Kitchens Part 2: The Sink

So. Let’s start where meals end. At the kitchen sink. This is a good spot to pick at, if yer gonna pick. As I said in my intro kitchen post, this area needs some good brainstorming.

When you’re looking at a sink, you need to know whether it’s a dishwasher afterthought, or the actual location of all the washing of a kitchen’s dishes. The function is of course quite different. Mine being the latter it consists of three main task areas: a place for dirty dishes, a place to wash and rinse said dishes, and an area to stack for drying. I loathe to dry dishes by hand. Why would I use my time to do what the air will do for me? Health codes actually prohibit drying with a towel in restaurants because it tends to be unhygienic. Lucky for me to have another defense besides laziness.

I cook a lot of our food from scratch, as you might have gathered. Most days involve a cooking project, like bread, granola, muffins, etc, in addition to our regular three meals a day. This means I make a lot of dishes. Even if I (or Hubby, overall I’d say he does maybe a third of the dishes, though I’m sure he thinks he does half) dutifully washes them once/day, that still means a decent sized pile. I’d say at least 2 square feet, unless they were efficiently stacked, which they never are. They’re spread helter-skelter all over whatever counter space is within reach of the sink.

My point is, we have to plan our kitchens for the reality of how we live/cook/eat. My kitchen needs at least 2 square feet of space for dirty dishes. Fact. They will not bow out or behave deferingly. If I don’t provide them with said space, they will leach out into other parts of my (precious) counter space.

This sink area fortunately provides just about that. I like that it’s separate from my other counterspace. My Cordova kitchen had one continuous countertop, meaning the Dirty Dishes Area was right next to my Stove-Side Food Prep Area. There was always leaching, and I hated it.

One trick I have found that helps is to have a wash tub for putting dirties in. It kind of keeps them contained and helps the area not look as cluttery.

I like a Washing Area to have two sinks. I’ve heard some folks like one big sink that they put two wash tubs in, but I like having two separate sinks. Often I’m doing something dirty in one sink (washing muddy shoes) and need to do something else in a clean sink (drain pasta water). Mama-ing is full of this kind of multi-tasking. I still like to use tubs though, in my separate sinks. Say I’m washing dishes when said muddy shoes enter the kitchen, and then the pasta water needs draining all at the same damned time? Plus, in an effort to save water I often use my rinse water for washing the sinks out when I’m done, or soaking a stubborn pot (that is, after I use it to thoroughly rinse my sponge and brushes), and those reusings are easier when it’s in a removable container.

Here’s another mundanely common kitchen problem that’s rarely dealt with, that really gets my goat. Soggy sponges and rags. This is not just a matter of asthetics. Those suckers breed nasties like crazy. I think it’s funny (as in ironic, not haha) when I go into someone’s kitchen and they have antibacterial dish soap and a host of toxic cleaners, and their sponge is sitting in a puddle of old dish water in the bottom of the sink. When your sponge smells gross, it’s because it is gross. Sponges are pretty much asking for it. A dishrag is a much better solution, they’re thin, they dry fast, you can throw it in the wash once a week, and they last more or less forever. Unfortunately I’ve just never been able to come around to washing dishes with a dishrag. A sponge feels right– it’s the right size, the right thickness, it’s got the scratchy stuff on one side. But to keep a sponge from going nasty, you have to rinse it well and give it a chance to dry between uses. I used to have a little slatted soap dish/stand. That worked good and was pretty. Haven’t found anything like it here, so I improvised with this old onion bag.

Incidentally, I also wound up a big wad of onion bag to make a pretty damn fine scrubby.

You’ll also notice in the big photo up top that I have a bar for hanging rags on above the sink. Kids and rags go hand in hand. We have two kinds of rags in our house, the relatively nice white washcloths for general table/hands/face wiping, and some old (colored) bath towels I ripped into rag sized for floor rags. Wet floor rags I loop over the recycling box by the door to dry between uses, or await washing. The regular rags go above the sink on that bar, which is actually just a length of bamboo (a common yard trimming here) suspended by two strings. Easy peas.

Then, on to the Drying Area. Here’s my big innovation. You know how dish racks always drip water into a puddle? And then they invented those rubber trays to go underneath to funnel the water back into the sink? But they don’t really work, and instead the water just sits in little puddles and gets funky? Well, I set the far end of my tray/rack unit on a piece of 2×4, so that it’s got quite an angle to it. Then the water actually does run back into the sink. No funk! You can kind of see it in the photo up top. The tray I got at the Sally here is stout, all it took was the 2×4 to set it on, super easy. The tray I had in Cordova was floppier, so I set it on a piece of plywood (screwed it on actually, with two screws at the top end where the water wouldn’t be going) and propped the plywood up at the far end.

If you’re a baggie reuser, which you ought to be if you’re reading this blog, you’ll understand what a pain in the ass drying the damn things is. You can slip them over a wooden spoon handle or something, but it doesn’t hold them open very effectively, and then the corners don’t dry. In Cordova I had a cool little thing I’d gotten at a garage sale. It had two sets of dowels sticking up, about 4 inches apart. When I bought it I was thinking of it to hold dishes, vertically (more on that later), but it didn’t work. Instead I stumbled upon using it as a bag drying rack, and it worked fantastic! Only an analytical thinker/housewife like me could be so excited by a bag dryer! It was about 10 inches long and held several zippies at a time, each one held open by three or four dowels. I’ve been meaning to make one since I got here, it would be easy to replicate with a 2×4 and some 1/2 inch doweling. I promise when I do, I will post an instructional. It also worked a treat for canning jars, which are a fact of life, and dishwashing, for ladies such as myself. And dish drainers never have enough of those side thingies for all your glasses and canning jars….

I have long dreamed of building a large dish drying rack that would also be where the dishes go. They used to be a common thing in old British kitchens. They have a series of slats that the dishes slide into vertically. Oh, how glorious to wash the dishes and then put them to drain, The End. No extra putting away step!

But I’ll save that for my fantasy kitchen post, at the end.

16 thoughts on “Kitchens Part 2: The Sink

  1. Hi, Calamity Jane, I do the dish tub idea, too, because I got tired of having to empty the sink to do something else.
    I keep my spices in the freezer. As it opens toward the counter between it and the stove, it’s not unhandy to find them. I put the name on the tops of the bottles with pieces of stick-on-labels so’s I can read them from the top. I enjoy your descriptions. Jan

  2. I never realised that the setup we have isn’t normal in the US. The metal of the sink continues out on either side of sinks, and is corrugated in appearance. Dishrack (as you described, with the slots for plates, etc – are they really not the norm in the US?) sits on the corrugated surface & run off water just drips back into the sink. I’ve never seen a kitchen sink here without this type of setup.

    My mother always hated that I’d leave the clean dishes to dry on the rack, she never believed me saying it was more hygenic than using a teatowel. She thought I was just being lazy, and actually, she was right :-).

    1. i know what you mean, the sink sideboard, but i’ve only ever seen it in restaurant kitchens here. America is plagued by show homes. that is the driving force behind the kitchen “furnishings” industry, which means it’s all made to look good, instead of work good. very frustrating.
      i suspect that the dishrack you speak of is the little plastic/wire ones we do in fact have here, everyone. but what i mean is a big wood structure that fits all the plates and bowls. Lizzie Lane Farm just posted a picture of one at D2E.

  3. My husband’s great aunt just gave us a great dish scrubber. It’s a long piece of tulle/netting, that had been crocheted into a little square. It’s about the size of a sponge so it has that nice “sponge feel” but totally washer safe, so it can go into the laundry each week and not get gross like a sponge. The netting makes it feel scratchy so it gets all the gunk off.

    I’m going to try and make a few once I get back to CDV and I’ll let you know how it goes. It might work with knitting too, haven’t tried it though.

  4. I like the idea but not the reality of dish cloths too, so I finally knitted myself a few test ones from string (the brown-paper-packages-tied-up-with kind). Absolutely perfect – 20 – 25 stitches on size 8 needles for the long side and knit for as long as maybe the width of your hand or a little bigger than seems right for the short side (they shrink), just a garter stitch (all knitting, no purling), and the ridges run long-ways so they have some tooth. I’ve waaay overthought this, but it seems like the most perfect ergonomic thing to me. Thinner than a sponge, can get into nooks and crannies, can be boiled/washed, right size as-is but can be folded over for oomph… Love. The first one I did I made too little, but I’ve been using it for scrubbing the bathroom, and it’s good for that too. It is a bit thick, so I leave it to rest on the radiator. Probably during the summer I’ll put up a hook so it can air in a window. It’s loosely knit enough that there’s decent circulation even through the thickness…

    1. i saw a handmade crocheted dishcloth once that was made with some super scratchy polyester or nylon yarn/string. it looked really awesome, expect that it was too huge and floppy. but the material seemed perfect. someday i’ll be cool enough to make my ideal sponge substitute….

  5. My husband does the cooking and I do the dishes, so I LOVE your ideas – brilliant! I’m going to have to try the 2X4 trick. Also, if you have a microwave you can pop sponges in there for about 20-30 seconds and it will totally disinfect them.

  6. My vote for hottest tip is the onion bag drying the sponges; partly because drying the sponges is sooo important and I totally get that collecting in a puddle while chemicals abound issue, but mostly because onion bags really confound me. They are so common and I hate throwing them out and keep trying to think of a good thing for them. (I have also read your post making it into a scrubbie too)
    I have also posted about wash your wash clothes recently
    http://suburbanjubilee.blogspot.com/2011/02/wash-your-wash-cloths.html
    I also love your hanging cloth rack, your 2×4 and your total realness about a kitchen needing to work, not look good. You are like a McGuiver in the house!

  7. Post/ photo of the crocheted dishcloths I use (funnily enough, the photo is taken with cloths on our sink ‘sideboard’ thingy, which I believe come standard in Australiam kitchens!).

    http://eatatdixiebelles.blogspot.com/2010/01/crocheted-dishcloths-without-crocheting.html

    I was always a scrub-sponge girl, but now use the crocheted dishcloth (have several, so I can wash them every day or so) and have long lasting ‘eco’ scrubbing brushes too (made from recycled plastic, not perfect I know). I did grow luffas but never actually used them to ‘scrub’ dishes with as not stiff enough!

    http://everydayecointheact.blogspot.com/2010/08/grow-something-different-loofah-sponges.html

    The drying rack for facewashers is a great idea… we started throwing out facewashers that had gone speckly with moudl, blergh, from sitting rinsed & folded on the edge of our kitchen bench during the humid days of summer, for sticky hands to get wiped. Now the kids are bigger they mostly go to bathroom & make a mess, I mean, wash their hands & faces there.

    1. i love those sideboards you gals have. so jealous. we had something like that growing up, but only restaurants have them now. the home kitchen industry is all for show. really pisses me off.

  8. I never use sponges… they gross me out. Washing dishrag only once a week? Double gross . Used once here and goes in laundry. I like the net scrubby balls and long handled bristled brush. Have multiples of everything so always clean and dry or drying.

    I like double sink too, with dishpans in them. Other things get washed in sinks, only dishes in dishpans.

  9. I like to think my cloth-not-paper-towel thing is greener, but the pro restaurant training means I use towels like someone else is washing them. Which they are not. I’m with Elizabeth. I go thru – minimum – 10 dishtowels/rags a day. Minimum. If I use them to wipe something suspect, I toss ’em in the wash. Dry my hand more than a few times? Wash. Pat the moisture off greens? Wash. Wipe out the grease from the cast iron? In to the wash it goes. So I do a 3-4 loads a week of dishtowels. Is that nuts?

    I’ve seen the “daily wipe-up rag” be used for cleaning counters, food spills and kid’s mouths all within a few minutes of each other and that kinda tweaks me. I’m all for a robust immune system, but there are limits…

    I don’t have a dish drying rack, so I put a wire rack like for cookies on top of a sheetpan. Works great, and you can wash it easily to when it needs it.

    1. wow, you must not wash very many dishes at a time… i found another dish rack on the side of the road and have been considering trying to fit two on my counter, cuz i hate that damn dish jenga. but i only wash once/day, so it’s a looming pile

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