If You Think Dish Racks Are an Eyesore, You Have to See What Made Me Ditch Mine for Good

updated May 24, 2023
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Credit: Erin Derby

Let me fill you in on a little secret: I always thought people who hand-dried their dishes were wasting their time. I definitely admired that their counters were clear of dishes that were drying on their pretty dish racks, but I still couldn’t wrap my head around spending my time doing what air could do while l checked something else off of my to-do list. 

As with many things, I’ve come to eat my words. When our kitchen renovation was finally completed, I became one of those very people who dries her dishes. I realized it doesn’t take much more time than it takes to walk those same dishes to their proper homes in my kitchen after they’ve air-dried. 

But I had another compelling reason, too: The only area on the countertop where it makes sense to set dishes out to dry is above our dishwasher. This also happens to be the exact part of the room you see when you walk into the kitchen. I don’t love seeing a pile of dishes when I walk in, and I really don’t love when guests are greeted by a towering pile of drying plates and bowls as they walk into my kitchen either.

So, I ditched the dish rack completely. I don’t want something so clunky dominating the space, and I’m hoping it also encourages me to dry the dishes and put them away (or at least put them away more frequently). 

Do I have time to dry all the dishes I wash by hand all the time? Of course not! There’s almost always at least a small pile of dishes air-drying to the right of the sink, and I can accept that. There will likely always be a need for some sort of drying apparatus, but it doesn’t have to be an eyesore.  

For a while, I was spreading out a towel or two on the counter to set wet dishes on, but there were a few problems with this. First off, the towels would get wet pretty quickly. Second, the towels would slide around on the counter, getting all bunched up. Lastly, they didn’t allow for airflow for things like mugs that I would have to overturn while they dried.

When I happened upon an absorbent mat that also had a small, totally unobtrusive “rack” built into it, I had to try it. (This Umbra UDRY Rack and Microfiber Dish Drying Mat is very similar.) It’s the perfect solution for someone like me who doesn’t want an entire rack, but still needs a place for a few dishes to dry on the counter. 

The plastic rack allows you to vertically “file” items like dishes, pot lids, and cutting boards, while the plastic parts that stick up on the grate prevent mugs and other items from sliding around. The microfiber mat absorbs water without getting saturated, providing a perfect spot not only for larger hand-wash items, but also for the smaller things like my strawberry huller and knives. And most importantly, the microfiber mat is machine-washable, so you can just toss it in the washing machine if it gets funky.

Because it isn’t a full-blown rack, we can’t stack too many dishes on it, which encourages us to put the dishes away more often — or even to hand-dry them. Smaller piles also mean the dishes dry more quickly. 

Overall, even though my counter isn’t always completely clear of air-drying dishes, this mat is unassuming and simple. It solves my problem, while keeping my space relatively uncluttered. And on those rare occasions when there aren’t any dishes to air-dry, the mat is so easy to fold into thirds and slip into the cabinet. It’s the little kitchen helper I didn’t know I needed. 

Buy: Umbra UDRY Rack and Microfiber Dish Drying Mat, $11