Does A Dishwasher Fits Into A Simple, Minimalist Life?

What place does a dishwasher has in the life of someone who claims to live a simple, deliberate life based on minimalist principles?

Let me be clear: I’m not talking about a guy named Daniel who comes in every week to wash your dishes for you. This is a discussion about mechanical dishwashing machines found in homes around the world.

In fact, I have one of these machines. But I stopped using it last week.

Dishes have always been a problem in our household. With only two humans in residence, we’d often have to run the dishwasher daily. How could we be using so many dishes?

Over the last few months, our dishwasher hasn’t been doing a very good job anyway. We cleaned it thoroughly and got no improvement in performance, so we made the decision to try life in the hand-washing lane since I’ve always thought we were overusing the thing anyway.

It’s working out great.

I no longer believe a dishwasher has any place in my simple, deliberate life.

Reasons To Dump The Dishwasher

Cost is the biggest reason to replace that old dishwasher with a nice shelving unit. While you can spend hundreds to replace or repairΒ a worn out dishwasher, you may be spending hundreds a year on dishwashing detergent and rinse aids, especially if your machine won’t work right if you use cheap detergent.

While you may think that hand washing dishes take a lot of time, it doesn’t unless you get behind. Loading and unloading a dishwasher, however, takes time. Hand washing a few dishes makes a nice break from an afternoon working at the computer.

Dishwashers don’t completely clean dishes. They intentionally leave a film on dishes. That’s what a rinse aid like JetDry does. Just like the spot-free rinse at a car wash, this film is intended to keep dishes from spotting. When you start hand washing dishes, you may need to use vinegar in your wash water to clean off this film. A poorly performing dishwasher does even worse, leaving food particles and other unmentionable debris.

Older dishwashers use a lot of energy, but a newer one may too. And if you’re holding dishes under running water to loosen stuck on bits before you put them in the dishwasher, you’re already using more water — often hot water, which requires electricity or gas to heat — than is required for proper two-basin hand washing.

Actions have consequences, whetherΒ it’s telling a traffic cop he’s just like a common mugger because he hides behind bushes waiting for someone to do something careless… or using three plates for lunch when you’re having a frozen dinner. Hand washing dishes finishes the meal better than a dessert, giving you the satisfaction of completing an action instead of turning it over to another of life’s machines.

What’s Your Choice?

For these reasons, I’ve stopped using our dishwasher. When the mood strikes me, I’ll remove it and find a great new use for that open space.

Do you have a dishwasher? Do you use it responsibly? Have to considered dumping it for any of the reason I mentioned above?

By the way, Treehugger has a nice article about how to useΒ and choose more wisely if you want a dishwasher in your life.

For me, a dishwasher is no longer part of my simple, minimalist lifestyle. I wonder what’s next to go? Any suggestions?


  1. Gip, we must be “syncing brains” as Everett would say – I had a post along these same lines planned for an upcoming spot. I think it’s different enough that I’ll still run it, but I’ll make sure to link back here. πŸ™‚

    Dishwashers are great for a couple of things – washing things with oddly-shaped parts (a food processor comes to mind) that are hard or potentially dangerous to hand-wash, and sanitizing things.

    I know a lady who used to do lots of canning who’d run all of her jars through the dishwasher, because the heated wash/dry cycles sterilized the jars.

    I’ve got a portable dishwasher, and I don’t think I’ll be actively looking to get rid of it – but by the same token, I might not replace it if it happened to break. πŸ™‚

    Great post Gip!

    1. I’ve heard of people who can foods using the dishwasher for sterilizing. My mother sterilized in boiling water, but she didn’t can very much either. I remember when I was a kid my parents had a portable dishwasher. I had forgotten about those. Portable is a relative term since they’re so large. I can see why cabinet models took over.

      I’m looking forward to your post on this topic. I’m planning posts on trash service and cell phones soon. Are you working on those topics too?

  2. This in an interesting challenge Gip. We run our dishwasher about once every three days (in the middle of the night when energy costs are lower).

    I have considered what would happen if I didn’t use it though. At least not for a little while.

    Hmm. Now I’m considering not using my dishwasher at all next week and writing about my experiences. I’d link back to your post of course.

    1. … or you could write it as a guest post for us here. I’d be very interested in hearing if you learn anything from the experience.

      And I have an open-door policy on guest posts, so you’re always welcome.

      The idea is to examine every machine or convenience you use each week and see if you really need or want it — and if it is efficient and practical.


  3. Hey Gip. I would love to write a guest post for you. If it’s okay, I’d like to give up my dishwasher next week, and then write a guest post for you on my experience. πŸ˜‰

      1. Great. Thanks Gip!

        I’ll have a call for guest/reader submissions for my blog tomorrow if you or anyone here is interested. I’m even going to embarrass myself and ask for the submissions by video. πŸ˜‰

  4. My husband and I have not used a dishwasher in several years. The rental homes we’ve lived in haven’t had them. We have friends who don’t run their dishwasher, but use it as a very large dish drainer, and keep their counters clear!

    You are so right about hand-washing “finishing the meal better than a dessert”! My husband always seems skeptical when I say that I like to clean the kitchen after dinner (he usually cooks), because it gives me a sense of purpose and satisfaction. When I was a kid dishwashing was definitely my least favorite chore. I hadn’t stopped to think about how much I enjoy it now. I refuse to leave dishes in the sink over night, because it’s so nice to wake up to a clean kitchen! And I began getting up 15 minutes earlier to make sure I could complete breakfast dishes, so that the kitchen is also clean when we get home from work.

    However, we do not use the “two basin” method, and are probably wasting a lot of water. Thank you for reminding me that I need to make a change in that area.

    ps. Deb at Life Beyond Stuff suggested that I comment on your blog, but I would have commented on this any way! Dishwashing is near & dear to my heart!

    1. Thanks for joining the comment community here, Liina. I saw Deb’s post a few minutes ago and noticed you mentioned there. I’ll be checking out your blog in a moment.

      I do think washing dishes by hand completes the eating process, and I’m glad we’re finally do it. We aren’t always using the two basin method yet either because we don’t have two plastic basins the right size and we can’t find the right stoppers for our sink, but we’re getting there.

      Again, I’m glad to have you here!

      1. Gip, we have this neat little rubberized thing that just goes over the hole in the bottom of the sink. Not sure where it’s from, but it’s a good idea – it’s basically a universal stopper.

        It doesn’t provide the function of catching food particulate, but it certainly keeps the water in the sink!

  5. Hi Gip

    I luuuuuuuuuuuuurved my dishwasher. I loved the way it used to clean the dishes so nicely (with the rinse aid), I loved the way it kept dishes off the bench and out of site. A friend who is very anti-dishwasher has a washing up rack on a plastic tray in her cupboard under her sink where a dishwasher would go. She puts all her dishes on this in the cupboard throughout the day and just washes them once at night. She said that to her the only appealing thing about a dishwasher was the fact that dishes are out of sight and you only have to think about them once a day, so she created a non-mechanical solution.

    Now in our little apartment we don’t have one πŸ™ s I’m forced into hand washing dishes. It isn’t bad just for the two of us but I think Jenny would struggle trying to manage with kids. I think the time aspect is a scale thing. When you don’t have many you aren’t saving that much time but you haven’t had kids who want drinks and snacks every five minutes and don’t think about re-using glasses etc.

    I have to say that is one thing I do more now without a dishwasher, reuse my glasses and coffee mugs without throwing them in the dishwasher or washing them each time I use them.

    1. I’ve always had a diswasher in my apartments, in the house and growing up, so this is all new to me. I’m liking it, though.

      I do find myself reusing things more. If I know I only used a plate for a cookie and then want some cheese (yes, that menu sounds like me), why not reuse it? I know what was on it and it is clean after I wipe it off, isn’t it?


  6. Ah the dishwasher. i always do feel a twinge of guilt when i use it. but we make sure to pack it really well. i use up every single available spot and then turn it on, which only ends up being about every couple of days or so, like Jenny.

    Btw, Jenny, I didn’t know energy costs are lower at night. Is that true everywhere?

    I am not sure I am ready to give it up yet. Dishes are the bane of my existence and because my fiance does most of the cooking, I am left to do dishes. They take forever becuase I usually put them off. I can’t imagine having to add all the plates, cups, glasses and silverware into the mix too. Argh! I hate being so busy and never being home!!

    1. Energy costs aren’t cheaper her at night, but the may be some places.

      Try an experiment sometime like Jenny will be doing next week and see what happens. In addition to using less dishes to start with, you might enjoy the process — as others are pointing out.


      1. Our area, for example, has a nighttime saver program that you can go on. Here’s how it works….

        Energy costs (let’s say) 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, 24/7. You sign up for this program, and your energy cost jumps to 16 cents per kilowatt-hour during the daytime – but it drops to 6 or 7 cents per kilowatt-hour at night.

        Since most energy demand is businesses and at “peak” times, this is a way to get customers to switch their usage patterns in order to reduce the need for more production capabilities (read: more power plants).

        It’s an interesting trade-off, but you could see how it might result in some good savings for people that are capable of taking advantage of it. πŸ™‚

        1. I’ve heard of those plans. If they’re offered anywhere in Texas, I haven’t heard of them.

          Our power grid in Texas is not connected to the rest of the country but is connected to Mexico. During the recent record cold weather and ice storm at Super Bowl time, we had rolling blackouts (although only 15 minutes here) and ERCOT — the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas — actually bought some power from Mexico, which doesn’t happen very often.


  7. I’ve never had a dishwasher but then I didn’t work when my kids were growing up. It does take time, but if I am not pressed for time it can be an enjoyable no-brain activity (like ironing), a time when I can let my mind wander, either to think through a problem or just float and be refreshed.

    A dishwasher can make a huge difference in quality of life for those with medical issues, allowing them to conserve energy daily and use it on more important things.

    1. I need tasks that force me to slow down — because I won’t do it otherwise. And I like those no-brain, simple activities too.

      I’m sure lots of people benefit from dishwashers and don’t want to give them up, and I’m also sure that lots of people use them simply because they think it’s part of everyday life.

      I hope people will consider whether a dishwasher is a machine that’s consistent with their values and lifestyle. For me, it no longer is.


      1. I love my Bosch low-energy dishwasher and believe it uses less power than the 5 or 6 sinks of water I’d be using to wash the same dishes 2-3 times per day. I use EcoStore ( dishwasher powder in it, so almost no pollution either. Funny thing is that as a British child of the 60’s dishwashers didn’t really exist in my world until I hit my 30’s and went to the states, whereupon I vowed to have one of these wonderful things (but then I had three small kids and a LOT of dishes). Now they are all grown and gone, and even my husband is going away I’m not sure if I’ll use the dishwasher or not (it does have a haf load setting).

  8. Gip, I love thought-provoking posts about small, ordinary every day things. A dishwasher fits right in. So…. where can I hire this guy Daniel? Just kidding. πŸ™‚

    I don’t use a dishwasher. I currently don’t have one and do the old-fashioned method of washing them in a sink. Not so dramatic considering I don’t have a dishwasher BUT I have rented an apartment with a dishwasher before and I didn’t use it then either. I tried it a few times and discovered that I’d rather do them by hand.

    I haven’t read any studies on how much water washing by hand conserves but I imagine it’s a good deal less.

    Hmmm, next to go? I’ve got it. Your gas-guzzling lawnmower (if you’ve got a lawn).

    We switched to an old-fashioned style push mower, commonly called reel mowers. They use no gas, no oil, no electricity and just need a “teeny touch” of wd-40 every now and then to keep them oiled up. Very ecological and actually fun to use. Been meaning to write a post on it that’s how much I love it! (and yes I just said my lawnmower is fun to use)

    1. Thanks for commenting, Tanja.

      Oh… the lawn. We have a whole acre of lawn and a riding lawnmower that requires constant servicing. It’s definitely sore spot.

      Last year, I rebelled for a while and simply refused to mow the lawn because I didn’t enjoy all the time it takes to do it — but then it was so hard to get it back in shape that I decided that was even harder. The standard is very low around here, so I could get by without mowing it for months, I’m sure.

      The official advice from most garden gurus would be to decrease the amount of lawn and replace it with plantings and groundcovers, but that’s expensive to get starting on the scale I need.

      So I won’t be writing a post about how I’ve conquered the lawn — because I haven’t!

      1. I have an acre of lawn too and only a small petrol mower to mow it with. A friend of mine from Samoa has a tethered sheep in her garden and I’ve got to say she does a great job….but not sure if I can risk my plants as well πŸ™‚

        1. We upgraded to a riding lawnmower several years ago, but it is very high maintenance, and I don’t know how to do very much of it myself. I’m learning more every year. In fact, it needs attention now.

    2. Tanja, I have heard that newer dishwashers can actually use LESS water than hand-washing dishes, but I’m sure there are tons of variable factors that go into that equation!

      1. Yes its true….I checked into all this before I bought my new but second hand Bosch dishwasher. I’m sure how you use appliances, or not must be the deciding factor though.

  9. We have a dishwasher, but I don’t use it except to sometimes hold the dishes while they are drying. I know people often tout the “fact” that you use less water by using a dishwasher, but we do our best to dump our gray water from doing dishes on our outside plants. We don’t use that many dishes even though we are a family of six, and I cook most of our food from scratch rather than cans and boxes. Our children understand that they need to use the same glass all day, and for the most part do just that. Besides all that, I detest having to unload the dishwasher–definitely a good reason for not loading it up in the first place.

    1. It’s loading, not unloading, that I never liked. We have a septic system, so the water that goes down our drain ends up sprayed on the yard anyway. That’s nice.

      It does seem strange to “save time” by loading and unloading a machine, something that is more difficult and unappealing than washing.

      I’m glad to have you here, Anne.

  10. To dishwasher, or not to dishwasher… that’s a challenge!
    I think if you absolutely HATE doing the dishes, then it’s one of the last things you must let go.
    Take little steps in letting go. Like Jenny said, challenge yourself to not use it for certain periods of time.

  11. I’ve had kitchens with dishwashers and ones without. Currently without, and find it preferable with just the two of us, as we don’t use that many dishes and I keep the cooking equipment down to a minimum as well.

    Dishwashers are excellent IF they are of superior design and quality, aka expensive. Hard water decreases their efficiency and lifespan. They may be water-efficient, but what about the electricity they use?

    As a tall arthritic person, I really dislike the up and down movements of loading and unloading dishes, and greatly prefer putting them away from a drainboard. We use soap wands and don’t run the water full-blast when rinsing. I also use cooking spray liberally on baking dishes to make cleanup easier.

    I often wash up any snack plates and wine glasses before bedtime and put away clean supper dishes to make the kitchen peaceful and clean when I get up in the morning. Makes the day start off better πŸ™‚

    1. You’ve summed it up very well. I need to get a soap wand. I had forgotten about those although my has used them at times. We have hard water, and I’m sure that has contributed to the near-demise of our dishwasher.

      I’m tall, too, and I’d find doing dishes much more pleasant if the sink was 12 inches higher.

      1. Your comment reminds me of a friend of mine in high school – he was always lamenting the fact that “the world was designed by short people”. πŸ˜€

        I don’t have a soap wand, but I use a bottle brush all the time – fantastic invention, that – makes washing glasses and things like that so, so much easier!

          1. Now that I re-read this, you’ve got me thinking maybe I should get a soap wand too. πŸ™‚

          2. I bought one last week. Scotch-Brite. $3. Works as advertised. It’s very good when you only have a few dishes and nothing needs soaking. It does save time.

  12. washing dishes by hand directly after a meal is the way i do it. i love the feel of the hot water and suds and it doesn’t take very long. dirty dishes aren’t sitting in the sink or worse yet hiding in a dishwasher until it’s full and ready to be turned on. how many times have you looked for something to use and find it is dirty in the dishwasher. then you stop and wash it to use it. if it was already washed you just go about your business. i hate the thought of dirty dishes hiding behind the door, someone may not be sure if the dishes are dirty or clean and possibly use something not clean. yuck. plus the noise it makes and having to load and unload. come on just do the dishes and get it done and over with and the kitchen always looks cleaner and is cleaner and the dishes are done. period.

    1. I agree with you, Jan. I hadn’t thought about the noise, but dishwashers do make a lot of weird noises. I’m liking my new system of hand washing better every day.

  13. I so hate washing dishes by hand. It’s only me in the house now and I still loath and despise it. I am guilty of letting them pile up until I have a mess on the counters – a situation I also hate. I need to quit being a cry baby and wash them every day.

    I would LOVE to have a dishwasher again but I have no space in my current kitchen. To me it would simplify my life. I would also enjoy not seeing either dirty or drying dishes out all the time. I guess I could wipe them dry with a towel instead of air drying – but seems like even more work. Ugh.

    1. Like everything else, keeping up seems to help. It’s only a real chore when you get behind. I can see how a dishwasher could make life simpler, but I can also see how it was complicating mine!

      1. Guess this is the nub of minimalism – choosing only what really enhances your life (hopefully in the most sustainable way possible). That will be different for different folks.

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  16. We had a dishwasher, we used it as a drying rack, then for storage. After 10 years of not using it for its intended purpose, we pulled it out. We are currently using the space for trash cans, but we are modeling the kitchen, so it’s just a trial.

    With small kids, and, when processing goat milk, I wanted a dishwasher. So I can see it would be a very individual option. For just my husband and I now (three kids are grown and on there own) I LOVE not having the dishwasher taking up space.

    1. Thanks for joining the conversation, Mavie. I love NOT having a dishwasher too. I’m sure there are reasons why a family would want one, but none of those apply to me. It’s good to have you as a commenter.

      1. What about the microwave? Mine broke this week, I had had it for over ten years. It was used for cooking scrambled egg for myself (i have 4 kids, theirs would not fit!-done in the pan.) and noodles….. and very very rarely a micro meal. I have found it visually more serene without yet another machine on the surface. We now prefer the noodles cooked properly in the pan, I do my egg in a small pan, when they children are at school (sometimes, for my lunch!) i forgot all about poached eggs as i was so usede to doing easy, scrambled in the microwave. I had that this week and yurmeee, lovely. I’m glad it broke. I have a dishwasher, I have had it for 2 1/2 years, and i wanted it for over 10 years!!! I love it, so much. I get no help witht he children, don’t drive, no family, not enough time in the day to have a bath myself let alone wash dishes. So to me this was like a miracle. it saved my sanity! The dishwasher is going wronggg now though!! But as the children have grown up (by nearly 3 years each πŸ™‚ I think maybe if it breaks, I will not be replacing it. My older children do ask to wash dishes a lot, so i let them wash some. I think I would be ok now without it.

        1. I like my microwave. It’s the cooktop I could probably do without. I’ve managed without an oven several times, and we don’t use the oven in spring or summer at all. We’ve found that the dishwasher is not nearly the convenience it’s often thought to be. With a larger family, maybe it would make more sense.

  17. I think it is all relative to need, as everything is πŸ™‚ I have started handwashing the cutlery as I hated touching them all to put in the dishwasher-yuck! yea, my stuff goes in the bowl or on the worktop (neatly!) then i put them all away in the evening. I have actually enjoyed doing this, i think i am definitely saving time, and myself from a messy task that i don’t enjoy. πŸ™‚ i haven’t missed the microwave yet πŸ™‚ (yet!)

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