A Place for the Dishpan

large old-fashioned kitchen sink
Source: School and Home Cooking (1920) by Carlotta Greer

The 1922 edition of Good Housekeeping’s Book of Menus, Recipes, and Household Discoveries has a chapter titled “Kitchen Discoveries.” One of the Discoveries was a suggestion for storing the dishpan:

A Place for the Dishpan

To save reaching under the drainboard to get my dishpan from a nail, which is the usual place for putting it, I have had a shelf built under the drainboard just low enough to take the dishpan. There I keep the dishpan, rinsing pan, and drainer where they may be reached without any effort. 

K.S.C., Mass.

This tip left me scratching my head. I couldn’t quite picture how dishpans, rinsing pans, and drainers were stored a hundred years ago. Clearly the typical kitchen sink back then was different from modern ones. And, I’m guessing that many of us don’t regularly use dishpans, rinsing pans, and drainers, which makes it even harder to understand the tip (or the need for it).

Then I remembered a post that I did several years ago where I included a picture of a sink. I found that picture, and though not exactly the same set-up described in the Discovery tip, I think that I have a better understanding of what the author described.

23 thoughts on “A Place for the Dishpan

  1. I do remember using a dishpan and drying rack as our old house still had the big white sink until my parents remodeled. I don’t know if I’m looking at the photo correctly, but the dishpan seems to be on a nail.

  2. When I was growing up, our water source was a spring and we always had to be careful with water. We had a big sink and mom kept both a washing and rinsing pan to save water. Unless she needed the sink for something special, those pans pretty much stayed there!

    1. When I rinse dishes I generally use running water. Now that you explain it, it makes a lot of sense to use a rinsing pan that would save water.

      1. It was essential to conserve water where I grew up in northwest Texas. It was either hauled in, caught in a cistern, or came from a tank that depended on rain. We were taught to turn off the water while brushing our teeth, and turn it back on to rinse toothbrush and mouth. To this day, that is ingrained in me and I never leave the water running while brushing my teeth. I do, however, now wash and rinse dishes under running water. 🙂

  3. I like these old sinks. Grandma had a dry sink, with a drain to the outside. She put her drain rack in that, and used a round dishpan on the counter top. I cannot remember how she rinsed, but Mother had a dish pan and a rinse pan. Mom’s mother “scalded” the dishes after rinsing and placing in the rack by pouring boiling water over them. It was quite the effort to wash dishes back in the day–one of the chores I dreaded when it was my turn.

    1. It’s interesting how each of your ancestors had a slightly different process for washing dishes – though I suppose even today, that there are a variety of ways to approach washing dishes. “Scalding dishes” sounds like a lot of work – with potential for spilled water or burns. Your grandmother must have known that boiling water could kill germs.

      1. Oh, my yes! She had to boil water to wash the dishes, rinse them, and scald them, or to take a bath. She did not have running water (with a water heater) in her house until 1963.

  4. We still wash and rinse dishes in separate pans to save on running the rinse water. also use a dish rack.
    They pretty much hand around the sink and drain board. Underneath are those poisonous substances we don’t want kids to get into.

  5. I remember when I was just learning to wash dishes – my sister and I had to stand on kitchen chairs so we could reach the sink! We had a dish pan for the pre-rinse on the countertop, the wash pan in the sink, the rinse pan in the other side and the drying rack on the opposite side. I would always rather wash than rinse since the rinse water was so very hot!!

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