasher could do the same job with as little as 3 gallons of water.
Dishwashers simply use less water, especially when you wash full loads and skip the pre-rinse by hand.
According to Consumer Reports, you can waste 20 gallons or more per pre-rinse session. If you do that daily, that’s over 7,300 gallons a year down the drain.
And, get this: newer washers with food sensor technology may cut wash cycles short because it’s not detecting food particles, resulting in dirty dishes once the cycle is complete, causing you to rerun the cycle.
The magic of a dishwasher can only unfold when you put in dirty dishes. Think of it as an automatic car wash with a magnetic attraction to dirt.
It works by filling with water, heating that water, and blasting dishes with hot water and detergents. The soiled water drips back down where it is filtered, reheated, and sent right back into the spray arms for rinsing.
In other words, unlike handwashing, dishwashers recycle most of the water, saving you water…and money.
How to Reduce Dishwasher Water Usage
Looking to cut down on dishwasher water usage and save a few bucks? This is what you can do:
Upgrade to a more energy and water-efficient model: Look for ENERGY STAR or WaterSense appliances, which can save 12% more energy and 30% more water than standard dishwashers.
These models undergo rigorous testing and are certified to meet a certain threshold of efficiency. Currently, to be considered for the ENERGY STAR label, dishwashers need to use 3.5 gallons of water per cycle or less (3.1 gallons per cycle for compact models).
Only wash full loads: Running a half-empty dishwasher will not save water. Your appliance will still use the same amount of water, whether it is full or not. Get more bang for your buck by loading it to capacity.
Select water-efficient cycles: Many newer models have cycles that are designed to do more with less water. Read your owner’s use and care manual to learn about those cycles and to confirm how much water they actually save.
Don’t load almost-clean dishes: This is an especially important tip for dishwashers with food sensor technology. If the washer doesn’t detect enough food debris, it will be tricked into assuming dishes are clean and will automatically shorten the cycle. Unfortunately, that will mean your dishes are not completely clean. To get the best results, load dirty dishes into the machine and give your dishwasher something to clean!
Ensure correct water pressure: This may require an expert, especially if you don’t have a visible water gauge on the water line that feeds your dishwasher. Refer to your user manual or the appliance sticker usually located on the door to discover the right water pressure psi (pounds per square inch). Dishwashers can require 20 psi or more depending on the model.
Clean your dishwasher monthly: Regular maintenance will keep your dishwasher running as efficiently as possible.
Are you looking for ways to save on your water and sewer bill? Check out these 30 practical ways to save water and lower your household expenses.
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