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How to clean your sink



A light and airy kitchen with white walls, oak worktops and a white porcelain sink.
Switlana Sonyashna / Shutterstock

Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition, but that doesn̵

7;t mean it isn’t a bit overwhelming. That’s exactly why we’ve put together a four-week challenge to help you shed winter’s dirt. Let’s start with the sink!

Why start with the sink?

If you’ve ever taken up cleaning challenges, read books on how to vigorously clean your home, no matter how overwhelmed you are, or how you otherwise engage in eliminating dirt and disorder in the home, you’ve probably noticed something. The sink is a common starting point in many different guides and methods.

Why do so many cleaning guides and books, including the famous “FlyLady Method”, start cleaning the sink? It’s easy – if the kitchen is the heart of the home, then the sink is what keeps that heart beating and flowing.

If your sink is a mess, the entire kitchen workflow will be hindered. Everything from meal prep to post-meal cleanup is inefficient and frustrating. So we reclaim the sink, then the kitchen, and once the heart of your home has a clean bill of health, we reclaim everything else.

It may sound like a bit of too much of a promise on our part, but as soon as your sink sparkles, a chain reaction starts. If your sink looks really nice, you don’t want to stack dishes in it and the whole kitchen workflow improves. Here’s how to make that happen.

Cleaning your sink

A sunny kitchen diner with a stainless steel sink under a large window.
PhotoMavenStock / Shutterstock

Cleaning and polishing your sink is a fairly simple affair, it just requires some elbow grease and a few basic items that you probably already have in the kitchen or can easily purchase.

What you need to clean your sink

  • Gloves
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • A nylon dish brush
  • A non-abrasive soft sponge
  • Rags or old towels
  • Baking soda or a powdered detergent
  • white vinegar
  • For sinks with defrosters: a lemon, lime, or plink cleaner.
  • Olive oil

Whatever cleaner you use, we recommend that you wear gloves. Even basic dish soap is quite harsh on your skin, and other cleansers are even harder. There is no reason to beat up your skin if you can avoid it.

As for powdered cleaners, baking soda is about as gentle as it can be if you want to avoid cleaner fumes. Comet scrub powder is a classic option that’s gentle on the sink (although it has a relatively strong, cleaner scent). And if you have a stainless steel or porcelain sink, it’s hard to beat the classic Bar Keepers Friend option – we’ve been using it on our stainless steel sink for years and swear by it. Not only do we love it, but it also has a very mild fragrance.

If you have a newer composite sink that is not stainless steel or porcelain, always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when choosing a cleaning solution to avoid scratches or cloudiness.

How to clean your sink

Tools in hand, you’re done in no time. Here’s how to go from stack-o-bowls to a tidy sink in just a few steps.

  1. Empty your sink of all dishes, utensils, and anything else that got into it. Now is a great time to run the dishwasher to get a head start in keeping your sink uncluttered.
  2. Remove all food residues and clean the sink strainer.
  3. Close the drain, add a few drops of dish soap and fill it with about 1 inch of hot water. (If you don’t have a stopper, you can just use a bowl of hot soapy water.)
  4. Use the hot, soapy water and your nylon brush to scrub the lip, side walls, and bottom of the tray. The goal here is to loosen and remove surface dirt such as small food particles, oils, and other things that get in the way of the next steps.
  5. Also, wipe the faucet with the hot, soapy water, as well as other utensils on the sink, such as a hand sprayer or built-in soap dispenser.
  6. If scale builds up around the base of the faucet or soap dispenser (two common places where hard water drips and then evaporates, leaving a mineral build-up), soak a cloth or paper towel in white vinegar and wrap the area. The mild acid in the vinegar will eat away the mineral buildup while you work on the rest of the sink.
  7. Pull the strainer and scrub it well with the nylon brush. If you have a combi strainer / stopper (you turn it to lock it in the drain), pay particular attention to the metal stopper plate. Its surface is an important collection point for cooking fat and slurry. Do the same with the garbage disposal baffle (the rubber collar that sits in the opening of the drain).
  8. Drain the sink and rinse the surfaces with water.
  9. Dampen a soft sponge or cloth and generously drizzle the sink with your powdered detergent of choice. Scrub the cleaner into the surface, paying particular attention to any stains.
  10. Rinse off the cleaner and evaluate the sink. Repeat to remove any remaining stains.
  11. If you want to soak limescale, use the vinegar-soaked cloth to scrub the remaining deposits. Slight mineral build-up should be gone by this point, more severe build-up may require multiple treatments with longer weeks.
  12. For garbage disposal sinks, a little cleaning and deodorizing is in order. Finely chop a lemon or lime (or just use a Plink citrus oil capsule). Run the drain with a stream of warm water and drop the lemon or capsule pieces into it. Let it run for 10-20 seconds.
  13. Wipe the entire sink with a dry cloth to remove all water. This step will help prevent water spots or mineral build-up.
  14. Drizzle a few drops of olive oil around your now-clean sink and buff the surface with a clean cloth. When you’re at it, the sink should look uniformly wet / polished.

It might be tempting to skip that last step, but we really recommend that you really polish and shine your sink. If you’ve never done it before, it probably sounds like a crazy step, but we assure you it has a weird halo effect when it comes to keeping your kitchen clean. Think of it like detailing your car: Once your car is so incredibly clean, you don’t want to get it dirty anymore. The same thing happens with the sink.

Do you have a bad habit of dumping dishes in the sink and leaving them for a later day? It feels bad to clean a sink you’ve just scrubbed and polished to perfection, so you’re more likely to put them directly in the dishwater instead. Trust us! You will soon find yourself striving to keep your sink in a polished condition, solving the problem of dirty dishes piling up overnight.

Now that your sink is in order, you’re ready to tackle the rest of the kitchen (and, in turn, the rest of your house). Follow our Spring Cleaning Challenge in the coming weeks for more tips, tricks and guidance!




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