When it comes to helping the environment, there’s a wide array of things we as individuals can do. Recycling properly, composting at home, switching to energy efficient light bulbs and turning off the lights when you leave a room. You can broaden the scope to change how the whole house uses energy by installing solar panels and a geothermal HVAC system in your home. You can take it down to a smaller level and change your cleaning products to all-natural and eco-friendly brands. Staying on the small scale, here are a few tips to help you reduce water waste in your kitchen, the largest user of water in the entire house.
Obviously, you should upgrade to energy efficient models for all your major appliances. With dishwashers in particular, though, there are a few things you can do to get the most out of its energy efficiency.
First, always fill the dishwasher. You don’t want to overfill either, but never wash less than a full load. Second, don’t use that one-hour setting no matter how appealing it is. You might think you’re saving water by running the dishwasher for less time. But the reality is that your dishwasher has to produce the same clean results in a condensed amount of time, so it uses twice the amount of water as your normal cycle.
Okay. You’re advised not to pre-wash your dishes before they go in the dishwasher. Understandable, it just uses more water. However, some food stains will not come off in the dishwasher. Oil and greasy residues need a little more than the high-power soak they get in the machine. If you insist on pre-washing, follow these tips (for the double sink option):
Empty one sink and fill with just enough water to submerge a plate and partially fill cups/bowls. A little soap is fine and helps loosen stuck on food, as well as combat grease. You only need an inch or two of water.
With a dishwasher safe brush, clean your dishes. Because you’re not using any water besides what’s in the sink, start with the cleanest dishes (usually drinking glasses and cereal bowls) and then work your way to the dirtiest dishes.
Grease and oil contaminate the water. Save all dishes with this type of residue until the very end. Use a salt shaker filled with baking soda to clump and clear away grease before plunging it into the water.
You don’t need to run water to rinse, just be sure the dishes go in the dishwasher free of any residue or leftover food particles. It’s okay that the water gets rather icky and that you keep using it. Your dishes will be sanitized in the dishwasher. Just be mindful to remove debris and residue. As always, scrape your dishes of their food waste into the trash can before placing them in the sink.
For your hand wash only dishes, you’ll want the water hot enough that it’s also able to sanitize. While you’ll never get the water to the temperatures of your dishwasher, you can adjust the water temperature on your water heater. This will make the water hotter faster which will save you time and water.
Finally, updating the faucet in your kitchen can help save water. Energy efficient faucets use less water, and some faucets come with a handy pause button, for lack of a better term. These buttons on your sprayer can keep water from running as you rinse dishes, without having to actually turn the faucet off and back on again. These are a lifesaver when it comes to rinsing hand wash dishes.
And for something that can carry into the bathrooms as well, soap and scrub your hands and then turn on the water to wash and rinse. It’s much better and easier to clean soap of a sink handle than simply letting the water run while you soap up.
In this time of climate crisis, every little bit helps. While there are larger projects you can take on to drastically reduce your carbon footprint, there’s plenty of reason to sweat the small stuff. As they say in the acting world, there are no small parts, only small players. A little here and there adds up to make a big difference.