Archive for the ‘Cleaning’ Category

Hard water wastes your energy and your detergent

August 17, 2011

If you’re not ecstatic about the performance of your dishwasher and/or washer, don’t immediately blame your machine. There could be something in the water.

Using a water softener can cut detergent use in washers and dishwashers by more than half and lower washing machine temperatures from hot to cold, as shown by two  independent studies released in the last two years.

Less detergent and cold water achieved the same stain removal in washing machines using softened water as double the detergent and hot water in hard water. And dishwashers using softened water needed less than half the detergent if used in areas having very hard water (Minnesota is among areas with the hardest water), while achieving the same results.

Plus, the study showed that untreated hard water can cause significant efficiency losses and added costs in water heating – up to 48% in some cases. In addition, hard water was found to rapidly lead to clogged showerheads, in some cases possibly as soon as a year and a half.

(After just one week of constant testing with hard water, more than three-fourths of showerhead nozzles became clogged, according to laboratory results. Showerheads using softened
water, meanwhile, performed nearly as well as on the day they were installed.)

All these factoids beg the question, at least for me: Do I have hard water? Is that why I have to wash my dishes after my dishwasher does?

Well, don’t look at me. I have no idea how to spot hard water. But our local guys, Water Doctors, can diagnose your water and if necessary, customize a water treatment system for your home.

Save your fridge from the heat – clean your coils

July 1, 2011

Last summer when the fan motor on my air conditioning unit kicked the bucket, I didn’t notice anything was wrong until I opened my freezer and realized my food was thawing. The kitchen was really hot, and my poor refrigerator was working overtime.

And you could hear it.

Coincidentally, my dad (and appliance savant) swung by my house to check up on the first-time homebuyer.

Upon hearing my potential food waste disaster, he asked, “Have you ever cleaned your coils?” without skipping a beat.

Blogged about it? Yes. Actually did the work myself? No.

You’d think he was shearing a lamb with the amount of thick, linty material he undearthed from my fridge’s nether regions.

But you know what? My refrigerator breathed an audible sigh of relief before quieting itself and resuming cooling. Because my condenser coils were so clogged with dust and debris, my refrigerator wasn’t able to properly cool itself down. This problem certainly was exacerbated by my broken AC, but I’m confident I would’ve been fridgeless in a matter of hours without help from my dad.

>>Read this a post for info on how to clean your refrigerator coils

The last kitchen cleaner you’ll ever buy

June 23, 2011

If Sisyphus existed in modern times, his eternal punishment would be achieving a clean stovetop. Because it’s almost impossible.

If your stove top is white, you can never quite remove every last discoloration. If you’re cleaning a glass top stove, you’ll rue the day you ever overboiled a pot or cooked atop existing food residue. Black glass top ranges seem to attract dust every night.

Miracle in a sponge.

I’ve blogged previously about how to a clean stove top using Barkeepers Friend and a razor blade, but if you could only buy one tool, make it the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or (if you’re cheap like me) its generic copycats.

Made of melamine foam, whose tiny particles act like extra-fine sandpaper when moistened, magic erasers do as named and erase otherwise persistent stains from hard surfaces. You might want to test a small area if you’re nervous about scratches, but I’ve never run into any problems.

I use mine to remove hardened food the discoloration around the burners on my white gas range, but it multitasks in my porcelain sink and especially on shower tile soap scum and grout mildew.

Am I missing anything? I bet there are tons of creative uses for these.

Dishwasher troubleshooting: Dishwasher not cleaning dishes

June 15, 2011

Gloria Steinem said that the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

Well, here’s some truth for you. A lot of your dishwasher problems don’t have anything to do with your dishwasher — they have to do with you.

No other appliance operates with so many variables, many of which you can affect: the amount of dishes, the amount of soil, the amount of detergent and rinse aid, dish placement, etc.

Before you get all huffy because you spent X-hundred amount of dollars on the darn thing, understand that little, tiny changes to the way you do things will improve the cleaning results of your dishwasher immensely.

If you do nothing else differently, here’s the best dishwasher hack: just before you turn on your dishwasher, run your faucet until the water is steaming hot.

Otherwise, the water pumped into your dishwasher will be cold from sitting in your copper pipes. This way, you start with steamy water that has the best chance of reaching the high temperatures necessary for cleaning and drying completely. Water needs to be heated to 140-degrees Fahrenheit to dissolve food messes and disinfect dishes.

Read more tips on how to fix your dishwasher.

Washing machine smells? Stop shutting the door

June 10, 2011

Eww, your washing machine is stinky.

If you’re suffering from clothes washer odor, the solution could be as simple as leaving the front door open.

Front load washers clean better, use less water and energy and treat clothes more gently, but they’ve earned a smelly reputation. A frontload washer necessitates an airtight seal on the washer door to prevent water from leaking all over your floor. But the lack of airflow breeds that mildew-y odor in a washing machine.

Simple solution? Leave the door open after wash cycles, and teach your family to do the same. Then,  water remaining in a front loading washer following a cycle can dry out and you’ll go back to having the best washer ever.

To eliminate existing washing machine smells, try cleaning the washing machine with Affresh or run a vinegar cycle on the hottest setting.

Induction cooktops work like a gas cooktop, using electric power

May 2, 2011

Induction burners heat only magnetic surfaces (like cookware) and nothing else.

While visiting a home in my neighborhood on the Minneapolis – St. Paul Home Tour yesterday, a tour representative said this homeowner’s renovation included switching from an electric stove to a gas stove and how much the representative wished she had a gas stove top in her own home.

“Well, what about induction?” I asked her.

It’s no longer just a choice between gas or electric stoves; homeowners with electric hookups can enjoy all the power of gas plus more responsiveness.

What do you lose with induction? All the wasteful energy loss. Cooking with induction is 70% more efficient than gas and 20% more efficient than electric.

Clean up is easier than smooth top gas ranges because spills don’t burn onto the surface. You can stick a hundred-dollar bill between an induction burner element and a pot of boiling water without worry

Why? Induction burners only heat magnetic surfaces (so you’ll know if your pots and pans are compatible if a magnet sticks to the bottom!), which also make induction cooktops popular choices for kid- and pet-safe kitchens.

Due to its recent rise in popularity (induction has been around since the ’70s but only took off recently), brands now make induction ranges in addition to induction cooktops.

More chefs and gourmet cooks are choosing induction; we put a Thermador induction cooktop in Midtown Global Market’s Kitchen in the Market just this year. I can’t wait to see more people delight in the ability to cook like they’re using gas without the cost and hassle of switching from electric.

Stain removal suggestions from regular people

April 28, 2011

Welcome to my life.

For those of us who end up wearing 10% of what we eat, stain removal is a constant battle.

Washing machines themselves are getting better at removing stains from clothing without any kind of pretreating or spot removal.

But for tougher jobs like grass stains, you might need to some additional help.

Tide Stain Brain collects real people’s successful stain removal tricks and displays them by stain type. So if you need to figure out how to get rid of wine stains, click on the wine button and you’ll find out that white wine actually removes a red wine stain, according to several submissions. Or learn that hydrogen peroxide is the best stain remover for blood.

If you have a smartphone, you can download a mobile app, which could be real handy when I spill coffee all over myself while walking into work (happens at least twice a week).

You can comment on specific submission or add your own. It reminds me of my second favorite website (after www.warnersstellian.com, of course) AllRecipes.

RECIPE: Caribbean Chicken on the grill

April 25, 2011

Because this is exactly what I have on the to do list this week, here’s my post on waking up your grill ready after winter hibernation.

Need some motivation?

Thanks to our Holland Grill and Big Green Egg expert, Stu “King of the BBQ” Glock, for sharing this recipe for grilled chicken that’s anything but ordinary. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but if it’s coming from Stu, I know it’s amazing (i.e. 3 takes on steak).

I’m going to try it soon…let me know if you do!

Grilled Caribbean Chicken

Courtesy of Derrick Agate

  • 1 Tbs allspice
  • 1 Tbs thyme
  • 1- 1/2 tsp each – cayenne pepper, black pepper and ground sage
  • ¾ tsp each ground nutmeg and cinnamon
  • 2 Tbs each salt and garlic powder
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¾ cup white vinegar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 jalapeno or haberneros, finely chopped
  • 1 cup white onion chopped
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 3 lbs chicken

In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients.  Whisk in olive oil, soy sauce, orange juice, vinegar and lime juice, then the peppers and onions.

Add the chicken, cover, and refrigerate overnight or up to 48 hours.  Cook on the Holland Grill or the Big Green Egg at 350 degrees until the internal meat temperature reaches 165 degrees. Remove the chicken from the grill and let it rest 5 minutes before serving.

Seasonal allergy treatment? How about prevention?

April 18, 2011

After a windy spring weekend outdoors, I found myself battling itchy eyes and a watery nose yesterday.

Seasonal allergy symptoms are back.

For those who suffer from pollen allergy symptoms, you know how easily the tiny allergens travel…everywhere.

But treatment of seasonal allergies isn’t the only option. I much prefer preventing symptoms altogether, rather than relying on allergy remedies once I’m already dealing with histamines.

Here are the two main ways I prevent allergy symptoms:

  1. Keep windows and doors closed. Pollen travels mostly through the air, so I don’t let it blow into my house.
  2. Wash your hair and clothes soon after returning from the outdoors. Pollen will attach to you outdoors, and you’ll help it set up shop around your house by simply moving around and making contact. (Think about everything you touch: your pillows and sheets, your furniture, your carpet…)

So, because vacuuming your floors and washing your clothes and sheets is such a huge component to prevention, those with terrible allergies have found relief in some  products designed with them in mind:

LG’s Allergiene cycle from its TrueSteam washer and dryer

LG’s Allergiene washer cycle uses steam power to gently remove over 95% of common household allergens, like dust mites and pet dander, from even the most delicate fabrics.

Plus, you can safely sanitize nonwashable items like pillows and toys in LG’s steam dryer, which is what I did with all my throw pillows last night.

AquaFilter system in the Rotho Twin TT 580 canister vacuum

Rotho uses water and a HEPA filter to trap dust and dirt, not a canister or a bag, so it’s no surprise it has a 99.999% retention capacity, making it the ideal vacuum for allergy sufferers. Vacuuming is supposed to get rid of all the stuff that irks you, not kick it up into your airway.

The Rotho vacuum sprays water and cleaning solution on the area, then simultaneously vacuuming up the used water and solution to free embedded soil, dust mites, allergens, and odors — not the stuff sitting on the surface.

The $795 price tag makes it spendier than the also-awesome Dyson DC 23 Animal canister vacuum, but the Rotho’s deep-cleaning features and water filtration make it the ultimate tool for an allergy-free home.

Best cleaning tips posts

March 23, 2011

It’s official spring, which means it’s officially appropriate for a cliche “spring cleaning post roundup”!

We’ve accumulated quite a few cleaning posts, which might surprise my house if it found out about all this unused knowledge.

Anything else you’d like to see here? Leave a comment.

 

 

General

Cooking

Other kitchen cleaning

Laundry room


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