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What are your money-saving dishwasher tips?

Inside a dishwasher

Dishwasher tablets can quickly add up to over £100 a year and that’s before you factor in the cost of rinse aid, salt and using the machine. But are there cheaper options that give the same results?

I love discovering clever money-saving tips, but I’m not convinced that I need to sacrifice sparkling clean dishes to take advantage of them.

I’ve come across quite a few suggestions for cost-cutting while still getting a great clean – and I’ve summed up some popular tips below.

Saving money on dishwasher detergent

Let’s start with the obvious: looking out for money-saving deals on Best Buy dishwasher detergents or holding out until the next multibuy offer. Last year we found that big brand detergents were on promotion more often than not in several major supermarkets. The good news is that this is still true, although only if you’re prepared to shop around until you find a good deal.

Recently a Which? member contacted us about how he has literally cut his dishwasher costs in half. He’s started to use half a dishwasher tablet in each load to get double the number of washes for the money. This came up in a Convo on money-saving tips a while back too, when Jules Benning suggested the tip for those living in soft water areas.

Breaking a tablet in two is easier said than done; in my experience it involved a sharp knife and a fair amount of patience. So I’m not sure if this is something I’d recommend. Also, with some dishwasher tablets now made partly of gel, it might be rather a messy option!

Tips for sparkling crockery

One member shared their tip about using a fresh lemon:

‘Put a couple of slices of lemon in the dishwasher – it works as a rinse aid and keeps everything sparkling and fresh.’

I’ve also come across suggestions for using white vinegar instead of rinse aid, scraping (rather than pre-rinsing) dishes, washing glasses separately, and running the kitchen hot tap before starting the dishwasher.

Have you tried any of these methods? Do you have any other top dishwashing tips – either for better cleaning or saving money? Or do you think the best money-saving advice is to forgo dishwashers altogether?


I bought a large multi-pack of all-in-one Fairy dishwasher sachets from Makro over two years ago and I’ve still got plenty left. I don’t bother with rinse aid, as it has made almost no difference with any of the five dishwashers I’ve had and even glasses come out sparklingly clean with no water marks. Although I’m currently using all-in-one sachets (which theoretically don’t need salt), I still use dishwasher salt as it’s so cheap and ubiquitous. Look after your dishwasher well and it will look after your contents that you put in it.

Mrs R and I have a slight difference of opinion about rinsing crockery under the tap first. My view – its a dishwasher – why wash them yourself first! Scrape, yes, but let it do the job you bought it for. And hot water from the tap wastes money.

As for dishwasher tablets, we either buy Finish or M&S – and like DFS sofas they are usually around at half price – stock up. How do so many things these days get sold regularly at what is called half price? We must be taken for mugs – do they really take 50% off a fair price? I don’t think so.

My bulk buying of powder means I pay around 2p per dishwash AFAIR so I am not overly impressed with tablet halving. Assuming it is one of the German brands tablets then a whole tablet is about 10p which is substantially better than the big brand tablets.

I now try to avoid buying P&G and Unilever products since the 2011 EU report and fines of AFAIR 400m euro for colluding on pricing over several years to the detrimen of the consumer. There was a separate incident of the same sort in France.

My way of saving is by not having a dishwasher. 🙂

Actually that’s a false economy. I’ve definitely read somewhere, and I’m quite sure it was in a Which magazine several years ago, that washing up by hand uses more water and costs more in energy than a dishwasher. It’s also considerably more effort, fails to remove invisible dirt and is less hygienic.

Other than that though its a great idea WC 🙂

Just a note of caution. I suspect the greatest values are achieved with full dishwasher loads which might take time to accumulate.

As dishwashers heat their own water [normally – see link] I would think washing a plate and a knife after breakfast could economically done from the hot tap.


Maybe I am using more energy and water. I rinse everything thoroughly because I do not like the idea of everything being left with a film of washing-up liquid. If we took some swabs off your hands (or mine) and compared the number of bacteria with those on my hand-washed plates I can tell you which will be most contaminated.

One of my concerns with dishwashers is the small fire risk. They are often left unattended, sometimes in rooms without even a smoke alarm. Bosch recalled 600,000 machines and Hotpoint 200,000 machines to carry out modifications, but most of the owners failed to respond to the recall. I do not understand why any manufacturer should use flammable materials in construction of any kitchen appliance if non-flammable or even fire-retardant alternatives are available.

Having seen people’s efforts at washing-up by hand, I’m grateful that dishwashers are popular these days.

The joys of the Quooker the quick directed rinse with boiling water. Magic : )

NFH, Wrong, dishwashers being more economical with energy is a myth. It is based on some Euro standard which assumes that hot water is produced using a standard rate electricity tariff for both a dishwasher and when hand washing dishes.

In reality although dishwashers usually will produce their hot water on standard day rate electricity hand washed dishes usually use water produced via a home’s gas central heating system.

So given a Kwh or one unit of electricity is around 12p one Kwh or unit of mains gas is about 4p a dishwasher is only more economical if you use three times the amount of hot water handwashing. Hand washing might use more but not three times more hot water.
Even then you still need to factor in actually buying, installing and maintaining the thing, and eventually replacement the thing.

Dishwashers are not more economical than hand dish washing by a big margin.

I will accept however the myth is used and widely believed to both sell dishwashers and for the customer to justify the purchase of a dishwasher.

I suspect the comparison is also based on a dishwasher with a full load and not the two cups and a small dish I once found in the one at work.

Wash by machine or hand? A bit off-topic but the Daily Telegraph has some info (so it must be right!). And worth reading some of the comments – including drying your clothes in the greenhouse.
Appararently, they claim, you save £13 a year by using a dishwasher. (This, presumably, will not include Mrs R’s hourly rate). But at face value my dishwasher will have paid for itself in 2059 (I should care).

However, I well remember the washing up bowl soup that brewed when doing the family’s pots by hand. Lots of hot running water needed to finish off. And Christmas….. I’ll stick with the wishdosher.

I am not sure how the author of this article or the Energy Trust manages to work out relative costs without knowing how water is heated, how much water costs (especially since many properties are not metered) and so on. In estimating the cost of using a dishwasher it would be relevant to factor in the cost of purchase and possible repairs, and the cost of rubber gloves for washing by hand.

wavechange, Quite correct dishwashers are not cheaper than hand washing, see the comment where I explain this above. However I can see how people prefer the convenience when there is a lot of washing up to do, but it’s no good people going all eco-friendly when advocating the use of dishwashers because it just ain’t true.

It’s not something I feel strongly about Chris. No-one has tried to persuade me that a dishwasher is more economical but if they do I will ask for evidence of how they come to that conclusion.

malcomr gets the prize for his review. My best laugh of the day!

Yellowoars says:
26 November 2014

I have solar thermal water heating, so have plumbed the dishwasher to take hot water rather than cold (and heat it itself). I am told that the first rinse should be cold; well, it is until the hot water has run through for the subsequent fills. It speeds up the cycle as well, of course.

My money-saving dishwasher tips? Don’t use one. I get by very economically using the good old fashion way of washing up. Just a bowl of hot water and some washing up liquid.
In the time it takes to load and unload a dishwasher the jobs practically done, using less energy and usually more effectively. The only time you might really need one is if you have dish washing to do on an almost commercial scale.
The dishwasher is another piece of kit that seems to have justified it’s mostly unnecessary existence.

Whatever the real life relative energy and water consumption I am quite happy with the 1kWh and 13 litres of water used by our dishwaher most nights.

Now if a smart meter would offer me cheaper off peak electricity I would set the dishwasher to run during the cheapest period !

Would you leave a dishwasher unattended? http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/jan/11/kitchen-flames-domestic-appliances

What focused my mind was having to deal with a fire in my parents’ home. Fortunately I was there at the time and able to put out the fire before it spread.

Yes likewise for a washing machine, battery charger etc.
Yes I realise all these actions increase fire risk but I am happy with this.
Glad to hear you were at the right place at the right time for your parents.

If your hot water is heated by gas, solar or anything cheaper than electricity, you can plumb the dishwasher into the hot water supply. My dishwasher is plumbed into the hot water supply and this is why I run the nearby hot tap, until the water runs hot, before starting the dishwasher – so it fills with the warm water. Provided your hot water pressure is good and the instruction book says the dishwasher can be connected to a hot water supply, then why not? It works absolutely fine for me.

I’ve tried the hard tablets and powders, but these are too abrasive and wears off the glaze and often leaves a “gritty” feel on everything cleaned. I use Fairy Platinum and only buy them on special offer i.e. a fiver or less for about 30 tablets. To save even more money, I fill the dishwasher right up until I can’t even fit one more item, as this avoids running the dishwasher more often than necessary.

A lot of houses nowadays have mains-pressure hot water but you rarely hear of anyone recommending connexion of dishwashers and washing machines to the hot water supply and plumbers/installers routinely connect to the cold supply. Doing a cold rinse would be complicated with this arrangement however and require a bit of nifty valve work under the sink.

If you’ve got a combination boiler you’ll probably have filled the dishwasher before the water starts running hot. All you have done is needlessly heat up the water in the boiler and pipes.

It is not uncommon for those living off-grid to do what John has mentioned to minimise the cost of generating electricity.

Nick makes an important point but a good house designer should put the boiler close to the kitchen/utility room to help minimise waste of heat.

That’s why you run the nearest hot tap first, until the water comes out hot, to ensure a warm fill. Dishwashers can rinse in warm water. I’ve never had any problems with this setup and it saves energy compared to heating cold water in the dishwasher. Plumbers and installers don’t know that the hot water supply can be used; they just “think” a dishwasher connects to the cold supply, maybe because the inlet hose isn’t coloured red?

Check your dishwasher instruction book and if you can connect the dishwasher to a hot water supply – heated by anything but electricity – then why not? This setup would be most useful for solar heated hot water.

In dishwashers an initial cold rinse prevents food being “cooked” onto items, I suspect that most of the energy used in a dishwasher is in the drying cycle, so the energy saving by using lower cost HW may not be great.

OT with washing machines most people wash at 30C so there is little to be gained by moving from cold fill only to hot and cold fill.

Saying ‘don’t have a dishwasher’ may be amusing but it is beside the point. If you are going to have a dishwasher you’ve already bought into paying the the costs of using it.

The most obvious advice for running it economically isn’t cutting tablets in two or faffing around with lemons. Simply don’t run the machine until it’s completely full, and use the coolest, quickest possible program for what you are doing.

Vinny says:
28 November 2014

Some modern dishwashers have settings to enable them to plumbed directly into a hot water supply, this is especialy good if you use solar panels to help heat domestic water. Buying consumables in bulk also saves money, 20Kg of salt for water softeners from Amazon costs £13 and 100 ‘Finish’ original tablets will cost under £10 if purchased from Family bargains in packs of 10.

Since millions of people do not have a dishwasher for reasons of space or cost or small household size, and because who does have a dishwasher also seems to do some washing-up by hand, it’s time we examined the price of washing up liquid. I know that Which? reports on this regularly and picks a best value product or two, but can we be reassured that even the best Best Buy is as cheap as it could be? Offers and promotions might help, but prices never seem to go down despite reductions in raw material prices and increases in sales volumes. There is apparent competition in the market with own-label and independent producers but it is usually the fact that, although such products are cheaper per litre, their inferior performance in washing dishes does not make them as good value as some dearer ones so they are a false economy. Aldi’s w-up liquid is the only serious contender on value for money as its performance is rated highly by Which?, but in a market dominated by high-priced products generally can we be sure that even Aldi are cutting the price to the bone? Anyway, not everyone can shop at Aldi and most have to rely on what they can get at their grocery superstore. The active ingredients of w-up liquid probably don’t add up to more than half the volume in the bottle so water must play a large part in its manufacture. Energy, packaging and distribution are significant costs that probably have been rising but, obviously, higher volumes lead to economies of scale, so the top brands and biggest sellers have an advantage. It would probably do more people a favour to bear down on the cost of washing-up liquid than to worry too much about the price of dishwasher tablets where load maximisation will produce the best economy of use.

please insert “everyone” in line 2 after “because”.

We use Fairy Platinum. They don’t need rinse aid and really are tops for cleaning. I’m really not too concerned about the wash being bone dry either. There’s always going to somewhere that pools the water when you do a large load and honestly, clean is more important than dry. Drying consumes loads of energy, so using a cycle that doesn’t over-dry is going to save money too.

Fairy Platinum is often the most expensive, but if you look out for bargains you can bulk buy. ASDA frequently have the 60 packs on offer that coats 15p per sachet which seems reasonable to me.

Magoo says:
5 December 2014

Stick with me here. i vac pac my homemade curries, soups and stews and if I’m running the dishwasher on the hot wash. I throw one of the pouches onto one of the racks and it comes out piping hot at the end of the cycle. Therefore saving energy in not using another appliance.

Janet says:
7 December 2014

I use supermarket’s own brand dishwashing powder (tablets don’t always dissolve properly), rinse aid and salt. I rinse everything under the tap first, and wash using the quickest economy setting. Always turns out fine, though I tend to hand wash cutlery and glasses. I’ve only ever owned a slimline dishwasher, and it’s surprising how much you can cram in!

Janet, you can rinse everything at once in the dishwasher by running the “prewash” or “prerinse” programme, and then running the economy setting. If you’re using the quick economy setting most of the time, be sure to run a special dishwasher cleaner in the empty dishwasher about once a month, on the hottest programme, to avoid grease and food blockages and take extra care to keep the filters clean.

Any of the Fairy dishwasher tablets will dissolve no problems, compared to tablets. Shop around to buy them cheaper. Be sure the detergent dispenser is dry first, to avoid detergent sticking to it – yes I’ve had that happen.

Having finally replaced an ageing rusty full size Dishwasher which we hardly ever used and which gave modern dishwashers a bad name, with a slimline Bosch eco one, I was intrigued by the Salt/Rinse aid thing and does anyone who uses a modern dishwasher actually realise that you can turn this feature off, as most tablets are dual , triple, Quadruple action and have the Salt Rinse aid in the tablet rendering the need to put this into the dishwasher as well actually pointless?. I have just waded through the manual and realised that I don’t need this stuff and worked out how to turn it off so the dishwasher wont keep asking for it …Its a money saving tip. If I could find a tablet that worked like my Ecco balls in my washing machine I would be made up.

Having finally replaced an ageing rusty full size Dishwasher which we hardly ever used and which gave modern dishwashers a bad name, with a slimline Bosch eco one, I was intrigued by the Salt/Rinse aid thing and does anyone who uses a modern dishwasher actually realise that you can turn this feature off, as most tablets are dual , triple, Quadruple action and have the Salt Rinse aid in the tablet rendering the need to put this into the dishwasher as well actually pointless?. I have just waded through the manual and realised that I don’t need this stuff and worked out how to turn it off so the dishwasher wont keep asking for it …Its a money saving tip. Something the manufacturers don’t make clear and will be more environmentally friendly if I dont use un-necessary chemicals in the dish washer . I also save water as we currently use about 2-3 bowls a day.If I could find a tablet that worked like my Ecco balls in my washing machine I would be made up.