Cleaning · Cooktops · FAQ · HOW TO · Ranges

Stove drip pans cleaning tips

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!

Cleaning · Dishwashers · FAQ · HOW TO

HOW TO: clean a dishwasher

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

Cleaning · Dishwashers · FAQ · HOW TO

HOW TO: Troubleshoot (almost) any dishwasher problems

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.

Cleaning · cooking · FAQ · HOW TO · Ranges

Gas stove troubleshooting: Stove won’t light

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.

Cleaning · Energy Efficiency · Refrigerator

Beware of pet hair in your kitchen

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.

Appliance Design · customer service · Energy Efficiency · FAQ · Refrigerator

Loud refrigerator? We hear ya

Image: maxabout.com

If you’ve replaced your refrigerator within the last several years, your shiny new model might be making its presence known in noisier way.

Why?

For one, foam insulation — often used to make these appliances more energy-efficient — lacks the sound-baffling capabilities of fiberglass insulation incorporated into previous energy hogs.

Here’s some other “normal” sounds to expect, along with their abnormal counterparts:

Evaporator coil

A boiling, surging or gurgling sound as the compressor starts and stops. Also, a pop as the evaporator expands and contracts after defrosting.

Evaporator fan

The sound of air being forced through the unit is normal, but a continuous ticking or even intermittent squealing is abnormal.

Defrost heater

Sizzling or hissing sound from water dropping onto the heater during defrost cycle

Compressor

Newer fridges’ compressors are much more efficient and run much faster, giving off a high-pitched hum, whine or pulse. But watch out for clicking during start up (especially if the lights dim), banging or knocking during start or stop, a ping or snap followed by the compressor stopping.

Cold control and defrost timer

A snapping or ticking sound as the refrigerator turns on and off

Plastic liner

Cracking or popping as the temperatures change

Drain pan

Running water during or after the defrost cycle

Water valve

Buzzing, clicking or running water as the icemaker fills or water is dispensed

Icemaker

Cracking of ice and cubes dropping into the bin

Condenser fan

Air being forced over the condenser is normal, but squealing from the motor is abnormal.

Condenser

You should hear a surging or gurgling sound from the flow of refrigerant when the compressor runs, but an improperly placed drain pan could cause rattling.

If the normal sounds bother you, consider a piece of rubber-backed carpet for underneath the fridge. You could even put sound absorbing materials inside the cabinet if the refrigerator sits in an enclosure.

Cleaning · grilling · HOW TO

Tune up your grill for Memorial Weekend barbecuing

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