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About Commercial Sinks

When your sink breaks down, or if you’ve forgotten to include one in your design plans, it’s not going to take long into your first service before you realize: “Hey, I really need a sink.” Commercial kitchen sinks usually fall into one of three categories. There’s the two and three bay “ware-washing” sink, the hand-wash sink, and the utility sink, which may either be a counter-height model, or integrated into the floor of the kitchen.

Steel ware washing sinks are the workhorses of any commercial cooking space. Most state health inspections require these sinks to have two or three separate “bays,” with the first used for cleaning dishes in water that’s 110 degrees or higher. The second bay is for rinsing dishes, and the third bay is for sanitizing with a mixture of sanitizing solution and water that’s at least 171 degrees.

Many dish stations feature automatic dispensers for both detergent and sanitizer, which saves the step of having to measure these mixtures each time the sink is used. Be sure to check with the requirements in your state, regarding the chemicals needed for sanitizing, as well as the proper proportions to mix them.

Steel hand wash sinks are exactly what they sound like: Smaller, dedicated sinks exclusively for hand washing. These are a requirement of most health departments; different states may also require hand-wash sinks to be clearly labeled with a sign or placard, in order to prevent a new line cook from, say, trying to wash vegetables in one, have splash guards on one or both sides, and to have both hand soap and paper towels placed or mounted nearby within easy reach. Hand wash sink faucets are either the traditional type, with knobs or levers for hot and cold water, a single knob for mixing different water temperatures by swinging the lever to the left or right, or may feature faucet push levers mounted at waist-height or on the floor for hands-free activation with a knee or foot.

Utility sinks are often made of plastic (for counter height models) or cement (if integrated into the floor), and are usually tucked away in a less-used part of the kitchen. These sinks are for filling mop buckets, rinsing mops, and any other dirty kitchen task that should be kept away from food preparation areas.

What Do I Do with a Used Commercial Sink?

Used restaurant sink.

Ware washing sinks are what keep your pots, pans, and cooking utensils spotlessly clean, and may also be used for washing plates, glasses, dishes, silverware, and other front-of-house service items. Often, ware-washing sink setups are combined with an automatic washing and/or sanitizing machine, which blasts the (theoretically) already-clean dishes with an extra dose of high-pressure scalding hot water and detergent, ensuring that they are 100% sanitized and safe to use for the next customer. Ware washing sinks can be enormous tubs large enough to fit a whole person in, or in some kitchens, may be more of a “token” gesture to appease the health department; we’ve seen ware washing sinks that were made out of 1/4 size deep prep pans, which would obviously be nearly useless for actually getting dishes and pans clean, but is sufficient to meet some health department standards.

Hand wash sinks are one area in which owners shouldn’t cut corners, however, as they are used literally hundreds of times during an average shift. Look for hand wash sinks which feature integrated splash guards, and if there’s room in the budget, spring for a model with thigh-or-foot activation; you will say a silent “thank you” to your new sink, every time you manage to turn the water on without getting beer batter all over the faucet knobs. Hand wash sinks may be either wall-mounted or freestanding, which is something to consider when evaluating the layout of your existing plumbing, since each of these will be installed slightly differently.

Utility sinks are designed to take lots of abuse, and are usually made out of rugged, heavy-grade plastic or rubber. These sinks undergo a lot of wear and tear, but are typically fairly inexpensive to replace.

Most states require nearly all types of commercial kitchen sinks (ware-washing, hand wash, and utility) in almost any commercial application (including brick-and-mortar kitchens and food trucks or concession trailers) to have both grease traps and back flow protection incorporated into the plumbing design. Back flow prevention is a fancy term for a one-way valve, that prevents dirty sink water from backing up into the basin of the sink, potentially contaminating surfaces.

How Do I Evaluate a Used Commercial Sink?

Used commercial and hand washing sink.

Evaluating a used kitchen sink is one of the more straightforward processes you will go through, in purchasing used commercial kitchen equipment. That’s because sinks, by design, are pretty simple machines. Look for stainless steel sinks that have been properly cared for, with no obvious dents, chunks missing, or visible warping that may affect the way the sink is mounted to the wall.

Look for abrasions in the steel that may have occurred as a result of overzealous cleaning with steel wool or a wire brush. Check the inside surface of the sink, as well as underneath, for obvious signs of corrosion, rust, or damage.

Check the knobs to make sure they are turning freely, and inspect the plate around the drain hole to ensure the seal is tight. Look for obvious attempts at repair or patching, such as big blobs of silicone sealant that may be temporarily fixing a problem. If possible, inspect the sink while it is connected to a water supply, so you can check for obvious leaks either around the faucet, or in the basin of the sink itself. If the sink includes any of the necessary plumbing fixtures, inspect the pipes for a buildup of grease, hair, or other debris.

Finally, don’t be too concerned about the overall state of cleanliness of the used commercial sink you are considering for purchase. Sinks get used hard in a commercial application, but there are very few sinks that can’t be brought back to nearly like-new condition with the right combination of harsh chemical cleaning products and good old-fashioned elbow grease. If a sink you are considering buying looks particularly dirty, use this as a negotiating point to try and get a lower price.

How Do I Use a Used Commercial Sink?

The location of your various commercial sinks is going to play a big role in the overall design of your kitchen. Ware-washing sinks should be somewhat out of the way of traffic in the kitchen, so that waiters, bussers, and cooks aren’t tripping over each other constantly. That’s why ware-washing sinks and dish machines are typically set back from the rest of the kitchen, often in a tiny, humid, windowless room (look, we don’t call them “dish pits” for nothing).

Hand wash sinks, by contrast, need to be centrally located in the middle of the action; cooks and chefs will use these sinks hundreds of times during service, which makes easy accessibility a key part of any successful kitchen configuration. Multiple hand wash stations are appropriate for larger kitchens with multiple stations.

Utility sinks are usually tucked away in a corner somewhere; installing a utility sink near the area where you plan to keep mops, brooms, and cleaning supplies makes the most sense.