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Last Updated: Monday, 2 October 2006, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
How green is a dishwasher?
The Magazine answers...

Cameron video blog
Cameron and dishwasher - clean up politics... get it?
Tory leader David Cameron, never one to down-play his green credentials, is depicted in a new home video loading his dishwasher. How eco-friendly are they?

Webcameron, David Cameron's video blog, is billed as a way to communicate directly with the public about what the Conservative Party leader is thinking.

In the latest instalment, David Cameron talks - above the yelps of his children - about his plans to "clean up" politics, as he loads his dishwasher. Would the famously green Mr Cameron not be doing the environment more of a favour were he to wash up?

In environmental circles, it's a lively debate.

Some argue dishwashers are greener than hand washing because they use less water, detergent and power per cycle. A dishwasher can cut water consumption by up to 80% compared to hand washing in an average household, according to manufacturer Electrolux.

But others argue that when additional factors, such as the manufacture of the unit, the pollution created during distribution and the energy required to make the detergents used in them, are taken into account, it is questionable what is best.

Question mark
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But if Mr Cameron is going to use one he should make sure it is energy-efficient. In his blog it's not possible to see what make of dishwasher he is loading, but new models can save huge amounts of water and use 40% less energy, over their older counterparts.

Running a cycle on an inefficient dishwasher costs around 16p; on an energy saving machine it costs 9p, according to the Energy Saving Trust (EST). Some machines even sense the load size and degree of soiling, so they can tailor water and energy use accordingly.

When buying a dishwasher look for the EST's Energy Efficiency Recommended logo or the EU energy label. Compared to a model bought 10 years ago, a new A-rated energy-efficient dishwasher will save its owner 15 each year, according to Friends of the Earth (FoE).

Eco tablets

It also suggests looking for a dishwasher with a long guarantee - up to five years - when buying one as it suggests the appliance is built to last.

Energy meter

To get the most of energy and water saving, Mr Cameron should always run his dishwasher on a full load. Half-load programmes use more than half the amount of water of a full load. By waiting until the machine is full he could save approximately 0.6 litres of water per person.

He should not use any prewash programme as it is rarely necessary or rinse items under the tap before loading them. He should also use eco-friendly dishwasher tablets as machines need more detergent than hand washing, according to FoE.

If the unit needs descaling he should run a full cycle using a cupful of vinegar, not any harsh chemicals.

Where Mr Cameron does earn brownie points is with his kitchen layout. The dishwasher is away from the fridge - good because if they are next to each other the heat and moisture a dishwasher emits would force the fridge to work harder.

Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

The yellow cast on Mr Cameron's video tells us one thing - he's using old fashioned incandesent bulbs, instead on energy saving fluorescent light bulbs.
Joey, Birmingham

And how much energy and waste is involved in scrapping an old dishwasher and buying a new one? (Landfill, toxic waste, dishwasher miles?)Also, we just bought a new more energy-saving one, to replace one over 15 years old, and it takes over 2 hours to do a load! Not very convenient.
Wendy Lay, Brockenhurst

Dishwashers have always performed poorly, although I'm glad companies are improving on the energy efficiency front. I wonder how many people out there have had to rinse or re-wash items? Anyway, for a small household what's wrong with a pair of marigolds?
Mary, London

One thing not mentioned in the article is that dishwashers wear out pottery far more quickly than washing by hand. Glasses also become dulled very quickly, even if they're "dishwasher safe". Wash your dishes by hand and they'll look as new for years. Wash them in a dishwasher and they'll fade very fast. For a true environmental impact, you should add in the cost of replacing pottery more often than washing by hand.
John Smith, London

Picky and insignificant compared to clogged up motorways 24x7 and lack of a decent policy on the provision of integrated public transport (outside London).
Jim, Staffordshire

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