How Many Gallons Of Water Does A Dishwasher Use?

Water expenditure has become a serious concern for many as it has a great impact on the well-being of our planet. Since a dishwasher is the common appliance in the households, we’ve all probably wonder how much water a dishwasher uses.

Spoiler alert, the answers aren’t worrisome but will differ largely depending on different factors included in the equation.

How Do Dishwashers Use Water To Clean?

The dishwasher only gets filled with water on the bottom. Then, the built-in heater heats it to an appropriate washing temperature (typically 145 degrees Fahrenheit). The water then enters the spray arms and starts spraying water to clean the dishes. Efficient dishwashers use the same water to clean dishes over a certain period and spend around 3.5 gallons per cycle.

Handwashing VS Dishwashers: What’s More Effective?

Handwashing just can’t compete unless it’s an old dishwasher made before the year 1994. when they used up around 9-14 gallons of water per washing cycle. Handwashing typically uses around 9-15 gallons but it can climb up to 27 gallons if you’re not careful.

Water Consumption By Cycle

Water consumption by cycle will differ from model to model so the amount and cycle type are generalized according to the most popular models out there.

Note: It’s important to keep in mind that wash times and water usage will vary by the load. This is because newer dishwashers have a sensor that tracks the soil amount during the washing cycle

  • Normal – 2.7 – 7.9 gallons
  • Rinse Only – 2.4 gallons
  • Tough – 8.4 gallons
  • Light – 2.7 – 7.9 gallons
  • ProWash – 3.8 – 7.7 gallons
  • Express Wash – 6.2 gallons
  • High-Temperature Wash – 0 – 3 gallons
  • Sanitary Wash – 1.2 – 6.2 gallons

To find the usage by cycle for your specific model, refer to the user manual of your dishwasher.

User Manual

Does Size Matter?

    • Standard Sized – 4.2 gallons per cycle on average
    • Energy Star Rated Standard Sized

– 3.5 gallons per cycle on average

    • Compact – 3.5 gallons per cycle on average
    • Energy Star Rated Compact

– 2.7 gallons per cycle on average

Water Expenditure Per Cycle Comparison

Note: Keep in mind that although the compact models use less water, they can’t fit a load as big as a standard-sized dishwasher so, in turn, they are less efficient.

Average Water Costs

Every month, water use by dishwashers ranges from 29.38 gallons to 62.71 gallons. Per year, the usage averages at around 691.24 gallons. By model and cycle, it can also range anywhere between 352.6 gallons and 752.5 gallons.

So, an average American will use around 3000 gallons of water monthly. That would mean that a family of 4 would use 12000 gallons per month.

The Price Of Water

Water, to the surprise of many people, doesn’t cost much at all in America. Per 1000 gallons you’ll be paying $1.50. That would leave the cost of a gallon to less than a penny.

Ecology Problems – The problem with spending water doesn’t concern the consumer on a financial level but rather on an environmental welfare one. Water levels across the globe are reduced while around 700.000.000 people still don’t have access to fresh water. With this high of an expenditure, we’re running the risk of losing our freshwater resources.

Ways To Save Water When Using A Dishwasher

Eco Cycles

Almost all dishwashers nowadays have some form of the eco cycle that will still efficiently clean your dishes. The way they work is that they use lower rinse and wash temperatures by also reducing the amount of water needed to give you a satisfactory cleaning.

Dishwasher Cleaning

By keeping your dishwasher clean, you’re ensuring that it doesn’t break down fast and that it’s cleaning more efficiently with the water and electricity it’s provided with.

Fully Loading The Dishwasher

We’re all guilty of washing just a few dish items in the dishwasher when we’re too lazy to do so. Try to avoid this and wait for a fully loaded washer. You can also learn how to maximize the loading efficiency, and with it, the cleaning efficiency.

Dishwasher Loading

Don’t Pre-Rinse

Newer dishwashers are made to clean more efficiently when you don’t pre-rinse your dishes. It’s unnecessary and will cause you to spend more water.

How To Save Water On Non-Dishwasher-Safe Items?

Some items simply can’t be washed in the dishwasher as it can damage the dishwasher, and the items, and endanger your health so you’ll have to handwash them. Unlike the dishwasher-safe items, these shouldn’t be washed in the dishwasher:

  • Plastic containers and bottles containing BPA – can be ingested by a person as it leaches into other dishes and dishwashers due to high heat.
  • Plastic that’s not dishwasher safe – the plastic can melt, distort, and release chemicals dangerous to the human organism
  • Sterling silver dishware and flatware – the precious dishes will get destroyed due to the high heat needed to wash dishes.
  • Wooden items (cutting boards, spoons…) – will bend or crack in the dishwasher
  • Cast iron pans – Leaves the pan vulnerable to rusting with the use of dishwashing detergents
  • Kitchen knives – Can damage and dull the knife
  • Aluminum, gold, copper, bronze – Dulls and darkens, some can also melt and get destroyed easily

How To Wash These Items?

The solution for non dishwasher-safe items is handwashing. You can save much water if you handwash correctly. Here is one of the best ways to do it:

  1. Fill up your sink with water about half an inch to an inch deep.
  2. Make sure to first wash flatware
  3. The water will rise as you turn to wash larger items like bowls and pans which will allow you to clean and rinse them with ease.


You can install an aerator on your kitchen faucet and it will cut down on just how much water comes out of it without reducing flow effectiveness.


Only use a small amount of dish soap per wash. The more bubbles you create, the more rinsing you’ll have to do which will result in more water consumption



Don’t turn on the faucet when you don’t need it. Start by scrubbing the dishes and then turn on the faucet to rinse them all.

To Wrap It Up

How much water your dishwasher uses will depend on the cycle you’re running, the machine model you own, and how often you’re running it. Luckily, it will always spend less water than handwashing dishes so relax, eat your dinner, load the dishwasher, and watch a movie or series while the dishwasher does its job.

As an English major student at the time, Petra was stuck at home with online classes when the lockdown started. Soon enough, Petra discovered a passion for cooking and making pastries to pass the time. She started small with some experimenting and trying out new techniques inspired by French, Italian, and Asian cuisine. Since then, she has become a full-blown “little chef”, making dinner parties for her friends and expanding her knowledge with cooking classes.