In This Small Kitchen: Let the Air Dry the Dishes

I’ll never let you forget that I don’t have a dishwasher in my small kitchen.

We’ve got a reliable gas stove, a quiet refrigerator, and a freezer that doesn’t mind being overstuffed. I’m grateful for all of these fixings.

Still, the lack of a dishwasher means I spend a lot of time sudsing up my plates, forks, and pans. In fact, I fear a disproportionate number of these littleĀ In This Small Kitchen posts will revolve around the sink. Sorry in advance.

I know dish racks aka dish drainers are controversial, especially when counter space is scarce. They seem clunky, as does leaving your dishes out instead of stowing them immediately away. Which is what I do, for better or worse.

For me, drying the dishes would be one chore too many. I’d start to hate being in the kitchen: cooking, then washing, then drying. So long as I don’t have dirty dishes so numerous they don’t fit in the rack at once, I’m content to pile up bowls and pots, Jenga-like, as high as they’ll go without crashing. Pictured is our dish drainer on one of its more burdened days.

What’s your dish-washing philosophy?

P.S. My favorite one-pot meal in case dishes aren’t your thing.


  1. If I had the space, I think I’d do this. But if I had a dish drain, I’d have no counter at all.

  2. I let them air dry unless I’m truly desperate for whatever-it-is that I’ve just washed. I don’t have much counter space, but it’s a big farmhouse kitchen, so I’ve created an island out of modular pieces, which gives me more space. I use several of those mats with foam guts for the pots & pans and big mixing bowls. Since I rinse in scalding hot water, everything dries pretty quickly.

  3. girl i hear you. so over doing dishes! but considering i’m 28 and am yet to own a dishwasher (except one year in a condo) i have just accepted its part of who i am.

    i let them dry. i have mats that i lay out to let more dry once the rack is full. then i usually just empty the drain when i need more dishes.

    also, i’ve begun a triple sink operation when i am cooking big meals and it has helped tremendously with water saving and efficient washing!

  4. I always airdry. I swear they don’t get as dry when I use a towel, especially if you use the same towel over and over. The no dishwasher is definitely my least favorite part of my apartment. It’s true, it never looks truly “neat and tidy” when there are dishes in the drainer, but oh well.

    • That’s true. There’s something kind of unappealing about drying dishes with a not totally dry towel, even if it did work.

  5. I don’t have a dishwasher, and honestly, even when I did, I didn’t always use it. It takes almost just as much effort to unload and load a dishwasher, so why not just do a simple hand wash? I’d be curious though to learn which one saves more water.

    • I’ve always heard that the dishwasher actually takes less water (just think about how much water it takes to rinse dishes).

  6. Air dry for sure. I, too, don’t have a dishwasher. My biggest problem is getting the dry ones out of the rack in time for the clean, wet ones to go in! But yes, drying by hand would suck up even more precious time. Let the air do the work!

  7. I’m a HUGE fan of the air-drying method! Why bother spending time drying by hand when the air will just magically dry them for you? My husband is too type-A for this, unfortunately and we’re constantly fighting about it. haha.

  8. Air dry! But I’ve been through three dish drainers in the past six months – they are often so flimsy. Does anyone have recommendations on a great dish drainer that also fits on a tiny countertop? Willing to pay for something that uses space efficiently and lasts!

    • I looked all around mine to see if I could find a brand name – it’s from Bed Bath and Beyond, but I’m not sure who makes it. The Simple Human ones certainly aren’t cheap, but they always look sturdy and efficient to me. Anyone have a dish rack they love?

  9. I technically have a large kitchen with a dishwasher. Technically. I’m nearing the end (!!!) of my year of living with my parents, and I’ve grown used to their oddities, except for how it leaves my dish-situation. My mother uses the kitchen counters as her bill-paying hub, so I have commandeered a small counter on one side that is where I keep everything, so not a lot of space. Here’s the really Special thing: We are not allowed to run the dishwasher more than once a week (four people living here!). They don’t have a dish-drainer and prefer to pile “clean” dishes in the other side of the sink to “dry”. Since it is, er, connected to the sink, it never gets dry, really, and then someone else piles their stuff on top of it and it’s a huge clatter and clash to get to the ladle on the bottom. So we towel-dry our dishes and hate every second of it. I’ve read that it’s not as hygienic to towel-dry them due to funk that resides in towels, especially towards the end. Errrgh.

  10. I have the same issue as you, and I generally just air dry. I also stack like crazy. (Ugh the worst is when you stack to high next to the sink and it all crashes back into the sink.) But the stacks are probably not quite appealing.


  11. While I actually have a dishwasher, it doesn’t work (dishes come out still dirty!) and it costs too much for a new one. I also air dry in a drying rack. I’m too lazy to dry everything by hand. Then, first thing in the morning before my eyes are totally open, while I am waiting for my tea water to heat, I put everything away. So the dishes are only using up counter space after cooking dinner and while I am sleeping!

  12. I try my best to use as few dishes as possible. Like, re-using things and washing as I go along. I also don’t have a dishwasher, and I really hate dish racks. Mostly, because I never unload them. Does this happen to anyone else?

    • I try to do what JK does – unload them while my coffee is brewing. But the worst is trying to cook when you have a) dirty dishes in the sink and b) clean dishes on the rack, which discourages washing the dirty ones.

  13. I have a rolling kitchen cart. It’s quite handy because I keep the drying rack on top of the cart so I don’t use up my precious counter space. The wheels allow me to move the cart around the kitchen whenever I need to open my fridge or the oven.

  14. I have a dishwasher but sometimes I’ll hand wash because I find it oddly calming (and of course it must be done for certain items). Btw- I have the same dish rack as the one in your photo and while it does take up a lot of space, it’s my favorite dish rack I’ve ever used.

    • It is calming – good thinking time. Or, I listen to podcasts. How funny that you have the same nameless dish rack, Leah! xx

  15. I keep the drainer out until dishes are dry then put them away and put away the drainer because there is no prep room if the drainer is in use. My mother once told me that her mother gave her advice when she (my mother) complained that whenever she and my dad had company she always ended up in the kitchen after dinner cleaning up because she didn’t want the dirty dishes out in the kitchen which could be seen from the living room. My gradmother told her to put the dishes in the dishpan and put the whole thing into the oven and then my mom could rejoin the “party”! I’ve used this myself and am glad for the advice.

  16. Lazy women with dishwashers. Use your hands to wash dishes and simply let them dry in a rack like most of the world does. Dishwashers do not wash well too, they do not scrub or remove heavy stains. They occupy a lot of space too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *