In the age of environmentally-conscious living, the term “eco”' has become a buzzword, especially when it comes to household products and appliances. From “eco-friendly” laundry detergent to biodegradable cleaning supplies, the labels at the store promise shoppers that it’s never been easier to make their home cleaner and greener.
If your home has a modern dishwasher equipped with advanced technologies, you may have noticed that it offers an intriguing feature known as “eco-mode.” But what does it really mean, and is it promoting legitimate sustainability in our kitchens?
Almost all modern dishwashers feature some sort of eco-cycle option nowadays. With the press of a button, the dishwasher will use less water and a lower washing temperature on your dirty plates. With most of the costs coming from heating up water, eco-mode offers a chance to save most water and energy.
Generally speaking, the various modes of your dishwasher are just different permutations of three factors — heat, water, and time. Eco-mode optimizes the use of water and energy during the dishwashing process. In newer dishwasher models, this setting operates using algorithms and sensors that dynamically adjust water temperature, pressure, and cycle duration, ensuring that each cycle is a step towards greater sustainability at home.
If you’ve been pressing your dishwasher’s eco-mode button with blind faith that you’re doing something positive for the planet, you may have noticed that an eco-mode cycle actually takes a lot longer than a standard cycle. This is because the longer cleaning cycle means that the water doesn’t have to be heated up as much as with programs with a shorter running time. Your cups and plates will also soak longer, meaning your dishwasher doesn’t need as much water for cleaning in eco-mode.
Think of it like a one-hour car ride — if you’re driving 65 mph, you’ll arrive there faster. But you’ll also use more fuel than if you’re driving at a slower speed. Similarly, your dishwasher on eco-mode will still reveal sparkling clean cups and plates once the timer goes off — a slight dip in efficiency is a small sacrifice for lower energy costs and environmental impact than a regular cycle!
Based on studies conducted in Germany, eco-mode delivers the lowest energy consumption across different brands and models. It also found that default and quick washing programs consume 20–30% more energy than various eco-mode options.
The study also found that households can make energy savings of around 30% by using their dishwashers in eco mode. Although another performance factor that’s important to keep in mind is that your dishwasher detergent can make up a third of the running cost of the appliance — so make sure you choose one that is compatible with your machine!
While the numbers (electric bills) speak for themselves, it doesn’t always mean that eco-mode is the best option for you. To achieve the best results for your dishes and the environment, you should always select your program depending on the load and the degree of soiling of the dishes. Some newer dishwashers even have programs that measure these factors and automatically select the optimal settings for energy and water consumption. It’s also strongly recommended that you run the hot water or machine care program regularly so that the dishwasher itself does not become contaminated with residue or bacteria!
Stuck with an older model that doesn’t offer eco-mode? Not to worry — here are a few tips for optimizing your next wash cycle. Using your dishwasher is more energy efficient than washing your dishes by hand — and saves you the hassle of after-dinner cleanup. But how you use the dishwasher is almost as important. By using the dishwasher more efficiently, you can save even more money and energy in the kitchen.
1. Skip the rinse – scrape and go!
If you’re using the right dishwasher and detergent, there’s no need to pre-rinse dishes by hand before loading them into your dishwasher. Just scrape the loose food off your dishes, load them in the dishwasher and let your dishwasher do its job. If you must rinse, a light rinse should be just fine.
2. Think twice about washing the dishes by hand.
Even if you have an older appliance, avoid washing the dishes in the sink in between runs and use the dishwasher for larger items that are dishwasher safe such as some pots and pans.
3. Are you loading your dishwasher properly?
Your dishwasher’s user manual will illustrate how to properly position dishes, flatware, glasses, and cookware to optimize their cleaning. A lot depends on the type of items in the dishwasher and what features the dishwasher has, but there are a few universal rules: Always run the dishwasher on a full load, be careful not to overload the dishwasher, and don’t block the arms or other moving parts.
4. Try air-drying your dishes.
Let your dishes air dry by turning on the air-dry setting instead of using the heat-dry setting on your dishwasher.
5. Use a rinse aid.
Regardless of whether you have eco-mode, nearly all dishwashers have a rinse aid dispenser. A rinse aid helps help glasses and dishes dry quicker — and prevents spotting and streaking.
6. In the market for an upgrade?
When you’re shopping for a new dishwasher, keep an eye out for the little blue ENERGY STAR label. This indicates that the model meets strict energy efficiency standards, using, on average 12% less energy and 30% less water than a standard model. A new ENERGY STAR-certified model uses less than half of the energy used when washing dishes by hand — and can save more than 8,000 gallons of water each year!