When you’re considering food storage options (especially if space is limited), it’s important to evaluate every space possible. Which makes lots of people wonder – can you store food under the sink?
Never store food under a sink. Storing food under a sink can significantly shorten the lifespan of the food due to temperature fluctuations. Food stored under the sink can also be contaminated by chemicals, cleaners, or germs that are also found under sinks. Here are better alternatives.
Ready to see where you should store your food – and what to keep under your sink? Keep reading!
Never Store Food Under the Sink
In my research and experience, I’ve found a handful of important reasons why you should never store food under the sink.
- Stored foods do better stored in a cool, dry area with a controlled temperature. Temperatures under sinks fluctuate like crazy (due to water temperatures, pipes, and ventilation systems) – and it’s definitely not a dry area all of the time.
- Sink cabinets are at a huge risk of flooding. Anything stored under the sink may get sprayed with water – and it may be grossly contaminated water. Don’t store anything under the sink that can’t survive a surprise flood.
- Humid, temperature-fluctuating environments are perfect for germs to grow. Any germs that were inadvertently stored inside your food will now grow like crazy. Eating that food is now a health risk for food-borne illnesses and botulism.
- If you can’t see food, you forget it’s there. Forgotten food goes bad. Under-sink spaces tend to get cluttered – fast. You’re most probably going to forget what’s under there.
- People commonly store dangerous chemicals under sinks. Storing chemicals next to food puts the food at risk of cross-contamination by contact or absorption.
The various food-related oversight agencies also say to never store food under the sink. And their rationale or reasoning for it is very sound. Here is what the United States Department of Agriculture and Food Safety and Inspection Service both say in their published guides:
Store canned food and other shelf-stable products in a cool, clean, dry place. Never put them above the stove, under the sink, in a damp garage or basement, or any place exposed to high or low temperature extremes.2015, USDA (FSIS): Kitchen Companion
Okay, so this is specifically referring to storing canned foods under a sink. However, it’s something that also applies to other types of food and food storage.
|Food||Why Not Under the Sink||Where to Keep it Instead|
|Fresh Produce||It would go bad faster. It could also be contaminated by whatever else is stored under the sink.||Keep fresh produce in an appropriate location. Some produce needs to go in the fridge, while other produce does best in a pantry or on a counter.|
|Meat Products||It would go rancid – fast. Also, contamination is a huge issue.||Keep meat products in the fridge or freezer.|
|Eggs and dairy||Going bad is an issue for dairy. Eggs under a sink are likely to get crushed.||Keep washed eggs and dairy in the fridge. Fresh eggs can be stored on the counter.|
|Shelf-Stable Food (cans and jars of food)||Risk of food spoiling due to temperature fluctuations, contamination from other items or floods, and risk of breakage due to clutter.||Keep shelf-stable food in a cool, dry pantry or other location. Keep reading for some ideas of places that would be okay to store these types of food.|
|Dried Foods||Under a sink is too wet and humid to store dried foods. The humidity will make it go rancid faster.||Keep dried foods sealed in a plastic bag or appropriate container in a cool, dry environment.|
|Freeze-Dried Foods||Under the sink is too wet and could break down the mylar bags. This would expose the food to air and humidity – making it go bad.||Instead, store freeze-dried foods in appropriate bags (usually mylar) in a cool, dry location that’s away from flood risks.|
Under the sink can seem like a great idea – until you realize how risky it is to actually use it. Skip the risks to your family’s health and well-being. Store food somewhere else.
Best Places to Store Food – Safely
Okay, so if you can’t store food under a sink – where should you store it? And better yet – where are some great places to store it safely?
Because every house, home, apartment, and homestead is designed differently, it’s going to take some creativity. So take a look around your house and identify cool, dry places – where you don’t store any dangerous chemicals or other things.
Here are some ideas on places that might work for storing food.
- In a dedicated pantry
- Under a bed
- In a closet
- In other dedicated food storage locations, like in fridges or freezers
- In an unused dresser
- On a shelf
- In a cold-storage room
- In a basement storage room
What you store in any specific location will also depend on the type of food. After all – nobody should want to store fresh produce under a bed. That’s a recipe for forgotten fruit, a nasty smell, and a ruined floor.
We store food in two main locations: the kitchen or our basement storage.
- Food that we eat or cook with on a regular basis is in our kitchen pantry.
- Food that needs to be kept at a cooler temperature is in our kitchen fridge and freezer.
- Foods that we don’t need right away and are shelf-stable (dried, canned, or freeze-dried) is in our basement cold-storage room. Okay, so it’s more of a “cool-storage” than cold, but that’s okay. It’s cool, dry, and we can control how much light’s in that room.
- Foods that need to be frozen and don’t fit in our small kitchen freezer go in our basement freezer.
Our upright, basement freezer is actually in a different storage room than our glorified cold-storage closet. That’s due to spacing concerns. So the freezer is actually in our basement storage room. It’s next to a shelf of general supplies – like extra toothbrushes, batteries, and a few cleaning supplies.
We don’t store any other food in that storage room, though. Why? Because we do keep a few cleaning supplies there. So food in that storage room is limited to whatever’s in the freezer. Non-freezer food stays in the cold storage room – away from the chemicals.
Can You Store Food with Cleaning Products?
Ideally, never store food next to or near cleaning products. Or chemicals. However, if there are space limitations, let’s look at what the rules for commercial food handling say.
Food handling permits require that chemicals be stored separately – or on shelves under food. Chemicals should never be stored on shelves above food. Storing food below chemicals puts the food at risk of chemical contamination.
For example, bleach and other chemicals can (eventually) eat through its packaging. So never store bleach (or other chemicals) above anything that will be contaminated or destroyed by it.
So if I wanted to store food on a top-shelf next to my basement freezer, I could move the cleaning supplies to the bottom shelf. However, because we have small children, we keep the chemicals on a top shelf in a box. That way, we could see if there’s a leak. And we also store that box above items that aren’t at a high risk of chemical contamination – or could be easily discarded if they did get leaked on, like a bottle of handsoap.
We also limit what chemicals we keep on hand – but that’s just a generally good idea to limit potential chemical issues.
In any case, keep your food away from cleaning products. You don’t want to eat food that’s been contaminated by cleaners. That’s why we keep our food in an entirely different storage area.
What Can I Store Under My Kitchen Sink?
What you store under your kitchen sink will depend on your family’s needs. You may want to keep a few important things under your sink like:
- Plumbing associated with your sink (and maybe a disposal system)
- Soaps used to clean dishes or things in the kitchen
- A couple of rags for cleaning
- Safety equipment like a fire extinguisher
- Trash bags
- Cleaning supplies needed in the kitchen or nearby rooms
- Trash cans
- Whatever else you need handy while at the kitchen sink
Whatever you choose to keep under your sink, though, don’t store any food under there. Here’s what we keep under our sink:
- Dishwasher soap
- A pair of long dish-washing gloves
- A couple of rags for cleaning up spills
- Two sizes of fire extinguisher (a big one we can use and a smaller one our kids could use)
- Trash bags
- Wasp spray (wasps tend to next right outside our back door, so we need it handy but locked up and away from children)
- A spray bottle with soap and water in it
- A gallon of distilled water (for cleaning only)
- Our reverse-osmosis filtration system
We used to keep a lot more under the sink, but installing the reverse-osmosis system did mean we had to move most of the cleaners and other random stuff out. We do try to keep the chemicals away from the reverse-osmosis tank as an extra safety precaution.
How Do I Maximize the Space Under My Sink?
Maximizing the space under your sink doesn’t have to mean storing more items down there. Instead, it means making the space and items found under the kitchen sink more useful.
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Remember how I mentioned that we used to keep a lot more stuff under the kitchen sink? That changed when I read this organizing book (click here to check price and availability on Amazon). This book has revolutionized our family’s organizing system and habits – and changed our focus to making things easier to put away.
Now, we keep only the bare essentials under the kitchen sink. And every time I find that we don’t use an item as often as I thought we did? I remove it. That way I can always find what I need – fast. And it’s even easier (and faster) to put things away under the sink.
We also use baskets and containers to keep the various items (like dishwasher soap and trash bags) contained so that they don’t spread all over. That way, things are clean. And even my youngest kids can figure out how to help put things away – if we’ve unlocked the cabinet and are supervising them, that is.
That way, I no longer have to pull out six types of trash bags to find the one I want. A quick scan under the sink is all I need to find what I want, where it goes, and how many I have left. I’d say that’s a great way to maximize the space under any sink!
- “FSIS.” Keep Food Safe! Food Safety Basics, USDA, www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/keep-food-safe-food-safety-basics/ct_index.
- United States, Congress, “Kitchen Companion: Your Safe Food Handbook.” Kitchen Companion: Your Safe Food Handbook, USDA, 2008, pp. 1–48. Link to Brochure. Last updated in 2015.
- The United States, Utah’s Congress, “Food Service Sanitation Regulation.” Food Service Sanitation Regulation, 1980. Updated 2018. Link to brochure.