Portable Dishwasher vs Hand Washing (A Helpful Guide)

Portable dishwashers, both freestanding and countertops, not only ease the chore of washing dishes but also offer convenience and efficiency. While dishwasher designs keep improving to help save time, energy, and water increasingly, there’s always the matter of portable dishwasher vs hand washing.

Generally, portable dishwasher models consume much less water and energy, wash dishes more effectively, and take lesser time on your part to use than hand-washing dishes.

Let’s look into the factors that differentiate portable dishwashers from hand washing.

How Portable Dishwashers Compare to Hand Washing?

Here’s a table that summarizes the various factors that differ between a portable dishwasher vs hand washing.

FactorsPortable DishwasherHand Washing
Water UsageLessMore
Energy Usage~1 – 2 kWhDepends on the use of an electric geyser; otherwise, Nil
Duration30 minutes – 3 hours20-30 minutes
EcoEco mode uses reduced temperature and less waterLow-to-no-energy use; water usage can be reduced
Purchase CostsOne-time purchase + detergent + maintenanceDishwashing soap
Ease of UseLess manual effortMore manual effort
SpaceRequires additional spaceRequires only a sink

Water Consumption

Energy Star-rated dishwashers
use about 3.5 gallons of water per cycle.

We do have some more details of the water usage of portable dishwashers with actual costs in our separate article.

Hand washing
a whole load of dishes uses an average of more than 26 gallons of water.

Moreover, when you pre-rinse your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher, you might waste as much as 6,000 gallons of water each year.

Energy Usage

Portable dishwashers
have an average energy consumption between 1-2 kWh.

inside of a running wet dishwasher

Hand washing
with cold water doesn’t use energy at all. However, if you use an electric geyser for warm water, there will be minimal energy consumption depending on the geyser’s power and duration.


According to Energy Star, you can save about 230 hours of manual labor a year using a dishwasher instead of handwashing. 

A portable dishwasher’s wash cycle
can last 30 minutes to three hours.

However, there’s manual effort involved in loading and unloading the dirty dishes into the dishwasher, which might take about 10-15 minutes each.

Hand washing
a full load of dirty dishes might require about 20-30 minutes.


Portable dishwashers
with regular wash cycles use higher temperatures, which also causes higher energy consumption.

Although an Eco mode uses lower temperatures and less water, it runs longer and can produce poorer drying performance.

While hand washing,
you cannot expose your hands to extremely hot water temperatures.

Hence, the energy consumption to use hot water is less. With a few mindful practices, you can also reduce water usage during hand washing.

Purchase Costs

Portable dishwashers
involve a one-time purchase cost, ranging between $200 – $800 on average.

Additional expenditure involves purchasing the detergent and regular maintenance.

Although using a dishwasher will help save money on utility bills over time, the initial price is one of the downsides of portable dishwashers.

Do you think portable dishwashers are expensive? Here is why.

Washing dishes by hand,
the only purchase involved is dishwashing soap.

Ease of Use

A portable dishwasher
only requires to be loaded with dishes and detergent and plugged in to start washing.

There is minimal manual effort involved in using a portable dishwasher.

This changes if you plan to store the dishwasher (especially free-standing models) in a different place when not in use. You will have to hook up the device before each use.

This will take up some minutes and increase the necessary effort

However, hand washing
involves scrubbing and washing by hand, requiring more manual effort.


Most portable dishwasher models
use high water temperatures of 140 – 145 degrees Fahrenheit, strong detergent, and steam drying.

These work together to result in clean and hygienic dishes and eliminate any germs or microorganisms. 

Techjut tip: Regularly maintain your portable dishwasher for good hygiene and efficient performance.

Hand washing
does not allow those very high temperatures.

Since human hands cannot tolerate the high water temperatures used in dishwashers, while the dishes can be washed well, the sanitization isn’t comparable to that of a dishwasher.


Portable dishwashers
require additional space in the kitchen for installation and storage.

If necessary space is something that concerns you, we do have a portable dishwasher size guide and also an article about sizes of freestanding dishwashers.

For hand washing
on the other hand, you only require a sink, making it a more space-efficient option, especially for smaller kitchens.

When To Use A Portable Dishwasher Instead Of Hand Washing?

Generally, using a portable dishwasher is advantageous over hand washing for the reasons mentioned above. However, here are some specific situations when opting for a portable dishwasher makes sense:

  • You Accumulate Large Loads of Dishes:
    When there are more members in the household, or you cook your own meals at home, the dishes can pile up quickly. This is also the case if you frequently host parties or gatherings.
    Since portable dishwashers have a higher capacity, you can load your dishes, glasses, silverware, pots, and pans in a single wash cycle. It helps significantly reduce time and effort than hand washing larger loads of dishes.
  • You Dislike Hand Washing:
    If you dislike washing dirty dishes by hand, portable dishwashers are an excellent choice to take the chore off your hands.
  • Busy Schedules:
    Individuals with busy schedules are often constantly in a rush and struggle to make time for hand-washing dishes. If you’re working full-time or prioritize convenience, a portable dishwasher is a time-saving solution.
    All you need to do is load the dishes, add detergent, and run a wash cycle. You can do this in the morning before you leave for work or in the evening after you’re done with your meal.
  • Conservation of Water and Energy:
    When used appropriately (with regard to loading and wash cycle selections), portable dishwashers can be more energy- and water-efficient than hand washing.
    If you want to reduce your environmental footprint or live in an area with an irregular water supply, a portable dishwasher makes a greener choice.
  • Physical Limitations:
    Portable dishwashers are an excellent convenience for individuals with mobility issues or other health conditions that affect their ability to stand or grip objects. These appliances eliminate manual scrubbing and rinsing, making it easier for anybody with physical limitations.
  • Improved Sanitation and Hygiene:
    Portable dishwashers use higher temperatures in wash cycles. The high heat helps kill bacteria and other microorganisms that may harbor on dirty dishes, providing effective sanitization.
    Some models offer additional features like sanitizing cycles or steam cleaning for thorough hygiene. These features are handy for washing baby-care items.

When To Hand Wash Instead Of Using A Portable Dishwasher?

While portable dishwashers may have benefits over hand-washing dishes, there are some instances when washing dishes by hand may be suitable over using a portable dishwasher.

  • Smaller Dish Loads:
    If you regularly wash dishes as you go or accumulate only a few dishes after a meal, hand washing would be quicker and more efficient.
    Rather than accumulating dishes over time to make a full dishwasher load, washing them by hand will help immediately clean all the necessary items.
  • Delicate or Non-Dishwasher-Safe Items
    Certain items like crystal, fine china, wooden, cast-iron, or aluminum vessels, or items with intricate designs are not dishwasher-safe. The high temperature in a dishwasher can cause potential damage to such items. It’s ideal to gently wash these items by hand instead.
  • Stubborn Residue
    One thing even the best dishwashers can’t do is scrub off stubborn grime or something that’s burnt to the bottom of a vessel. Removing these will require some elbow grease and is best washed by hand.
  • Limited Kitchen Space
    Although portable dishwashers don’t take up space like built-in models, they still require space for operation.
    If you have a tiny kitchen or lack the space to accommodate a portable dishwasher, you’re left with the option of hand washing.
  • Personal Preference
    If you’re among those who prefer to wash dishes manually, cleaning each item thoroughly without having to inspect it again, then hand washing might be a good choice.
  • Conservation of Energy and Water
    Hand-washing dishes could be more sustainable than using a portable dishwasher when you’re particularly conscious of water or energy usage.

There are some tips to make hand washing efficient; read on to find out.

How To Hand Wash Efficiently?

If you must wash dishes by hand, here are some tips for doing so efficiently:

  • Pre-Rinse and Pre-Soak
    While it’s recommended not to pre-rinse dishes before loading them into a dishwasher, you might have to do a quick pre-rinse before hand washing to remove large food particles.
    For any stubborn or dried-on residue, pre-soak the dishes in warm soapy water to loosen the debris and make it easier to wash later.
  • Optimize Water Usage
    An efficient way to wash dishes by hand is to fill one side of the sink with warm soapy water and use another sink to rinse them off. With a double sink, you can save water by avoiding running the water continuously while washing.
  • Use an Efficient Scrubbing Technique
    If dishes, pots, or pans have stubborn residue, apply dish soap to your sponge or brush and scrub thoroughly. Use circular motions and gentle pressure to remove residual particles effectively. Don’t forget to rinse the sponge or brush intermittently to prevent the debris from spreading around.
  • Sort and Wash in Batches
    It’s best to start with the least soiled items and then wash the dirtier ones so you don’t have to change the water too frequently. Group similar items, like glasses, plates, and pots/pans.


In the portable dishwasher vs hand washing comparison, it’s evident that washing your dishes in a portable appliance has several advantages.

These machines use lesser water, wash dishes more effectively, require less human effort, and sanitize the dishes during the wash cycle.

However, the drawbacks of a portable dishwasher compared to hand washing include the cost, additional energy costs (although they’re pretty low for Energy Star-certified appliances), and space usage.