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Hands off: Why you should be using your dishwasher

The dishwasher has revolutionized the chore of cleaning endless amounts of plates, utensils, and cups. However, many people still do it by hand. Yet experts from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, and the Natural Resources Defense Council all agree on one thing: It’s time to turn to technology, if it’s available to you.

“While it may be possible to use less water/energy by washing dishes by hand, it is extremely unlikely,” Jonah Schein, technical coordinator for homes and buildings in the EPA’s WaterSense program, said in a statement, according to the Washington Post.

There are a few key reasons why you should pay attention to the experts’ recommendations. The first one has to do with the environment. Hand washing dishes can require up to 20 gallons of water, according to the Sunnyslope County Water District, which may increase your household’s water consumption.

The next reason has to do with efficiency. Dishwashers have come a long way over the years, and it’s possible to find modern, eco-friendly models that use between 2 and 8 gallons of water – far less than what goes into washing dishes by hand. Notably, models made after 2013 now have to adhere to a 5-gallon limit, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Related: Put away that sponge and let one of our 5 favorite dishwashers do the scrubbing

Better still, dishwashers can give you a level of cleanliness you can’t achieve by hand. Most dishwashers operate with water between 140 and 145 degrees Fahrenheit to eliminate gunk. Some dishwashers have a sanitation option, which means the dishwasher meets the NSF/ANSI 184 Standard, reaching a rinse temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit and reduces bacteria by 99.999 percent. When washing dishes in the sink, your hands simply can’t withstand those temperatures and hot-water heaters are preset to top out at 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding.

It’s also worth noting additional innovations in dishwashing technology that have debuted over the years. For example, many dishwashers now have sensors that detect the amount of dirtiness of the items inside. In response, the machine uses only as much water and heat as necessary.

If anything, using a dishwasher can save your hours of your time each year. Not to mention, your hands may feel a bit better if they don’t need to scrub a few pots after every meal.