Colanders can ease the strain of the drain

There's a tool in the kitchenware aisle going through an identity crisis. Is it a colander? A collander? A strainer? It all depends on who you ask.

Adding to the gadget's identity confusion is a new wave of redesigned strainers. While strainers have traditionally been round, several companies are breaking the mold.

Although its name and shape may change, its purpose is clear. Whether you need to drain water from boiling pots, rinse fruits or steam veggies, the colander is an essential time-saver. If you've ever attempted to drain pasta without one, you understand.

The Telebrand Collapsible Colander can fold flat to fit into slim spaces in cabinets and drawers. A built-in pour spout also eases in transferring food. Made from a durable plastic, it's dishwasher safe and can hold up to five pounds of food. The Collapsible Colander is available for $14.99 at major retail stores or online at www.flatfoldcolander.com.

Like something straight out of June Cleaver's kitchen, the Typhoon Vintage Kitchen Colander exudes a retro feel. Flower-shaped draining holes, a chrome trim and light pink color fit right into a 1960s-style kitchen. A basic, traditional strainer, it doesn't feature many bells and whistles, but it does look cute as part of the Typhoon vintage kitchen collection. Priced at $15, it's sold at major retail stores.

The Expanding Colander from Oneida aims to eliminate the strain of the drain. It starts at 131⁄4-by-9 inches, but the colander's rubber-coated handles stretch up to 22 inches to fit snugly into most sinks. The wire mesh basket is reinforced with steel supports and loop legs to keep the strainer stable while you pour. The strainer, made of stainless steel, is odor-, corrosion- and stain- resistant, as well as dishwasher safe. It retails for $25 and is sold at home stores.

Stretching in the other direction, the Dexas Pop Ware Expandable/Collapsible colander pops out to be round, and pops in to be flat. Measuring 10 inches in diameter, it can expand up to 21⁄2 quarts. The silicone colander is made especially for smaller kitchens with limited counter and cabinet space. As an added bonus, when collapsed into the dishwasher, it allows 80 percent more room for dirty plates than a round colander of the same size would. With legs that unfold and handles with nonslip grips, the strainer remains stable. Retailing for $29.99, the colander is sold at most home stores.

At American Science and Surplus, strainers are the center of office humor. With the tag line "We sink it's a swell strainer," the company tries to bring life to an otherwise ordinary home tool. Its corner sink strainer is exactly what you'd expect - a small strainer that fits tightly into the corner of the sink. The small, quarter-circle strainer measures 7 inches in radius and is 3 inches high. Its steep sides work well for small tasks, such as collecting carrot peels or washing a handful of grapes. Retailing for $2.95, the stainless steel strainer is sold at home stores.