Cleaning · Dryer · HOW TO

Before you get dryer repair…

If you’re dryer’s not drying, troubleshoot your vent before calling for dryer service. Especially if you’re running your dryer twice to get clothes dry.

If your dryer’s vent system is clogged, moist air won’t exhaust as well and it will take longer for your clothes to dry.

Here’s how to test your vent to see if it’s clogged:

  1. Run your dryer for at least 5 minutes
  2. Find your exhaust hood on the exterior of your home. It will look like one of these


Use your hand to feel for air movement. If it’s less than a hair dryer on high speed, clean the lint from the entire length of the system and exhaust hood. (This should be done about every two years, anyway).

grilling · HOW TO

Have you hung up your grilling tools yet?

My favorite 2011 grilling momentwas doughnuts with my aunt Carla Warner for "Twin Cities Live" reporter Emily Engberg.

Right now in Minnesota, we’re experiencing quite the Indian summer — which is awesome considering 2011 cheated us on spring.

So maybe you’re still grilling.

(Select hardy Minnesotans enjoy firing up their Big Green Eggs in the winter, God bless them.)

Or maybe the beautiful weather simply makes your fall chores more enjoyable.

One of my fall chores this weekend is retiring my gas grill.

Our King of the BBQ Stu Glock helped me out last fall with proper storage tips, including NOT storing the LP tank in the garage.

>> You can see all of Stu’s winter grill storage tips here

Cleaning · HOW TO · Refrigerator

How to clean stainless appliances without a stainless steel cleaner

(Disclaimer: Just because I know how to clean stainless steel appliances, doesn’t mean I actually do it.)

If you have stainless steel refrigerator like I do (and especially if you have kids), chances are, that refrigerator looks like this:

Cleaning stainless steel appliances is not like cleaning other surfaces, because it’s easy to leave behind streaks from the actual cleaning process itself.

We sell a really good cleaner for stainless steel appliances called Citrushine. I used to use it all the time when I worked at the stores (if you think your kitchen is bad, imagine how much our appliances get touched!).

But sometimes company is coming over — which is about the only time I’ll polish my stainless steel — and you don’t have time to run to the store.

Try baby oil.
Apply with an old towel or rag in small doses so you don’t end up with a greasy refrigerator and wipe with the grain for the shiniest finish.

FAQ · Freezer · HOW TO

HOW TO: defrost a freezer in 10 easy steps

I think it might be time to defrost...

Most refrigerator-freezers and many standalone freezers feature automatic defrost, but for long-term food storage, manual defrost freezers can be the best option.

So when the ice crystals lining the walls of your manual defrost freezer stacks ¼- to ½- inch, it’s time to defrost.

Don’t lose your cool. It’s easier than you think, using these 10 steps adapted from Frigidaire:

1. Unplug your freezer. This keeps you from being electrocuted.

2. Open the freezer door and keep it open throughout the process.

3. Remove food into a cooler

4. On upright freezers with a defrost drain, remove the drain plug on the inside floor
of the freezer by pulling straight out. To access external drain tube on models with a
base panel, first remove the two screws from the base panel. Locate the drain tube
near the left center under the freezer. Place a shallow pan under the drain tube. Defrost
water will drain out. Check pan occasionally so water does not overflow. A ½ inch
garden hose adapter can be used to drain the freezer directly into a floor drain. If your
model is not equipped with an adapter, one can be purchased at most hardware
stores. Replace the drain plug when defrosting and cleaning are completed. If the
drain is left open, warm air may enter freezer.

5. On chest freezers with a defrost drain, place a shallow pan or the Divider/Drain Pan
(some models) beneath the drain outlet (Figure 2). A ½ inch garden hose adapter can
be used to drain the freezer directly into a floor drain (Figure 3). If your model is not
equipped with an adapter, one can be purchased at most hardware stores. Pull out
the drain plug inside the freezer, and pull off the outside defrost drain plug (Figure 4).
Defrost water will drain out. Check pan occasionally so water does not overflow.
Replace the drain plugs when defrosting is completed.

***If you don’t have a defrost drain, line the freezer bottom with towels to catch
the frost. The frost will loosen and fall. Remove towels and/or newspapers.

6. If the frost is soft, remove it by using a plastic scraper (or if you’re a cheap & hardy Minnesotan like me, an old CD).
7. If the frost is hard, fill deep pans with hot water and place them on the freezer bottom. Close the freezer door. Frost should soften in about 15 minutes, after which you can refer to No. 6. Repeat if necessary.

8. After defrosting, wash inside surfaces and removable parts of the freezer with a solution of two tablespoons of baking soda in one quart warm water. Rinse and dry. Wring excess water
out of the sponge or cloth when cleaning in the area of the controls, or any electrical parts.
Never use metallic scouring pads, brushes, abrasive cleaners, nor alkaline solutions on any surface.

9. Replace drain plug and food.

10. Close freezer door.

Air conditioning · Cleaning · Refrigerator

Save your fridge from the heat – clean your coils

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

Cleaning · Ranges

The last kitchen cleaner you’ll ever buy

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.

Cleaning · FAQ · HOW TO · Washer

Washing machine smells? Stop shutting the door

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.