How much does it cost to run a dishwasher? Experts reveal if it is actually cheaper than washing by hand

Experts explain how to work out the cost of running your dishwasher as we all look to save money at home

A partially open dishwasher in a kitchen
(Image credit: Unsplash)

Washing up the dishes is quite possibly the most tedious chore, but with dishwashers making this task ten times easier, it can be hard to see a life without this appliance. But, just how much does it cost to run a dishwasher? and is it cheaper, or more expensive, than simply washing up by hand? 

As more of us try to cut energy bills, working out the basic costs of all of our home appliances has become commonplace, with a lot of appliances shocking us with their energy consumption – both for the worst and the better.

Here, experts have explains how you can work out how much it costs to run a dishwasher, and how much it costs to wash your dishes by hand, so that you can make the best choice with trying to save money at home.

How much does it cost to run a dishwasher?

Open dishwasher in cabinet

(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd Photograph: Richard Gadsby)

Working out how much an appliance costs to run is one of the best ways to choose energy-efficient appliances for your home. A dishwasher is no different, however, working out how efficient your dishwasher is can be impacted by how often you clean a dishwasher and making sure you unclog a dishwasher filter regularly to ensure its effectiveness.

'On average, dishwashers use 1.2-1.5kWh per load,' says Les Roberts, energy bill expert at Bionic (opens in new tab). 'There is a simple calculation to work out the cost of a cycle. Once you have the KwH of your dishwasher (this will be printed on your appliance's energy rating label) simply multiply this by the cost of your electricity per kW. 

'For example, if your dishwasher runs on 1.5kWh and it runs for a one-hour cycle and your energy costs 15 cents per kW this will be 1.5 X 15 = 22.5 so your dishwasher will cost approximately $0.22 to run for an hour. 

kWh x time per cycle x cost in cents = total cost per cycle

'Bear in mind, the higher the energy efficiency rating of your machine, the cheaper it will be to run and the less water it will use per cycle,' he adds.

How much does it cost to wash dishes by hand?

Close up of black and white marbled worktop with metal sink and mixer tap and dark grey kitchen cabinets.

(Image credit: Darren Chung)

Unlike working out how much it costs to run a dishwasher, or how much it costs to run a tumble dryer, working out the cost of washing up by hand can be tricky to get right. 

'Working out the cost of hand washing your dishes depends on your preferred method,' Les continues. 'If you leave the tap running constantly whilst washing or if you fill up your sink multiple times, this will use more water than the average dishwashing cycle so will have a bigger impact on your water bill. 

'Interestingly, modern dishwashers don't use your hot water supply, instead, they heat cold water internally,' Les muses. 'Because hand washing uses your hot water supply from your boiler, it is less cost-efficient.'

It is estimated that the average person will use up to 40 gallons of water to achieve the same clean as a dishwasher, meaning a sink will likely always be the worst offender for wasting water. 'In fact, using a dishwasher on a standard cycle uses only a sixth of the amount of water as hand-washing a typical pile of dirty dishes,' says Sophie Beckett-Smith, large appliance expert at AO (opens in new tab). 'On average, the majority of modern dishwashers use around two to four gallons of water per cycle. That’s compared to a running tap that flows at around two gallons per minute.'

The most cost effective way to wash your dishes

Dishwasher near a sink

(Image credit: GettyImages)

While dishwashers are not the cheapest appliances in your home, they are often cheaper to run than their alternative and, even better, save you time. The convenience of a dishwasher alongside its relative cost-effectiveness makes them an ideal appliance for saving money at home. 

'Using the dishwasher should work out as the more cost-effective option compared to washing by hand, especially if you keep the tap running when you wash by hand,' says Les, 'but this only works if you only run your dishwasher on a full load and it will help to run your machine on an eco setting if it has one.'

'Using a modern dishwasher on a full load is actually more water efficient than washing your dishes by hand, meaning it’s a win-win on saving you time and money,' concludes Sophie Beckett-Smith.

Do dishwashers use a lot of electricity?

Dishwashers use different amounts of electricity depending on the size and settings. On average, however, dishwashers can use up to 1.17kWh of electricity per cycle, which is quite a lot relative to washing dishes by hand. 

Do dishwashers use a lot of water?

The idea that dishwashers waste more water than washing dishes by hand is an old myth related to the original dishwashers manufactured in the early 1990s. Newer, economical dishwashers use less than four gallons of water every use, using the exact amount of water needed per load size. For this reason, and depending on how you wash dishes in a sink, a dish washer does not use more water than washing by hand. 

Chiana Dickson
Junior Writer

Chiana is a junior writer for Homes & Gardens having joined Future plc as a new graduate in 2022 after achieving a 1st class degree in Literature at university. She first became interested in design as a child after spending her summers helping her parents redecorate her childhood home. As a long-time reader of Future’s homes titles, Chiana is constantly finding new inspiration at work as she focuses on emerging trends, how-to’s, and news pieces.