Introduction: Roll Up Dish Rack

About: Where there's a will, there's a way! Never give up, never give in...BE the good you want to see in the world. :)

Does your kitchen have a constant countertop full of drying dishes?

Do you totally hate it?

Then this easy fix is for you! (And it's renter-friendly!)


  • Scrap wood (5/16" or thicker)
  • Jigsaw with wood saw blade
  • 2" to 2-1/2" ribbon (color of your choice)
  • Hot glue gun with hot glue sticks
  • Scissors
  • Chalk, pencil, or pen (optional, for marking ribbon/wood)
  • Sandpaper (150+ grit)
  • Paper or notebook (optional, for taking notes of measurements)
  • Polycrylic and paintbrush or foam brush

Step 1: Measure

Measure your kitchen sink.

Measure the basin width and length (and add 2" total to each). If making it for both basins (and they aren't identical in size), then measure both. Optionally, you can measure the total width from the edge of the sink lip across and down to get a full measurement for width and length without adding the extra 2". Either way should get you the same width and length measurements.

I made my roll up drying rack different from traditional ones on the market because I wanted to cover the entire sink basin fully, so I made mine with horizontal slats instead of vertical. But you can choose whichever orientation you like, and measure for that.

Be sure to measure from the wall behind your sink, to the edge of the countertop overhang. We will use this measurement later. (My measurement here was 24-5/8")

If you want to measure around a faucet, do that now too. I wanted my rack to go all the way across the basin, so I made two slats shorter at the top where the faucet is, and the rest longer to sit perfectly over the basin.

Note your measurements on a sheet of paper for easy reference.

Step 2: Prepare Slats

First, I cut down the wood to be 16-1/2" long (my longest length). Then I marked lines on the wood to be 5/16" widths.

I had to create eleven 16-1/2" long slats + two 11-1/2" long slats (all 5/16" in width).

After ripping down all the slats (in the next step), I cut two of them to be 11-1/2" long (from the original 16-1/2" length) to get my two shorter slats.

*NOTE: If you want an even faster route, use 5/16" pre-made dowel rods instead of slats.

Step 3: Cut Slats

I don't have any fancy tools or equipment, so I had to find a way to rip down the wood slats with what I had on hand: clamps and a jigsaw.

So I worked in halves. I cut all the lines I drew from the previous step (in the picture there's only 1 line, but I ended up doing all the lines on each board at once after that first line to go faster) all at once up to half way (so I had room to clamp the wood down to the workbench on the second half of the wood). Then, I un-clamped the wood, turned it around so the cut side was now clamped to the workbench, and then cut the other side's lines up to the original halfway marks I cut previously.

You should be left with slats that are 5/16" wide by whatever length you need for your sink.

NOTE: Your dishes don't care how perfect the lines are cut for the slats. So, if you had to do it the same way I did and your lines aren't perfect, NO WORRIES! :)

Step 4: Sanding

Sand down all the sides and edges of all the slats.

I used 150 grit sandpaper, and it worked perfect for me. You can feel free to go up to whatever grit sandpaper you want for the desired end result.

NOTE: Sanding is also a time to even out any slight wonkiness in your cuts from the previous step.

Step 5: Adhere the Slats

Cut TWO ribbon pieces the length of the measurement from the wall behind the kitchen sink to the edge of the countertop overhang (remember, I mentioned you would need this measurement?). Mine was 24-5/8" long.

Lay them down (sheen side down) with one end against a straight edge (to keep them level when adding slats). I used the edge of my table as a guide.

On BOTH ribbon pieces, mark a line horizontally (I used chalk) up from the ribbon's edge that's touching your straight edge 1/2" up. Then, make perpendicular lines (so vertical lines) to mark thirds on the ribbon.

Place the first side (I started on the left side) of a wooden slat 1/3 the way in and 1/2" the way up on the first ribbon. Hot glue it in place.

Then add the other side of the same slat to the other ribbon in the same way. This will determine how far apart your ribbon pieces will be from each other for the rest of the slats. (Use pictures for clarity.)

From the TOP of the glued slat, mark 1-1/2" up. Hot glue the next slat 1/3 the way in (as before) where the BOTTOM of the slat is glued on the marked line.

Repeat the spacing and gluing process until your slats are all glued down.

NOTE: If you are going to add in different-sized slats later (like my two shorter ones to go around the faucet), then stop gluing once you've reached where those different slats will go.

Step 6: Fold It Over

Starting at the bottom again, glue the 1/2" ribbon overhang up to the first dowel rod (on BOTH sides), and adding glue to the TOP of the slats, fold and press the ribbon down onto the glued tops.

Be sure to only work on a few slats at a time so the glue doesn't dry up while you're working.

Once all the ribbon is folded and glued down to the tops of the slats on both sides, add glue in-between the slats, and gently press the ribbon pieces together with your fingers to keep the slats level. NOTE: pressing straight down only, instead of pinching the pieces together with your fingers, will cause the slats to roll inward and you don't want that.

TIP: Be careful! The glue gets super hot and may burn you even through the ribbon. You can choose to use something else to press the pieces of ribbon together in the middles (such as a needle-nosed pliers), or you can wait a few seconds for the glue to cool down (but it's still tacky), so it's touchable with your fingers.

Step 7: Special Occurrences

If you do not have a difference in slats, then skip to the next step.

If you are working with special occurrences (aka things you need to work around) and it causes you to have a difference in the length of your slats (like it did at the top of mine), then do the following:

  • Cut the ribbon where your change occurs (I had to cut mine on the right side because that's the side that ran into my faucet, my left side had the slats all lined up). Be sure to add 1" extra ribbon before you cut it so you can fold it over and glue it nicely to give it a finished edge.
  • Fold over the fabric so it adheres to the underside of the last full-length slat (as seen in picture 1).
  • Add ribbon to the end of the shorter slat, adhere it to the last full-length slat (as seen in picture 2). To do this, cut an extra ribbon piece that is the length of the remaining ribbon on the opposite side (the side that had no change) PLUS 1". Glue the end of the ribbon to the underside of the last full-length slat. Now, make a slit just above the last full-length slat to make it possible for the new ribbon addition to fold over the shorter slats.
  • Glue down the folded-over ribbon on the shorter side, and finish gluing down the opposite side's ribbon as usual up to the very top.

Step 8: Finish It Off

At the very top, fold over and glue down the ribbon on both sides (to the underside of the top slat on both sides).

NOTE: In the second picture, you can see at the top how my "special occurrence" turned out.

Step 9: Seal It

Seal it with at least 2 coats of Polycrylic. I like polycrylic because it is water-based, dries quicker, doesn't stink hardly at all, and doesn't yellow over time or with exposure to the sun.

Optionally, you can stain it or paint it before you seal it.

Sealing isn't a requirement if you are using a water-wicking wood like cedar (for example), or even bamboo.

Optionally, if you are worried about the Polycrylic in use with your dishes (even though it's not touching food, such as a cutting board), you can opt to "seal" it with butcher block oil or mineral oil instead.

Step 10: Usage & Storage

Now that your roll up dish rack is complete, you can use it in many different ways:

  • As-is
  • Mount it to the wall behind the sink so it pulls out and/or retracts back in place (such as a paper towel roll where it can be hand-rolled back up each time and it rolls up around a rod, or you can add a spring mechanism that makes it automatically retractable like a retractable clothesline)...however, if doing the second approach (making it retractable), I would add hooks to the opposite end so it can hook onto the countertop's overhang (and therefore provide you with tension for the mechanism to work), then when you unhook it, the rack retracts.
  • Mount it sideways to the countertop. You could put this on the side of the sink, so it sits parallel to the side lip of the sink, and have it roll out across the sink basin instead, and retract back.
  • You can make a mounted hook system for it, where you store it conveniently near your sink when it's rolled up (and the roll just sits in the hooks, instead of permanently mounted around a rod like in the two options above).
  • You can even affix it permanently above your sink (but it would need more support). I didn't do this because my house is a rental and because the cabinets above the sink don't sit out far enough over the sink to make this application useful in my case.

Use it as needed, and when you are done, simply roll it up and stow it away (if you don't make it mounted and/or retractable).

I hope you enjoyed this quick fix to such an annoying problem!

GOODBYE humongous dish racks! HELLO countertop space!!

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