Ask Unclutterer: Organizing under the kitchen sink

Reader Yasmeen submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

I currently store all cleaning products in a cupboard underneath my kitchen sink. Products include polishes, all household detergents, sponges, laundry liquids, waste disposal bags, scourers etc. I cant seem to think through a convenient and neat way to store these given the depth and dimensions of this cupboard. Please help.

The area under the kitchen sink (or even a bathroom sink) is a weird area where supplies often go to get leaked upon. If your pipe bursts or drips, all of these products will be soaked. This isn’t such a bad thing for sponges, bags, and scourers, but can ruin detergents and polishes. Additionally, the easy access to this area makes it prime for visits from children and pets who can be poisoned or made very ill by toxic polishes and detergents or could be suffocated by a plastic bag. Even if you don’t have children or pets, there is a strong likelihood at some point in your life there will be one visiting your home.

Noting this, the first thing I recommend doing is sorting through everything under your sink. Make three piles: keep under the sink, store someplace else, and purge. Place items that can’t be ruined in the event of a leak and that are completely safe for children and pets in the pile of things to continue to store under the sink (sponges, scourers). Place items that are dangerous for children and pets (laundry detergent, plastic bags) in the pile of things to be stored someplace else. And then, purge anything that is expired, oozing, or has gone rancid.

The next step is to purge all the items that belong in the trash. If any of your items are hazardous materials, as some polishes are, be sure to follow your city/county/country’s laws for proper disposal.

After getting rid of the yucky stuff, it’s time to find homes for all of those items that don’t belong in storage under a sink. Polishes and laundry detergents belong on high shelves, preferably in locked rooms or locked cabinets. Regular dish detergent, which isn’t toxic in small doses, can probably just be stored on a higher shelf in your kitchen. If you are limited on space, maybe you’ll decided to continue to store these items under your sink, but if you do please get a childproof cabinet lock that you can put on the door whenever a child or pet comes into your home. However, a cabinet lock won’t protect these items if your water pipes ever leak or burst.

With the remaining items that you plan to continue to store under your kitchen sink, you’ll want a storage device that will be useful and won’t leave things hiding in far back corners of the space. I prefer to use cabinet organizers that have a couple levels to them, attach to the wall of the cabinet, and slide out so you can see everything in the organizer, such as one like this:

There are other styles (ones that don’t attach to the wall but serve the same function, ones that don’t slide but are shallow so nothing gets pushed to the back of your cabinet and that wrap around your pipes) if this particular one doesn’t exactly suit your needs. Just try to find an organizer that takes advantage of the height of the cabinet and makes it easy to access items stored in the space. And, as is the case when storing any items in a cupboard, group like items with like items (all sponges together) so it is visually obvious whenever you open the cabinet how much of any type of thing you have, as well as where it is and where to return it.

Thank you, Yasmeen, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Please check the comments for even more ideas from our readers.

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11 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: Organizing under the kitchen sink”

  1. posted by Sky on

    I have that under my kitchen sink and it works great. I recommend it.

  2. posted by lola on

    That organizer is a great idea.
    I find that keeping the number of cleaning products as simple as possible helps. I have a glass cleaner and Citrasolv, that’s it. The glass cleaner does glass and shines metals (toaster, fronts of dishwasher, refrig. etc..) and the Citrasolv does everything else including the bathroom. See if you can reduce the number of products you use, it really helps with storage.

  3. posted by chacha1 on

    Products that I use in the kitchen are under the kitchen sink. Each bathroom has its own supply of cleaners, and the laundry detergent is in the master bathroom convenient to the hand of the master launderer (not me).

    I used to keep a lot of random stuff under the kitchen sink. That was before we changed out the faucet the first time. Moving everything in and out was a perfect opportunity to distribute it to more efficient points of employment.

  4. posted by djk on

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time–I’m dealing with (or trying to deal with) the awkward space under the kitchen sink today. The way it was set up under there was rather ineffective.

  5. posted by Swaps on

    I just read post related to organizing under kitchen sink on “iheartorganizing” blog. It really looks neat and might give you some new ideas!

  6. posted by Bailey on

    I bought one of those plastic cleaning-product caddies for under the kitchen sink – it works great at keeping everything contained. And the whole thing comes out whenever I need to get at something. It works for me.

  7. posted by Susan Robbins on

    In my previous apartment I had a set of modular plastic shelves that were sort of like an Erector Set – you could build them around your sink drain and water pipes to make more efficient use of the space. In spite of that being a useful feature, I do NOT recommend these. A pipe burst under the sink, and I had one heck of a time disassembling the shelves and pulling all the stuff out while water was spraying everywhere. In my current apartment I have everything in a clear plastic bin so that I can yank it all out at once should another disaster occur. And in fact, I did need to do that recently — I had a leak, not a bad one but I hadn’t been under the sink for several days and it was very very wet in there. Because the water had dripped instead of spraying like the previous disaster, the bin kept everything inside dry. I did have trash bags in their cardboard boxes on the floor of the cabinet and they were soaked, so now I keep the rolls of bags, without the boxes, also in the bin. I’ve pared down the amount of stuff that I use for cleaning to a minimum, so the bin doesn’t even have to be very big. I also put a smaller plastic container directly under the water pipe where the leak occurred, in case that happens again, to try to minimize the mess.

  8. posted by squibby on

    I don’t have storage elsewhere for some of the cleaning products I use sometimes, so I store them under the sink in a plastic bin with a childproof lid.

  9. posted by Mehitabelle on

    I am also a plastic bin fan. I have two under the sink: one for cooking oils and a separate one for cleaners. Everything is in plastic or glass bottles so I am not really worried about them getting wet. We have had a series of minor leaks that were pretty much contained by the plastic bins. I’d rather lose a few cleaning supplies than have the cabinetry damaged.

  10. posted by gypsy packer on

    Advice I saw elsewhere: place a tin can or cut-down bottle in your organizer, directly under the sink trap, or use dishpans to store your household chems. Check once a week for leaks. This won’t prevent a line fitting from loosening, but these should be checked (if you can reach them) when you clean under the sink.
    I bear a HUGE grudge against sink and cabinet designers for the placement and engineering of sink plumbing. I’ve had to replace too many of these rascals, solo, before YouTube and before arthritis started munching on my fingers. Someone please redesign an age-friendly system.

  11. posted by Dinah Gray on

    I have a smaller Tubtrug under the kitchen sink containing: dish soap, baking soda, vinegar, rubber gloves, steal wool, homemade all purpose cleaner, homemade window cleaner, dusting cloth, window cloth, big scrub brush, lemon pledge (I put in corners to keeps spiders away) and toilet cleaner. This is my only set of cleaners for our whole three story townhouse. I tote the Tubtrug around the house as I clean. The Tubtrug itself doubles as the mop bucket.

    Almost all my cleaners are non-toxic. My little one is bigger now, but when she was small, the few questionable cleaners had their home on the top of the fridge.

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