Being essential in any kitchen, a sink not only fulfills a practical role but can also be a decoration of the room. Never before have there been so many amazing choices for the kitchen sink. Whatever you imagine, there’s a solution.
If you are like most homeowners, then you’re looking for the same thing – simplicity, ease of maintenance, efficiency, aesthetics, and good value. Oh, and sometimes a place to bath the baby or pet.
Most people look for exactly the same things in a sink which is a simple, elegant design and easy maintenance.
Heavy and cast iron sinks are a thing of the past. Modern sinks are made of granite, marble, mineral-resin composites, or light stainless steel. With fancy shapes, colors, and various dimensions.
But where do you start looking for a new kitchen sink? Which sink material should you select? And even if you’ve already bought one, you might be wondering whether this really was a smart decision for a kitchen sink material.
As there’s a countless number of different types of kitchen sink designs and materials to choose from, no wonder you might feel overwhelmed.
In order to decide on a sink material that will meet your criteria, you must know the difference between them, their specifications, the benefits for you and your kitchen décor, and how to care for them. Also, you need to realize the most common mistakes made when choosing a kitchen sink material.
Let’s go over all of them.
For many homeowners, this is the first choice. Stainless steel sinks are most popular due to their ease of fitting in almost any interior. Stainless steel appliances have a high tech, industrial look and they present themselves very nice in a modern kitchen with clean lines.
Stainless steel is an alloy made from iron metal. It is steel doped with chromium (thanks to which the sink does not rust) and nickel (which provides additional flexibility).
The surface of a stainless steel sink can have different types of finish, which differ not only in overall aesthetics but also in the way of care during use. The type of finish directly affects whether the sink will be easy to keep clean and not to damage the surface.
The cheapest and most popular are sinks with a smooth finish.
The polished surface has a glossy look that looks impressive. But after drying, even clean water (especially if hard) leaves annoying stains and streaks, and other traces of use like scratches (if we scrub the surface with the wrong cleaner, such as a wire sponge).
Benefits of stainless steel
A sink made of stainless steel is resistant to high temperatures up to 1022°F (550°C), or rapid temperature changes.
It is a material that is more resistant to mechanical impact and more durable than enameled steel. If you drop a glass in the sink, there’s a high chance that it won’t break (that never happens with the cast iron sinks).
The stainless steel sink is a very good buy due to the cost and the life expectancy (between 15 and 30 years).
There are many kitchen sink designs available in stainless steel, and also many different sizes so you can be sure to find one that is right for you.
Disadvantages of stainless steel
However, some people think stainless steel is cold and too easily dented.
Another objection that some people have to stainless steel is that it’s quite noisy. To prevent that, manufacturers have addressed this issue with sound absorption technologies. Even though steel sinks are acoustic, most of them are equipped with self-adhesive plastic anti-noise plates, glued to the bottom of the sink chambers and drainers.
Also, the disadvantage of this sink is that the water leaves stains and spots on it. This is why it’s worth buying a sink with a semi-matte surface, or with the texture of fabric (most often linen). Stains and scratches will be less visible on it.
How to care for a stainless steel sink?
You should remember that every sink must be taken care of, regardless of the material from which it was made.
Fortunately, stainless steel sinks are considered to be easy to clean.
It is relatively easy to remove bacterial flora and dirt from their surface. However, under no circumstances should you use any abrasive cleaning products such as powders or granules, but only detergents with a liquid and creamy texture. It should also not be cleaned with steel wool, hydrochloric acid, agents containing chlorine and bromine, or with a scouring pad. All this can cause scratches or damage to the surface of the sink.
If you notice stubborn limescale on the sink, the best and simplest way to remove it is to wipe it off with a warm vinegar solution and the problem disappears.
It is easier to keep clean a semi-matte (so-called smooth or satin) or fabric textured surface (also called orange peel), where stains and scratches are less visible.
After each time you wash the dishes and after washing the sink, remember to rinse the sink with warm water and wipe dry with a soft cloth. This will prevent the formation of stains and streaks.
A good way to preserve steel is to wipe the sink with edible oil.
An alternative that does not require such restrictive care is a sink with a brushed, linen, or Microline finish.
The first one looks aesthetically as if it’s been scratched, although it’s perfectly smooth to the touch.
The second one has a linen-like weave surface, which makes it rough and easier to keep clean.
Microline, on the other hand, is a texture that combines the best properties of a smooth surface and linen. It is microscopic enough not to lose its elegance and rough enough to prevent small scratches from remaining on it. The only downside is the slightly higher price of the sink. However, it pays off in the form of savings on cleaning agents and time spent on care.
Enameled steel sinks are no longer as popular as they were years ago. However, they still find buyers, mainly due to their low price. In addition to the traditional white colors, enameled steel sinks are available in various shades of brown, beige, and even black.
The enameled surface is resistant to corrosion, smooth, easy to clean and there are no visible stains on it.
But over time, the top layer wears out, becomes dull with appearing scratches, and the enamel falls off and becomes chipped as a result of impacts.
If you want to clean the enamel sink, you should avoid treating it with acid agents. Even though the surface whitens at first, it will fade later.
Metal sinks – copper, nickel, brass
In addition to steel, sinks made of various metals are available. Nickel, copper, and brass are used not only for the standard kitchen sinks but also for specialty sinks. These materials age gracefully in their natural state. Metal sinks that have been used for generations can be very beautiful, however, they tend to be very expensive.
Particularly popular because they are eco-friendly, durable, they resist bacteria, and basically require no maintenance. Over time, copper ages and gets a dark patina like an old penny. The copper sink should be made of pure copper, and copper shouldn’t be soldered but welded. A soldered sink will turn black at the joints and look ugly as it ages.
Harder and stronger than copper, and a hammered nickel finish is beautiful. However, nickel is very susceptible to abrasion and various types of mechanical damage. It should also be stressed that they are not resistant to high temperatures and scratches. Due to its structure, a nickel sink is difficult to maintain, can be damaged by chemical cleaning products, and tends to become dull.
Simply stunning and luxurious. They’re usually custom-made and hand-finished. They are fairly easy to care for and nearly impossible to dent. Just remember to avoid using abrasive sponges that damage the surface, or harsh and abrasives chemicals. Do not use any cleaning detergent containing chlorine or its compounds that may oxidize the brass. It’s recommended to dry the surface with a soft cloth to remove any watermarks or sediments, and not to leave wet cloths and sponges on it.
Porcelain enamel over cast iron
This is one of the most durable, widely available options for kitchen sink designs. Porcelain enamel over cast iron has been used for over a hundred years. Today, the range in quality, styles, and colors is vast. The life expectancy for a high-quality sink is about 25 to 30 years, or even more.
The porcelain surface is ground glass melted and then applied to the hot cast iron. These types of sinks are available for under mount, self-rimming, and tile-in installations.
A cast iron sink resists burning but it doesn’t retain heat particularly well, so it’s often necessary to replenish the hot water when doing a lot of dishes. It’s also recommended to use a sink mat, as it’s easy to break a glass if dropped.
You may find that especially the lighter color porcelain enamel sinks show metal marks from cutlery and cooking pans. It takes some maintenance but these marks can be easily removed.
The ceramic material is obtained by firing clay at a temperature of around 2318°F (1270°C). Ceramic sinks are harder than steel sinks and are more resistant to high temperatures, large temperature changes, scratches as well as mechanical damage.
Their surface is glazed but over time, the shiny layer of glaze wipes off and as a result, the sink does not look impressive. Ceramic sinks are usually white, brown, or black. Their disadvantage is the quite high price.
Ceramic sinks are easy to clean and they look very elegant.
Similarly to other sinks, keeping the ceramic sink clean requires regular cleaning habits. First of all, wipe it dry after each use so that there will be no visible water spots or stains. A wet cloth or the soft side of a cleaning sponge soaked with a dishwashing liquid will provide adequate protection against dirt resulting from its use.
However, stronger soiling will require additional measures such as using 9% acetic acid. After use, rinse the sink and wipe it dry.
Engineered sink materials include everything from solid surface materials like Corian and Swanstone to quartz, slate, or granite composites as well as cast acrylic.
Solid surface materials have a soft, warm feel and can be fused with a countertop for the ultimate in cleaning ease. There are no grooves or seams so there’s no place for kitchen dirt to collect.
Corian solid surface material is eco-friendly, low maintenance, durable, bacteria and mold resistant, and easy to clean. It has a large and most versatile selection of colors.
Swanstone is another solid surface material for a kitchen sink. It is a strong, impact and heat resistant, warm, non-porous material. It’s available in a variety of styles but is more often treated as a separate sink unit available with either self-rimming or under-mount installation.
Polyester solid surface material sinks are made of thermoplastic polyester and have a smooth, easy to clean surface with long-lasting color. Unfortunately, this material is not very hard and can be easily scratched. Polyester based sinks are available in white, creamy, blue, and brown colors.
Sinks made from solid surface materials are also relatively expensive, especially when you consider the sink project turns into a complete overhaul of the kitchen counters too.
Composite stone sinks have become popular as well. They are made of various rocks including quartz, granite, or slate, or combined with acrylic (acrylic resins).
The composites have a matte finish with a look of natural stone, with a uniform color or slightly mottled.
Each manufacturer uses a different trade name for its product. The names of the materials indicate the manufacturer and the ingredients used, e.g. Silacron (quartz-acrylic).
The stones resist bacteria and odors, are very hard, durable, and warm to the touch, and low maintenance.
Products made of materials with a higher mineral content compared to acrylic have a slightly rough surface. Products with higher acrylic content have a smoother and shiny but less hard surface. Both types of material are resistant to high temperatures, chemical, and natural household substances as well as scratches and cracks.
They don’t scratch easily. To test it in the store, ask a salesperson if you can try scratching one with a big paperclip. If they let you, you will see first hand how hard these sinks really are.
They do not get discolored as most products are dyed in the mass, and not only on the surface. The range of sizes and shapes is abundant but the colors are quite limited to a neutral palette of beige, dark grey, almond, and white, with a few variations depending on the manufacturer.
The price is very competitive with other sinks in the same price range. However, in most stores, composite stone sinks are imported on individual orders.
Granite vs Composite granite stone sinks
Stone sinks, like granite, are considered the best sinks. In fact, the only downside to granite sinks is their high price. They are very resistant to damage and high temperatures, and the huge variety of colors can make you dizzy.
They are frequently bought, mainly because they do not require special care and they look very elegant. However, it should be remembered that granite stone sinks are not indestructible. They are susceptible to chipping. Also, it’s not worth putting their resistance to the test by using highly corrosive cleaning agents. The porous surface of the stone is also prone to the formation of sediments, so it is worth developing the habit of immediately wiping out stone sinks.
You should also remember that stone sinks, due to their heavy weight, require solid installation.
Composite granite stone sinks
A cheaper alternative to granite stone is composite stone granite (or synthetic granite) sinks.
What makes them different is the mineral material they are made of and the percentage ratio of mineral filler to the binder, i.e. polyester resin, with which it is combined to maintain the structure tight and compact.
Natural granite sinks are made of stone and contain a higher mineral value in relation to the binder.
The composite ones consist of granite-derived sands, for example quartz, and they contain significantly more polyester resin than in granite sinks. And this has its pros and cons.
The advantage of granite sinks is their more distinctive appearance and higher scratch resistance. Granite sinks are also more expensive than composite.
The composite sinks, on the other hand, are durable and resistant to discoloration, impact, high temperature, chemicals, scratches, and cracks. They do not undergo discoloration. Their high flexibility makes them more resistant to mechanical damage. They are available in white, brown, grey, beige, and green colors.
A sink made of synthetic granite must be maintained regularly if we want to keep it clean. After each use, you should thoroughly rinse and wipe it dry. Additionally, it is worth to wash it at least once a day with cleaning products made for synthetic sinks, remembering to avoid products with abrasive properties that will scratch the surface. You can finish the cleaning by gently greasing the surface with edible oil. Strong discolorations should be removed on an ongoing basis.
In case of heavy soiling, the sink bowl filled with warm water and dishwasher powder should be left overnight, or with cleaning, disinfecting, and bleaching agent for about 40 minutes. After this time, clean the sink with a creamy cleaner.
They’re made of plastic material, and are very strong, stain-resistant, and also inexpensive.
Acrylic sinks are also distinguished by a non-porous surface, which is why dirt does not settle on them. Even though they may come with great warranties, they are not long-lasting or heat-resistant, and they scratch easily and quite badly. As with other kitchen sinks, designs vary from single bowl to triple bowl choices.
Fireclay is an enhanced type of vitreous china that contains more feldspar and quartz. But it’s more dense and heavy than regular clay, which makes it more durable than a standard china sink. By nature, it has the ability to withstand incredibly strong heat. Having a non-porous structure, it repels stains, requires no special cleaning, and is resistant to scratches, chipping, cracks, or rust. Like porcelain over cast iron sinks, fireclay life expectancy is between 25 and 30 years.
Many farmhouse type sinks are made of fireclay and French farmhouse fireclay sinks are enameled. They incorporate the old-fashioned backs with holes for wall mounted faucets and have drainboards built-in.
There are lots of choices, but fireclay sinks are not low-cost solutions, so be prepared to budget accordingly.
These sinks require minimal maintenance and are easy to clean. It’s advisable to wash the sink regularly with warm soap and water, not use harsh, abrasive cleaners or chemicals, and avoid using steel wool or metal cleaning pads on the surface. If it develops any type of discoloration, use a mild abrasive, such as baking soda.
Probably the most beautiful sinks are made of soapstone. This is a soft rock material consisting of mineral talc that has incredible impact strength, which can even surpass the properties of granite, It’s heavy, dense, beautiful, and impervious to stains. Soapstone doesn’t absorb liquids or flavors, and its resistance to water, acids, and chemicals exceeds most stones.
Its soft, smooth finish is delicate, pleasant to the touch, and very functional. The special coating also provides natural protection against bacteria.
Soapstone comes in a large range of colors but most are naturally black or grey. Being a non-porous material, soapstone naturally darkens with age, so keep that in mind when selecting a color.
A kitchen counter and a sink out of soapstone are spectacular, however, they’re very expensive. Still, if you can afford it, a soapstone sink will give you and your next generation excellent performance.
Glass is an exceptionally graceful material for arrangement. It gives the impression of lightness, allows for the optical shaping of space, and is perfect for introducing motifs and patterns. Because of their attractive appearance, sinks made from glass are mainly used in modern kitchens. The glass sink fits perfectly with lacquered and matte furniture and modern home appliances.
With regard to sinks, glass has gained recognition after it was used in combined technology with a granite or steel base.
The outer glass pane is a unique decoration while the durability of the design is achieved by natural, velvety granite, or stainless steel.
Thanks to this, these sinks remain durable for a long time, ensuring the comfort of use without the worry of damaging them. The advantage of glass and metal is that these materials are extremely easy to clean and resistant to detergents used in everyday cleaning.
Glass sinks have a deep bowl that prevents splashing water. They are equipped with a functional drainer, which makes it easier to dry the dishes, but will also be useful for other kitchen work.
The big advantage of buying a glass sink is the simplicity of its installation, where it’s enough to put it into a recess in the countertop. You may choose these types of sinks in two colors, white or black, depending on the décor of your kitchen. The black glass sink will emphasize the beauty of a modern, minimalist kitchen, while the white one will stand out in a kitchen furnished in a classic style.
If you want to install a glass sink in your kitchen, you should opt for tempered glass, which is much more resistant to high temperatures, mechanical damage, and various types of stains.
The glass sink is easy to keep clean and is perfect for everyday use. If you want to keep it in good condition for a long time, you must take proper care of it. To do this, you should use separate cleaning products for the steel or granite surface, and for the glass bowl. Remember that harsh cleaners and strong detergents are not suitable for any part of the appliance.
Wipe steel and glass every day with a cloth soaked in water and washing-up liquid. Strong soiling can be easily removed with citric acid and baking soda. After wiping the sink dry, occasionally treat the base with cooking oil to give it a shine.
Tempered glass should be cleaned with products intended for delicate surfaces, or with water and vinegar. You can remove strong, greasy stains with washing-up liquid and a microfiber cloth. After that, polish the glass thoroughly with a paper towel, which will prevent unsightly stains.
Obviously, a glass sink is more likely to get damaged. Despite additional reinforcements, the glass may break under the impact of a heavy pot. Therefore, you should handle it with extreme caution.
Glass, however, is ideal for a kitchen where the appliance is not intensively used. It will be perfect for people who use a dishwasher on a daily basis or wash their dishes less regularly.
Before you make a decision about choosing a sink, it’s smart to think of it not only as an element of décor but also as a functional unit that needs to be taken care of.
If you predict that you will not have enough time to take special care of it, then it’s better to spend more on a granite sink.
It’s also worth asking yourself how long the new sink should last. Is the kitchen you’re renovating a project that should last 5 years, or it may be never changed again? And if it’s to last longer, it would be worth investing in a more expensive granite or composite sink, because they usually have longer warranty periods.