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Prep Sinks and Cleanup Sinks — Why You Might Need Both

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

With few exceptions, the question: “Should I include a prep sink as well as a cleanup sink in my kitchen?” always arises when planning kitchens for my clients. Many clients are confused about the purpose, and need for, a prep sink as well as a cleanup sink. Most of us grew up with a single sink in the kitchen, so the idea of having or needing two sinks is novel. Back in the day, a second sink in the kitchen, by most middle-class standards, would be considered a bit odd or excessive.

So — to lay to rest concerns and confusion about this topic, I thought it would be helpful to reference NKBA’s guidelines on prep sinks, with some input from my own experience. Assuming we wish to plan on having both types of sinks in the kitchen, let us begin by specifically explaining each sink’s purpose.

Purpose and Placement of Cleanup Sinks

The purpose of the “cleanup” sink is pretty straightforward; some refer to this sink as the “main” sink. However, the term “main” (in kitchen design “lingo”) is not accurate, as it suggests that the sink is all-purpose when, in fact, it serves only one purpose: cleanup of pots, pans, dishes, and whatever else. Typically, the cleanup sink is placed slightly away from the cooking and food storage areas of the kitchen. The cleanup sink no longer functions as the third boundary of the traditional “work triangle” because it is not required for prep work.

Purpose and Placement of Prep Sinks

The prep sink is intended to be used by the cook to wash and prep produce, fish, poultry, pork, or beef. It also can serve as a “pot filler” for pasta or as a water source for other types of food preparation. Ideally, it should be located near the cooking and food storage areas so that the cook can access it easily. If possible, there should be ample room to one side of the prep sink for workspace. NKBA guidelines recommend a space that is at least 36” wide and 24” deep. If this is not possible, keep in mind that we have the ideal and then what is available given space limitations. What’s most important is that you, as homeowner, are comfortable with the sink’s placement and that its placement helps, not hinders, your cooking tasks.

Additionally, and sometimes inadvertently, the prep sink’s location may be closer to the family room or breakfast area. In this case, the sink can be useful for other purposes, especially if one adds an InstaHot water dispenser to it. A cup of hot tea no longer requires that one refill the kettle and waste precious energy heating the water for its preparation.

Two Sinks are Better Than One

If space allows, having two separate sinks with distinct functions is always preferable to only one. This allows for a more open feel in the kitchen with less traffic jams in the two sink areas, especially in today’s busy world.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.