4 Things You Should Never Store Under Your Kitchen Sink—and 5 You Should
Have you peeked into the cabinet under your kitchen sink lately? If you’re like many people, it might be a space you avoid looking at, simply because you’ve stuffed it with so many odds and ends and can’t seem to keep it tidy. (If only cleaning the space under the kitchen sink were as easy as learning how to clean the kitchen sink itself.)
Just picture it: Endless stacks of kitchen towels, dish-washing supplies, old sponges, cleaning supplies, recycled paper bags—the list of items that most people categorize as eligible for under-kitchen-sink-storage goes on and on. It doesn’t matter if your farmhouse kitchen sink is as charming as can be: If you know there’s a mess of clutter and junk under there, you’re going to have a hard time enjoying it fully.
But alas, there’s hope. Requests for an organized kitchen are at the top of most people’s wish lists, says Ginny Underwood, a professional organizer and founder of Virginia’s Easy Living Solutions in Bluffton, S.C. “Most of the clients I see have one thing in common: They own too many items for the space,” she says.
The cabinet under your kitchen sink is a good place to start purging and organizing, as it’s often one of the most easily cluttered spaces, thanks to the maze of pipes that also have to live there. A good rule of thumb? “Reserve [this] cabinet for cleaning items that relate to the kitchen only,” Underwood says. That means supplies you use for other parts of your home—from toilet cleaner to feather dusters—need to be evicted.
Start by pulling out everything you have in your kitchen sink cabinet so you can take inventory. If there are any spills, wipe it clean—then consider the following tips from home organizing experts on what to put back and what to find a new home for.
What not to store under your kitchen sink
Your entire Costco haul doesn’t belong here. Unopened boxes of trash bags, dishwasher tabs, dish soap, and any extra, unused items should go in a closet or another storage area as to not jumble up this hard-working space, says Lisa Dooley, a Boston-based organizing coach and owner of Your Organized Life.
You may have an occasional need for a powerful cleaner, such as bleach, around the house, but these chemicals should be stored securely in the garage or basement, out of reach from small children and away from other everyday items, Dooley says.
This includes common products such as solvents, thinners, polishes, paints, and some cleaners, as they can randomly burst into flames in the right conditions (yikes!). The most notorious cause of spontaneous combustion is oily rags after being used to apply furniture polish or varnishes, particularly those that contain linseed or flaxseed oil, Underwood says. The bottom line: These don’t belong in your kitchen.
Kitchen towels and paper bags
While convenient, these items don’t belong under the sink, says Suzanne Pollak, co-founder of the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits. (A leak would ruin them.) Stash them in a nearby closet or another cabinet instead for easy access.
What to store under your kitchen sink
While these might not count as items needing storage, per se, the tools you probably already use for kitchen organization are essential for keeping your under-sink cabinet in tip-top shape. You can use things like pullout trays, tension rods (to hang spray bottles), and even S-hooks or baskets as inexpensive organizing solutions, Underwood says.
If you want to keep things even simpler, get a few plastic containers or tubs to hold your supplies together, Pollak says. “With containers, you can take out the unit as a whole and easily clean underneath,” she says. Be sure to run the containers through the dishwasher a few times a year. Using clear containers also allows you to easily see what items are nearly used up, so you can stock up before you run out.
An absorbent mat
Before you put any products back under the cabinet, consider laying down a mat across the bottom that can hold a bit of water in event of a leak. “This protects the cabinetry and prevents the formation of mold due to leaks into the cavity from under and behind the sink,” says David Schneider, a residential interior designer based in St. Louis.
There are a few essentials that you should always have on hand. These include distilled or cleaning vinegar, Dawn dish soap (in addition to washing pots and pans, you can also use it directly on cabinets to remove built-up grease), and Bar Keepers Friend, says Pollak. Under the kitchen sink is obviously also a convenient place to store sponges, cleaning brushes, and scrubbers. Just be sure to replace them often, as they’re one of the germiest things in your kitchen (gross)—yes, cleaning your sponge is a thing.
A small fire extinguisher
This one is a safety precaution in the event of a grease fire that you (hopefully) never have to use. “While it’s rare to need it, it’s better to have it close at hand—and make sure it’s up to date,” Dooley says. (Be sure you keep track of how long fire extinguishers last.)
A handy tool
Under the sink is the place to store one of those bizarrely shaped tools used for unjamming your garbage disposal. “Inevitably, this tool gets lost, and is vitally important when a jam occurs,” Schneider says.