Help me wash dishes more comfortably
February 17, 2017 8:59 PM   Subscribe

We just moved into a new house, and in addition to a dishwasher (which we hadn't had for 9 years), it has a lovely undermount stainless steel sink. It's beautiful! Deep! Great for filling pots! ...and at the exact right angle to hurt our backs while washing dishes. Help!

I'm 5'7"; my spouse is over 6 feet tall. The sink is about 12" deep, maybe 15". It's a single sink. We both have to lean over far enough to wash dishes that washing more than a couple causes back pain. Not with stuff light enough to pick up and hold in the stream of water from the faucet, obviously, but pots or anything that requires counter pressure to get a good scrub need to be on the bottom of the sink, and ow.

Does this happen to you? How do you deal with it? Any ideas about ways we could artificially raise the bottom of the sink that don't slide around or that aren't a PITA to store? I tried an upturned plastic dish tub, and it just moved and gave too much.
posted by linettasky to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have a faucet where the nozzle pulls out and extends to be a sprayer hose. I lean the heavy thing on the counter outside the sink, angle the nozzle into or at the heavy thing while tilting he heavy thing toward the lip of the sink so the dirty water drains back into the sink.

Does that make sense? Basically I wash the heavy thing outside the sink because my sprayer hose reaches.
posted by slateyness at 9:03 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would get a sink protector rack (sometimes called sink grid, apparently) and then put something waterproof (like an upside down plastic tub) to raise it up enough that the rack is at a more comfortable height.
posted by metahawk at 9:31 PM on February 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

I just lift that kind of stuff on the edge of the sink to get the leverage I need. The area needs wiping after doing dishes anyway.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:38 PM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

i've had Alexander Technique lessons for kitchen work. the easy answer is goofy looking, but it really works: spread your feet outwards until you can work comfortably with your arms without distressing the lower back.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:34 PM on February 17, 2017 [10 favorites]

There are these sink protector drain grate things, although I don't know that that will give you the height you want. How many inches up are you looking for?
posted by Verba Volant at 10:45 PM on February 17, 2017

Putting one foot up on a low stool can help change the mechanics of dishwashing and reduce pain.
posted by quince at 11:11 PM on February 17, 2017

This happens to my girlfriend and I, too, in our new house. We're similar heights to you two! Our solutions are workarounds that haven't changed the sink but instead tried to make everything around it comfortable:

- cushy gel mat recommended by the Sweethome + spreading legs as j_curioser describes + super awesome scrub to cut down on the time we have to spend at the sink (Bartender's Friend or Bon Ami — these are both amazing at getting anything off a pan without scratching and they're both dirt cheap!) + abdominal bracing = tolerable for 15 minutes.

This might be painfully obvious, but as someone who was without a dishwasher for a long time, I know that it can feel wasteful to use it just for a couple dishes. But it's actually usually far more efficient to use it even half full instead of washing dishes! There isn't a great solution (that isn't overkill) for the awkward way your sink is set up, so I'd definitely say that avoiding hand washing dishes as much as possible is the easiest way to deal with it.

We have a dish drying mat and I usually bring big pots out the sink and rest it on that to scrub them, then I flip it over to dry. You can also avoid a lot of scrubbing on really burnt on stuff by putting a few Tbsp of liquid dish soup in the pot with a couple inches of water and put it on a burner to simmer.

Another thought, something that I've had in a previous double sink when I had no counter space at all: can you put a dish draining rack in the sink and scrub stuff on that? Unlike a tub, this won't slip around as much and it's easier to still be able to use the sink to drain pasta and stuff without removing the rack.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 11:18 PM on February 17, 2017

Sometimes I fill a tub from Ikea in the sink, then lift it to the counter and wash my dishes from the tub on the counter. (I actually have two, one for wash and one for rinse.) One suggested solution is sitting on a stool. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 11:53 PM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Get a big plastic tub that is sink sized, like what a busboy uses at a restaurant. You can find them in restaurant supply stores. Also get an easily cleaned cup or dipper and some silicon mats (typically used for baking but perfect for putting under things to keep them stable.) Put the tub on the counter on top of the silicon mats. Get your pots wet with the dipper and scrub them in the tub. Rinse them off in the sink. If you can't keep the tub on the counter you can store it under the sink with the usual under sink stuff tucked up inside it - just get a basket for them and keep it in the tub when not in use.
posted by Mizu at 1:01 AM on February 18, 2017

Another possible plastic tub solution - which works in my sink - is to find a tub with lip, that is the right dimensions for the lips to rest on the edges of the sink.

You drop the tub into the sink until the lips of the tub rest on the edges of the sink. You're then working at the level of the bottom of the tub, and not the sink.
posted by carter at 5:35 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

J_curiouser you have just explained something the chef at work does that I hadn't realised he does until now!!
posted by chapps at 7:03 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

If your under-sink cabinetry is sturdy enough, you can open up the door and put your preferred foot up on the ledge. It's the same idea as quince's idea of a foot stool, and it allows you to stand right up against the sink with less unsupported bending over at the lumbar spine.
posted by sweetpotato at 10:17 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

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