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#18 Handwashing the Dishes

Posted February 27th, 2008 by Peter · 59 Comments

We thank “That Guy” for this very true asian observation.

Asian people are generally regarded as technologically advanced, and that is true. However, there is one machine an asian will never use: The dishwasher.

DishwasherAsians simply don’t trust machines to do their dishes for them. Asians are very prideful in their work, and need to be assured that their dishes are indeed clean. Who better to assure asians than themselves? If an asian knows that a dish is machine-washed, they will question its integrity. They will stare at it with contempt. They will most likely take it to the restroom to rinse it off. It is only when an asian and only an asian does the dishes by hand that it can be considered clean.

Think about it: Can a machine really pick up all that grime and cholesterol from those delightful but ever so greasy asian meals? Asians take off their shoes for the same reason they wash their own dishes. It’s the cleaner and more obvious thing to do.

Here’s another point of view: Perhaps it is a perceived waste of money; as it takes up power, water, and time. This is absolutely true. Asians are very thrifty by nature, and would not ever think about having a machine do something that they could do themselves for a cheaper and more efficient price. Asians shop at asian supermarkets in order to save money on items that would otherwise cost them way more at, let’s say, Trader Joe’s. The extra power, water, and soap consumption that is associated with a dishwasher is also immense.


A dishwasher goes through multiple cycles in order to get plates clean. Handwashing takes only the time it takes to lather and rinse. “A dishwasher uses 512 kilowatts of electricity per year, producing 840 lbs. of carbon dioxide. Hand washing produces nothing (well, other than when the person washing the dishes exhales “¦). Compared to the lather and rinse method, that’s a lot of water and energy consumed. According to ecostreet, an average person can save up over 11,000 liters of water a year by hand-washing dishes. To put that into perspective, an average sink holds 20 liters of water. That’s over 550 sinks-worth of water going to waste every year! Asians not only know what’s best for their own health, but also the environment.

dishwasher.jpgIt is very safe to say that in most Asian households, the closest use of the dishwasher is perhaps to store extra dishes after they have been cleaned. However, in most cases, the dishes are left to air-dry on racks conveniently located on the kitchen counter. This way, children, the elderly, and even pets can get their own dishes whenever they want. This allows them to become independent leaders of the free world in the future. (This is probably a stretch…) Asians know why to hand-wash dishes: It’s eco-friendly, time-efficient, and much cleaner than machine-washers.
This is why: Asians Love to Hand-wash Dishes.

Last 5 posts by Peter

Tags: Activities · Chores · Environment · Hobbies · Medicine · People · Technology

59 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chinkygirl // Feb 27, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    how about changing the title to “Handwashing the dishes”


  • 2 Ric // Feb 27, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    I’m not sure what we do actually saves any water, but it sure gets those dishes clean. Unlike white people, we yellow folk will never put our dishes in a bath of water (and have the dishes swimming in their own filth). No, we must “wash neat” by firstly rinsing the dishes under a tap and then soaping them up with a sponge or scourer and finally rinsing the suds and scum off under a running tap (NOT a sinkful of water – again the notion of soaking in filth). Once that’s done, we never towel off the dishes. Air-drying is not only more convenient as you said, it is also more hygienic.

  • 3 Maria // Feb 28, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    This is so strange. I am a white girl who lived with a white guy in Asia and he always got mad about the way I did the dishes, which is basically verbatim what you wrote above. (I think I really must be part Asian!) “The dude” got mad at me about the way I did the dishes, and called me lazy. I then got very passive agressive and refused to do said dishes at all (so he could have things his way.) Which is another Asian behavior (avoiding conflict) but the situation soon spiraled out of control after that. It’s just nice to read this and know that there is some “method to the madness”.

  • 4 Ari // Feb 29, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    This whole blog reads like it was written by a white kid in love with Japan.

  • 5 Dr. Chan // Feb 29, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Maybe we are all white kids in love with Japan.

  • 6 Val // Mar 4, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Oh my gosh, I’ve seen this with everyone in my family but never thought it to be an Asian universal. All of the Asian people I know will use their dishwasher to store cleaned dishes.
    I always perceived it was because they thought the idea of leaving soiled dishes until the dishwasher fills up (even though it’s enclosed) was kind of gross.

  • 7 StereoTypicalAsian // Mar 5, 2008 at 7:32 am

    I have to agree with this one. We (1.5 generation Korean) just started using dish washers. It works pretty well. But we still hand wash some of the small stuff.

  • 8 kikko // Mar 5, 2008 at 10:07 am

    damn, I never realized how my parents made me distrust the dishwasher since little. I got one now but scared to use it cause I don’t trust it. Now I know why…

  • 9 johnk // Mar 8, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    I think Asians just came to dishwashers at a late age, and never got into them. They were a real post-ww2 suburban thing. Asians moved into America big time in the 60s, but into cities, where the apartments didn’t have dishwashers. By the time these Asians had them, they were set in their ways.

    Besides, the washers tend to leave bits of egg and dried rice on the plates, and a funny scummy surface if you don’t do it right.

  • 10 Pacific Man // Mar 11, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Dang, you are right about this….my wife (Hong Kong born) is allergic to using the dishwasher, just doesn’t have the habit, and will even do it by hand after we’ve had a dinner party and can justify using the dishwasher (having enough dishes for a full load). If that’s the case I will quickly load up the dishwasher before she can get to it to head off any arguments…

  • 11 Anonymouse // Mar 12, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    No way a dishwasher is more wasteful. They pack in the dishes and make it all efficient. Handwashing wastes much more water.

  • 12 Anonymous // Mar 21, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Believe it or not, a dishwasher actually does tend to leave cleaner dishes. This is because the water temperature is essentially the maximum temperature a home’s water heater will allow. Higher temperatures allow for vastly improved surfactant action from soap than at temperatures tolerable by human washers. Myth Busted, sorry to say.

  • 13 Anonymous // Mar 21, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    It took my Chinese teacher over a year of living in America before she learned to “trust” the dishwasher. Actually, I think she just got lazy.

  • 14 Anthea C // Mar 26, 2008 at 11:34 am

    I don’t know about anybody else, but in addition to using the dishwasher for storage, my family also uses the oven for storage. The Chinese families I know don’t seem big on baking. Any thoughts?

  • 15 Xtasian // Mar 26, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    My family uses the dishwasher as a spice rack and the oven for a bread basket…. I’m relieved to hear I’m not the only one.

  • 16 AddictiveTouch // Mar 26, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Me personally, I scrub down everything that goes into the dishwasher first. Only idiots put completely grease laden crap into the dishwasher. Pots, pants, cooking knifes, utensils, etc. are generally hand washed. And when I do the dishes it usually takes an hour to an hour and a half… I’m that thorough.

  • 17 Koko // Mar 26, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Its true, we do them by hand, the dishwasher that came with the house was broken, and my japanese father saw no point in getting it fixied (that was 18years ago) still do them by hand just like he did as a kid

  • 18 Justin // Mar 26, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    @Anthea: just a guess, maybe they like to fry/cook their food more…i just ate a lot of oily dishes in china.

  • 19 Toby // Mar 27, 2008 at 8:41 am

    My family also uses to oven to store pots and pans. Partly because we have no room. Our cupboards are full with food items and dishes, tupperwares…But the majority of chinese cooking does not involve baking. Even chinese desserts are cooked on the stove top or refrigerated. (Tofu dessert, puddings, red bean soup, etc.)

  • 20 SumGai // Mar 27, 2008 at 9:08 am

    This is so funny.

    My parents absolutely refused the dishwasher my sister and her husband bought them for Christmas, saying they didn’t want or need it (I don’t think it’s like when Homer bought a bowling ball for Marge, or a vaccum cleaner for Valentine’s present).

    It might have been a little “pride” thing (i.e., we support the kids, the kids don’t support us – at least while we’re able-bodied), but they won out in the end with the classic “Even if we accepted it, where would we put it?”

    Anyway, fast forward to their recent visit to my place and lo and behold, my mom would handwash all of the dishes after they cooked, despite my pleas to just dump them in the dishwasher so we could spend more time watching a movie (enough dishes were used daily that the dishwasher would be on nightly so no concern of the dirty dishes sitting).

    Too funny. And I agree that while a dishwasher uses more energy (electricity vs. calories), I’m pretty sure that also uses less water than handwashing (assuming that one uses the “rinsing under running water” method which I do when handwashing things not suitable or too big for the dishwasher).

  • 21 Giun Sun // Mar 28, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Haha….I don’t agree with many things on this blog, but this one I do! And the point about using it as a drying rack for clean dishes was a nice touch!

  • 22 Z. Yang-Do // Mar 28, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    I handwash dishes because it is a stress reliever to me.

    The only times I use a dishwasher is for huge family gatherings/parties – even then, I rinse and scrub all the food off prior placing the dishes into the washer. LOL.

  • 23 Anonymous // Apr 17, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Growing up we always used the dishwasher as a storage place for snacks like crackers, cookies, etc. and always washed dishes by hand. And my family is from central Europe (I’m 1.5 generation).

  • 24 Machan // May 8, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Yes, it’s true. We use the dishwasher as a drying rack in our house.

  • 25 Crystal // May 11, 2008 at 2:25 am

    SO SO TRUE. We’ve lived in three or four houses already and my parents NEVER use the dishwasher, even when we have guests over. It’s an abomination i tell ya!

  • 26 sy88 // May 11, 2008 at 3:37 am

    What’s an abomination Crystal? The idea of using a dishwasher is an abomination, or the contraption known as the dishwasher is an abomination? … Hmm, that word makes no sense anymore…

  • 27 avalon // Jun 10, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Rinsing the dishes and washing them a bit first, then putting them in the dishwasher, is far more sanitary than hand washing. The water in a dishwasher is hotter than a human hand could stand. Further, the time saving is immense. I will not be parted from a dishwasher.

  • 28 Anonymous // Jun 22, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    This is true in my household. My parents think that using the dishwasher is a waste of water and money. We have never touched the dishwasher — ever.

  • 29 me // Jul 11, 2008 at 7:52 am

    “the dishwasher is only for when company comes to visit.”

  • 30 alterna180 // Aug 1, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    i’m half-korean. it was my white MOM who made me hate the dishwasher and it’s wastefulness of energy and water (and show of laziness). maybe it was my asian-half that embraced her philosophy though.

    i really do hate using the dishwaher!

  • 31 chinesegirlx3 // Sep 3, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    So true!
    My parents make me handwash all the dishes (my chore). Lmfao. We have a dishwasher but we use it as a drying rack.

  • 32 Anonymous // Sep 8, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    I don’t know why, but hand washing dishes has always been a time for me to reflect on my life.

  • 33 Anonymous // Sep 29, 2008 at 4:03 am

    my whole family has a phobia of cleaning detergents and other household products that contain chemicals (whether harmful or not). That’s why we hand wash our dishes

  • 34 Alderton // Nov 15, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Dishwashers are absolutely more efficient, so long as you actually fill them up. (They use the same amount when they’re full as when you only have one plate in.)

    And they really do get things cleaner, since the temperatures are higher and the detergents are more powerful than anything human hands can stand without burning. A dishwasher (a good one) can sanitize plates. Just try getting handwashed table ware past a restaurant health inspector.

  • 35 TheShortFilipino // Dec 6, 2008 at 12:49 am

    I’m 21 years old and have never seen a dishwasher work. When I lived with my aunt, we only used the dishwasher to store clean and hand-washed plates. The apartment that we moved in to didn’t come with a dishwasher, and we didn’t care.

    Side note: I’ve never operated an oven because I’m afraid that it would catch fire. There’s always been an oven in the 3 houses that I lived in for 21 years, but ovens have just been used as storage place for pots, pans, and also a hiding place for snacks.

  • 36 Na // Dec 6, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    lol, this article is very true. Our family doesn’t use the dishwasher except when we need to wash with once in awhile to clean it up for later use, like putting washed dishes in to dry.

  • 37 Anonymous // Feb 13, 2009 at 2:12 am

    my girfriend’s family has a dishwasher and uses it it every night

    after thoroughly hand-washing everything before it goes in, of course

  • 38 Anonymous // Feb 21, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Wow, this is extremly racist. How dare you stereotype asians even more. You say this site is to stop asian stereotypes, so you can just create your own. Do you know every single asian person in this planet? You may be asian, but that doesn’t make it right for you to say you know it all. You may keep your own “opinions” to yourself, but don’t make a public blog in the internet, and make little racist slanders to caucasians, of how you percieve them as “dirty” “fat” and “not clean”. As i said before, you don’t know every white person or any asian person in this world. You can’t judge people and make false assumtions based on (what it looks like) what little knowledge and experience you have. You never really considered how you might make readers of this blog who may just want to learn about asian culture or lifestyles feel. You are not just insulting people of asian decent, but you’re also shining a bad light white people. And Ric, you’re disgusting.
    “Unlike white people, we yellow folk will never put our dishes in a bath of water (and have the dishes swimming in their own filth). ”
    You’re not superior to white people just because you’re asian. That quote right there, shows that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • 39 Heat Moon // Feb 22, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Anonymous above needs to get a load off his/her chest. Maybe wash the dishes?

  • 40 Tina // Apr 10, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    My entire family does this incuding ME!!!! I had no idea I was being so asian. I have no idea why I do this or was even conscious that I was shunning the dishwasher.

  • 41 Tia Liang // Jul 4, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Not a single person has mentioned bacteria. Asian style of dishwashing, with running cold water is dangerous and unsanitary. This is because there is an assumption about what soap does. Soap, even anti-bacterial soap, will not sanitize your dishes. Antibacterial soap has antibacterial agents for your hands, not your dishes.

    You need HOT WATER, to sanitize your dishes to be free of bacteria. This passed down technique of dishes washing is very dangerous and needs to be evaluated with the framework of science and public health. If it was, it wouldn’t pass scrutiny. Soap moves dirt and grease and oil from surfaces, it does not kill bacteria.

    Use hot water or bleach/alcohol solutions to sanitize your dishes, ESPECIALLY WOODEN DISHES WHICH ARE POROUS AND HARBOR BACTERIA.

    Hand washing is fine if dishes are exposed to hot water

  • 42 Lyn not LIN! // Jul 8, 2009 at 11:54 am

    A proper dishwasher never uses more water than conventional hand washing methods. Don’t be ignorant. It drives me crazy when Asians come to my house and insult me for using my dishwasher. I go to their house, and their dishes smell funky because they always uses slightly warm water and old sponges. Guess what, sponges are disgusting and well known for harboring bacteria and such. I am often putting back cups on the dry racks just because I KNOW the cup wasn’t cleaned properly. I know a child that is forced to wash dishes by hand will not do so properly, but every Asian household uses child labor to get their dishes clean. Guess what, those kids pick their nose while doing dishes with cold water and a filthy sponge. Since I use my dishwasher every night, I can fill the whole thing up throughout the day. It is so not a waste. If you want a good dishwasher, I recommend a German dishwasher because of how well they are designed.

  • 43 SuperWonton // Jul 24, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    my parents never use the dishwasher, either. but i specifically bought a mobile one for my apt. hand washing dishes not only waste more water, but leaves water spots and airborne germs if you air dry them. My health is greatly improved since bought the washer. it disinfects all my dishes while it drys, and they all come out spotless!

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  • 45 lol // Sep 3, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    sighs. if only my mom hated to use the dishwasher too….instead, she makes me wash the dishes by hand and then throw it in the dishwasher and wash it again! ugh. and the dishwasher we have is this crappy thing that doesn’t even work properly!

    i think washing dishes by hand is alot more sanitary then a dishwasher…the way i wash dishes, i use VERY hot water (so hot that my sister goes “ow!” every time she rinses a container to store our leftover food and my parents complain that it’s too hot >.> haha) and also, the dish washing antibacterial soap…was MADE FOR WASHING DISHES so i would think it is pretty effective in sanitizing the dishes and it’s not child labor if a parent wants their kids to wash dishes…it’s a chore

  • 46 Sickitten // Sep 17, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Yeah, I have to agree with Anonymous above and say, “Ram it Ric. Ram it hard!”

    Like white people are just so filthy & let dishes swim in their own filth! Please. I hope Ric is Japanese b/c they are probably the only Asian country that could get away with such an attitude.

    It surprised me in Japan to learn that Japanese people thought that white people just don’t clean themselves so well. Like with a shower instead of immersed in a tub. Northern Europeans just don’t have so much oil in their skin & have a different diet. There’s no grease to scrub off.

    Yeah, I love the hand washing of dishes, sometimes to relax but the bottom line is, it’s a peasant’s poor mentality who couldn’t afford a dishwasher, in general. The dish washer does
    sterilize. Sponges need to be soaked in bleach & run for a minute in the microwave.

    I don’t know who the “white people” are that some are referring to but I suggest some of you take a little vacation in a country known as Germany or Quebec Canada to know see what a sparkling clean home is all about.

  • 47 Sickitten // Sep 23, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    BTW, rinsing dishes in a sink full of water was only used by soap manufacturers in TV commercials, buddy.

  • 48 Juzzy // May 11, 2010 at 12:01 am

    i asked my mum why we never use the dishwasher after reading this blog. she said “i don’t know how to use it”. we don’t ever use the dishwasher not even to store things. in fact my dishwasher still has the plastic wrapper intact since installment.

  • 49 Anonymous // Jun 19, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Gosh. It isn’t only Asians who hand wash their dishes… It’s so annoying when things are considered to be done the “Asian way” when its simply the more “traditional way” or “cheaper way”. This is why there is racism. Stop generalizing by race.

  • 50 ciao // Aug 29, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    i hate it when my [white] boyfriend uses the dishwasher and then complains afterwards that the dishes arent clean enough. that’s why i try to do the dishes, cuz handwashing gets them cleaner.

  • 51 Anonymous // Sep 1, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    I recently taught my Chinese girlfriend how to use the dishwasher and she’s taken to it like a fish to water, though her friends say that I’ve made her lazier in the process. Most people who complain about the dishwasher not making their dishes clean enough aren’t using the machine properly. A modern dishwasher will use less water, less energy (if you turn off the heated dry setting), and get your dishes cleaner than handwashing without the need for pre-rinsing. It uses stronger, more aggressive detergents and hotter water, while not rubbing your dishes with a filthy sponge (typically the single most germ ridden thing in your kitchen unless you regularly sterilize it). For those white, black, yellow, or any other color of the rainbow people who’ve been having trouble getting your dishes clean with the dishwasher, just follow these simple steps:

    1. Buy dishwasher detergent. Many people who’ve never used a dishwasher before will use the same stuff they use to wash their dishes by hand and wonder why it makes a mess all over the floor of their kitchen. Dishwasher detergent is much stronger than handwashing dish liquid and doesn’t suds.

    2. Load it properly. The water comes from the center and sprays up and outwards. Every item in your dishwasher should face inward or down.

    3. Don’t pre-rinse your dishes; just scrape the big stuff into the trashcan/garbage disposal and put the dishes in the machine as-is. If you put dishes that are too clean in the dishwasher, it will actually be less effective as the detergent will have nothing to attack.

    4. Put in your detergent. You don’t need to fill the cup all the way unless you have and unusually large load of unusually dirty dishes. Fill it maybe halfway and put a splash/sprinkle in the pre-wash tray. Make sure to latch the cup shut. At this time you can also check the status of your rinse agent dispenser if you choose to use it.

    5. Set your machine. There’s really only one setting you need to use and that’s the standard wash one. To save energy, feel free to turn off the heated drying cycle. If you open the dishwasher immediately after the wash cycle is finished, the residual heat of the dishes is more than sufficient to dry them.

    6. Run the hot water in your kitchen sink until it comes out of the tap hot. Almost all dishwashers are fed by the same water line that feeds your sink (they also drain to the same line). Doing this purges all the lukewarm water in the pipes between your water heater and the sink. This makes sure that your dishwasher is being filled with water as hot as possible.

    6. Now you can turn on your dishwasher. The latch that closes it also turns it on, though some models have a separate start button.

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  • 53 Katie // Sep 30, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    I am very much not Asian…at least, not to my knowledge. But I wash and clean like an Asian person, not to mention my study habits. Perhaps I do have some Asian in me after all, or I’m a neat freak and diligent worker. Who knows..

  • 54 Girl Here // Oct 2, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    We’re so asian, we don’t even have a dishwasher in our new house.

  • 55 Chris M. // Sep 18, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    I’m Asian and I’ve noticed that dishwashers just don’t have so much capacity for bowls. You can load only a fraction of bowls as dishes, and you still have to do half the work… scraping off the scraps, loading, unloading, maybe drying…

    If you have the right technique, manual washing can be pretty fast and water saving.

    hand washing

  • 56 Miss M // Mar 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    I am a white middle aged female in Houston TX and just sold my house to an Asian family. My dishwasher is broken, they don’t know this yet until the inspection. I’ve been washing dishes by hand for years and prefer it too. Maybe I won’t have to replace my broken dishwasher if they won’t use it anyway? I’ll find out soon. :-)

  • 57 Thomas // Aug 14, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Yeah, damn, it’s hard to get the Korean mother-in-law as well as my wife to STOP washing the dishes by hand. FFS, we have a hi-tech Bosch, and it’s proved that it’s more economical to use the machine. And saves time. And then there’s no need to bitch about dry hands.

    Fine, wash high end glasses by hand, but otherwise it’s the 21st century people!

  • 58 Gloria // Jun 23, 2018 at 2:03 am

    Hahaha… Our dishwasher uses about 13.5 litres of water. It has a hygiene setting, that sends the water temperature up to about 80c. The cabinet holds way more than what I could wash in one sink full of dishes, by the time the water gets dirty and cold. Dishwasher wins every time!
    We do lots of Asian style things at home, but spurning the dishwasher wasn’t one of them. My Mother has too much common sense for that! We also open the dishwasher and pull out the racks as soon as it’s finished, so it’s not wasting power to dry, and the extra hot dishes have enough heat to flash off most of the water anyway, and they air dry easily.
    There’s a few items that are hand wash only, so the dishwasher goes on once a day, and I do the few things left over in about five to ten minutes. If I washed all that by hand, every available surface would be covered by drying dishes.
    There’s much more time to prepare tasty foods if you use the dishwasher!

  • 59 Gloria // Jun 23, 2018 at 2:08 am

    By the way… seems a lot of people have dishwashers that use the hot tap water. Ours uses the cold, and heats the water itself, very quickly and to a much higher temperature.

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