Why is my dish drying rack always dirty?
May 12, 2011 7:44 AM   Subscribe

How does my dish drying rack get so dirty so quickly? It seems that within 2-3 days, it's covered with some kind of slime or other debris. The only things I put in it are (clean) dishes so I'm not sure how it happens.

This is the model I own.
posted by leedly to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
the only thing I can think is that standing water in the drip tray lets....gunk grow. (By "gunk" I'm referring to any kind of microorganism that can breed and grow in standing water; it's not coming from the dishes themselves, it's coming from letting the puddles from the dripping dishes sit around for a couple days exposed to the air.)

I'm watching this with interest as I have a similar problem.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:50 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

How often do you wipe it out? The little water droplets accumulating on the rack's bottom are perfect homes for the millions of spores floating around the kitchen.
posted by mittens at 7:50 AM on May 12, 2011

Oh, also, what kind of slope is there for the water? Is the water able to travel, or are there big puddles left under your dishes?

(Apparently there are antifungal/antimold dishracks available, which I wouldn't have known had you not asked your question! Still, a little scrubbing seems about the right level of tech for this!)
posted by mittens at 7:59 AM on May 12, 2011

It may be inorganic. The water where I live has a lot of dissolve minerals, and when it drips off my dishes and accumulates below -- and then dries -- the minerals remain behind.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:03 AM on May 12, 2011

Is there a lot of limescale in your area? The combination of hard water, soap residue and any microorganisms that love dampness I find this kind of residue builds up quite quickly and the only thing you can do is clean your drying rack regularly.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:14 AM on May 12, 2011

that model has a lot of areas where water can sit for extended periods of time (and areas that don't get light too). Bleach every so often should help. But I recommend getting the wire racks that don't have room for water to sit, with an easy to wipe down tray underneath.
posted by Neekee at 8:15 AM on May 12, 2011

Yeah, seconding Chocolate Pickle -- I'm pretty sure the gunk in my dishrack is mostly iron and calcium from my extremely hard water.
posted by enlarged to show texture at 8:15 AM on May 12, 2011

It's plastic with standing water on it. The design on those entery-level basic dishracks is awful and it is going to get gross. Get a wire rack, place it over a tea towel and rotate the tea towel into the laundry every two or three days. If you don't like that idea, get a specialist draining pad.

For optimal efficiency, get a rack you can place directly into the sink for draining when you're done washing dishes.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:15 AM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

Microorganisms don't need much encouragement to get started. I'd suggest giving the dish rack a thorough wash, spraying or wiping it down with white vinegar, and letting that sit for a couple minutes (rinsing optional, IMO, but I'm not bothered by the smell of vinegar), and let the rack dry upside down. Vinegar is antibacterial, so it may help slow down the growth of organic sludgey stuff.

It doesn't look like your model allows for drainage into the sink, as mittens suggested. You might look into that, if you've got the space for it.
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:16 AM on May 12, 2011

I have a similar problem and think EmpressCallipygos has the answer.

The "gunk" that forms in my dish drying rack is usually pink, and here are the solutions I've tried:

1) place something underneath the draining rack, nothing big, just a magazine or similar to put the dish rack on a slope. This will funnel the water out the draining side.

I can't tell from the Amazon photo if your dish rack even has a draining side (I assume it does not, since you're getting the gunk), so here's solution 2:

2) Take a paper towel (or similar), lift the rack, and wipe underneath every so often. How frequent is up to you but I've gotten away with once a week, two-three times a week might be more ideal.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:18 AM on May 12, 2011

Are you sure you're rinsing enough? Some brands of dish soap seem to leave film without very long rinses under very hot running water.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:26 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Mine does the same thing. I just spray it down with 10% bleach once a week or so, leave it for about a minute, then rinse it off. It whitens right up.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 8:45 AM on May 12, 2011

I'm with DarlingBri - we used to have the same model as you and it got gunky a lot. It has drain holes, but they're poorly placed and the thing doesn't slope enough to make them work. Ours was both organic and inorganic gunk; bleaching it every so often helped with the organics but the hard water problem was pretty intractable. It's entirely possible that even washing yours every couple of days won't really kill everything on there - I'd say bleach it for a really good kill. But that won't address hard water and long-term it's a pain in the butt; I think the best bet is to find a better model.

Switching to an in-sink wire model was an excellent solution for us; this wooden model (with a towel under it) was a pretty good option if you don't have space for something in the sink. Though I should mention that if the wood is allowed to get really wet on a regular basis, you can get stuff living there, too.
posted by nickmark at 9:36 AM on May 12, 2011

That's called a biofilm! It's also found on your shower curtain and at the bottom of your dog's water bowl.

If it's pink, it's Serratia marescens. If you google that bacterium and get back that it's a pathogen, don't panic - someone once gargled it in the House of Commons to investigate hygiene and airflow. If it's clear and you're SURE there are very few nutrients in it, like because it's inside a water bottle, then it's Caulobacter which has a lifecycle that's been very important for research due to the asymmetrical division and differentiation. There are several hundred other things it could be, but without a microscope and access to a lab, you wouldn't be able to tell.

There's a huge field of research on how to stop biofilm formation. It's a big problem in hospitals on things like catheters and anywhere you have pipes. The three things we know are 1) the smoother the surface (like, look at it with a scanning electron microscope, smooth), the slower the formation and 2) certain metals, such as gold, will slow down growth, and 3) lack of water = lack of biofilm.

Since you probably don't feel like nanoengineering yourself a gold dish rack, just keep it dry.
posted by arabelladragon at 10:00 AM on May 12, 2011 [11 favorites]

You may find this old Ask of mine useful -- final result was we chucked the drainage pan and started using a towel. The real problem for us was the onslaught of moisture -- things never drying. Our rack has survived fine and the silverware holder, which does get gross, gets thrown in the dishwasher occasionally. It's stainless steel, for what it's worth, and I have found those to dry faster than plastic or wood and be less icky in the long run.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:02 AM on May 12, 2011

Nthing switching to a wire or even wood model. From what I've seen the plastic ones get much grosser much faster. And make sure any water that pools underneath drains or is absorbed in some way - I've seen people use dishtowels for this pretty successfully too, it would just need to be changed pretty frequent
posted by one little who at 11:08 AM on May 12, 2011

This is my dish rack, and I love it, despite what the crazypants Amazon reviewers say there... I've had mine for about 15 years, and it looks exactly the way it did the day I bought it. When it gets a little grody, I just take a soapy steel wool pad to it, and it shines like brand new every time. I highly recommend it. The little tray under it has a lip, so it catches the water — no need for a drying towel.
posted by heyho at 11:42 AM on May 12, 2011

I have the same problem. As everyone here has said, the coating is a mixture of minerals from the water, and soap. Once every few weeks I let the drip-tray and cutlery caddy soak in good old plain white vinegar (kinder to the environment than bleach), which does the trick.
posted by Paris Elk at 1:00 AM on May 13, 2011

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