Seekers of eco-friendly sinks, I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news first:
Affordable, new kitchen sinks aren’t 100% eco-friendly.
When choosing a sink you’ll be balancing different aspects of sustainability. We’ve tried to give you a starting point for all the buying choices you’ll have to make.
Kitchen Sink Materials/Colors
Kitchen Sink Styles
Single Basin Sinks
Sinks with Drainboards
Sinks for Kitchen Islands
Deep Basin Sinks
Sinks For Tiny Houses and RVs
Double Basin Sinks
Most sinks sold in the U.S. are made from stainless steel. To make stainless steel, you start with iron ore, a non-renewable material that must be mined. Nearly 3 billion tons of iron is taken out of the earth every year, mostly at gnarly open-pit mines like this one.
Other popular materials for new sinks are porcelain-enameled cast-iron, copper, concrete, and composite (sometimes called “granite composite”). None are renewable resources.
The only kitchen sink made from renewable resources I was able to find is a bamboo version; a quick glance at the Amazon reviews shows that you’d be wise to avoid it.
Truly Eco-Friendly New Sinks Are Very Expensive
You can get a new sink made out of recycled materials, but it’ll cost you.
Phoenix-based Premier Copper Products sells a standard size kitchen sink made from 99.7% recycled copper, it’s handmade in Mexico and costs around $1,500.
Native Trails also works with Mexican artisans, their least expensive recycled copper sink starts at $2,598. (It is gorgeous, though.)
Now, for the good news…
The Most Eco-Friendly Sink Is Also The Cheapest
The most environmentally responsible choice? Buying a used sink.
It’s eco-friendly: Zero environmental impact, except the gas you burn going to pick it up.
But, it’s also time-consuming: You may have to wait months to find the exact size and style you want. You’ll also need to do some cleaning once you get the sink. And, if the sink has a porcelain glaze or enamel, you’ll have to make sure that enamel doesn’t contain lead; many sinks made before the 1980s did.
Now for the rest of the good news…
New Sinks Aren’t 100% Eco-Unfriendly, Either
Stainless steel—while it has its downsides—may still be an eco-friendly enough choice for you. While it’s not renewable, stainless steel can be recycled. In fact, most stainless steel sinks are made partly from recycled stainless steel—Elkay’s Revere line of sinks are made from at least 80% recycled steel. And stainless steel itself is 100% recyclable, and is one of the most durable manufactured materials. Properly cared for, it’ll last generations. Somebody even made a building from stainless steel sinks.
If you buy a quality sink, and commit to recycling once you are done with it, a stainless steel (or porcelain, or composite) sink is a much more eco-friendly purchase than some other stuff you probably buy (ahem, plastic bottles).
What choice is right for you? We made this comparison chart to show you your options.
A severely-damaged sink could leach copper.
Mining, processing (except for 100% recycled copper).
None (except older sinks, see below).
Made with acrylic resins that are potentially toxic
Mining and use of chemical adhesives.
The enamel of porcelain sinks from the 1980s and before may contain lead.
Kitchen Sink Materials/Colors
Stainless Steel Sinks
Buy: If you want a sleek look, with almost no ongoing care.
Most sinks sold today are made of stainless steel—the non-rusting steel, as it was originally introduced to the public. Stainless steel is fantastic for sinks because it doesn’t rust, doesn’t stain (hence, “stainless”), is hard to scratch, and doesn’t corrode easily. Stainless steel is produced in different gauges. The higher the gauge, the thinner the steel, and the more prone to scratching and denting. Most sinks are between 18-gauge and 23-gauge. Stainless steel gives a sleek look to your kitchen.
Kraus Double Bowl Stainless Steel Kitchen Sink, via Amazon.
Single Bowl Stainless Steel Kitchen Sink by Vigo, via Wayfair.
Havens Metal sells high-end stainless steel sinks using high-end metal in multiple textures.
Buy: If you want a striking visual centerpiece for your kitchen, and can commit to daily care.
Copper sinks are long-lasting, scratch-resistant, and anti-microbial—if you take care of them. The finish of a copper sink will change over time, building up a patina that looks different depending on the light and time of day. That same patina, though, will corrode or get scratched if you don’t care for your copper. If your kitchen doesn’t have a striking visual, a copper sink will do it for you.
Havens Metal Works makes copper sinks like this one out of 100% US-manufactured copper. Their line of undermount copper kitchen sinks starts at around $1,500.
Undermount Hammered Copper, Triple Bowl Kitchen Sink, via Home Depot.
Copper Kitchen Sink by Native Trails, via Wayfair.
Harmony Copper Double Bowl Apron Front Sink, via Elkay.
Buy: If you like a clean white look and don’t mind a little extra cleaning.
What people call a porcelain sink isn’t all porcelain. A porcelain sink is either cast-iron or steel coated with porcelain enamel. Farmhouse-style sinks typically have porcelain enamel. Some people like the antiseptic, bright white of porcelain sinks. The drawback is that the enamel is prone to chipping, and once it chips, rust can start to take over the interior of the sink. Stains are also more difficult (though by no means impossible) to clean on porcelain.
Porcelain Enamel Steel, Large Single Bowl Kitchen Sink in White, via Home Depot.
Houzer Porcelain Enamel Steel Kitchen Sink, via Amazon.
Sinks made from cast iron are coated with enamel—otherwise they would rust over the day after you bought them. Cast iron is incredibly sturdy, if you want a sink that will still be there in 100 years, pick cast iron. You’ll have your choice of enamel—you can go for white porcelain, but you can also choose from other finishes.
Kohler Hartland Double Basic Cast-Iron, via Lowe’s.
Undermount Apron-Front Cast Iron, via Home Depot.
Granite and Composite Granite
Buy: If you want a completely unique look, and are willing to pay for it.
Most sinks marketed as “granite” are actually made from “composite granite,” which is manufactured by crushing granite into pebbles and adhering the pebbles together with acrylic resin. If you choose a composite sink you’ll be able to pick from many different finishes and colors—maybe you want a chocolate-colored sink? Manufacturers of these sinks claim that they are stain, heat, and chip resistant, but independent testers have found different results. If you want a sink made from true granite, you’ll want to talk to a speciality company or a designer.
Double Bowl Farmhouse Granite Kitchen Sink, via Wayfair.
Single-Basin Undermount Granite Kitchen Sink, via Amazon.
Nero Single-Basic Granite Kitchen Sink, via Lowe’s.
Want a white sink? You can choose from stainless steel or cast iron with an enamel finish, or a composite granite sink. Apron-front sinks are commonly white as well.
Swanstone Composite Residential Kitchen Sink, via Lowe’s.
Single Basin Farmhouse Fireclay Kitchen Sink, via Amazon.
Want a black sink? You can choose to put a black enamel finish over a stainless steel or cast iron sink. Or, choose a composite material, which may have different shades of dark sinks, as well as different textures.
Double Bowl Black Onyx Granite Kitchen Sink, via Amazon.
Kitchen Sink Styles
Buy: If you want an inexpensive sink that’s also the easiest to install.
Topmount sinks are the most common style of sink. The sink has edges that go out over the counter that they sit on. The easiest sinks to install.
Great Lakes Series 33″ x 22″ 40/60 Topmount Kitchen Sink via Wayfair.
Buy: If you want an inexpensive option with a cleaner look than the topmount.
Undermount sinks are mounted under the level of your counter, so the counter comes all the way up to the sink for a cleaner (and, to some, more attractive) look.
Ruvati RVM4350 Low Divide 32″ Undermount Double Bowl Kitchen Sink via Amazon.
Buy: If you’re remodeling, or replacing an existing corner sink.
Usually used only in custom-built kitchens, corner sinks maximize available space by fitting into space that’s usually wasted—which is why they are more common in bathrooms than kitchens.
Neptune Top Mount Stainless Steel 4-Hole Double Bowl Kitchen Sink via Home Depot.
Farmhouse Sinks / Apron Front Sinks
Buy: If you’re going for a retro look.
The front of this classic-looking sink interrupts the kitchen counter, hanging over the top of the counter, hence the alternate name “apron front.” Farmhouse sinks typically have a plain, porcelain-enameled front, but you can also have a more interesting apron front piece, decorated with an etching or other design.
Whitehaven Undermount Apron-Front Cast Iron 36 in. Single Bowl Kitchen Sink in White via Home Depot.
Single Bowl / Single Basin Sinks
Buy: If you don’t have a trash disposal.
Divided sinks have become more common as trash disposals have become more popular. Many people prefer a dedicated area to dump half-eaten food, and another reserved for washing and cleaning. If you don’t have a trash disposal, aren’t so fastidious, or don’t have much space, consider a single basin sink.
32″ x 19″ Undermount Single Basin Kitchen Sink via Wayfair.
Sinks with Drainboards
Buy: If you don’t have a dishwasher.
The drainboard is a little ridged area on the side of the sink where dishes can drip after washing without causing big puddles. Now that most kitchens have dishwashers, they aren’t as vital, but if you don’t have a dishwasher, don’t have space for one, or prefer not to use one, a built-in drainboard will keep your kitchen dryer. Sinks aimed at the commercial (restaurant) market are more likely to have drainboards than those marketed to homeowners.
48″ Handmade Stainless Steel Kitchen Sink Single Bowl With Drainboard Top Mount 16 Gauge via Amazon.
Sinks on Kitchen Islands
Buy: If you are remodeling a large kitchen.
Any style of sink that’s built into your countertops can also be built into a kitchen island. This is only an option for big kitchens, and will likely require some major plumbing work, since your sewer connection probably isn’t in the middle of your kitchen.
Finefixtures Sutton 30″ Fireclay sink via Amazon.
Deep Kitchen Sinks
Buy: If you wash big pots in your sink.
The shallower your kitchen sink, the fewer pots can fit inside, and the more you’ll get splashed when you wash. If you do a lot of washing in your sink, especially of large Dutch ovens and soup pots, consider a deeper sink.
33″ x 18.5″ Granite Extra Large Single Bowl Kitchen Sink by Hahn via Wayfair.
Outdoor Kitchen Sinks
Buy: If you cook outdoors multiple times a week, year-round.
With most outdoor furniture you have to worry before you buy about what will happen when it gets wet. Not with a sink! Your issues will be two: plumbing and cold. Depending on where you put the sink, you may need to build a custom sewer connection, both to provide the water and to have somewhere for wastewater to go. And if you live in any state where the temperature can get below freezing (so, basically, not in Hawai’i) you’ll need a way to winterize. This sink from Sunstone Grills comes with a cover that doubles as a cutting board.
SUNSTONE Grills Premium Sink w/ Faucet & Cutting Board via CompactAppliance.com.
Small / Tiny House / RV Kitchen Sinks
Buy: If your kitchen is less than 50 square feet. Or if you drive your kitchen around.
The standard kitchen sink is 33 inches wide, but plenty of companies manufacture sinks as narrow as 13 inches. These are sometimes marketed as bar sinks. If you are buying for a tiny house on wheels, or an RV, you have to consider the effect that highway driving will have on your sink.
Stainless steel sinks can make an annoying clanging noise when your home goes over bumps. Ambassador Marine, which makes sinks for boats, engineers their sinks to make less noise when jostled.
Ambassador Marine Rectangle Stainless Steel Brushed Finish Sink via Amazon.
Double Basin Kitchen Sinks
Buy: If you have a trash disposal.
You may prefer a double bowl sink if you have a trash disposal, to save one area for food disposal. Double bowl sinks come with both basins taking up the same amount of room, or with one area much smaller than the other (usually, the one reserved for food disposal).
Free-Standing Kitchen Sinks
Buy: If your kitchen is more decorative than functional.
Most homes are built with sewer connections that require a sink to be in one location only, almost always within a cabinet unit. But if you are replacing your cabinets or building a custom kitchen, a free standing sink is a pretty cool look.
Vintage/Salvage Kitchen Sinks
Buy: If you want a unique look, or to save money.
Vintage sinks are the only choice if you’re building your home with salvaged materials. This is the most eco-friendly choice. Often older sinks have archaic features like separate hot and cold faucets, and drainboards. They usually aren’t as deep as modern kitchen sinks, either. If you aren’t deterred (of love the idea) head to your local architectural salvage store. Be sure to understand the material and any coating on your vintage sink. Some older sinks were coated with lead or other noxious chemicals.
Modern Kitchen Sinks
Buy: If you’re an early-adopter.
The sleek modern sinks you’d expect to see in some cool architect’s house. Recent design innovations include custom-made basins shaped like a seashell, or a guitar. Delta fauces offer Touch2O technology—you touch anywhere on the faucet and the water starts flowing.
Diamond Undermount Kitchen Sink, via Wayfair.
Cheap Kitchen Sinks
If you want the cheapest new sink possible, figure out exactly what you want and check online. Amazon, Lowe’s, Home Depot, and others frequently have flash deals and other major sales. If you don’t care whether your sink is new, go to a nearby salvage store. You should be able to score a decent used sink for less than $50. Habitat for Humanity ReStores is the biggest national chain of salvage stores.
Kitchen Sink Brands
A popular brand with a wide range of products—their sinks start at around $200 and go up to $3000. Kohler specializes in stainless steel and enameled cast-iron sinks. Kohler touts the water efficiency of their products, though not specifically their kitchen faucets. The company is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and the Alliance for Water Efficiency.
Another brand with a wide range of price points. Franke sell stainless steel, granite composite, and fireclay ceramic sinks. Their “fast-in” sinks, released in May 2016, can be installed without tools, they promise. Franke notes that their granite sinks can be cleaned without chemicals, reducing the toxins that seep into our groundwater.
American Standard delivers functional, traditional-looking sinks. They have a full line of stainless steel sinks; and some of the best prices on enameled cast-iron sinks. The company’s Edgewater faucet collection saves water with a 1.5 gallon per minute flow rate, which is 30% less than standard 2.2 gpm flow faucets.
Go with Elkay stainless steel sinks if you’re looking for a low price and a huge selection. Elkay sells more than 1,000 sinks—almost all of them stainless steel—in pretty much every size and style you could need. The company has been a sustainability leader in at least one area—they developed a water fountain that includes a water bottle filling station—the EZH20—with the aim of decreasing the number of plastic water bottles Americans buy. Sinks from Elkay’s Revere line are made from 80% recycled stainless steel.
Swan is the name of the company, Swanstone is the compression-molded material they manufacture sinks with—all Swanstone sinks are made in the U.S. Swan also sells granite composite sinks. Look to Swanstone sinks for the classic white porcelain sink. Swanstone’s Our Planet Collection offers four sinks made partially from recycled and bio-based content.
Germany’s largest sink manufacturer is, similar to Franke, priced at the higher end of the scale. They produce sinks from stainless steel, ceramic, and their own granite composite, SILGRANIT. They say they rank sustainability and environmental responsibility high on their list of business priorities—citing innovations like their Solon compost system, water-saving faucets, and energy-saving initiatives at their offices and production plants.
Kitchen Sink Stores
At time of writing Lowe’s has more 2,000 stores, and a massive selection of sinks. If you don’t know the one nearest you, go here and find out. Lowe’s top-rated kitchen sink is this Vigo 32×19 stainless steel sink.
Home Depot has the most stores of any U.S. home improvement chain—they’ll have plenty of sinks to choose from.
Ikea sells their own brand of sinks, in stainless steel, ceramic, or graphic composite. Most of their sinks are top mount, but they also sell apron front sinks too. Like all IKEA products, IKEA sinks are on the low-end of the price scale, and meant to coordinate with their other products.
This midwestern U.S. chain doesn’t have stores east of Ohio, west of Wyoming, or south of Missouri. If you’re in the Midwest though, there is probably a Menards near you. Menards stocks a good variety of inexpensive sinks.
Most hardware stores stock a few basic sinks. You may find a good deal at a restaurant supply store, though their kitchen sinks will often be designed for commerical kitchens—so they’ll have more entry places for high-power spray hoses and the like. For high-end options, and especially if you are doing custom work, consult a speciality kitchen design store—just about every metro area has one.
Kitchen Sink Accessories
Kitchen Sink Faucets
If you’re buying a kitchen sink you’ll also need to buy a faucet—they’re sold separately. You can find faucets for as low as $15. You can also spend as much on your faucet as you did on your sink. Choices on faucets include the color, the type of material, the handle type, and the “arc” of the faucet (how high above the level of the knobs it rises). Ask about low-flow faucets, which can help cut down on water use.
Mediterranean Bronze High-Arc Kitchen Faucet with Side Spray, via Lowe’s.
Kitchen Sink Cabinets
If you’re replacing your sink you may also consider replacing the cabinet below. How much cabinet space you need might impact the depth of your sink—the lower the sink, the less space you’ll have down there. The width of your cabinet will determine how wide your sink can be.
Buckingham Base Cabinet in White Melamine and Gray Doors, via Home Depot.
Kitchen Sink Drains/Strainers/Stoppers
Kitchen sinks—even expensive ones—don’t come with drains or strainers. You’ll have to buy your own. Cheap ones are two or three bucks, but they might not be stainless steel and could get gross. Top-end drains are around $15. On Amazon, the drains are often featured as an add on to the sinks, so you can easily buy what the manufacturer recommends.
Stainless Steel Sink Stopper, via Amazon.
Kitchen Sink Soap Dispenser
Some sinks come with multiple holes, one of which can be used for a built in soap dispenser. These also aren’t sold with the sink, you’ll have to buy them separately. Prices range from $10-$30.
Vintage Decorative Soap Dispenser, via Wayfair.
Kitchen Sink Sprayer
Another option for a multiple hole sink is a sprayer to help you rinse off dishes and discipline your cat. Lower-end sprayers made from plastic or chrome cost around $10, the stainless steel versions from the top manufacturers are closer to $30. A sprayer may help you use less water when you hand-wash dishes.
Side Spray Kitchen Hose, via Home Depot.
Kitchen Sink Mats
A good kitchen sink mat will:
- Protect your sink in case you drop anything heavy in it.
- Protect anything fragile in case you drop it in the sink.
- Help clean stuff you leave in the sink dry faster.
Mats are an especially good idea for porcelain sinks, which are more prone to chipping. Cheaper mats are about $5 and are made of plastic. More expensive mats are around $15 and are made from silicone. Mats may also help keep your sink clean, reducing the need for scrubbing with chemicals.
Rubbermaid Clear Sink Protectors, via Amazon.
Kitchen Sink Caddy/Organizer
Your cleaning sponges and rags will stay nicer longer if you store them in a handy caddy rather than let them marinate in the sink. Caddy options abound: Some hang on the faucet, some hang on the side of the sink, others just sit next to the faucet. Designs range from sleek to funky to functional, you’ll be able to find one that matches your decor. Prices range from $10-$20.
Stainless Steel Organizer Sink Caddy, via Crate&Barrel.
Kitchen Sink Considerations
How To Buy A Sink That’s Easy To Unclog
Not possible! No matter what sink you buy, keeping your drain free of clogs is up to you. Buy a strainer, that will help keep large food particles from going into the drain. You can run hot water down your drain after you wash, and flush it with a baking soda / vinegar mixture every now and then, but mainly it’s all about keeping food from getting down there.
How To Buy A Sink That’s Easy To Install
You can install your own sink, and major manufacturers try to make it as easy as possible. They want you to use your whole budget on their sink, not reserve $500 for a handyman.
Top mount sinks are considered the easiest to install—since their edges simply rest over your kitchen counter. However, manufacturers are creating undermount sinks that give those a run for their money, like Franke’s fast-in sinks, released in May of 2016, which they claim can be installed without tools.
How To Buy A Sink That Has Easy-To-Get Replacement Parts
Sinks, sink accessories, and sink plumbing are relatively standard, so you shouldn’t have trouble replacing a faucet, sprayer, stopper or anything else. If you’re really worried, go with one of the major manufacturers listed above and you’ll always know you can get a matching part.