The Clean-Up Zone is the last zone in the sequence of the 5 essential zones in the Food Flow Theory.

The focus of the design of this zone is functionality.

Clean-up should be easy and even enjoyable if this zone is thoughtfully designed.

Before you continue if you haven’t read the first four parts of this series here are links to each.

Let’s explore the Clean-Up Zone.

The Clean-Up Zone

Clean-Up Zone with large single sink, dishwasher and pullout recycle bins
A Bright and Functional Clean-Up Zone helps make the task more enjoyable

Once the meal is finished the Clean-Up Zone comes into play.

At a minimum this zone will house the main sink and the dishwasher for washing up dishes, utensils and cooking equipment.

Storage for detergents, soaps and cleaning utensils should also find a home in the Clean-Up Zone.

Thinking about other activities that occur during clean up, this is the ideal place to locate trash and compost bins, and possibly a garburator or disposer within the sink.

Since function often dictates that items should be stored at first use, tea towels and dishcloths would be stored in this zone.

Locating the Clean-Up Zone within the Kitchen space is the Designer first task.

Under A Window

Placing the Clean-Up Zone under a window is a popular choice.

Traditionally the task of washing, rinsing and drying dishes took a lot of time and this location afforded a view while cleaning up.

When you analyze this location it makes sense ergonomically.

The window space is open and free of upper cabinetry and allows for head clearance when leaning over the sink.

The natural light coming in from a window is great when clean-up activities are conducted pre-sundown, and a nice view is always a bonus.

The window location also allows space for good overhead task lighting.

Always specify lighting that will cover the clean-up area with no annoying shadows.

On an Island or Peninsula

Placing the Clean-Up sink on an island or peninsula will give the same open feeling as a window location when working at the sink.

Typically there is no upper cabinetry above an island or peninsula to impede head clearance when leaning over the sink.

This location is also a good choice for clients who want to stay connected with their guests even during the clean-up portion of the meal.

Against a Wall

If the Kitchen layout places the clean-up sink against a wall, as the designer you need to make it a comfortable place to work.

There are 4 ways to accomplish this.

  1. Reduce the depth of upper cabinets above the sink
  2. Raise the upper cabinets above the sink
  3. Strategically place floating shelves above the sink
  4. Eliminate all upper cabinetry above the sink

In most cases raising the cabinetry to around 30″ from the countertop will provide enough head room at the clean-up sink.

Reducing the depth of the upper cabinets to 9″ from standard 12″ deep above the clean-up sink will also make this a much more enjoyable place for you client to work.

The popularity of floating shelves in today’s contemporary kitchen is a great way to make the area more ergonomic and add some style.

To make the sink placement in the Clean-up Zone really feel when against a wall, consider no upper cabinetry and then tile the wall from countertop to ceiling.

The Sink

The sink and the sink installation type are an important decision in the Clean-Up zone.

Ideally the sink should be mounted under the countertop to allow for easy wiping of crumbs and spills directly into the sink.

Some other things to consider at the sink is the cleanability of the front of the sink.

The apron front or farmhouse sink is a great option for a wipeable surface at the front of the sink.

Another option is to fabricate a box from solid surface material to house an under mount sink for a water proof clean up space.

A solution I have used often is to replace the false front of the sink cabinet with quartz counter material for a contemporary approach to a easy clean sink area.

Clean-Up Zone Solutions


An important element of the Clean-up Zone is the dishwasher.

If your clients have a large family or entertain a lot you could specify two dishwashers.

Dishwasher drawers are a great solution allowing smaller batches of dishes to be washed during the day or different load types at the same time.

A solution to consider for taller clients is the raised dishwasher. It also provides a great Universal Design solution.

Corner Sink

This corner sink location preforms double duty for the Prep Zone on the left and the Clean-Up Zone on the right.

Under the sink is a small pullout waste bin and room for cleaning supplies.

The drawers between the sink and the dishwasher house linens and the plate rack above the counter makes unloading the dishwasher a breeze.

Island Clean-Up Zone

Large island functions as Clean-Up Zone
Clean-Up Zone Island

In this large kitchen the island was devoted to the Clean-Up Zone.

A pullout for towels and cleaning supplies is conveniently located beside a paneled dishwasher on one end of the island.

The other end has a pullout waste bin and a drawer bank for linens, food wraps and plastic containers.

Traditional Set Up

The Clean-Up Zone is this kitchen was developed to blend with the traditional décor of the room.

Paneling the dishwasher and choosing a traditional sink/counter combo adds style but provides all the function needed for this zone.

Customize It

Remember when designing the Clean-Up Zone you can still customize it to fit your client’s needs.

A little thing like tucking a tilt front storage tray at the sink for sponges and scrubbers will keep the counter surface around the sink clutter free.

For real deep cleaning of well used stock pots a commercial spray attachment at the sink could a great item to specify.

And always remember to incorporate décor elements in your designs for one of a kind projects.

That concludes my deep dive into the Food Flow Theory of Kitchen Design.

Again if you missed any of the blogs on specific zones you can check them out starting with the Food Storage Zone.

I would love to know if you use this theory when designing the layout for your client’s kitchens.

Please leave me a note below in the comments.

I have lots of great blog ideas in the works so if you would like to receive the VESTA Blog in your inbox weekly subscribe here:

Jan Rutgers B.Sc. H.Ec.

Jan Rutgers has been designing kitchens and products for over 25 years and is a recipient of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Top Innovators in 2020 for the Kitchen & Bath Industry. She has designed more than 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! Her experience in Kitchen Design, Millwork Manufacturing and Product Development has led her to create VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.

1 Comment on “Everything You Need to Know about the Kitchen Clean-Up Zone

  1. Pingback: A Case Study: Appliances in a Custom Kitchen – VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: