Archive for the ‘FAQ’ Category

Dishwasher troubleshooting: Dishwashing detergent left in dispenser

December 7, 2010

My new baby (and yes, those are blue laminate countertops)

I got a new Asko dishwasher a couple of weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it: the way all my pots and pans fit, the stemware holders for my house’s wine habit, the knife holder for my vegetable habit.

Nothing comes out with a speck of food, and we no longer have to yell at each other over a tsunami of washing sounds. My life has improved two-fold. No more dishwasher problems.

Well, there was one. The Cascade Action Packs we had just bought on sale were getting stuck in the dispenser.

After reading the Use & Care manual (gold star for me), I noted that Asko recommends using powder detergent, and only about a tablespoon of it depending on the hardness of your water.

When I switched back to powder, everything was fine. But it’s not always as easy as switching dishwasher detergent.

If you still have caked detergent after running your dishwasher, try these dishwasher troubleshooting tips, adapted from Whirlpool Corp.

Was the dispenser cup wet when you added detergent?

If dispenser cup is wet, the detergent can clump. This also means that if there’s still detergent left in the cup, don’t think, “Oh, well now I don’t have to refill it!” Clean it out and start over.

Is the cycle incomplete?

If the previous cycle did not complete, the detergent can become caked in the dispenser cup if it is left sitting in the dishwasher. But this probably isn’t the cause for those with chronic detergent-caking issues. Again, clean the detergent from the cup and start over again.

Is the detergent old?

Older detergent exposed to air will clump and not dissolve well, which will cause the dispenser door to stick to the detergent. Buy new detergent, and this time, keep it in a tightly closed container (i.e. not the box with an open flap) in a cool dry place (i.e. not under your sink right next to the wall where your dishwasher runs hot!).

Is the water temperature too low?

For best washing and drying results, water should be 120oF (49o C) as it enters the dishwasher, so check your water heater setting. I also try to remember to run the kitchen sink tip until hot water comes out to help this.

Were items blocking the dispenser that kept it from opening?

Items blocking the detergent dispenser will keep it from opening. Make sure water action can reach the dispenser.

Other good (if not obvious) detergent guidelines

  • Use automatic dishwashing detergent only.
  • Add detergents just before starting the cycle.
    • I’m guilty of this. I’ll fill the detergent cup when I’m done with the night’s dishes so I only have to press the button before bed a few hours later. Don’t be like me.
  • The amount of detergent to use depends on the hardness of your water and the type of detergent.
    • If you use too little, dishes won’t be clean.
    • If you use too much in soft water, glassware will etch.
  • Your manufacturer’s suggested amount is based on standard powdered detergent, so follow instructions on the package when using liquid or concentrated powdered detergent.
  • Water hardness can change over a period of time. You can find out your water’s hardness for about $15 by calling Water Doctors.

Cleaning tips: How to clean a stove

December 1, 2010

Not sure how to regain a clean stove after all that Thanksgiving cooking? Cleaning stove tops can be a pain, but consider that dirty cooking surfaces don’t reflect heat as well, meaning that you waste energy and compromise performance when using a messy stove.

Instead, try these useful stove cleaning tips that have worked for me.

When cleaning a smooth top stove, first use a razor blade (yes, I’m serious) to gently scrape off any burnt on food residue. Sometimes smooth top stoves burners discolor with time, but I’ve found that Mr. Clean Magic Eraser works well to fade dark stains. Apply cooktop cleaner (which we sell for about $5 at all Warners’ Stellian stores) with a soft rag or paper towel for general cleaning. Cooktop cleaner also gives a nice, smooth finish to glass- and ceran-top stoves you can’t get from soap and water, sorry!

To clean a gas stove top — like I have at home — remove all grates and burner caps to the sink and simply use soap and water to clean. I scrub off all the food residue that ends up around the burners by sprinkling on some Barkeeper’s Friend and rubbing it off with a moistened towel. Again, the discolorations (I have a white stove) are removed by Magic Eraser and some elbow grease.

The most important tip I have for cleaning gas stoves, though, is properly replacing the now-clean burner caps, as misplacement could cause stove lighting issues.

Any other good tips on how to clean a stove top?

Convection oven cooking/convection oven turkey

November 24, 2010

Those who spent a little extra to get convection in their oven will breathe a little easier while preparing for Thanksgiving.

Convection basically uses a fan to circulate warm air, eliminating hot spots and cooking foods faster and more evenly.

What does this mean for Thanksgiving cooking?

  • The turkey’s done quicker, which is huge for those eating earlier in the day.
  • No need to baste or cover the turkey. Convection ovens quickly sear in the juices, so use foil only if the turkey is browning too quickly.
  • Cook several dishes at a time. Convection ensures air circulates among all racks.

Dacor posted a fabulous resource of frequently asked questions and tips concerning turkey and holiday cooking, especially for convection ovens and convection microwaves.

For instance, ever been stuck with a partially defrosted turkey (the skin, legs and wings are defrosted and can move freely, but there are still some ice crystals and the inside of the turkey’s cavity is still hard) on Thanksgiving morning? Dacor suggests using its convection setting at 150°F for approximately 8-11 minutes per pound to defrost the turkey.

Visit Dacor’s FAQ page to see more info on brining, how many pies an oven can really fit and how to use your convection microwave to cook a casserole (aren’t you glad you bought that?).


Cooking tips: Checking oven temperature

November 22, 2010

Before you trust your oven to your family’s turkey and pie this Thanksgiving, make sure the oven heats to the correct temperature.

Some manufacturers say that using an oven thermometer (available at most hardware stores) isn’t accurate because once the door opens, the temperature changes, I think it’s probably a better measure than trying to decipher how far off your oven is by experimenting on baked goods or other methods.

First, check your thermometer’s accuracy by sticking it in boiling water for a minute. Boiling temperature is 212 degrees F, so if that’s not what your thermometer reads, note the difference.

Next, put your thermometer in the oven and select 350 degrees. Check the thermometer after about 20 minutes. If it doesn’t read 350 degrees (after factoring any difference you found in step one), you know whether your oven temperature runs high or low and how many degrees.

If you were smart enough — or organized enough — to save your Use & Care manual, your manufacturer might include instructions on how to calibrate your oven so that the temperature settings can be adjusted for accuracy. Otherwise, just make a mental note and select a 355 degrees (for instance) next time a recipe calls for 350.

Many ovens now come with built-in temperature probes, which offer another great way to ensure your meat cooks perfectly.

And the best way to ensure consistent temperature in your oven is to minimize opening the door by using your oven light. Having the oven door open for just seconds can decrease the temperature by 25 degrees!

Refrigerator moving advice

October 20, 2010

Here’s a true Frequently Asked Question, pulled from the “I used to answer phones at the store” file.

I’ve fielded many calls inquiring if it’s OK to put a refrigerator on its side when moving it. Certainly, the manufacturers don’t recommend it. But sometimes it’s necessary, right?

So, when you can’t transport your fridge upright, GE suggests laying your top-freezer refrigerator or bottom-freezer refrigerator on the side opposite the hinges, so the door will remain closed. If you have a side-by-side fridge, place it freezer-side down (that door is less likely to come open).

When you bring the fridge inside its new home, keep it unplugged and upright for the same amount of time it spent on its side. If the refrigerator spend more than a day on its side, let it stand for 24 hours before plugging it in.

Also, GE suggests wheeling the refrigerator on its side when using a dolly to avoid damage to the front or rear of the unit.

And please, remove all the racks and cover your beautiful Warners’ Stellian refrigerator with a moving blanket. We love appliances too much so see you damage them on accident.

Dishwasher troubleshooting: Dishwasher won’t drain

October 6, 2010

Dishwasher not draining right meow? Perhaps you have a cat in there.

A number of things could be causing standing water in your dishwasher.

First of all, make sure that the door is completely closed.

Press the “cancel” button (sometimes twice, depending on model) to manually drain water left behind because the dishwasher cycle was interrupted (i.e. kids/roommates). The dishwasher will turn off after a couple minutes.

Other tricks:

1. If you have a disposer, run it, because your drain system could be blocked.

2. If you have an air gap, it could be clogged. Consult your particular brand for instructions on how to clear that, but mostly it’s just taking off the chrome cap, unscrewing the plastic cap and cleaning out whatever’s ailing it. (Here’s a video by GE that’s kind of fun.)

3. Make sure you’ve got drain hose in right dishwasher area codes. The drain hose should be looped to touch the underside of the counter and connect to the sink drain or disposer. The hose should not exceed a foot in length. Also, check for any kinks.

4. If you’re still under water, call a plumber (or go cheap like me). Your sink drain could be clogged, which prevents your dishwasher from pumping out water.

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.

Dishwasher troubleshooting: food residue left on dishes

September 15, 2010

I’d like to think that this blog is changing the world, one frequently asked appliance question at a time. But rarely is that suspicion validated.

That’s why I love this story. The other week, our Twitter friend @SamBroberg told me he was having problems with food residue on his dishes.

Now, this isn’t like when your casserole dish still has cheese stuck to the bottom. This is more like specks of indiscernibles  on your water glasses.

Pretty much, “How in the WORLD did this get here?”

Calm down and I’ll tell you.

Older, American-brand dishwashers cleaned by filling with water, washing, emptying the dirty water and refilling with new water, etc. etc.

So between fills, the dirty water circulates and over time, food particles clog the spray arms.

Years later, the spray arms — now clogged — spit out the old junk during the final rinse. And voila: clean, yet speckled, dishes.

To remedy this, simply clean out the spray arm nozzles with an old toothbrush. @SamBroberg said it worked for him. (Frankly, I need to take my own advice during my kitchen clean sweep tonight.)

Now some models of American dishwashers incorporate filtration systems (like European models always did) that keeps food particles from recirculating back into the water.

Check out the 5-stage filtration on GE dishwashers and the triple filtration system on some Frigidaire dishwashers.

Also, the filter decreases water turbidity (translation: the water stays cleaner), making these models much more water efficient.

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.


(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.

What is hard water? and 12 other good water questions

August 25, 2010

In honor of our very first Water Test Wednesday, Jon Owata of Water Doctors agreed to answer some of the most Frequently Asked Questions homeowners have about water.

Jon, a self-proclaimed “water nerd,” has been in the industry for five years. When he’s not helping Warners’ Stellian or conducting product training, Jon visits customers’ home to “evaluate the symptoms, diagnose and treat” (get it?) their water.

Want Jon to diagnose your water?

During Water Test Wednesdays (see event calendar for dates and locations), bring in a water sample and Jon will test it. If there’s a problem, he’ll tell you how to treat it. (He can figure out how to fix a lot of problems, he assured me.)

If you already have a water softener, but you’re not sure if it’s working, draw one sample from an outside tap (because it’s untreated) and one from the bathroom cold (because it’s treated), to give him a before and after picture of how much your softener is actually doing.

The first Water Test Wednesday is tonight at our St. Paul/Falcon Heights/Roseville store from 5 to 8.

1. What are the benefits of a water softener?

A water softener removes harsh minerals commonly found in hard water. You’ll have softer, mineral-free water that is much gentler on everything that uses water:

• Less crusty, scale buildup on sinks and faucets

• Brighter, cleaner clothes

• Reduced soap scum on tubs, showers and shower doors

• Softer laundry, linens and towels

• Cleaner, smoother skin and hair

• Clearer pipes with less corrosive elements and scale buildup

Plus, your appliances work more efficiently and last longer. And they’ll need less detergent, saving you money and reducing the environmental impact.

2. What is hard water?

Hard water contains dissolved minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and manganese. According to the Water Quality Association, water containing more than 1 GPG (grain per gallon) of these dissolved minerals is considered hard water. Relative levels of hardness have been established:

• Soft Water – less than 1 GPG

• Slightly hard – 1 to 3.5 GPG

• Moderately hard – 3.5 to 7 GPG

• Hard – 7 to 10.5 GPG

• Very Hard – 10.5 and higher GPG

3. What is the average water hardness in Minnesota?

Minnesota’s average is 15-25 GPG (grains per gallon) however some parts of the Twin Cities are as high as 35 GPG. Unlike mass-produced national retailers and franchised water softeners, Water Doctors amasses an extensive database of municipal water supplies and engineers the Water Doctors softeners and filters to match the exact water chemistry of the customer’s water analysis.

4. What is the average water hardness in the United States?

Five to nine grains per gallon. Being this is the “average,” the national brand softeners are designed to this level of hardness. Minnesota and Wisconsin’s is 2-4 times harder and requires different softening and filtering media. Water Doctors engineered systems will use up to 70 percent less salt.

5. Why is the water in Minnesota so hard?

The earth beneath Minnesota and Wisconsin is heavily saturated with limestone, which is where hardness (calcium) comes from. Limestone is made up of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate.

6. What type of salt should I use in my water softener?

Water Doctors recommends using extra-coarse solar salt, which is commonly found in the blue bag and is cleaner than the pellets. Pellet salt uses a bonding agent to hold it in its pellet shape. When the water in the brine tank dissolves the salt for use in the softener, the pellets can essentially glue themselves together causing bridging. Once this happens the salt no longer can dissolve to soften the water. Water Doctors offers convenient home delivery of salt for all brands of softeners.

7. Can salt from softening installations enter drinking water?
Salt can’t enter drinking water through softening installations. The only purpose of salt in a water softener is to regenerate the resin beads that take the hardness out of water.

8. Why does soft water make my skin feel slippery, slimy, or I can’t get the soap off?

Those who grew up with hard water are used to the feeling, which is the result of soap scum clogging your pores. (Yes, the same soap scum that is on the shower doors and walls.) The clogged pores block natural skin oils. But showering or washing in soft water cleans your pores out and allows your natural skin oils to come out. Remember what happens when water mixes with oil? It gets kind of slippery. That is the feeling that you are experiencing. For the first time your pores are no longer filled with soap scum and your natural skin oils are free to come out.

9. Does a softener brine tank need cleaning?

Usually it is not necessary to clean out a brine tank. However, if your water happens to contain some sand or sediment it can collect in the brine tank. If this is the case you may want to clean the tank out once a year.

10.Is there such a thing as no salt softening?

No. The only way to actually soften water is by using a traditional salt-based ion exchange softener. Salt-free systems attempt to reduce scale buildup, but they don’t remove hardness from the water nor its negative effects.

11. Is electricity a big part of water softeners?

No. A water softener costs approximately $3 to $5 per year in electricity. A water softener is plugged into an outlet for time-keeping purposes only, because it recharges at 2 a.m.

12. Does a softener purify the water?

No, but there are products that will. Reverse Osmosis drinking water systems and Whole House Ultra Filtration units purify the water. A water softener simply removes hardness that clogs pipes and appliances.

A Reverse Osmosis system is designed for drinking water and can be piped to multiple locations. Whole House Ultra Filtration is installed after the water softener to treat all of the water in your home, not just drinking water.

13. What are the differences among water softener brands?

Quality of construction is a major difference among water softener brands. The other is the type of resin (softening media) used. Water Doctors uses stainless steel valves and custom builds every unit by selecting the proper resin media based on your specific water chemistry. There are approximately 40 different types of resin to choose from. Durable valves give the water softener the durability it needs to soften the unusually harsh water conditions found in this area for up to 25 years. The proper resin selected provides maximum efficiency and perfectly soft water.


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