Dishes: In the Sink or Out?

There are some things that life cannot prepare you for. And one of those things is the inevitable encounter at close quarters with people who Do Things Differently.

I’m not talking about the culture shock that frequently accompanies trips to another part of the planet. No, I’m talking about the first time you start sharing domesticity with someone outside your family, and find that the things you took for granted – didn’t even realize were a thing to be taken for granted, even – are not inevitable, are not even non-negotiable.

Humboldt squid in sink
Where do you store your squid?
Other people do things differently, and when you come to question your outrage, you find that there is no particular reason to do things your way – it’s just that That’s How You Do It.

Take the question of dishes and sinks, for example. Leaving aside the vexed question of who should wash the dishes, let us consider what should be done with said dishes in between usage and washage. (There are some people who claim that there should be no time in between these two events, but that to my mind is a counsel of perfection.)

There are two main schools of thought. The Sink school, and the Bench school (or Counter school, if American). The former hold with putting used dishes in the sink until they are washed; the latter stack them on the bench beside the sink.  There is also the Everything Goes Straight into the Dishwasher Which is Emptied as Soon as it Finishes school – see counsel of perfection, above.

Dirty dishes
Both Sink and Bench schools agree that Both is the wrong answer.
I frankly admit that I was raised in a Bench family, but I endeavour to set aside my prejudices and consider the reasons for and against. And it must be openly acknowledged that at first sight, the Sink school seem to have logic in their corner. The dishes are to be washed – where? In the sink. So why not put them there directly, instead of moving them to the bench first?

I’ll tell you why not. Because the Right Way of washing dishes does not start with squirting detergent over a heterogenous sinkful of pots, plates, cutlery and what have you, then adding water to the point marked X (even if you can still locate the plug and plughole).  If your sink is full of dishes that need to be washed, what’s the first thing you do? Take them out and stack them on the bench. So why not stack them there in the first place?

One reason, of course, is that dishes are less visible in the sink, and this is a strong argument for those of us with an overactive sense of aesthetics. It was even enough to make me reconsider where my loyalties lay. But then another argument came along, sweeping all before it. If your sink is full of dishes, how will you fit the kettle in under the tap?

Try fitting your kettle in there without causing an avalanche.

The jury is in, at least as far as I’m concerned. If it makes it hard to have a cup of tea, it doesn’t matter how aesthetically pleasing it is; I won’t do it.

Where do your loyalties lie in the sink/bench debate – and what are your reasons?

6 Replies to “Dishes: In the Sink or Out?”

  1. I am firmly of the School of Bench. (this may not be much surprise to you)
    As you stated: “If your sink is full of dishes that need to be washed, what’s the first thing you do? Take them out and stack them on the bench. So why not stack them there in the first place?”
    Really, in the case that one does not possess (or use?) a dishwasher, what more need be said?

    1. Quite so! But then, humans are not celebrated for their rational behaviour. Emotion and tribalism (and the widespread custom of doing things without necessarily thinking about them) probably play a larger role than we’d like to admit.

  2. Definitely Bench. If one is a follower of Flylady and her Ways, Bench may be replaced by a spare cupboard!
    The only time Sink is better, is when one has a very small sinkbench, and space is at a premium; I am currently living in a small house with only one side to the sinkbench.
    The notion that dishes in the sink are less visible is risible. If I can see them then so can everyone whose sightline is higher than mine.

    1. An excellent point!
      Speaking of cupboards, I’d love to have one of those dish-rack cupboards built over the sink with a rack and no bottom to it, but in this house, that would mean attaching a cupboard to the window. Difficult, to say the least.

  3. Did you mention the need to rinse dishes before putting them to await washing? Rinsing is easier when one uses the Bench method. I suspect that people who rinse in the sink, and then and stack on the bench, are not usually in a hurry to wash up. However, people who simply pile all the dirty dishes in the sink are expecting to come back soon and wash up, to avoid having to use heavy duty tools to remove the encrusted gunk.

What do you think?