The great sink experiment

In the past I never gave sinks a second glance, but this year I’ve picked up a bunch. I have more storage space than I used to, making them less of a burden in that way, and I’m also a sucker for vintage architectural elements. But the main reason for the change was that I thought they could make me some money.

The first one I saved was this pink one from the early 60s. I brought it to the auction house, and ended up buying it back for 12$. Not a great result, but sometimes you need to put the extra work in if you want to make the extra money. I ended up listing it on Kijiji, and eventually the sink sold for 50$.

I found this late 50s green / jadeite sink outside an apartment building off Cote-des-Neiges.

This one cleaned up pretty well, and also sold for 50$, though it did take maybe a month and a half to find a buyer.

My biggest haul of sinks came from an apartment building near downtown. I picked up five yellow ones, which I think date to the late 60s. They were pretty dirty, but I cleaned them up pretty good with a hose and some elbow grease. I haven’t had much luck selling them so far though. It’s pretty clear that sinks are pretty slow movers, but I’d like to open up that space in my garage eventually!

I also picked up this white pedestal sink in TMR. It hasn’t sold yet either.

My most recent addition is this cast iron pedestal sink, which I found on Monday night in Cote-des-Neiges.

This beast was near the upper limit of what I can reasonably carry & lift, which I’d guess is about 75 pounds.

It was made in Port Hope, Ontario. I thought it was older, but I think it was actually made in 1953.

The main issue: it was dirty. The grunge on the bottom looked like damp, caked-on cardboard, which isn’t the worst thing to clean off, but it still looked pretty gross.

Here’s how it looks after about 15 minutes of effort. Already the sides are looking pretty clean, and a fair bit of the grunge has been removed. I’m going to use a plastic scraper tool to get rid of the rest of the cardboard, and then hopefully I can get the white of the enamel back without much effort.

We’ll see how it goes. Perhaps I’ll come to regret lugging this thing to my garage, but for now I’m optimistic that it’ll sell for something. If you have any experience in the sink market, please share your thoughts in the comments! Also, sink cleaning advice would be much appreciated.


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38 thoughts on “The great sink experiment”

  1. Love the Sink Study. Those yellow ones would be so cool in a museum or brewhouse or some public place that can use 5 sinks. The Sink Study definitely have to go in Marvin’s Book of Garbageology, or whatever it is called. Always enjoy your posts.

  2. The color sinks should be desirable in that so many people are into mid century modern. I would recommend trying a magic eraser sponge on the ones you need to clean. That can get rid of a lot of things.

  3. I like sinks! Those vintage ones are very nice. If I lived in a privately owned home instead of an apartment I’d buy one!

    Suggestion for dislodging the gunk: let warm water with a little soap or detergent do most of the work, especially if it’s cardboard residue. Stop up the hole and soak the sink overnight. That should make it easy to gently remove the rest of the residue the next day without undue abrasion. Love to see the final result. That sink is neat!

  4. Denture cleaning tablets or backing powder combined with vinegar might work with sinks.

  5. I would suggest a paste of baking soda and white vinegar. Let it sit for 15 minutes or so, then have at it with a scrubber. Great post!! You are very brave. Be sure to list them as mid-century modern.

  6. I would’ve bought that green sink in a heartbeat! Bar Keeper’s Friend is a good gentle cleaner. They sell it at Home Depot.

  7. The pedestal sink is a utility sink, in the States should bring a 7-9 hundred because of the size of the sink and the cool base.

  8. I must admit admit a certain affinity for the lines of those old sinks. They’re beauties.
    There are a number of Youtube videos about cleaning such sinks.…28739.36243.0.37537.….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..1.3.415…33i10k1.0.ZS-Sgcgz6uA
    For first contact, you could message Spazio Architectural Antiques on St. Laurent Blvd. (mentioned by Joan) here

    1. I love that green sink, it is stunning! Thanks for sharing your new interest in sinks, Martin. I too love these architectural artifacts.

      Borax is also a good cleaning compound; hardware stores and even some grocery stores sell it as a laundry booster, but it is great for many cleaning tasks.

  9. cast iron sink is awesome! Somebody wants it, like, a lot; great for washing out large stainless kitchen pots (the kind you use for 6-12 1litre mason jars at a shot),(those no longer fit sinks most of the time nowadays) ,great for clean-ups,or dying clothes,or soaking items for days or mechanics, or kids 0-5? or a lot of small dogs, plus they’re practically indestructible.

  10. Those sinks are amazing! I garbage picked a sink here (Detroit suburbs) a few years ago. It was white, TINY (the basin was like 6 x 8 inches), and clean (I’m squeamish about cleaning up other peoples’ dirt so my hat is off to you!) I imagined it being perfect for a closet renovation into a powder room – if there is such a thing. I listed it on Craigslist for $25 and it sold instantly making me wish I had priced it higher. The guy who bought it said it was the smallest sink he’d ever seen, making it better than he expected. At any rate, the size was certainly unusual, so I’m hoping your giant pedestal utility sink will be a big money maker for you.

    1. Nice. I would definitely take a tiny sink if I found one – oftentimes unusual things are the hardest to find, and thus valuable to the right person. I’ll definitely let you all knows what ends up happening with that sink.

  11. It’s really the taps that spoil the look of the old sinks. Nice new modern taps might be just the ticket. You could advertise with them included for more money or without them and say, sample taps only. Either way, you will create desire in the buyer. I always think that film makers are a good market for these authentic pieces. If they are doing a period piece, they will want authentic props. They will come find you if you key the right words into your ad.

    1. Yea, the knobs on the yellow ones are a bit of an eyesore (I don’t mind the faucets, though the chrome plate is worn on some of them). I considered removing them (I could also scrap the brass), but it’s pretty low on my list of priorities. I’m hesitant to put too much time into them, as I’m probably better off spending that time elsewhere.

  12. They would be wonderful used in a potting bench for outside gardening. OR to plant flowers in, in a garden. Love your finds!

  13. I do vintage shows and planted garden sinks sell very well at the spring and summer shows. I usually only come across white but your green and yellow ones are gorgeous! Great finds.

  14. I’ll be interested to see how this experiment goes for you. The bathroom sinks don’t seem to sell for much here, or not at all without the other matching fixtures. I had a couple and literally had to give them away. The stainless kitchen sinks in good shape I’ll pick up, usually and easy clean up and fast sale. I loaded one double bowl cast iron once and said never again. Way too heavy for this 5 ft, 52 yr old woman or her husband. Good luck.

  15. Love your blog,Martin and the green sink you found.Please read this article from am tired of minimalism too.

    Why I Gave Up on Extreme Minimalism

    bWhen I arrived in Japan just over a year ago, I had nothing but a backpack, a small purse, and a laptop bag. I had just spent three months in Honolulu, Hawaii trying to find a way to make a living through freelance work online, but things weren’t working out too well. The atmosphere of Honolulu didn’t fit me as well as I’d thought it might, and I found myself missing Japan more than ever. The stress of trying to “pull myself up by my own bootstraps” in such an expensive city also made it nearly impossible to focus on what I really wanted to do at the time: Make music. Realizing that both my sanity and my wallet were growing dangerously thin, I decided to use my last remaining frequent flyer miles to take a one-way flight to Tokyo and find work. (Thank goodness I had those miles, because I couldn’t have afforded the flight otherwise.)

    After about a month of searching and completely emptying my bank account, I ended up taking a job teaching kindergarten. The school helped me find an apartment, and although it would take a while to get completely back on my feet financially, it was a huge relief knowing I didn’t have to worry anymore. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually loved teaching kindergarten, so I’ve now signed on for a second year.

    They say you can tell a lot about a people by looking at their bedrooms. But if you had seen my room back in Honolulu, you wouldn’t have been able to tell much about me. I did have a ukulele sitting in the corner, so maybe you would have guessed I play. Other than that though, there was pretty much nothing in that room expressing who I was. The walls were completely bare, and there were no gizmos or gadgets sitting around. I could have thrown all my belongings into a backpack and flown away at a moment’s notice (which I obviously did).

    If you could see that room compared to the apartment I live in now, you would probably never guess the same person lived in them. I look around me now and see that I’ve accumulated a good amount of “stuff”– definitely more than I could fit into a backpack. My lonely ukulele has now been joined by a second ukulele, two guitars, and a piano. On my desk I have speakers and a microphone, and a small but growing collection of books (mostly all language learning books). My wall is decorated with greeting cards and concert tickets and drawings and kindergarten crafts. And I’m sorry to say that my floor is currently a complete mess, with several articles of clothing and empty grocery bags having scattered themselves carelessly onto it. This, I’m sure you would agree, is not the apartment of someone who might call herself a minimalist.

    There are a lot of bloggers who advocate minimalism, especially in the travel and lifestyle design niches. And there is definitely something to it. Most people in the developed world have more stuff than they really need, and it can be very freeing to get rid of it. Having less stuff can make it easier to stay organized and to focus on the things that are most important to you. And of course, it also makes it easier to move around a lot, if that’s something you want to do. But after having tried a rather extreme form of minimalism, I’ve found it has downsides that outweigh the benefits for me.

    As explained in a previous post, throughout my life I’ve had a variety of intense interests that come and go unpredictably. So I might be obsessed with reading psychology books for several months, then suddenly become possessed by an overwhelming desire to learn to play the flute. (That’s just a hypothetical example, but it could totally happen.) I have called myself a “serial obsessive”, but people like me have also been referred to as “scanners“, “multipotentialites”, “polymaths”, and “renaissance people”.

    It’s hard being this way sometimes, because society doesn’t consider it the norm and provides no guidelines for how us “renaissance people” might build our lives in a way that suits us. We’re expected to pick one specialization and build a career around it. We’re supposed to start thinking about this at a very young age, because there’s not much time before we’re supposed to be sure enough about it to invest thousands of dollars to earn a degree in a subject it is assumed we will stick to until we retire. Talk about pressure.

    It took me a while to figure out that this model simply does not work for me. I can’t pick something I’m passionate about and build a career around it, because I have too many passions and none of them are constant. For instance, I love to draw– but only when I feel like it. So if I were to become a professional artist, the art I once loved would feel like a burdensome chore whenever my passion for it decided to go on sabbatical, and I would be dying to spend my time doing some other random thing instead. I would suffocate, and probably go broke because I simply would not be able to force myself to draw all the time.

    For a while I thought I just needed variety, and that moving around to different countries and traveling a lot would be a good way to get it. So right after I got my bachelor’s degree (in Asian Studies, after having switched from Music Composition), I moved to Taiwan to teach English. I moved to Japan the following year, moved to France a few years after that, and visited quite a few other countries in between.

    It was an exciting lifestyle, but as the years went on I found myself feeling more and more burdened by the amount of “stuff” I was carrying around. (Trust me: You’ll never really know how much stuff you have until you try moving. And I was moving every one or two years.) So I gradually reduced my possessions, until finally I got down to the extreme of a single backpack. Ironically though, by that point I was starting to feel unfulfilled with all this moving around and traveling. The idea of exploring new countries and learning new languages didn’t seem as exciting to me anymore, and I was feeling a growing desire to immerse myself in making music instead.

    Japan has always felt like home to me, so I decided to “settle” here– at least for a while. I got another teaching job, rented an apartment, bought some music gear, and started making music in my free time. For a while it was amazing, and I felt happier and more fulfilled than I had in a long time. I got so into making music that I even felt convinced I simply had to pursue a music career. Not long ago I was quite seriously scheming about how I might get myself a record deal and become a full-time musician.

    I don’t know why I was so set on this, or why I was so convinced my new-found passion for music would never wane. I should have remembered the day I suddenly woke up and didn’t feel like drawing anymore, or the time I dropped everything to watch every documentary I could possibly find about polygamous societies (yeah okay, so my interests are a little weird sometimes). And I shouldn’t have been surprised a few weeks ago when I lost interest in making music, randomly decided to start learning German, and quickly became obsessed with it.

    But you know what? I’m glad this happened as soon as it did. I’m glad I didn’t get so far as to actually become a professional musician living out of a tour bus. Because you see, I can go back to making music whenever I want. All my instruments and all my recording gear are still sitting here in my apartment, and I can pick them up at any time. My German books are also sitting on my desk, and I’m free to continue plowing through them for as long as I wish. I’m also free to let them sit and gather dust for a while, because they will still be there whenever I want to get back to them. I have drawing paper and watercolor pencils and paints in my apartment, and although I haven’t felt like drawing for a while, I can easily do so whenever inspiration hits.

    Do you see what I’m getting at? The things I have here aren’t just things. They are tools I use to explore my passions. I don’t want the place I live to be a bare-bones place devoid of expression, because that’s not who I am or how I want to live my life. There’s no road map for people like me, so it may very well be that I still haven’t found the best way to “do me”. But I seem to function best when I’m free to go with the flow of my fluctuating interests. And it’s easiest to do that when I have the tools I need readily available to me.

    My apartment now feels like a playground, like a sanctuary of possibilities. And I simply can’t fit all of that into a backpack.





  16. Use ZUD or Barkeeper’s Friend to clean the sinks. Even baking soda is too harsh.

  17. Not everyone likes to move every few years.Why the constant junking of stuff for those of us who do not move much?Some of us love our stuff even more than Jana does.Minimalism is being promoted a bit too much.

  18. The green jadeite sink is very attractive to me.I am happy you made $50 for it.I know somebody who picks up porcelain sinks,French doors,accordion doors and Windows from the curbside trash in his van in Verdun ,St.Henri,Little Burgundy and Ville Émard /LaSalle.He says that porcelain sinks always sell eventually.He also said that French doors,accordion doors and other doors and windowsalso make him a good amount of money often.I have also seen other people pick up doors in good condition in their van.So consider French doors,accordion doors and other doors in decent condition money-makers.Cheers.I hope you have a happy November with many more good finds.

  19. Martin,I have a friend who is an extreme minimalist who even throws away kitchen utensils like can openers and glasses because she hates stuff in her kitchen benefits.Other than a radio,a laptop,a bed and a few clothes,she has nothing.She throws out all her Christmas gifts after a few weeks because she sees them as clutter.Wine bottles she will throw out after drinking them if she receives them as a gift.Chocolates she will eat.But no knick-knacks in her possession are safe.I do not give her any gifts except food because other gifts will be thrown out.Is this kind of extremism pushed by Marie Kondo and others healthy?The posts on your blog are fascinating as well as reader reactions.

  20. Read this article on compulsive minimalism as well.

    Obsessive-Compulsive Spartanism: An Unknown Face of OCD

    By Annabelle

    I have a type of OCD which I finally understand to be Obsessive-Compulsive Spartanism.

    For more than thirty years I suffered in embarrassed silence, not sure what was wrong with me. I suspected it was OCD, but my particular symptoms were documented in none of the textbooks on the subject. I didn’t clean or check, and I certainly didn’t hoard. What was wrong with me?

    By age 16 I was so desperate for help that I began starving myself. By age 18 I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for anorexia and bulimia, and that’s when I first attempted to explain that I was constantly bothered by the presence of stuff in my room – that I had to have specific numbers of everything, but I could never quite decide what those numbers should be. I felt silly saying all this, and the look of pure cluelessness on the doctor’s and nurse’s faces only served to amplify my isolation.

    Years of self-abuse, self-harm, excessive drinking and depression followed. I spent hours in libraries and bookstores trying to understand what was wrong with me, but still found nothing. Then came the internet. I searched and searched and came up empty-handed.

    One spark of joy, the only thing that kept me alive all these years, was that out of more than twenty mental health professionals from whom I sought help, one prescribed SSRI medications and I experienced enough relief from my symptoms to be able to function (somewhat) in life. Seeing how much relief I got from SSRIs, I became more convinced that I might indeed have OCD. But still none of the literature covered my specific symptoms. So I continued my journey through life alone and frustrated.

    READ MORE OCD: My Story – by ‘Rick’

    And then it happened. Thirty years after my admittance to the psychiatric hospital for an eating disorder, I was in an online forum, not unlike this one, listening to everyone describe hand washing and hoarding for the millionth time, and as usual having my posts ignored by everyone, when suddenly one angel popped onto my screen and said those magic words:“You have obsessive-compulsive spartanism.”

    So I looked it up and, surely enough, it described my symptoms. There isn’t that much information on obsessive-compulsive spartanism. But it is there, and it is OCD. Finally I had a name for my condition and for the first time in my life, I felt that I could talk about it.

    The moral of this story is that OCD is more than just the textbook symptoms that are rehashed over and over. But many sufferers are never made aware of this. And many people suffer alone and in silence, unaware that they are not alone in suffering from a well-known condition that can be treated with SSRI medications.

    I wish the OCD community would be more open-minded and understand that we do not all fit into one neat little box. Certainly the majority of OCD sufferers experience the most well-known symptoms, but theirs is not the whole story of OCD, and any responsible educators on the subject have a duty to leave no sufferer in the dark.

  21. If people really feel tye need to let someone else speak for themselves, at least just post a synopsis here and a link to the article, instead if pasting long articles here.

    I just ignore them because I don’t care, and usually it’s not insight but someone prpagandizing something they believe in. But posting the text here is just clutter for those who don’t care.

    The comments have become more tedious once people started pasting articles here.


    1. I agree. It would be better if people provided a brief summary of the article only, and posted the link for anyone who’s interested to follow.
      I expect people who are interested in this blog, and collecting interesting “stuff” don’t have a minimalist inclination.

  22. The articles may be tedious to some but the media pushes decluttering incessantly so I guess those who are tired of the message push back.Maybe people who push back against too much decluttering should approach radio,TV and newspapers too.But the articles provide a different viewpoint that is refreshing to many.I care about the comments to your finds and also about articles on decluttering,garbage trends,etc..Not everyone who follows the blog has to read the full articles anyways.

  23. In the U.S.three radio stations and Tv stations that I follow have done many,many shows on clutter and the benefits of decluttering.But Martin,dear Martin,there are many North Americans who are extreme declutterers that is just as harmful as those who are extreme,extreme hoarders.I hope your readers spread awareness about compulsive minimalism.It is harmful and does not get attention in the media.TV and radio stations want to sell ads to push people to buy more stuff.

  24. Regardless of one’s position on minimalism, hijacking someone’s blog with one’s personal agenda is not good netiquette.

  25. Some of these posts may be irritating;however too much decluttering will lead to a much bigger garbage output.So the topic is definitely very relevant to this blog.

  26. Like them or not,decluttering articles do accomplish a valuable function on your blog,Martin.They apparently are put there for your readers to make them think about environmental implications of decluttering madness.People get upset if exposed to unfamiliar or threatening ideas.Don Cherry has been saying offensive things for 20 years about so many ethnic groups.But finally he got fired for insulting immigrants, .Where is the free speech?I am a proud black man who still thinks Don Cherry should not have been fired even if he goes on idiotic or controversial rants.

  27. I don’t mind the article posting, I do agree that a shorter synopsis / link would be ideal however. I don’t personally read them anymore though because I’ve read a lot of articles on the topic now.

  28. Martin,I was walking on Atwater street near Lionel Groulx metro the night before curbside trash pickup.I saw a standup fan,a broken guitar and a lawn mower in the trash.I wonder if you would have taken any of these items.Kudos for what you do.

    1. Probably not. Most fans that are thrown out don’t work, so I only take them if it looks like the person/people are moving (then there’s a better chance that they work). A broken guitar is hard to sell, and lawn mowers aren’t really my niche (better for people who collect scrap steel or know how to fix them).

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