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What Is an in-Sink Dishwasher?

By Emily Daw
Updated May 16, 2024
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As an alternative to traditional models, an in-sink dishwasher doubles as a combination dishwasher and an extra-deep kitchen sink. It has a small capacity and takes up less space than an undercounter dishwasher. In-sink dishwasher models are often advertised as being more time, water and energy efficient than their full-sized counterparts.

Companies that produce in-sink dishwashers advertise a number of advantages to this newer style. In-sink washers tend to be more efficient than traditional dishwashers, due to their smaller size. Though washer lifespan varies from model to model, in-sink dishwashers are often advertised as being overall more durable. Lastly, when the lid to the dishwasher is closed, it can be used as an additional kitchen workspace. Some lids are designed to also be used as cutting boards or heat-resistant surfaces for hot pots and pans.

Installing an in-sink dishwasher is generally simpler than installing an undercounter dishwasher, but is still often best done by a professional plumber. If it is installed in a location where there is already a sink, the existing sink is removed and then replaced with the two-part washer. One side of the washer functions just like a normal sink, while the other has a deeper basin equipped with a lid and some form of dish rack. The dish rack can be removed to allow the washer to function as a deep sink for washing pots and pans. Since they are at cabinet-height, the user does not have to bend down to load dishes.

An in-sink dishwasher is designed to fit in the same space as a double sink. A standard size for an in-sink dishwasher is 36 to 42 inches (0.9 to 1.1 meters) wide, including the second sink. By contrast, a traditional kitchen setup has a 36 inch (0.9 meter) sink plus an undercounter dishwasher of comparable width. For this reason, in-sink models may be preferred in efficiency-style kitchens so that more space can be used for storage.

Typically, an in-sink dishwasher can wash five to six place settings — plates or bowls plus glasses and silverware — in one load, roughly one-third the capacity of a full-size washer. Whereas a one- or two-person household might take several days to fill up a standard dishwasher, allowing food time to dry onto the dishes, the same household might run an in-sink washer daily. For homes with more people, however, a washer with a larger capacity might be a better option.

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Discussion Comments
By anon345255 — On Aug 17, 2013

New models of under-the-counter dishwashers are far more energy and water efficient than an in-sink system. The sensors, like those in many mid- to high-end HE front-loading washing machines can adjust for soil content, weight and other factors that can shorten or lengthen the wash cycle while also keeping water usage to a minimum.

A dear friend has an in-sink dishwasher, but after she spent the afternoon with me as we sat in the kitchen drinking far more lattes than we should (I have an espresso bar in the kitchen my husband bought and set up for me so I drink espresso, cappuccino, latte, etc, and even hot chocolate/milk chocolate or white chocolate), she complimented me on how quiet the dishwasher I used ran along with the shorter run cycles, and especially the fact that the bottom of the dishwasher has a food grinder that flushes chopped foods but nothing like bones or similar, but we're vegetarians so it's not a problem. However, we do contribute to a neighbor's compost bin.

After all this, she sold her in-sink unit shortly after buying a similar model as my under-counter model. The plumber we use is a family business and given that we recommended their company, I asked them to give the discount we would have had for future use because her husband is away in the military. If her husband were home, he could do the plumbing, but he's on active duty now.

The plumber offered a higher discounted amount for the install because her husband was deployed and unable to do the plumbing or install. It made me even prouder of this company, not to mention the fact that there cannot be enough said regarding family-run businesses as they are people who understand just how tough life can be for everyone and especially the families left at home while their loved ones are in harm’s way while they are deployed in the military.

By the way, she loves the new dishwasher! She said it was the first time she'd ever been able to talk on the phone in the kitchen while a dishwasher was running in the background, with the exception of doing so from my kitchen.

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