How to Conserve Water when Doing Dishes

With every meal comes a stack of dirty dishes. There is no need to run the hot water full blast, holding each plate to rinse it under the hot water blast for a minute before placing each plate into the dishwasher. Take a bit of care when washing dishes and cut down on your water use.


  1. Image titled Scrape solids into trash Step 1
    Scrape solids (bones, peels, crumbs, and uneaten tidbits) into the trash or (if they are vegetable matter like watermelon rinds) the compost. You can usually use the utensils that were used to eat.
  2. Image titled Put all dishes together by sink Step 2
    Gather all the dishes together near the sink. Having them all in one stack will save time, and time saved while the water is running is water saved.
  3. Image titled Rince out if necessary Step 3
    Rinse only as necessary. Whether you're washing by hand or in a dishwasher, you may need to do less pre-rinsing than you think. Experiment to find out how little you can get away with. It can also save you some time, not to have to handle each dish several times. Ideally, scrape the large stuff off a dish and place it either in the dishpan or in the dishwasher.
    • Know the limits of your dishwasher, if you have one. Some dishwashers will get off most dried-on gunk, especially if you use a good detergent. If you have a dishwasher and it's this type, you may only need to pre-wash very heavy burnt-on gunk and protein that is cooked to the dish.
  4. Image titled Switch dishwasher on shortest time Step 4
    Run the shortest dishwasher cycle that will clean dishes satisfactorily. Try the different buttons and cycles on your dishwasher with medium-dirty dishes. Start at the shortest and work up.
  5. Image titled Wash full loadsl Step 5
    Wash full loads. If you're filling a dishwasher, add as many dishes as will fit comfortably and get properly clean. Leaving excess space in each load just means more loads. Don't pack them in to the point where they're not getting enough water to get clean.
  6. Image titled Handwash dishes in soapy water Step 6
    Wash dishes by hand by placing a stack at a time into a dishpan and filling it with warm soapy water. Use that water for as many dishes as you can, as long as it's still warm and sudsy. Let them soak for a few minutes to loosen up the gunk. Then swish them with a brush, dish mop, or dishcloth. Stack the washed dishes aside, but don't let them dry out.
    • Don't overdo it on the dish soap, either. Use just enough to keep the water sudsy with whatever amount of grease is on your dishes. Start with just a little and add more if you need to.
  7. Image titled Rinse with clean water in seperate bowl Step 7
    Rinse dishes in a separate bowl of warm to hot water - this will help the dishes dry and save water. Change the water in the bowl when required. #Air dry, if possible. This is not about saving water so much as saving energy and time. Washing dishes by hand, you can stack them in a dish drainer. A tray underneath will keep the water from dripping all over the counter. In a dishwasher, choose the air dry cycle and leave the door cracked open a bit after the cycle runs if necessary.


  • Don't dawdle. If the water is running, move right along. Turn it off as soon as you're done with that step. Besides, who wants to hang around washing dishes? If you use the bowl method, there is absolutely no need to keep the water running. It is best to have a bowl that sits inside a second sink if there is one, as this uses less water and allows other dishes to be rinsed or liquids to be poured down the drain.
  • Maintain your dishwasher. While keeping it in good repair may not save water directly, it will clean better on the same amount of water and save you time and rinsing.
  • If somebody in your household tends to leave the water running, start by reminding them not to. If you can do it without provoking an argument, turn the water off for them a few times. They'll get the point.
  • Dishwashers can use a moderate amount of water, since they recirculate water once it's pumped in. Don't run a longer cycle than you need.
  • Consider installing a flow restricting aerator in the sink where you do dishes. Available at most hardware stores and plumbing supply stores, these simple and inexpensive devices screw right into the faucet and limit the maximum flow of water. If you know someone who can't seem to stop running the water at full blast, you can still make full blast flow less water.


  • Get the dishes clean first and save water second. It isn't extra water if it's necessary to ensure health or hygiene.

Things You'll Need

  • Dirty dishes.
  • A sink/dishwasher.
  • A second plastic rinsing bowl
  • A clean cloth/soap/sponge.

Article Info

Categories: Dish Washing and Dishwashers | Water Conservation Solutions