Posts Tagged ‘Maintenance’

Tune up your grill for Memorial Weekend barbecuing

May 28, 2010

If Memorial Day weekend finds you dragging your gas grill out for the first time this summer, make sure you have it party-ready in time for the dinner bell with these maintenance tips.

Clean the interior using a putty knife to scrape off burnt-on food particles inside your grill. This isn’t just aesthetic. Build-up prevents your grill from heating correctly.

To clean your grates, Weber Grill suggests putting them in a dark-colored plastic bag with a cup of ammonia into the bag. After a day in the sun, residue should easily hose off (hat tip Shelterpop).

If you have a grease drain, make sure it’s unclogged by running a coat hanger down it. Just keep your hands away from the grease bucket, because the grease will drain out fast and could burn you.

Season the grill. Use nonstick cooking spray to oil the grates, drip pans and inside of the grill. This helps keep food from sticking to the surfaces and speeds cleaning. Light the grill and let it burn empty with the lid closed for 30 minutes to burn off the preservatives.

Level the grill. If one side of your grill burns burgers while the other leaves them raw, it’s probably not level. Check both side-to-side and front-to-back.

Check for leaks by inspecting connections for tightness and hoses for cracks. Another good way to scope out leaks is by brushing non-ammonia soapy water around the fitting with an old toothbrush. Turn the gas on and watch for bubbles.

That’s all from me. Anyone else have good tips to add?

Thanks to Holland Grill for the info. Flickr photo credit: mccun934

HOW TO: remove burnt popcorn smell from your microwave

May 12, 2010

Burnt popcorn smell lingers in microwaves so badly, an office I worked in banned it from the break room. It’s notorious, but completely removable.

If your microwave harbors its own dirty Pop Secrets, try this cleaning tip we got from Frigidaire (hat tip to Sarah from our Customer Service Department):

Microwave Odor Removal

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup water
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • grated lemon peel
  • several whole cloves

Combine together in a 2-cup glass measuring cup and boil for several minutes in the microwave on full power. Allow hot mixture to sit in the microwave until cool. Wipe interior with a soft cloth.

Though this tip wasn’t specifically written for burnt popcorn, I can’t think of much else that smells up a microwave. Help me out in the comments below!

10 sneaky ways you’re wasting money in your kitchen

March 23, 2010

This is among posts I prewrote to be published in my absence while I took vacation time. I will respond to all comments when I return. Thank you!

You bought your kitchen appliances on sale. Bonus: they’re Energy Star, so you’ll save money in water and energy costs.

But did you ever think that the way you use your appliances can really affect your utility bills?

Here are 10 energy-wasting choices to avoid:

1. Making your dishwasher heat up cold water

Run hot tap water before you run your dishwasher it doesn’t have to heat up the water as long.

2. Setting your refrigerator and freezer too cold

Your fridge section should be set at 37 degrees to 40 degrees, and your freezer section should be set at 5 degrees. A deep freeze should be set at zero degrees.

3. Using an uncovered pot to boil water

Think of all the heat  — and time — lost without a cover on  a pot of heated water. Instead, a cover traps the energy in.

4. Selecting “Heat Dry” on your dishwasher

If you don’t wash a lot of plastic dishes, or lots of dishes in general, choose the “Air Dry” setting or simply prop your dishwasher door open after the rinse cycle.

5. Leaving foods uncovered in the refrigerator

Uncovered foods release moisture, causing the compressor to work harder. Instead, cover all liquids and foods.

6. Prewashing your dishes

Not only will it decrease the effectiveness of your dishwasher detergent, prewashing your dishes is unnecessary and wastes water. Just scrape off the big pieces of food.

7. Ignoring the gasket on your refrigerator

Close your refrigerator door over a piece of paper or dollar bill so it’s half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull it out easily, your door seals aren’t airtight.

Try moistening the gasket with a thin layer of Vaseline, which should create a better seal. If that doesn’t do the trick, you might need to replace the gasket altogether.

8. Cooking with dirty burners and drip pans

Clean burners and drip pans will reflect the heat better, cooking your food faster and saving you energy.

9. Placing small pans on bigger burners

Match pans to the size of the element. Otherwise, you’re using energy to heat a bigger burner only to let it escape around the sides of the smaller pot or pan.

10. Barely stocking your refrigerator

It seems backwards, but a full refrigerator holds temperature better than a poorly stocked refrigerator. Just don’t pack food so tight as to block the airflow.

HOW TO: clean and season a griddle

February 5, 2010

If this were my griddle, the pancakes would be bacon.

I blogged yesterday about my trip to the Roth Distributing Minneapolis Showroom’s Culinary Center.

There, I got my first taste — pardon the pun — of Wolf cooking and loved it. I especially liked the built-in griddle feature.

I don’t eat a lot of pancakes, probably because they always turn out like Oreos in a pan (dark and crispy on the outside, white and creamy on the inside). The pancakes we made on this griddle were dummy-proof.

I wish I would’ve taken my own picture of Roth’s griddle because it was so expertly seasoned. Apparently, some Wolf owners start to freak out a little when their griddle starts turning more brown than silver.

Well don’t freak out. That’s what it’s supposed to look like.

Here’s how to season the griddle:

You want to season the griddle before ever using it. Pour 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil or peanut oil (not olive oil!) per 11 inches in the center. Spread the oil with a dry paper towel.

Turn the griddle on to 350 degrees and heat the oil until it begins to smoke. Then turn off the heat, wait until the griddle is cool enough to touch and wipe the excess oil off with a paper towel.

Repeat.

Now, to clean the griddle, pour sparkling water (we used Perrier — when in Rome, right?) on it while it’s hot. Excess oil and food scraps will bubble up and off.  Use a metal spatula to scrape everything into the grease collector.

Once the griddle’s clean, pour a teaspoon of vegetable oil or peanut oil on the surface and spread it with another dry paper towel to reseason it.

Photo credit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/crystalflickr/ / CC BY 2.0

Garbage disposal HOW TO – Sharpen the blades

January 20, 2010

Knives aren't the only kitchen tool worth sharpening.

Just like your kitchen knives, your garbage disposal blades can dull over time from use.

(Especially if you’re like me and play a home version of “Will It Blend?” on your Insinkerator.)

To sharpen the blades, combine table salt and coarse cleanser (we like Bar Keeper’s Friend), shove the mixture down past the baffle (yes, that rubber ruffle-y thing has a name!) and run the disposal without any water. When that’s finished, run water with the disposal like normal and rinse away the residue.

The coarse mixture should sharpen your blades. Another tip: Always run cold, not warm, water when running your disposal. Cold water hardens greasy substances, which makes them easier to grind, and keeps grease from sticking to the drain lines.

Check out my other appliance maintenance-related blog posts.

Refrigerator seal & fridge maintenance

January 13, 2010

Want more? Subscribe to get tips & tricks in your inbox

Some people spend as much money on a kitchen as they do a car, yet expect to do no maintenance.

Would you be surprised if your truck engine overheated if you never changed the oil or refilled the coolant? Most also expect to rotate and replace tires and wiper blades.

You might not have spent 13 grand-something on a fridge, but I’m sure you plunked down a good amount. Here are some maintenance tips to help get your return on that investment. See my previous post,  “Ice maker troubleshooting.”

Moisten your gasket

Gasket, seal, "rubber thing" -- whatever you call it, keep it moistened. (Image courtesy Charles & Hudson)

A small amount of condensation on the fridge or freezer is normal, especially during humid weather and summer vacation, if you have kids who don’t know how to keep the refrigerator doors shut.

If you see more condensation than normal, check the seal (or gasket as we appliance nerds call it) for any obstructions and clear them. If there aren’t any, try moistening the gasket with Vaseline. Seriously, it works. If you don’t have any petroleum jelly, I’ve used Neosporin in a pinch (What won’t that stuff do, honestly?).

After applying a thin layer of Vaseline, organize your fridge. It doesn’t have anything to do with the seal, per se, but it will help you find what you need faster, meaning the door won’t be open as long. If Warners’ Stellian installed your fridge, we leveled it to tilt slightly back to encourage the doors to swing shut.

If someone else installed your fridge, consider leveling it in a similar way.

To raise the front of the cabinet, use the front roller leveling screws. To lower the back of the cabinet, use the rear roller leveling screws, if available, on your model.

Clean your coils

New refrigerators have self-cleaning condensers. But if you have an old fridge, you might still have coils that need to be cleaned once or twice a year. Some fancy vacuum cleaners have attachments to suit this purpose. But otherwise, you’ll have to get a coil brush from an appliance parts store.

(If you find yourself driving to an appliance parts store to buy a coil brush, make a detour and buy a new fridge instead because yours is pretty darn old. The energy grid will thank you.)

To clean the coils, remove the base grille and use the brush or vacuum attachment to clean it, the open areas behind the grille, and the front surface area of the condenser.

If you have pets or hairy, shedding family members, take care that the area around the refrigerator stays clear to ensure proper heat exhaust. Otherwise, that thing will be running all the time.

Change the water filter

If you have a water dispenser, you likely have a water filter. Replace it every six months or take direction from your indicator light, if you have one. Or, if odor and odd taste don’t cramp your style, stretch the life of it. But seriously, beyond water quality, an old water filter can cause sediment to build up and cause problems.

There are probably seven different types of water filters. Yours is either is the top back corner of the interior, down in the kick plate, or along the top interior of the fridge. ALWAYS bring your filter into the store when you’re replacing it because we don’t necessarily know the type a filter goes with a model number we looked up in your order from two years ago. We can guess, but it’s still a guess.

After replacing the filter, flush the air from the water system (see how to purge air from the water system animation – though 4 gallons seems like overkill) to prevent dripping from the dispenser.

Defrost your freezer?

Your freezer is probably “frost-free,” meaning it defrosts itself. You may have purchased an all-freezer unit that is manual defrost for storing foods long-term, but that’s another blog post (or e-mail me).

Just take care to clean your fridge and freezer every month.

Your turn: What did I miss?

Share your tips in the comments.

Cleaning oven glass

December 9, 2009

Noticed some streaks and stains on the inner oven glass that weren’t there before?

(fig. 1)

Hold up! Step back from your Jump To Conclusions mat — it’s not a bad seal.

Several vents (highlighted in fig. 1) open directly into the inner door to vent the hot air away from the glass. And because of their proximity to the stove top and its mess, people often spray cleaner near the vents that sneaks inside the door and drips down, causing streaks and stains.

What to do?

Our smart and helpful customer service rep Amy cautions you against pulling the door apart yourself.

Officially, if it bothers you enough, pay a service company to clean it — otherwise you’ll void the warranty, she said. Unfortunately, this aesthetic nuisance falls outside of warranty coverage because the customer did it herself.

Anatomy of an oven door

But if your range is older than 10 years — and in some cases, five years — warranty is no longer a concern.

So, unofficially, you can check out this HOW TOs on espares.com and find more on fixya.com — at your own risk.

Don’t get all “Red Green” inspired and duct tape the vents, like one customer informed Amy he’d being doing. That hot air needs to go somewhere.

A better way to prevent stains between the glass is to not spray near the vents. Better yet, spray cleaners directly onto the rag, rather than the range.

Dishwasher troubleshooting: Dishes not clean

November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving means two things: lots of food and lots of dirty dishes. And more dirt requires more soap, right?

WRONG.

Despite what you might think, too much soap can actually prevent your dishes from getting clean — especially on the top rack.

You should only use about half the amount of detergent recommended on the package. And if you have a water softener, you need only 1-2 teaspoons of powder — even less if you use liquid.

I think these people may have used too much detergent.

Too much soap can cause over-sudsing. Our customer service representative Maghan explained to me that the dishwasher tries to drain as much of the soap suds and food residue as it can. But when too much soap is used and it produces  so many suds, the dishwasher can’t drain it all in the time allowed.

So instead of draining, the soap bubbles pop inside, redepositing tiny food particles back onto the dishes, which show up most on glassware and silverware.

How do you know if you’re over-sudsing? Run a cycle without any soap. If suds are left at the bottom of the tub, you’re over-sudsing.

To remedy, we suggest a “vinegar cycle”:

  • Empty any dishes and shut soap door, without adding any detergent
  • Run dishwasher until it gets to the wash cycle
  • Open the door and check if the dispenser flap has opened
    • If it hasn’t, run for another minute or so until the flap opens
    • If the flap has opened, add the 1 cup vinegar and run through the full cycle.

You might have to repeat the process two or three times to ensure you’ve eliminated the build up of soap. Maghan also suggests trying a dishwasher cleaner like Glisten or Dishwasher Magic.

And I’ve said it again but I will continue to harp on about using rinse aid. It’s not just for looks, people! Maghan reminds us dishwashers today come designed to use rinse aid to help dry, as they lack a built-in fan.

So remember: gorge on turkey, just go easy on the soap, OK?

Photo credit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/flexsleuthor/ / CC BY 2.0

Cleaning your washer – 3 tips on how to clean a smelly washer

October 28, 2009

frigaffinityFront-load washers earned the reputation for being high-efficiency, eco-friendly machines with outstanding cleaning power … that smell bad. (My sister/salesperson Angela Warner actually talked to WCCO-4 about the problem with smelly washers about a year ago.)

So why do front-load washing machines sometimes smell? For many of the reasons that they’re generally better machines, ironically enough.

High-efficiency washers use MUCH less water, so more residue and detergent can be left behind after the cycle. Both front- and top-load washers that are high-efficiency can suffer from this, but high-efficiency top-load washing machines are less common.

Constant cold water cycles can also contribute to the stink, as they don’t always fully dissolve dirt and grease from the interior of the wash tub. Also, the tightly sealed door, left closed after a wash cycle, might not dry completely, which leads to the growth of odor-causing bacteria (Think: when you leave wet clothes in the washer for too long).

Luckily, the solution is as easy as 1-2-3. I know it’s cheesy, but if you remember these three easy steps, yo nose will be in the clear.

1. Keep the gasket dry

The crevasses of your washing machine gasket, which is the rubber seal that runs the perimeter of the door and opening, is a favorite place for moisture and residue to hang out. Keep a rag handy to quickly wipe this area dry after you’re done with laundry for the day.

2. Keep the washer door open

After you wipe down the gasket, fight the urge to shut the door. Don’t you hang a wet beach towel out to dry? Same thinking. Let the washer air out so there’s no opportunity for the mildewy smell to develop.

3. Use a washer cleaner

Use a cleaner formulated specifically for the interior of the machine, such as Affresh, once a month to prevent odor. And if your washer already smells, you should use Affresh three times to get back on track. Read more about how Affresh works.

These steps have become second nature for us in using our front-load laundry pair. And it’s worth it for the money savings in utility costs, the huge capacity and the superior cleaning. Are any of you still struggling with this? If not, what worked for you?

Dishwasher troubleshooting: Dishes not drying

October 21, 2009

So you go to take your dishes out of the dishwasher and they’re completely wet. Sound familiar?

howtodrydishes

If your dishwasher has a stainless steel tub, you probably need rinse aid. Sure, your dishwasher could be the best, highest-efficiency model. It still needs rinse aid. Rinse aid helps dry dishes by reducing water droplet formation. (Note: If you have a plastic tub and your dishes aren’t drying, you might need a service call on the heating element.)

If you’ve added rinse aid to your dishwasher and your dishes still come out wet, check if you’re washing a lot of plastic dishes. Sometimes these can exacerbate the problem. Have you ever noticed that plastic dishes often come out with droplets of water while all your glass and porcelain dishes are completely dry? That’s because plastic does not hold heat the same way regular dishes do.

Why does that matter? It throws the dishwasher off its drying mojo. Here’s how the dishwasher drying process works:  The final rinse water reaches a very high temperature (at least 157 degrees on European models) — and the final rinse temperature is really important to the drying process. By now, the dishes ideally hold a lot of heat. But the stainless steel tub (hopefully you purchased a model with a SS tub) is a cooler surface, so the moisture collects on the tub and condensation naturally occurs.

Other things that throw the dishwasher off its drying mojo:

  1. Washing all the dishes before you load them. Scrape off large food pieces, but just say no to washing your dishes before you wash them! If the dishes are clean, your smart dishwasher cuts the wash time down. If this happens, the dishwasher may not have time to get hot enough. The water is heated to more than 40 degrees higher than the hot water being piped in. There are other reasons to not wash your dishes before you wash them, but I’ll save those for another post…
  2. You’re using the light or quick wash cycles for everyday stuff. It won’t usually wash or dry as well.
  3. You’re not using rinse aid (shame on you). Rinse aid is a key element in drying and it will keep everything sparkling as well.

So retire that dishtowel, OK?

Photo credit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/weelakeo/ / CC BY 2.0

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 88 other followers