Category: Kitchen


Genius! The In-a-Pinch Vegetable Peeler

If your space is full of bulky gadgets that you almost never use, declutter by DIYing a simple, smaller version of this meal prep must-have.

diy-vegetable-peeler-1

Photo: instructables.com

Single-use kitchen gadgets—garlic presses, juicers, and vegetable peelers—all do their jobs exceedingly well, but even a small collection quickly clutters drawers, counters, and cabinets. Each additional helper eats up space, especially if you’re not using them for a month or more at a time. Still, the guilt of trashing tools you’ve spent good money on keeps them around. For zero regrets and a decluttered kitchen, donate your underused gadgets today, then follow the lead of DIY-er ShakeTheFuture to craft this disposable (and totally free!) vegetable peeler.

His process, which he demoed for the camera, is simple: Start with a clean soda can. Wiggle the tab back and forth until it falls off, and then lop off the top with scissors or a can opener. Once the metal flap is removed and the thin rim bent, the inside edge of the hole (once used for drinking) can be used for quick, angled cuts—perfect for skinning potatoes, carrots, apples, and more.

Even though the peeler is free to make, you don’t have to be broke to see the beauty in this simple DIY. Minimalists will approve of the peeler’s stainless steel design and slim profile, and campers will love whipping up dinner with a convenience that’s normally reserved for home-cooked meals. At about 1/3 the size of traditional peelers, it saves space in a storage-starved kitchen without sacrificing functionality—an a-peel-ing idea for every renter or homeowner. And if your DIY peeler is so small that you’re afraid you’ll lose it, go ahead and toss it after dinner! You can remake it in minutes with a clean soda can and a pair of scissors.

FOR MORE: Instructables

diy-vegetable-peeler

Photo: instructables.com


The Dos and Don’ts of Painting Laminate Cabinets

Prime your laminate cabinets for the perfect paint job with these tips for surface preparation, paint selection, and application.

Painting Laminate Cabinets - Kitchen Paint Job

Photo: fotosearch.com

Short of committing to a more costly replacement of outdated laminate cabinets, repainting them is an affordable way to turn the eyesore into eye-catching, modern cabinetry. But while you may be well-versed in painting most any old wood furnishings, from side tables to pantry doors, laminate is another beast altogether. Not nearly as porous as its wooden lookalike, this type of surface requires unique preparation, paint, and paint application. Follow these best practices to reinvigorate your laminate cabinetry with a fresh face that lasts!

DON’T PAINT OVER DAMAGED LAMINATE

If laminate is cracked, warped, or peeling, that damage can interfere with the bonding of paint to the cabinet. Ensure that the laminate is in good condition by repairing minor laminate damage or re-facing cabinets before applying paint.

 

DO REMOVE CABINET HARDWARE

Remove knobs, pulls, and other visible cabinet hardware before painting for smooth paint application without obstructions. You can mask metal on the hinges with painter’s tape and paint the doors in place, or, if the hinges are visible and removable, take the doors down from the cabinets and paint them separately on a work bench or sawhorse.

Painting Laminate Cabinets - White Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs home in New York, NY

DON’T LEAVE DIRT AND GRIT BEHIND

It may be tempting to eyeball your cabinets and decide that any dirt is minimal enough to conceal with a paint job, but your dirty secret will get out when the color fails to adhere well to the laminate. Before you start any painting, gently wipe away settled-on grime and grease using trisodium phosphate. Then, rinse with fresh water and dry the cabinets completely.

 

DO SAND THE CABINETS

To create a strong bond between the paint and your cabinet, you’ll need to roughen up the slick laminate with the help of a gritty companion: sandpaper. (For better coverage of a large surface area, consider upgrading to a motorized orbital sander. Your upper body will thank you.) Thoroughly scuff the surfaces of the cabinet with 120-grit sandpaper—enough to get a dusting, but not so much that you tear through the paper-thin laminate surface—and clean up any dusty remains with a handheld vacuum and a damp cloth.

 

DON’T USE ANY OLD PRIMER AND PAINT

Laminate doesn’t play well with all primers and paints, only those specially formulated to adhere to its picky surface. If you opt for a primer, choose a bonding primer tenacious enough to stick to laminate, and then top it with an oil- or latex-based paint after the primer has cured. If you select a paint that can be applied directly over laminate, you can skip the primer—just know that this qualification may limit your color choices (or, at the very least, rule out using paint leftover from another household project).

Painting Laminate Cabinets - Green Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Altanta, GA

DO PUT YOUR PAINT TO THE TEST

Paint in hand, you’re almost ready to get to work. But first, double-check that your stock is well suited for the job. Testing its bonding capabilities before diving into an entire paint job could save you from a case of peeling paint down the road—and the need to redo hours of work. Apply your paint to a small, inconspicuous area of the cabinet (like the back of one you hardly ever open), let it cure, then inspect the bonding. If you spot some bubbles in the coat, that means it is not adhering well; consult a paint dealer at your hardware store to pinpoint a more suitable paint for the job.

 

DON’T LEAVE BRUSH STROKES BEHIND

If  your first-choice paint applicator for the traditionally flat surface of laminate cabinets is a brush, take a moment to reconsider. These popular paint tools tend to leave an unsightly trail of brush strokes in their wake. Opt instead for a roller, sprayer, or a paint pad for a streak-free finish.

 

DO MINIMIZE YOUR EXPOSURE TO FUMES

Due to the powerful fumes released from the primer and paint (and your close proximity to them during a cabinet repaint), station a respirator in the room for increased ventilation, and keep children and pets out of the room. Lastly, pull on a pair of chemical-resistant work gloves before you go off to paint the town—or, perhaps in this case, cabinets—red!


7 Smart Tips for Saving Big Money on Major Appliances

If you’re in the market for a major home appliance this year, strategize to save with these secrets for savvy shopping.

Discount Appliances - Ovens and Stovetops at the Store

Photo: fotosearch.com

If your New Year’s resolutions include remodeling a room or two, while you’re at it you should consider replacing any outdated appliances you still have hanging around. Yes, even on a budget you can spruce up your kitchen or laundry room with these investment pieces—and for just a fraction of the retail cost. The key to finding great deals is to think outside the “big box.” Don’t settle for full retail rates when you can score big savings by seeking out strategic shopping alternatives, from online e-tailers to secondhand sellers. Once you know when and where to look, you can get a real deal on all your major appliance purchases.

Discount Appliances - New Refrigerator

Photo: fotosearch.com

Time It Right for Retail Bargains

September and October are the best months to buy most major appliances, as these are the months when manufacturers unveil the latest models. Even January is a good time for savings, though; while the selection may be limited, the prices on last year’s models will be significantly lower.

Ask About Floor Models, Returns, and Discontinued Items

Retailers will often discount a floor model by as much as 15 percent, even if it hasn’t been damaged in any way. If the model has been discontinued or sustained damage, however, you could see the savings increase by as much as 20 to 30 percent. If the damage is significant, or if the product has been used or returned, expect as much as 40 to 50 percent off the price of the appliance.

Negotiate with Competitors’ Coupons and Price-Match Guarantees

As the saying goes, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Some retailers match competitors’ coupons or advertised prices, so it’s important to do your homework before you shop and make sure you have the published prices on hand as evidence. If you can’t negotiate a lower price, perhaps you can score some perks with free delivery and installation—it never hurts to ask.

Don’t Overlook Mom-and-Pop Shops

Local independent businesses don’t have as much overhead cost as big-box stores, so the savings may be passed on to you, the consumer. Shoppers often overlook these small retailers when it comes to large appliance purchases, but consider the perks: Smaller businesses are often more customer service-oriented, so they may place an emphasis on individualized attention both during and after the sale, especially when it comes to installation and future repairs.

Survey the Online Market

These days, manufacturers and retailers offer the same products online as they do in their showrooms, making online shopping for large appliances increasingly popular and stress-free. Online shopping offers yet another advantage: Although supply is necessarily limited at brick-and-mortar stores, great deals and selection can be found year-round on those same stores’ websites.

To make things even easier, aggregate sites like Bizrate, mySimon, and PriceGrabber search the Internet for the appliances you want using their own large databases and then provide a list of the most competitive prices. (PriceGrabber even includes shipping costs in its results!) Should you find a favorite appliance just outside your budget, you can set alerts on a few of these product search engines to notify you of a price drop.

Cash In On Craigslist

Once you get over the stigma of buying things secondhand on Craigslist, you can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars on major appliances. Even more open-minded? Browse white appliances, too, rather than restricting your search to “stainless steel finish.” The online marketplace is saturated with appliances that have white finishes, because people often replace good-quality appliances in an effort to “upgrade” to stainless steel for purely aesthetic reasons. That translates to more options at competitive prices. Who knows? A white appliance covered in panels of faux stainless steel contact paper may be the budget-friendly alternative of your dreams.

Don’t Discount Scratch-and-Dent Specialists

Pay a visit to your local scratch-and-dent appliance store, which stocks never-been-used appliances that have been dinged on the sales floor. Your big-box store might have a corner devoted to damaged pieces; otherwise, a quick search on Google should turn up the specialty scratch-and-dent store nearest you. But don’t discount (pun intended) the amazing savings you can find from online scratch-and-dent specialists, such as DesignerHomeSurplus.com.

While no one wants a range or refrigerator with a huge gouge down the front, you may not mind a little imperfection in your laundry room. Considering the fact that many of the scratches are cosmetic, a touch-up with a little appliance paint might be all that’s needed to get the machine looking new again. With a little elbow grease and some ingenuity, you can avoid shelling out megabucks for these major investment purchases.


The Do’s and Don’ts of Open Shelving

Before you opt for open shelving, consider these best practices for installation, upkeep, and styling that will help you make the most of this popular trend in kitchen design.

Open Shelving Kitchen - Modern Style

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Lake Oswego, OR

Open shelving provides a unique opportunity to showcase your dishware (and your personality) in the kitchen. You might believe that the storage and organization options it offers are as wide open as the shelves themselves—but the wrong move here could turn your rosy design dream into an unattractive, cluttered mess. Whether your kitchen already features open shelving or you’re considering a cabinet makeover, adhere to these best practices to make optimal use of your shelves.

Open Shelving Kitchen - Storing a Ceramic Collection

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Bridgehampton, NY

DON’T Start Full

Just as you wouldn’t start a meal on a full stomach, don’t start out by just rearranging shelved items or styling shelves that are already fully stocked. Clear off your work space by first removing all your possessions from the shelves. Once you have a clean slate, you’ll be able to implement a fresh, well-devised organizational scheme and refine the aesthetics of your shelf arrangement.

 

DO Secure Heavy Ceramics

If you intend to load up your open shelves with your entire ceramic dish collection, secure the shelves with wall anchors to create the sturdiest foundation possible. Then, assemble your pieces into bottom-heavy arrangements, keeping the biggest ceramics on the lowest shelves and limiting stacks to eight or fewer pieces.

 

DON’T Set Yourself Up with Unreachable Arrangements

Now that you’ve removed the barriers that your cabinet doors imposed, all your kitchenware will seem more accessible. Don’t, however, let this apparent convenience tempt you to stow must-have necessities like frequently used dishes, everyday Corningware, and your spice collection on higher shelves. Instead, continue to place these essentials within arm’s reach, and reserve the higher shelves for decorative pieces and seldom-used dishes.

 

DO Install a Range Hood

Think about the last time you opened a cabinet and the door or knob felt sticky to the touch. Grease, cooking fumes, and condensation from the stove are often deposited on kitchen surfaces. Without the protection of a wooden or glass door, open shelves can leave their contents vulnerable to stubborn n grimy buildup. Consider installing a range hood to siphon off unwanted heat, smoke, odors, and airborne grease before these particles end up on your possessions.

 

DON’T Always Shelve Your Glass

Especially if you live in an earthquake-prone area, refrain from resting glassware on floating shelves—particularly at the upper reaches where these pieces are apt to come to an earth-shattering end. Consider instead lodging them in whatever closed cabinet spaces you have left, or aboard a wheeled bar cart. To further disaster-proof your shelving, install shelves with a lip at the edge to keep any objects in motion from sliding—and falling—out.

 

DO Employ Variety

In your closed cabinetry, you may have grouped together similar cookware, glasses, and spices, but with open shelving it’s important not to forget that crucial spice of life: variety. Now that your storage contributes as much to the appearance of your kitchen as its function, create visual distinction on the shelves by mixing and matching different sizes and shapes of dishware, and throwing in the occasional splash of color or decor.

 

DON’T Forget to Bust Dust Early and Often

Critics of open shelving often cite these surfaces’ tendency to accumulate dust as their major downfall. But if you regularly cycle through your most-used dishware, you can ensure that your cookware will never sit long enough for the dust to settle. Wipe down the shelves themselves frequently to ensure that unwelcome dirt bites the dust.

 

DO Try It First

Before taking the plunge on an open shelving arrangement, give it a test run by temporarily removing existing cabinet doors. This is a great, no-cost change that provides a window into how your new shelves will look. If you don’t like the appearance—or if you learn that you just can’t keep your shelves organized enough for the new style—you can easily revert by putting the doors back on their hinges.

Open Shelving Kitchen - Remove Cabinet Doors

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Seattle, WA


3 Fixes for a Grimy Sponge

If your sponges are living a life of grime, get them squeaky clean again using one of these fast and functional approaches.

How to Clean a Sponge - Three Ways

Photo: fotosearch.com

It’s often said that we tend to neglect those nearest to us, and this is especially true of our closest cleaning confidant: the sponge. This porous powerhouse stays by our side during life’s messiest, murkiest hours—mopping up tough grit and slippery spills in the kitchen—all the while accumulating its own fair share of germy filth. Fortunately, you can restore a sullied sponge to its former glory with three techniques that banish bacteria, keeping your right-hand cleaning buddy safe and sanitized.

 

1. ZAP IT CLEAN 

How to Clean a Sponge - Microwave a Sponge

Photo: fotosearch.com

If the relationship between your sponges and the microwave is usually limited to an afternoon spent scrubbing away stubborn food debris, it’s time to turn the tables and make that countertop oven the cleaning hero. The microwave’s superpower lies in its high-temp capabilities, which enable it to use heat to destroy or inactivate most malicious bacteria, viruses, and spores hiding in your sponges.

Rescue any nonmetallic sponge from the toxic turf of the kitchen counter—where it may have been exposed to raw meat, eggs, vegetables, and more—and moisten it with a half cup of water. Place the sponge in the microwave and nuke it on high for two minutes to zap germs and kill bacteria. Allow the steaming-hot sponge to cool completely before removing and reusing.

 

2. SOAK IT UP

How to clean a sponge - With Bleach

Photo: fotosearch.com

Long heralded for its stain-removing prowess in the laundry room, bleach can also act as the surprising standout for getting your sponges squeaky clean. Among its many talents, bleach can eradicate 99.9 percent of the harmful pathogens that often rear their head in the kitchen and on your trusty scrubber—namely salmonella, E. coli, and pseudomonas.

To help this germ destroyer go to battle with the bacteria in your sponge, combine three-quarters of a cup of bleach with one gallon of water in a bowl or bucket. Let the sponge soak in this bath for approximately five minutes. Remove the sponge from the bleach solution, and wring it out to reveal your old, trusted cleaning companion, but now sporting a fresh new look.

 

3. DISH IT OUT

How to Clean a Sponge - In The Dishwasher

Photo: fotosearch.com

Even if your dishwasher is already crammed with everything but the kitchen sink, aim to squeeze that dirty sponge into your next load. The high heat and vigorous spray of the dishwasher pack a double whammy, deodorizing and disinfecting your sponge by destroying any stealthy bacteria that may have taken up residence in its walls.

To leave all those germs behind, place the scrubber in the dishwasher and set it to the hottest wash cycle and a heated dry. When the timer sounds, you’ll find your slob of a sponge transformed into one very hygienic housemate—and you’ll be armed with three techniques to keep it that way in the future!


Bob Vila Radio: Cabinets or Shelves in the Kitchen?

One of the biggest developing trends in kitchen design, open shelving provides a lighter, more streamlined look than traditional cabinetry. But is it the right choice for your kitchen? Here a few things to consider.

These days, a lot of homeowners are trading kitchen cabinets for open shelving, and there are some great reasons why!

Open Shelving Kitchen

Photo: fotosearch.com

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First off, open shelving makes it simple to find what’s needed, something that’s especially convenient if you often host guests in your kitchen. Transitioning to open shelving also enables you to proudly display items you cherish, be it your grandmother’s china or all those cool coffee cups you’ve been collecting for years. Open shelving can make your kitchen look bigger too—never a bad thing. And if you’re on a tight budget, shelves are easier on the wallet than cabinets.

Best of all, if you’re not sure you want to make the switch, there’s an easy way to test the look. Remove the doors from your cabinets and leave them off for a few weeks. If you’re not happy, simply reinstall the doors. No harm done!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


How To: Clean Oven Window Glass

The inside of your oven may be spic and span, but for a clean kitchen and the benefit of your hardworking appliance, don't ignore the oven window. Grease-splattered though it may be, you can restore the glass to spotless condition. Here's how.

How to Clean Oven Glass

Photo: fotosearch.com

You know the story: After cooking a big meal—especially after doing so several times a week, for months—splattered grease and unidentifiable bits of stuck-on food inevitably end up clouding the glass of your oven window. There’s no harm in allowing gunk to accumulate there for a while, but sooner or later you need to clean the oven glass, not only for appearances’ sake, but also to uphold the performance and longevity of your appliance. The catch? It’s rarely easy to clean oven glass, especially if a lot of time has passed since you last made the effort. In fact, getting the glass truly spotless may be the toughest part of cleaning your oven. It can be more difficult than cleaning the oven interior, especially if you’re fortunate enough to own a model with a self-cleaning mode (which, sadly, does little to clean the glass). Even cleaning the oven racks can be much less of a chore, as there are methods of getting the job done that require relatively little exertion. In comparison with these other tasks, cleaning the oven glass is labor intensive, but it’s uncomplicated work, and you probably already own everything you need for the job.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Baking soda
- Water
- Glass bowl
- Microfiber cloth
- Handheld vacuum (optional)
- Razor blade (optional)

STEP 1

How to Clean Oven Glass - Vacuum

Photo: JNoonan

Start by preparing the oven. After making sure it’s off, open the door all the way and remove any loose bits of blackened food. As you work, pay special attention to the area where the oven glass meets the door. A handheld vacuum makes it easy to draw crumbs out of the seam here, but a moistened cloth works fine in a pinch.

 

STEP 2

How to Clean Oven Glass - Apply Paste

Photo: JNoonan

Start by mixing baking soda and water into an effective, natural cleaning agent. In a small bowl, combine one-half cup or a full cup of baking soda with just enough water to form a thick, shaving-cream-like paste. Spread the paste evenly over the oven glass, adding a bit more water for even coverage, if necessary. Let sit for at least 15 minutes.

 

STEP 3

How to Clean Oven Glass - Wipe

Photo: JNoonan

Allow the paste sufficient time to work its grime-loosening magic, then proceed to wipe the glass using a clean, moistened microfiber cloth (or any rag, really, so long as it’s fresh). Next, rinse the glass thoroughly with water. Afterward, wipe the surface dry, taking care to pick up any residual baking soda.

 

STEP 4

How to Clean Oven Glass - Razor 2

Photo: fotosearch.com

Depending on the condition of the oven door when you started, you may have one more step to tackle. If, after you’ve applied and wiped away the paste, burnt-on grease stubbornly remains, use a razor to scrape it away—gently! Finish by vacuuming up debris (or wiping it up with a cloth), then wipe the door down once more with a clean, damp cloth.

 

In extreme cases—for example, if you’re living in a rental where the oven window hasn’t been cleaned in years—a natural paste may not pack enough power. To get the job done, you may have to opt for a more potent, store-bought, and potentially toxic solution. If you go that route, be sure to follow the instructions on the product label. For me, though, the timeless combination of baking soda and water left the oven glass restored. By the time I’d finished razoring off the last chunks of gunk, the glass was so clean that I could see my reflection in it!


Weekend Projects: 5 Style-Boosting Bar Stools You Can Build

Your home bar isn’t fully stocked for the holiday season until it features one of these DIY bar stools.

Whether located indoors in the kitchen or outdoors on the patio, a home bar can be a scene of rest, relaxation, and revelry during your potlucks and cocktail parties. But if there are more drinks to go around than there are seats, your guests will spend most of the party playing a game of musical chairs. To prevent a lack of seating from hampering your hosting duties, we’ve handpicked five DIY bar stools that would elevate the ambiance of your bar—and have every guest flocking to it.

 

SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS

DIY Bar Stools - with Adjustable Height

Photo: ana-white.com

This industrious, adjustable-height stool from Ana White will feel right at home in an industrial-style kitchen or bar. Like the DIY maven, you can achieve this look by cutting and assembling rectangular scrap wood planks for the legs and cross beams, a square with angular-cut corners for the seat, and a round for the booster seat. Drill an all-thread rod from the booster seat to the cross beams to construct the adjustable-height mechanism and ensure that no order is too tall for your home bar.

 

THE THREE-PLY APPROACH

DIY Bar Stools - Built from Plywood

Photo: subtletakeover.com for abeautifulmess.com

When creating an ultra-flexible work environment for his wife, the handy husband at Subtle Takeover devised this modern, elevated stool from rustic plywood to accompany her standing desk. Cut from plywood into three pre-drilled planks for the seat, front leg, and back leg, the stool can easily be glued and screwed together. A coat of polyurethane over the finished furniture heightens its style in the refurbished workspace—though this workhorse of a stool easily transitions from the office to the bar.

 

INTO THE WOODS

DIY Bar Stools - Wooden Design

Photo: diypete.com

Nothing is better than pulling up a seat at the outdoor patio bar with this rustic all-wood stool from DIY Pete. Start by cutting your cedar lumber supply into lengths for the legs, seat, support beams, and seat back. Pete’s detailed guide to cuts at seven different lengths and exact spots for holes will walk you through each step of the weekend woodworking project. Once you finish attaching the seat boards to the support, test them out while you call up friends and family to invite them over.

 

PIPE UP

DIY Bar Stools - Built from Industrial Pipe

DIY Bar Stools - Built from Industrial Pipe

This industrial pipe stool from Love Grows Wild is the best seat at the bar—bar none. Give the idea some legs—specifically, four legs—by assembling together pipe, pipe fitting, 90-degree elbows, and caps. After adding a floor flange to the top of each leg, secure the round, wooden seat to the top of the stool. Let the seat go au naturel, or stain or paint it to make a splash long before drinks are served.

 

SPLIT PERSONALITY

DIY Bar Stools - How to Upgrade What You Already Have

Photo: remodelandolacasa.com

The blogger at Remodelando la Casa wasn’t always sitting pretty in these inviting, industrial-style stools. After observing the clash between her modern bar stools and rustic kitchen, she settled on a hybrid of the two styles. To mimic the DIYer, create the wood round from pine, poplar, and plywood boards, all glued and cut to size for a comfortable seat. Then simply spray-painted metallic base of an existing stool to marry the old world with the new, and finish off with the addition of the new tops.


3 Fixes for Tarnished Silver

‘Tis the season for breaking out your finest! Try one of these three solutions to get it nice and shiny before entertaining holiday crowds.

Homemade Silver Polish - Tarnished Silverware

Photo: fotosearch.com

There’s no place for tarnished silver on the holiday table, especially not when company is due for dinner. But if removing the tarnish so that your precious metal sparkles and shines seems more than just time-consuming, that’s because probably it can be a total pain. Clear your mind of visions of extra elbow grease and  hours spent buffing silver until it gleams. You’d be surprised: There are actually three fixes that are quick and relatively painless to pull off. Even better, you can accomplish each one using the tools and ingredients already stocked in your kitchen cabinets. With company due to arrive any minute, don’t wait another second to test one of these tricks!

 

CONDIMENT CREATIVITY

Homemade Silver Polish - with Ketchup

Photo: fotosearch.com

For silver with a bit more tarnish, the easy way to kick your cleaning routine up a notch is with an unexpected and flavorful polish. The best part? The secret ingredient you need is located right inside your fridge. Simply pull out and uncap a bottle of ketchup, then squirt a tiny amount on a paper towel. Next, gently rub the condiment along each piece of silver anywhere it appears tarnished. If it doesn’t come right off, let the ketchup sit for 15 minutes, then wipe the red away with a dishtowel and rinse your silverware clean. For pieces with intricate details (like a fancy grip), put ketchup on an old toothbrush and give it a light scrub.

 

BASIC BUBBLES

Homemade Silver Polish - with Lemon Lime Soda Water

Photo: fotosearch.com

The next time you pour yourself a glass of lemon-lime flavored soda water, make sure to set aside a second glass—with a couple drops of dishwashing soap to make the carbonated drink even more bubbly, that’s all you’ll need to give tarnished silver extra shine. Simply dunk each fork, spoon, or knife in a glass of soda water and let them soak for up to an hour. When time is up, give each piece a rinse under the sink and use a clean dishtowel to dry. Your silver will look good as new.

 

FOIL FINISH

Homemade Silver Polish - with Aluminum Foil

Photo: fotosearch.com

This last idea is pretty genius if you ask us: You’ll need aluminum foil, baking soda, and some tap water. To start, line a pan with aluminum foil and lay out the silver that needs cleaning. Separately, bring a pot of water to a boil, then take it off and add a cup of baking soda for every gallon of water. Next, pour it out over your pan of silver so all is completely covered. Several minutes later, pull it out pieces one by one with a pair of kitchen tongs so that you don’t burn your hands. The tarnish should be completely gone; if not, heat up more water and repeat the mixture.

A word of caution: Skip this baking soda–laden method when cleaning your silver-plated pieces and those adorned with gemstones. This abrasive ingredient may be too harsh, accidentally washing away oxidation that was an intended part of an intricate design—or worse—scratching away the silver plating.


5 Smart Solutions for an On-the-Fritz Fridge

A malfunctioning refrigerator isn't necessarily ready for the trash. You may not know it, but there are a number of DIY fixes you can try to troubleshoot a troublesome fridge. Read on for 5 homeowner-friendly solutions to this appliance's most common woes.

Refrigerator Troubleshooting

Photo: fotosearch.com

Holiday entertaining is getting underway, and gracious hosts everywhere are busy cleaning, shopping, decorating, crafting, and cooking up all sorts of incredible edibles for family and friends. With all that planning and hard work going into creating delicious dishes for guests, the last thing you need is a fridge on the fritz. Fortunately, most common fridge ailments are easily treatable by the handy homeowner. Armed with just a little bit of know-how and some readily available parts, you can deal with many maladies before they become dining disasters. Here are a few typical problems and some DIY solutions that can help keep your hardworking refrigerator in tip-top shape.

Refrigerator Troubleshooting - Common Problems and DIY Solutions

Photo: fotosearch.com

PROBLEM: You’ve found a puddle of water on the floor in front of or under the fridge.
SOLUTION: Tighten and replace any faulty tubing. 

Start by identifying the source of your leak. The most common troublemaker, and the first place to check, would be the water supply to the refrigerator’s ice maker and/or water dispenser. Look for the water supply shut-off valve, either in the basement or under the sink closest to the refrigerator. Once the water has been shut off, replace any cracked, worn, or brittle tubing according to the instructions that come with the part.

Alternatively, you may need to replace the water inlet valve, which is a solenoid-operated device that connects your household water supply line to your refrigerator. This valve can typically be found at the rear of the fridge, near the bottom. First, carefully inspect its supply connections for leaks, then tighten or replace the connectors; while you’re back there, check the valve body for any cracks and replace if necessary.

 

PROBLEM: Noise, noise, noise! Your fridge is making grinding and scraping sounds.
SOLUTION: Check and clean out your appliance’s fan motors, located at the condenser and evaporator.

Most modern frost-free refrigerators operate with a fan-cooled condenser coil, which is located near the compressor, at the bottom rear of the refrigerator. To investigate whether or not it’s functioning properly, first disconnect all power to the fridge and remove the rear access panel. Look for any obstructions or debris that could be preventing the fan from moving freely. If any fan blades are physically damaged, or if the motor shows visible wear, these components will need to be replaced. Also, check the rubber mounting grommets for signs of wear, and replace if necessary.

If the noise seems to be coming from the freezer, however, the evaporator fan motor may be the one to blame. Located in the freezer compartment, this motor pulls air over the evaporator coils when the compressor is running. Again, disconnect all power to the fridge and remove the evaporator fan cover from the freezer. As with the condenser fan, if any of the fan blades are loose or damaged, or if the motor shaft doesn’t turn freely, these parts will need to be replaced. Also, check the evaporator fan motor grommet, which isolates the motor from the mounting bracket; regular wear and tear can cause the grommet to detach, leading to increased vibration and noise.

 

PROBLEM: The fridge cycles on and off more frequently—or, worse, it won’t start at all anymore.
SOLUTION: Dust out your fridge’s coils.

Frequent cycling often indicates dirty condenser coils and dirty fan blades. Especially if you share a house with animals, dust, debris, and fur can accumulate along the condenser fan blades and on the coils. In extreme cases, this condition will trip an overload relay and prevent the fridge from turning on at all. But the fix is an easy one: Turn off the power to the unit, and remove the rear access panel. Carefully vacuum the coils, fan blades, and motor with the brush attachment of your vacuum. To help prevent future dust buildup, cut a section of lightweight filter material—or, in a pinch, stretch a piece of old pantyhose—and fit it inside the vent panel beneath the door to trap debris before it reaches the coils.

 

PROBLEM: You’re constructing a mini glacier inside your freezer.
SOLUTION: Seal up any gaps.

Ice and moisture buildup inside the freezer or refrigerator compartment typically results from damaged door gaskets or torn seals. A leaking gasket or seal will allow cold air to constantly seep out of the unit and allow excess moisture inside the unit, creating a layer of frost—one that eventually turns into an ice dam. To see if you have a leak on your hands, stick a high-powered flashlight inside the freezer with the beam pointed at the door and shut it inside. Kill the lights in the kitchen. If you see any light leaking around the door, replace the defective gasket. Clean the gaskets regularly to help keep them pliable and working properly.

If you can’t find any problems with the gaskets, check the door hinges next. If the hinges become worn out or the lubricating grease dries out, the doors may not close completely, allowing moist room air to seep into the fridge. A common indicator of a faulty hinge is a thumping or scraping noise when the door is opened or closed. Lubricate stiff hinges with food-safe grease, and replace any worn or damaged hinges altogether.

 

Refrigerator Troubleshooting - Nonworking Ice Machine

Photo: fotosearch.com

PROBLEM: Your ice maker just doesn’t work.
SOLUTION: Flip the functionality back into gear.

Yes! It can be that simple. Check to see if the wire along the side of the ice maker assembly is raised, which indicates the unit is turned off. Typically there is a red lever that lowers the wire into the “on” position. (If there is no lever, gently pull down on the wire itself to turn the unit on.) Another problem may be a blockage or leak in the water supply system. Inspect the fill tube and the fill cup area at the back of the ice maker to make sure nothing is blocking the water supply—sometimes a buildup of ice (caused by faulty door gaskets) can block the fill tube; you can defrost it using a hair dryer.

You should also inspect the inlet valve and water supply tubing for leaks or damage. Finally, check to see if your ice maker is equipped with a filter. Many newer models include a carbon filter that helps remove debris or contaminants from the local water supply. Over time, the filter can become clogged, thereby reducing the water flow to the ice maker. Most manufacturers recommend checking and replacing the filter every six months, or more frequently if necessary.

 

PROBLEM: You found a spill inside your refrigerator, but nothing seems to have leaked.
SOLUTION: Clean and clear out the drain tube.

Many fridges have a drain tube that routes excess moisture to a drain pan underneath the fridge; there, the evaporator fan then blows over it to disperse the moisture. If the drain tube becomes blocked by food spills or other debris, that moisture could end up on the inside of your fridge rather than where it’s supposed to go. Turn off the power to the refrigerator and look for the drain plug, which should be located near the back or bottom of the main fridge compartment. Next, use a turkey baster to force a 50/50 solution of bleach and warm water (or, if you prefer, white vinegar and warm water) into the drain tube. Repeat this process several times, and then remove and clean the drain pan.

 

Know when to call in a professional. These fixes are great to keep in your back pocket, but certain problems do not lend themselves to a DIY approach—especially issues involving the coolant or electrical systems. Call in reinforcements if:
…the condenser coils are cracked or damaged,
…you feel an oily residue on the floor of the freezer compartment,
…you hear a slight hissing noise and the fridge is not cooling effectively,
…the unit continues to cycle frequently even after you have cleaned the condenser coils,
…the outer shell of the unit is sweating,
…the fridge breaker keeps tripping in your main electrical panel,
…or the unit is leaking and you can’t locate the source of the leak.