Archive for the ‘Cleaning’ Category

Dishwasher film: Is the culprit environmentally friendly cleaning products?

September 27, 2010

I blogged about white film on dishes from dishwashers about a month ago, and the post has gotten an unusual amount of hits.

And then I read in the New York Times that dishwasher users complain new no-phosphate dishwashing detergents are causing dishwasher film.

Which is funny, because we’ve often suggested environmentally friendly cleaning products, such as Seventh Generation dishwashing detergent, to customers because we’ve foundits lack of phosphates actually prevents cloudiness and etching.

(For what it’s worth — maybe not much — Consumer Reports found that seven phosphate-free detergents worked pretty well.)

My suggestions?

1. Stop pre-rinsing your dishes

Residual proteins from leftover foods activate the detergent’s cleaning enzymes. So if you’ve cleaned all or most of the food off your dishes, the detergent can’t activate and stays in its crystal format, scratching your dishes on a microscopic level.

2. Use rinse aid

3. Stop using so much detergent and run a vinegar cycle

4. Before starting your dishwasher, run the tap water until it’s hot

Not only does this save energy, but older dishwashers don’t run as long as new dishwashers — better designed for less-harsh detergents – – and so every minute counts. Don’t waste it with lukewarm water that’s being heated up.

HOW TO: Troubleshoot (almost) any dishwasher problems

September 20, 2010

So easy, a baby could fix it! (I know, cheap excuse to indulge my "photos of babies playing in appliances" habit.)

I won’t necessarily admit that I hate my dishwasher lately, but I will project some anxieties onto blog readers via a dishwasher troubleshooting roundup (!!!).

Whether your dishwasher leaves you with cloudy dishes, wet dishes or still-dirty dishes, my top 4 blogs about dishwasher problems should contain your remedy.

Top 4 dishwasher troubleshooting blog posts

1. Dishes not drying

2. Dishes not clean

3. Dishwasher leaving white film on glasses

4. Food residue left on dishes

Unfortunately, you can’t troubleshoot small and noisy, so watch for an upcoming Things I Want, dishwasher edition.

Gas stove troubleshooting: Stove won’t light

September 10, 2010

Need a light?

Despite a general dislike for most of the appliances I inherited with my first house, I feel lucky to have a gas stove (or range, as in appliance jargon).

I love cooking, so I appreciate the power and responsiveness of gas.

However, unlike their electric counterpart, gas ranges can’t just be dialed on; their burners must be ignited.

I occasionally struggle with lighting my burners — and I know I’m not alone — so here’s what to check if you’re struggling.

Burner cap
A lot of ignition problems and uneven flames result from food spills and related dirtiness. Routine cleaning and general unslobbiness will avoid this.

After a spill, use a nonabrasive plastic scrubbing pad and mildly abrasive cleanser or soap  to thoroughly clean the cap.

Make sure the cap is completely dry before replacing it over the burner. Take care that alignment pins are lined up with with the cap.

(I know I usually would never say this, but) Don’t put them in the dishwasher.

Burner ports

Burner flames should be about 1″-1.5″, with a proper shape like the flame labeled “A” in the adjacent spiffy illustration. The flame should be blue, not yellow.

If these aren’t the case, your burner ports could be clogged, so you should clean it, following these steps:

  1. Make sure all the controls are off and the stove is cool. Don’t use oven cleaners, bleach or rust remover.
  2. Clean the burner cap as instructed above..
  3. Clean the gas tube opening with a damp cloth.
  4. Clean clogged burner ports with a straight pin as shown. Do not enlarge or distort the port. Do not use a wooden toothpick. If the burner needs to be adjusted, call appliance service.
  5. Replace the burner cap, as shown in the first illustration.
  6. Turn on the burner. If the burner does not light, check cap alignment. If the burner still does not light, call appliance service.

Knobs

(This one falls under the “duh” category, but you never know…) Push in the burner knob before turning to light to ensure that it’s set correctly.

Beware of pet hair in your kitchen

August 31, 2010

Manufacturers say that most people don’t need to regularly clean their refrigerators’ condenser coils.

But, you should clean the condenser coils on refrigerators in greasy, dusty environments — and homes with “significant pet traffic” (which just sounds like a kitten parade, right?) — every two or three months.

What’s that? Cleaning stuff is a pain in the butt? Yeah, well so is replacing stuff. Regular maintenance not only ensures your refrigerator runs efficiently (aka for less money) but it will help it run for longer.

I’m betting it’s been about the suggested time span (times 10?) since you have cleared out what lies beneath, so here’s a refresher course:

1. Unplug refrigerator or disconnect power. (We don’t need any heroes, people.)

2. Take off the kick plate, or “grille.” How you do this depends on the configuration of your fridge (e.g. top freezer, side by side), but the “wiggle and pull” method seems pretty universal. For more help, consult your Use & Care manual or (do what I do and) ask a family member for help.

3. Clean the kick plate, the open area behind it and the front surface area using either a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment or, my sister’s favorite, a baby bottle brush duct-taped to a stretched-out coat hanger.

Water filtration vacuum: It really sucks

August 20, 2010

Yup, a water filtration vacuum cleaner.

You’ve heard of a HEPA filter vacuum. And bagless vacuum cleaners. But those all trap dust and particulate matter using air and manufactured materials.

One of our newest products, the ROTHO Twin TT Aquafilter is truly something I’ve never seen before.

German-made ROTHO (pronounced ROW-toe) traps allergens and dust in a water reservoir. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen (even though the murky water in the reservoir gets pretty nasty…that’s a good thing, though!).

So pet owners and allergy sufferers especially can cash in on the investment in a water filter vacuum (innovation doesn’t come cheap — we sell this for $795).

Not only can you use it to dry vacuum carpets and floors, you avoid expense carpet and professional cleaning fees and wet-clean your own carpets, upholstery, mattresses and tile/bare floors with the spray-extraction system.

We ship the ROTHO water filter vacuum for free (all vacuums ship for free!)

Check out this video (for as long as it stays posted online):

Dishwasher troubleshooting: Dishwasher leaving white film on glasses

August 16, 2010

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It's all your fault. Seriously.

I’ve been noticing many more glasses coming out of the dishwasher with a white residue on them.

I blame this trend on my roommates’ overzealous dish-rinsing habits rather than my overzealous wine glass-using habits, of course.

But, what does rinsing my plate have to do with my wine glass, Julie?

Everything, Loyal Appliance Blog Reader.

Many of today’s dishwasher detergents contain phosphates, which need food residue to break down. So, if there’s no food residue or grease, the phosphates don’t break down. Instead, they somehow end up on your glassware (disclosure: I’m no chemist, if you haven’t noticed yet.)

As if you need another reason to stop pre-rinsing/washing your dishes.

So, washing my dishes actually causes them to become dirty?

That’s what we call irony, LABR. You’re catching on.

If you find yourself with a rack of filmy glassware, save the labor — and the water (rinsing dishes often uses more water than a dishwasher cycle) — and run a warm vinegar rinse.

Put 2 cups white vinegar in a glass or dishwasher-safe measuring cup on the bottom rack. Then run the dishwasher through a complete washing cycle using an air-dry or an energy-saving dry option. Do not use detergent. The vinegar will mix with the wash water.

Running a vinegar cycle every few months is a good idea, per se.

Authors who wrote this blog post also wrote: “Dishwasher troubleshooting: Dishes not drying?”

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Top-load washing machines replacing front load washing machines?

July 28, 2010

The buzz in laundry appliance circles (trust me, they exist) these days for washers is all front load, front load, front load.

Or is it?

Whirlpool Cabrio front-load washer and dryer in black

The Whirlpool appliance crew came in last week to show our sales staff its new line and argued that many of today’s customers want top load laundry again. But these customers aren’t replacing a top-loading washer with a top-loading washer; They’re replacing front-loading washers with top-loading washers.

True, some of the earliest front-loading washing machines came fraught with mold issues and vibration and noise problems. Those early kinks have pretty much, ahem, come out in the wash. But apparently, not everyone’s convinced.

Without an agitator, Whirlpool's new top-load washer has tons of capacity -- up to 5.2 cu. ft.

Plus, Whirlpool’s high-efficiency top-load washer offers many of the same features front-loaders became popular for:

  • extra-large capacity
  • high spin speeds
  • less water and detergent used

Also available are features such as steam cleaning and drying, allergen-eliminating cycles and precision detergent/bleach/fabric softener dispense.

All Whirlpool’s new washers are rated are at the peak of energy efficiency ratings — Tier 3 — by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (see “Energy Star not sole guide for energy-efficiency”). The Cabrios sense the size of the load and only use as little as 14 gallons per wash, as much as 31 gallons fewer than a traditional top-load washing machine.

I’m a huge front loader snob, but I have to admit that the features are pretty darn similar and who wouldn’t rather reach down than bend down. I think they’re definitely a good machine for the customer who wants quality but not another front loading washing machine.

Will it grind? My disposer dilemma

July 12, 2010

Growing up as appliance retail royalty, I never wanted for anything appliance-related.

(There was that one week when I was 11 when we didn’t have a fridge, so all I ate was Munchems and got violently ill, but I digress…)

I mean, we wore hand-me-downs and “new” meant from the thrift store, but God help us if we didn’t have a 1 horsepower Insinkerator disposer humming in the drain.

Why throw corn cobs and chicken bones in the trash, when they can be scraped right off into the disposer?

Fast forward my let-them-eat-cake perception of food waste disposal to Saturday:

After making lunch, I shove a broccoli stalk, fennel fronds and stems, half a lemon and a salmon skin down the disposer at the same time, turn on the water and flip the switch.

After about 30 seconds of fighting through — and clearing — the fibrous, fatty material, my disposer began its equivalent of whimpering and water began pooling up in the little sink.

Oops.

Apparently, I forgot where I was — my kitchen. Perhaps I should’ve taken my own advice on how to sharpen disposer blades. Suddenly, worries about plumbers and service calls and bills started coalescing into a decision to just hope that it cleared up on its own.

Too afraid to run the dishwasher, we ended up washing the dishes from the day’s barbecue in the laundry tub, which subsequently plugged up.

Oops.

Luckily, I know people who know things about appliances who also find the stupid people that break them (me) to be endearing. So I called him on Sunday.

Store manager friend: Does it still grind?

Me: Yes.

SMF: It’s just clogged. Buy some Liquid Plumr.

I threw half a bottle down the disposer drain and the other half down the laundry tub drain, waited 15 minutes and flushed hot water down the disposer while running it.

It made some gurgling/gobbling noises and then cleared itself up, wouldn’t you know it, for only $4. (Note: I’m now a HUGE fan of Liquid Plumr).

Lesson learned. Unless I install the Cadillac disposer, fibrous foods should be composted or cut it up into manageable bites and loaded into the disposer gradually.

Here’s a handy “will it grind?”-type chart I found from KitchenAid:

Everyday food scraps Yes
Vegetable peels
(Potato skins, melon and fruit rinds)
Avoid grinding large amounts at one time. Instead, gradually feed vegetable peels in while running the water and the disposer.
Fibrous materials
(Celery, corn husks, artichokes)
No; but some higher horsepower models can handle limited amounts of these food types.
Hard Materials – See NOTE below.
(Small bones, fruit pits, egg and lobster shells, crab and shrimp shells)
Avoid grinding large amounts at one time. Instead, gradually feed hard materials in while running the water and the disposer

NOTE: If you are on a septic system, grinding large amounts of these types of waste may require more frequent cleaning of the septic tank system.

I’m curious as to what other people successfully and unsuccessfully grind in their disposers. Or do you think disposers are a problem in general? (I’ve never lived without one…)

Oven cleaning tips

July 1, 2010

Photo credit - las_intially

If your oven is setting off the smoke alarm every time you make a pizza, it might be time to give it a good cleaning.

Self-clean ovens have a setting that allows it reach very high temperatures and burn food mess off into ashes. Do NOT use oven cleaners on self-clean ranges, and make sure to take the racks out before you start a cleaning cycle to ensure they continue to glide well.

If you don’t have a setting for cleaning your oven, you’ll have to manually clean it of course. (I can hear my grandpa, who started Warners’ Stellian, making some sort of joke related to manual-clean ovens actually being self-clean: “Of course it is…you clean it yourself!”)

To manually clean your oven:

1. Make sure you’ve allowed the cavity to properly cool down. We don’t need any heroes on our hands.

2. Remove the oven racks. These can be cleaned with steel wool, water and dish soap. To get off trickier messes, put racks in a garbage bag in a cup of ammonia overnight in the backyard and rinse with the garden hose in the morning.

3. First try scubbing the oven cavity with soap, water and a soft cloth or sponge. Hopefully, this will do the trick.

4. If more rigorous cleaning is needed, our customer service rep, Amy, suggests the following natural oven-cleaning remedies:

  • Pour ¼ cup ammonia and 2 cups of warm water in a bowl in your oven, and close it up tight. If you’re at home during this, make sure you open a window so no one gets sick. You can clean out the dirty oven with a scrubby sponge after a few hours or overnight.
  • Fill a spray bottle with 1 tablespoon Borax (which works great as a cheap laundry detergent booster), 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil dishwashing soap and a quart of warm water. Spray the oven walls, scrub it clean after an hour and rinse thoroughly.
  • A paste of baking soda and vinegar left on the oven cavity surface could work well, but be careful to cover the holes of the gas line if you have a gas range really REALLY well, because if they get clogged, that’s a bad thing. If you go this route, you should be able to scrape off food mess with a spatula. Wipe out the oven thoroughly afterwards.

Anyone ever try these tricks? I’m going to have to pretty soon on the manual-clean oven in my new house. I’ll report back.

Is your bagless vacuum bad for your health?

June 28, 2010

If you have a bagless vacuum, you’re probably familiar with the smell (or taste!) of dust when you empty the bin after vacuuming.

Probably when you’re knocking it against the side of the garbage can, trying to hold your breath? Gross, I know.

If you can smell that dust, it means you’re inhaling fine, lung-damaging particles, according to information released today by German appliance-maker Miele.

But, aside from that, bagless vacuums — even those with HEPA filters — can’t truly contain all the dust and dirt as well as a Miele.

From the release:

An independent laboratory confirmed that Miele vacuums capture and retain 99.99% of harmful pollutants – on average 21x better than the HEPA-filtered bagless rival. On average, the leading bagless HEPA-filtered vacuum emitted over 175,900 lung-damaging particles per minute during the test.

This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about my love for Miele vacuums. But truly, if air quality matters to you, you’ll appreciate Miele’s air-tight design. A spring-loaded collar locks shut when you remove Miele vacuum bags, trapping in particles and eliminating that dusty smell/taste — which means you and your kids aren’t breathing them in.

And perhaps this seems a tad dramatic, but what you’re breathing in (fine particulate matter) has been linked to bad health effects such as including chronic bronchitis and premature death, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

For families with children or elderly, sufferers of asthma and/or allergies or other health problems, a Miele vacuum is a sound investment. Plus, we ship all vacuums for free, and we also offer free shipping on accessories (bags and air filters) orders over $50.

>> see more information on Miele’s vacuum filtration study


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