What is a Dry Sink and How is it Used?

You'll also learn how to repurpose a dry sink.

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An antique dry sink was a staple in most households before the early 20th century. Luckily, dry sinks provided a way for people to wash hands, produce, or linens before most homes had interior plumbing. At the minimum, most dry sinks were equipped with a pitcher and a basin for washing. In addition, the front of a dry sink usually has a drawer or two and a cabinet for towels, linens, and other personal care items.

People placed dry sinks in kitchens, bathrooms, porches, and even in bedrooms. As people learned more about proper hygiene, dry sinks became more popular and elaborate. Eventually, these furniture pieces were replaced with sinks and vanities as we know them today.

Design History

The first dry sinks had a more primitive look with a recessed top panel to prevent excess water from splashing on the floor or walls. During the Victorian era, most dry sinks had a flat top with a tall backsplash. More elaborate designs were topped with marble or copper and had carved wood features. 

In most cases, larger double-wide dry sinks were designed for the kitchen, usually painted with a recessed top. Homeowners typically kept smaller wooden dry sinks with more Victorian-style detailing in a bedroom. 

Other identifying features:

  • Tall backsplash that connects to a towel bar
  • Upper shelf attached to the backsplash
  • Hand-carved, uneven dovetail joints
  • Older style nails

Reproduction Alert

There are a lot of reproduction dry sinks that look older and more primitive. Typically, it is easier to recreate a primitive dry sink than to remake one in a Victorian style. Some people even make dry sinks out of old wood and nails to fool buyers. Look for key identifying features listed above, and always purchase from reputable dealers who can help you authenticate a piece. 

How to Use Dry Sinks Today

Dry sinks are still popular today, even if their initial function is no longer required. Most people purchase dry sinks because the furniture matches their aesthetic, whether country primitive or Victorian. 

Some ways people have been repurposing historical dry sinks:

  • Nightstand
  • Workbench
  • Kitchen island
  • TV stand
  • Bathroom vanity conversion
  • Dresser

Dry Sinks for Sale

The antiques below were hand-picked for our readers. We may earn a small commission on sales at no additional cost to you.

Below are some examples of dry sinks currently on the market. These examples will help you get a feel for the variety of styles and the price range.

Antique Primitive Dry Sink

This is antique dry sink features a recessed basin top. The base has two doors with ceramic knobs that open to a shelved interior.

Purchase on Etsy

ANTIQUE Dry Sink, wood cabinet, furniture, wash stand, Victorian commode

Antique Victorian Dry Sink Wash Stand

This is an antique dry sink in a Victorian style. The cabinet is in good condition with what looks like an original finish. 

Purchase on Etsy

Victorian Marble Top Wash Stand

Antique Victorian Marble Top Wash Stand Dry Sink

This luxurious dry sink has a raised burl panel and a marble top. The extra-tall backsplash features two built-in shelves.

Purchase on Etsy

antique 19th century Ohio cherry dry sink

Antique 19th Century Ohio Cherry Dry Sink 

A beautiful 19th-century dry sink cupboard with four pull-out dovetailed Chamfered drawers and original hardware.

Purchase on Etsy

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