Archive for the ‘HOW TO’ Category

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.

HOW TO: solve dishwasher problems on your own

May 23, 2011

Dishwasher got your goat? I'll help you tame it.

If your dishwasher isn’t working as well as you would like, that doesn’t necessarily mean it needs service or that it’s a clunker. Maybe you just need to perform some cleaning and/or maintenance. Have I already answered your problem in a previous post?

HOW TO: clean a dishwasher

Dishes not drying

Dishes not clean

Dishwasher leaving white film on glasses

Food residue left on dishes

Dishwashing detergent left in dispenser

Dishwasher won’t drain

Or, if you try all of those and you’re still not satisfied, maybe you’re not using it correctly (see HOW TO:  load your dishwasher properly) or maybe it’s time for a new dishwasher. How long have you had yours versus how long is a dishwasher expected to last?

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.

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

Vinegar cleaning ideas

January 31, 2011

White vinegar: not just for salad dressing and pickles.

Kim Ode of the Star Tribune posted last week that vinegar rids salt stains from suede boots. And that got me thinking: vinegar is kind of a cheap, green cleaning wunderkind.

Using vinegar to clean is certainly nothing new, but perhaps you haven’t yet tried one of my ideas.

Cleaning uses for vinegar

1. Rinse aid – I’ve recently blogged about the benefits of a regular vinegar cycle (using vinegar to clean your dishwasher), but I’ve also heard of using vinegar as a dishwasher rinse aid substitute.

There’s really no harm in using vinegar in your dishwasher, but I suggest only using it in lieu of rinse aid between trips to the store. Rinse aid should be called drying aid, and modern dishwashers need it to properly dry dishes.

2. Microwave cleaner – Heat a microwave-safe cup of vinegar in your microwave and let it boil, so the steam can loosen up all the stuck-on splatters for a minute or so. Wipe down the interior immediately, while it’s still moist inside — no scrubbing necessary!

3. Clothes washer cleaner - Just like  your dishwasher, your washing machine benefits from a regular vinegar cleaning. Run a cup through an empty cycle using the hottest setting.

4. All-purpose surface cleaner - Equal parts vinegar and water work well for cleaning windows or glass. Also try the solution for an all-natural way to clean the inside of a refrigerator. I hear you can use it to clean stainless steel as well, though, I recommend using a stainless steel cleaner for a shiny, polished finish.

5. Coffee maker cleaner – This tip, learned from my mom, is among my favorites. I try to run a full coffee pot of vinegar through my coffee maker (remove any coffee or filter, obviously) every few months. It’s satisfying to watch all the grime flake off into the pot, and you’ll be amazed how much faster your coffee brews without all the sediment slowing it down!

6. Stove top and oven cleaner – I’ve already blogged about using a paste of vinegar and baking soda for oven cleaning, but that same paste can be applied to your stove top to scrub out those stubborn brownish discolorations and food splatters.

Have you ever tried cleaning with vinegar?
What other household cleaning remedies have you tried?

Stove drip pans cleaning tips

January 20, 2011

I've got you covered on cleaning conundrums.

Drip pans for stoves rank among the toughest cleaning jobs in the kitchen.

Grime on aluminum burner pans, which fit under the electric coils on your range, often seemed to me to be resistant to scrubbing.

And they probably are, if you’re using regular cleaners and scrubbers.

Look familiar?

But my two tricks for cleaning drip pans — one for weekly cleaning and one for deeper cleaning — will keep them looking new and thus, keep you from replacing them so often!

Bonus: Clean drip pans for your electric stove don’t just serve cosmetic purposes; keeping the surface reflective ensures the most efficient use of heat, meaning you’ll use less energy when you keep your burners and drip pans clean.

Spot cleaning burner pans

For day to day drips and stains, make sure the burner’s completely cooled and pull it up and out from the stove top (see photo below). I usually remove the drip pan to my sink to avoid peripheral messes. Wet the drip pan and sprinkle on a liberal amount of my co-favorite household cleaner, Bar Keeper’s Friend (name the other in the comments for a gold star). Use a rag to work the cleaner into a paste and polish off the mess. Rinse and dry thoroughly before replacing the pans.

Carefully remove the electric burner before cleaning its drip pan.

Deep cleaning drip pans

Pick a time when you don’t need to use your sink or stove for several hours, like right before bed or work. Again, wait until the stove is cool and remove the burners. Put each burner pan in separate gallon plastic bags. Add 1/4 cup of ammonia to each and fill the remainder with hot tap water. Close the bags and let them sit overnight (or for several hours).

Then, drain the bags and scrub off the loosened mess. Rinse well before applying any other cleaners, as ammonia can create toxic fumes when mixed. Rinse and dry thoroughly before replacing.

 

Let me know if you try this and how it worked for you!

HOW TO: clean an oven without oven cleaner

January 19, 2011

After an attempt to broil salmon last week prompted cacophonous disagreement with our smoke alarms, my roommates and I entered into a game of chicken with our manual clean oven.

Basically, it needs to be cleaned, and we don’t want to clean it.

I know it’s silly because my mind contains more appliance cleaning and maintenance knowledge than God graces on just anyone, but you know what they say about the cobbler’s kids.

Plus, it’s a royal pain. And it’s easy to make the excuse, “But I don’t have any oven cleaner!” or “I hate the idea of using harsh oven cleaner!” or “‘The Biggest Loser’ is on!”

Well, in efforts to invalidate the first two excuses and motivate me — and probably you too — here are three non-oven cleaner cleaning methods that really work.

  1. Ron Popeil solution
    For the “Set It And Forget It” overnight set: 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 the next day.
  2. Mike Wallace solution
    If you have 60 minutes, fill a spray bottle with 1 tablespoon Borax (which also works great as a cheap laundry detergent booster and all-purpose cleaner!), 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.
  3. Jesus Jones solution
    If you want it clean right here, right now, a paste of baking soda and vinegar left on the oven cavity surface could work well. 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.

HOW TO: clean cast iron grates

January 11, 2011

We read each and every Customer Satisfaction Survey returned to us by our customers. One customer’s cleaning inquiry struck me.

She couldn’t find any information on how to clean cast iron — the “rough” iron grates and burner caps on her new range. The manual only referenced porcelain-coated grates, not cast iron grates.

“I’m sure I’m not the only person who is wondering,” she wrote — and I agree with her.  Plus, I love a good challenge.

So I e-mailed the smart folks at Wolf appliances for help on cleaning cast iron grates. They sent me a knock down, drag out PDF containing their best cleaning tips, including recommendations for products they’ve tested!

From the guide:

Burner Grates

Recommended products

  • Mild detergent
  • Paste of baking soda & water (NOTE: the customer previously tried this unsuccessfully)
  • Mild abrasive cleaners
    • Soft Scrub Orange
    • Bon-Ami
    • Barkeeper’s Friend
    • Fume Free Easy-Off (spot cleaning)
    • Carbona 2-in-1 Oven Cleaner (cleaning solution can be reused once)
    • SOS pads
    • Dawn Power Dissolver
    • Krud Kutter

Recommended method

  • Remove from range top and place on a flat surface near the sink
  • Remove grates from unit and place on a flat surface near the sink to clean. DO NOT immerse in water. Towel dry.
  • How water and liquid detergent; paste of baking soda and water
  • Degreasers (Formula 409, Fantastic Orange), use sparingly. Towel dry.
  • “Multipurpose NO SCRATCH” Scotchbrite pad (blue, NOT green)
  • Mild abrasive cleaners, rinse and towel dry
  • Worst case scenarios – Spot clean with Fume-free Easy Off
  • Carbona Oven Rack Cleaner, following directions on package

 

HOW TO: clean a dishwasher

January 4, 2011

Dishwasher suffering from that "not-so-fresh" feeling?

Most of us think of dishwashers as cleaning our dishes, but you should routinely clean your dishwasher, as well — especially if you’ve noticed a change in its performance. (I’m a huge advocate for performing regular maintenance on your appliances, just as you would your car, to maintain the life and — therefore — get the most out of your investment.)

Dishwasher detergent and food residue might buildup over time (especially if you use too much dishwasher soap and pre-rinse your dishes, which can leave white film on dishes). Clean out the filters and scrub the spray arm nozzles with a toothbrush to loosen any food residue clogged inside.
Then, the real secret of how to clean dishwashers is hiding in plain sight of your own cupboard: white vinegar.

Fill a cup with vinegar and put it in the top rack of the dishwasher (don’t add any soap to the dishwasher dispenser) and run the dishwasher as normal. Voila!

If you don’t have any vinegar (or the smell grosses you out), my brother swears by powdered citric acid in the dishwasher soap dispenser, and I’ve also heard of people successfully cleaning the dishwasher using Tang in the detergent dispenser.

Photo courtesy eHow.com


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