How washing up can damage the environment – and how to lessen its impact

How washing up can damage the environment – and how to lessen its impact

February 8, 2021

Over the last year, you have probably done more washing up than ever before.

Eating at home for almost every meal for an entire year generates a lot of washing up – but it could be triggering more than exasperation.

Washing your dishes could actually have a negative impact on the environment – thanks to all that running water, and some of the nasties you find in lots of soap and detergent.

Heather Barrigan from MyJobQuote says that if you’re serious about committing to a more eco-conscious lifestyle and reducing your carbon footprint, you might want to take a look at how you’re washing up – and how you can do it differently.

‘If one of your new year’s resolutions is to live an eco-friendlier lifestyle, why not start small and change the way you wash your dishes?,’ asks Heather.

She has handily set out the key issues with washing up, and why exactly it can be so bad for the environment:

Water waste

‘One of the most obvious issues with washing dishes by hand is that it wastes a significant amount of water,’ says Heather.

‘This is because the majority of people tend to leave the hot tap running and fill the sink with hot soapy water, even if they only need to wash one bowl or cup.

‘Using hot water wastes a significant amount of energy, which is not only bad for the environment but is also not great for your bank balance.’

Algae increase

Heather says that the primary pollutant in dishwasher detergents is phosphates – which have actually been banned from laundry detergents, and many brands have removed them from dishwashing detergent.

‘However, some still contain this ingredient,’ she warns, ‘which can cause algal bloom, which involves the rapid increase in algae growth, which can affect the health of both animals and humans.’

So, that’s not great news for the planet or for the health of you and your family.

Species decline

‘Along with phosphates, there are plenty of other dishwasher detergent chemicals which can have a detrimental effect,’ says Heather.

She says that some of these chemicals may not be filtered out at water treatment facilities, meaning they could end up in the ecosystem.

‘This could cause a decline in species of fish and could even cause humans to get ill,’ she adds.

How to wash up in an environmentally friendly way

Heather says there are plenty of ways to wash your dishes in a more eco-friendly manner, but the easiest thing you can do is to use less water.

As Heather said, filling the bowl with hot water just to wash a couple of things is a waste of energy. Instead, try to only fill the bowl with the hot water you will need – and then rinse each item with cold water as you need to – rather than leaving the hot tap running.

Make sure you’re correctly disposing of oil and grease, too.

Here are some more tips from Heather to help you make a difference when you’re washing up:

Invest in a dishwasher

‘One of the best ways to clean your dishes without worrying about water waste is by purchasing a dishwasher,’ says Heather.

‘Modern dishwashers are especially eco-efficient and tend to feature eco settings which enable users to reduce the amount of water and energy used.

‘In contrast to washing by hand, which wastes around 6,000 gallons per year are wasted, smart dishwashers tend to use less than 4.25 gallons per cycle.’

Use environmentally friendly detergent

Choose your products wisely.

Heather suggests reading the ingredients carefully and opt for soaps and detergents that are chemical-free and safe for animals and humans if they end up back in the ecosystem.

Try to look for phosphate-free products which will prevent chemical contamination,’ she says.

‘You should also avoid anything with surfactants, and added preservatives as these can also be poisonous to aquatic life.’

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