I’ll admit, I was thrilled beyond belief the first time I moved into an apartment that had a dishwasher. After years of hand drying and bickering over dish duty with numerous roommates, that one slightly undersized appliance seemed like a godsend. But having lived in several dishwasher-free places since, I realize I haven’t missed it.
You see, I’m a pre-washer. Even when I had a dishwasher, I would rinse the dishes before putting them in the machine - a habit I picked up from my slightly-uptight family - which, I’ll admit was a big waste of water and energy, but we were all about the double wash. Growing up, my family always had a drainboard, but it never got used; dishes went straight from the sink to the dishwasher. It wasn’t until years later that I ever saw one set up with a sink rack like this Kohler Wire Basket.
You wash your dishes by hand and put them in the rack to air dry, and the drainboard dumps the excess water back into the sink – an idea as old as time, and infinitely more effective and efficient than hand drying every dish as you go. And if you’re like me, it’s almost exactly the same amount of work you’d be doing anyway, while taking the dishwasher and all the water and energy it uses out of the equation entirely. Some of them, like this Dish Rack, simply set on top of your sink when you need them and can be stashed in a drawer when you don’t.
Unless you’re producing a lot of dirty dishes – and by “a lot” I mean three or more people eating two or more home-cooked meals a day – washing dishes by hand can save you water, time, and money, especially if you have a double bowled sink. Instead of putting your sink rack on a drainboard on the counter, you can get one like this Dish Rack Set designed to fit inside your sink. Just plug the drain on one side to wash and rinse your dishes and then put them into the rack to dry on the other.
Your most basic sink racks, like Blanco Sink Grid, won’t cut it. While it looks like (and can double as) a wire baking rack, a plain-jane sink rack will protect the bottom of your porcelain or steel sink from falling objects, but unless it has long, grooved bars designed to support a dish, it won’t work well for most dishes. The exception is wine glasses – even if you do all the rest of your dishes in a dishwasher, long-stemmed glasses that are too tall to fit can be inverted on a standard sink rack to dry. As a bonus, an air dried glass comes out spot free without all the harsh chemicals you have to pour into a dishwasher to get the same results.
An ever so slightly more sophisticated rack like this Coated Dish Rack can absolutely replace a dishwasher for singles or couples. If you wash with hot enough water, plates on a sink rack will actually only take a few minutes to air dry, letting any excess water drip straight down the drain and letting evaporation do the rest.
If your rack doesn’t come with one, I’d suggest tacking on a Utensil Caddy to keep cutlery organized and, again, let it dry quickly and easily. The little wire or plastic mount should snap easily onto an existing sink rack. The best part, though, is that when you’re not doing dishes, if you’re sick of having that metal thing in your sink, you can detach the parts and stow them in a drawer until you need them.
Sink racks also combine well with cutting boards designed to sit on the lip of your sink, which help increase counter space by letting you chop veggies right on top of the sink (and scrape any leftover bits directly into your garbage disposal!). And, as an added bonus – depending on the depth of your sink and the height of your plates, you can even slide a cutting board like this one from Blanco over the sink rack to keep your drying dishes protected from soap and splashes.
Now, I’ll admit, if you’ve got a big family that does a lot of eating at home, you probably want to stick with your dishwasher. But if it’s just you, or you and your plus one dirtying dishes on a regular basis, or if you have any awkward sized or shaped dishes or glasses, it might be worth considering the swap. Especially if you’d be running a half-empty dishwasher most of the time, a Sink Rack is definitely the way to go.
Studies show that hand washing dishes is slightly less efficient than using a dishwasher, but only if you run a full load in a highly efficient modern washer, and even then the difference is relatively slim. So if you have an old clunker, no mind to replace it, and not a lot of dishes to put in it? It might be time to put your dishes on the rack, and do it the old fashioned way.
Do you love doing dishes? Hate it? Is the dishwasher your favorite invention of the last century, or are you happily doing without? I love to scrub, but I think my mom would be happy if she never saw another sud in her life – but where do you fall? Let me know in the comments!