Category: Kitchen


How To: Clean and Maintain Butcher Block

With easy cleaning and conscientious use, the classic butcher block can last a lifetime—or longer. Here's how to clean and maintain the material.

How to Clean Butcher Block

Photo: shutterstock.com

Butcher block counters are a perennial favorite in the kitchen, though many homeowners worry about the care and maintenance the surface potentially demands. It’s true that butcher block probably does require a bit more attention than other countertop materials, but it’s not particularly difficult work, and there’s no beating the payoff. Properly cared for, butcher block can last a lifetime. No other countertop boasts such longevity (or forgives so much). If you have butcher block counters or are contemplating the prospect of installing them, read on for details on how to keep these handy surfaces in tip-top shape.

Daily Cleaning
Just as pots and pans, dishes and kitchen tools must be cleaned after use, so too must be butcher block. Daily cleaning does not take long and requires no special tools or materials, but time is of the essence: Clean butcher block before the wood grain has the chance to absorb stains and become discolored. Food residue may be scraped away with a smooth, flat, and ideally plastic spatula, and the surface should be sponged off with only mild-dishwashing soap. Undiluted vinegar, by the by, works great for cleaning and disinfecting butcher block, and this type of vinegar does not leave behind a strong, pungent odor.

Stain Removal
Soon or later, even those who conscientiously care for their butcher block are going to encounter a stain. Before you reach for the sandpaper, try one of these two easy stain removal methods (note that both are safe for food prep surfaces). First is the kitchen superstar lemon: Even in tough circumstances, it can work wonders in the case of butcher block. Sprinkle a bit of coarse salt onto the stained area, then rub it in with half of a lemon. If the stain does not vanish more or less immediately, return to it a day later and see if either soap or vinegar helps the situation. You might also try baking soda, particularly if you’re dealing with a fresh spill. Blanket the stain in the powder, rub it in and let it sit, then scrub with either soap or vinegar moistening your sponge.

How to Clean Butcher Block - Sanding Counter

Photo: shutterstock.com

Refinishing
The beauty of butcher block is that, if it should ever become irredeemably stained, you can always refinish it. (You might also choose to do so, if the surface sees uneven wear.) First, use a coarse-grit sandpaper to rub out the stain, then switch to a finer git so that you can smooth things out. After sanding, apply food-safe mineral oil or raw linseed oil. Evenly rub the oil into the wood and wipe off any excess. If the wood quickly absorbs all the oil, add another coat. Remember that proper care of butcher block entails oiling the entire surface every six months or so, at minimum.

Conscious Use
In some homes, butcher block counters serve as the main food prep surface. If your kitchen boasts only butcher block counters, be conscious of the fact that inadvertently you may be causing uneven wear. To avoid ending up with a single area that looks worn-out compared to the rest, try to do your chopping on a different part of the countertop each time you prepare a meal.

Also, since wood absorbs moisture quickly, it’s a mistake to leave damp cloths or spills for any prolonged period of time on the wood surface. When not in use, you want the butcher block to remain relatively dry. As you cook, rub down the counters occasionally with a dry cloth in order to minimize moisture. That way, you can help preserve the butcher block for years to come!


The Right Way to Load a Dishwasher

Are some of your plates and bowls still dirty when they emerge from the dishwasher? The problem might be how you're loading the machine. Read on to learn the right way.

How to Load a Dishwasher

Photo: shutterstock.com

Of all kitchen appliances, the dishwasher must rank as one of the greatest, don’t you think? It’s a true time-saver. While the alternative involves laborious scrubbing, this wonderful convenience of modern life takes just the push of a button to restore a glut of dirty dishes to pristine cleanliness. The trouble is that on occasion you may open the post-cycle dishwasher to find that some items are less clean than you’d like. In such cases, it may be that the appliance isn’t to blame; perhaps you, its user, are the culpable one. Most of us are accustomed to packing in as many cups and plates as possible, but did you know there is a right way to load a dishwasher? Read on to learn how to fill the machine to the brim without sacrificing cleaning effectiveness.

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Safety First
Proper use of the dishwasher begins with knowing which items are safe to put in the machine. While it certainly seems that more and more items these days are dishwasher-friendly, there remain some materials that you ought to hand-wash in the sink—namely, wood, cast iron, bronze, pewter, and leaded crystal. Silver can go in the dishwasher only in certain cases; if you’re not sure about yours, it’s best to be cautious and hand-wash.

How to Load a Dishwasher - Detail Shot

Photo: shutterstock.com

Scrape and Rinse
Before putting any plates or bowls, pots or pans into the dishwasher, be sure to scrape food residue into the trash. With modern dishwashers, running dishes under the faucet isn’t typically necessary. But if your machine is older and tends to struggle, prerinsing can be a good idea. Don’t go overboard, though; dishwasher detergent actually needs some grime to stick to.

Baking Pans and Cookie Sheets
If you use your dishwasher to clean large, unwieldy items like baking pans and cookie sheets, position them along the perimeter of the lower tier. Safely confined to the sides of the machine, the pans and sheets are less likely to impede the sprays that come from the bottom of the appliance.

Plates, Bowls, and Flatware
Load plates and bowls—plus any dishwasher-safe pots and pans—in the lower rack. Staggering larger and smaller plates can help them all get cleaner. Bowls may be placed side by side but tilt each one so that its dirty portion faces down. If your dishwasher comes with baskets for flatware, take advantage. It’s a good idea, however, to point some pieces of flatware up and others down. Also, mix forks, knives, and spoons together in the same baskets rather than grouping like items. Mixing things up prevents a nesting effect that limits exposure to the spray.

Plastic Containers
Place larger plastic containers on the lower shelf and smaller ones on top. All should face downward. Unlike dishes, plasticware should be lodged firmly between dividers so that containers do not become dislodged in the course of the cycle and interfere with the machine.

Cooking Utensils, Glasses, and Mugs
On the top rack, lay long utensils (for example, spatulas) perpendicular to the wire supports of the rack (if laid parallel, such items might fall through and block the spray arm). Next, place glasses and mugs along the left and right sides of the upper rack—and if your machine has one, snap down the protective flap. Finally, rest bowls over the long utensils you already placed. Yes, over the utensils—although it’s usually best not to layer items in the dishwasher, you can get away with it here, because cooking utensils are normally thin and not likely to block the spray of water.

The choice of detergent—liquid or powder—is largely a matter of preference, but for maximum effectiveness, use detergent that’s no more than two months old. Once you’ve got the machine running, go ahead and dirty another bowl with something—ice cream, anyone?—to celebrate the fact that you’re now a pro when it comes to loading a dishwasher properly.


Fill the Awkward Gap in Your Kitchen with a Pullout Organizer

In a kitchen with scant storage, a pullout organizer offers a space-smart way to put every last inch to good use.

How to Install a Pullout Organizer

Photo: rev-a-shelf.com

In nearly every kitchen remodel that involves cabinets of standard dimensions, you’re left with at least one gap between a cabinet and a wall (or a major appliance). You can always live with the void, but if yours is a small kitchen, you probably want to capitalize on every spare inch. I recommend installing a pullout organizer. These versatile, nontraditional kitchen storage options fit into spaces as slender as three inches. The narrowest organizers are perfect for such things as spice jars and cutting boards. Wider pullouts accommodate deeper items you want to keep within easy arm’s reach (for example, pans). No matter the width of the pullout—whether it’s five, six, or nine inches—stored items are accessed not by opening a door and reaching in, but rather by drawing the panel out.

When I redid my own kitchen recently, there was a five-inch space left over in a run of base cabinets. Knowing how our family typically uses the kitchen, I decided to install a pullout organizer here for our collection of cutting boards. (While most fillers are installed at the same time as the regular cabinetry, I was able to install mine afterward by fastening a level cleat to the rear wall.) If you wind up deciding that a pullout organizer would make a good addition to your kitchen, keep these tips in mind as you complete the project:

 

1. Secure the pullout in place

How to Install a Pullout Organizer - Base

Photo: JProvey

The first step is to secure the pullout in place. Having rested the pullout on the cleat I’d put on the rear wall, I proceeded to fasten the pullout to the side of the adjacent cabinet. (Don’t use screws that are so long that they interfere with the sliding action.) Be sure to recess the pullout to a depth that equals the width of the cabinet sheet material. That way, when you attach the cabinet front later in the process, the pullout sits flush with the surrounding cabinetwork for a seamless result.

 

2. Cut the sheet material

Photo: JProvey

Anticipating that the cabinets would leave a gap—and that I’d want to fill the gap with a pullout—I made sure to order extra sheet material along with my cabinets. I knew that some of the sheet material would be needed to create a front for the pullout that would match the cabinets I was installing in the kitchen. Cut yours to the appropriate width using either a table saw or a circular saw and guide. In the picture above, you can see my simple setup for making the cut with the latter tool.

 

3. Tape the edges

Photo: JProvey

This is an optional step, but I think it’s worth doing, not only for aesthetics, but also to protect the wood. Adhere the banding tape to your cut edges with a clothes iron; the heat activates the factory-applied tape adhesive. If it’s not available through your cabinetmaker, banding material can be found at your local home center.

 

4. Sand for a perfect fit

Photo: JProvey

Eliminate sharp edges and excess material by sanding the newly taped portions of the workpiece with fine-grit paper. For best results, use a sanding block.

 

5. Position the pullout front

Photo: JProvey

Prior to attaching the workpiece to the frame of the pullout, use clamps to position the panel in the gap. Drive screws from the inside so as not to mar the facade.

 

6. Enjoy the finished product

Photo: JProvey

As you can see, I outfitted the pullout front with hardware that complements the style of my cabinet pulls. What’s most satisfying for me, though, is that the pullout area sits perfectly flush with the adjacent drawers. Not only that, but—crucial to a professional-looking result—the seams at the sides of the pullout are the same width as the seams between the drawers.

The pullout has been installed now for two months, and I can report that second only to the silverware drawer, it’s the most-used storage space in our kitchen.


Buy or DIY: 5 Ways to Fit More in Your Fridge & Freezer

To buy or DIY: It's one of life's great dilemmas. Whichever route you choose, if you have a fridge that fills up fast, organization accessories can be super helpful, enabling you to pack more food into cold storage.

Refrigerator Organization

Photo: shutterstock.com

Spice racks, knife holders, and towel bars—there’s no shortage of organizational helpers aimed at bettering one’s life in the kitchen. Ironically, though—given how frequently we use the fridge and how crucial the appliance is to our daily lives—refrigeration organization flies under most people’s radar, even those who have eagerly gone to great lengths to improve storage elsewhere in the kitchen. If poor design or lack of space in the fridge or freezer frustrates you on an ongoing basis, it’s time to act. Proper organization can make your next interaction with the fridge a little easier, whether you’re preparing a meal or grabbing something on the go. Scroll down to see five favorite refrigerator organization ideas, any of which can you buy, usually cheaply, or easily create the DIY way.

 

1. WIRE BASKETS
Raise your hand if this has ever happened to you: After making an extra trip to the market for item X, you return home only to find that you had item X all along, only it was hidden beneath something else. To make it easier for you to see what you have and what you need, buy or DIY at least one wire basket to corral all those packages and bags in the freezer.

BUY
You can keep frozen foods organized with a set of wire baskets like these. Put veggies in one, meats in another, dessert items in a third. You might find that the baskets not only help you create and maintain organization, but also free up space, enabling you to pack even more into your freezer. (Ice cream, anyone?)

Refrigerator Organization - Buy Baskets

Photo: amazon.com

DIY
To make the most of every inch in the freezer, custom-make baskets to fit your freezer’s dimensions exactly. Hardware cloth makes it pretty easy to do this. You’ll need a pair of tin snips, needle-nose pliers, and sturdy gloves. You might choose to use some graph paper, and you’ll definitely want to use this walkthrough from Four Corners Design.

Refrigerator Organization - DIY Baskets

Photo: fourcornersdesign.blogspot.com

 

2. CONDIMENT CADDIES
The next time you fire up the grill and set the patio table for an alfresco dinner, wouldn’t it be so much more convenient if you could carry all your condiments outside at once? That’s where the condiment caddy comes in—this is the fridge version of those sweet little handled baskets on the table at your local diner.

BUY
The Refrigerator Condiment Caddy slides right into the door compartment of your refrigerator, and it keeps items like ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce handily portable. When the meal is about to be taken out back, simply lift the caddy out of its perch and take the durable plastic basket along with you.

Refrigerator Organization - Buy Condiment Caddy

Photo: rubbermaid.com.au

DIY
Create your own condiment caddy with a six-pack carrier and contact paper. (If you’ve never experimented before with contact paper, trust me—you’re going to love how versatile and DIY-friendly it is.) For step-by-step instructions on how to make your own caddy, run—don’t walk—over to Neat Nest Organizing.

Refrigerator Organization - DIY Condiment Caddy

Photo: neatnestorganizing.com

 

3. ABSORBENT MATS
When it’s all over the refrigerator shelves, there is indeed reason to cry over spilled milk. If you don’t clean up the mess immediately, it soon becomes crusty and caked-on. And what about that rotten tomato in the crisper? Or was it a pepper? Yuck! What you need is the fridge version of cabinet shelf liner.

BUY
The Fridge Coaster absorbs drips and can be cleaned or replaced when necessary. It’s available in colorful prints and in an array of sizes to fit different parts of your fridge, such as the shelves, crispers, and door bins. Not only is the Fridge Coaster functional, but it also relieves the stark whiteness of the fridge interior.

Refrigerator Organization - Buy Mats

Photo: fridgecoaster.com

DIY
Take a tip from 2 Little Superheroes and make your own fridge mats out of dollar-store placemats. To get a snug fit, simply remove the fridge shelves you wish to cover, trace their outlines onto the placemats, then cut the mats and insert them. These are as pretty as a picture and ready to rock, no matter what messes arrive.

Refrigerator Organization - DIY Mats

Photo: 2littlesuperheroes.com

 

4. LAZY SUSANS
Meal prep would be so much easier if you didn’t have to rifle through almost every jar and plastic storage container in your fridge to find the one thing you need. Oh, wait—there’s such a thing. It’s a lazy Susan, and you can definitely have one in your refrigerator.

BUY
A lazy Susan performs the same role in the refrigerator that it does on your dining table: It make things much more easily accessible. And it need not be an eyesore, as this rotating white marble tray amply proves. Remember to measure your refrigerator beforehand to make sure that your purchase will fit in nicely.

Refrigerator Organization - Buy Lazy Susan

Photo: worldmarket.com

DIY
With only a few inexpensive materials from hardware and craft stores, you can make your own lazy Susan, customizing the creation to your exact specifications in both functionality and style. Seriously, you can do this. Visit iHeartOrganizing to find out what you’ll need and how to get it done.

Refrigerator Organization - DIY Lazy Susan

Photo: iheartorganizing.com

 

5. FREEZER SHELVES
There’s only problem with stacking things Tetris-style into the freezer. Let’s say you do it very well, brilliantly placing a bag or box into all available space. What happens when you want to get something out of there? You have no choice but to undo what you previously did. Freezer shelves come to the rescue.

BUY
With stackable freezer shelves, you can organize like items into separate compartments. This not only makes it a cinch to find what you need, but also makes it a cinch to reach and remove what you want. That’s right—no more tumbling hockey pucks of hamburger hurtling dangerously toward your toes.

Refrigerator Organization - Buy Freezer Shelves

Photo: wdrake.com

DIY
If you’re like me, then these days you are using your paper storage accessories less and less. If you have any magazine files lying around, why not repurpose them into instant, magnificently simple DIY freezer shelves? For details on this project and even more repurposing ideas, visit Aunt Peaches.

Refrigerator Organization - DIY Refrigerator Shelves

Photo: auntpeaches.com


Buyer’s Guide: Best Dishwashers

Dirty dishes, meet your match. Today's dishwashers can handle the toughest grease and grime while using less water and energy than ever before. Whether you're finally moving up from hand-washing or are itching to upgrade, your dishwasher search starts now.

best-dishwashers

Photo: shutterstock.com

When you’re planning a dinner party, it’s not long before you start picturing the pile of plates that will await you once your guests depart. Hand-washing your way through pots, mixing bowls, and place settings would take you—approximately—ages. At the prospect of all that drudgery, you might find yourself reconsidering the party. But before you call off your get-together, consider investing in a dishwasher. Having a machine to clean your dishes could save you an estimated 230 hours—that’s nearly 10 days!—per year.

Even if you already own a dishwasher, you too have a lot to gain by purchasing a new model. Today’s dishwashers use at least 40 percent less water than similar appliances manufactured 20 years ago. Besides conservation, there’s a compelling financial reason to upgrade: An Energy Star-rated dishwasher could save you more than $40 per year. The question really isn’t why should you buy a dishwasher; it’s why shouldn’t you?

On the market today are a generous variety of options, ranging from plain-Jane models with few frills to pricier, fully programmable “smart” models that do everything but load and unload automatically. Not certain where your needs fall in the spectrum? We’ve laid out a handful of key considerations to keep in mind.

Size and capacity. Dishwashers normally come in two sizes. The standard dimensions are 24 inches wide by 34 inches tall (34 inches being the height of most countertops and base cabinetry). Compact models are 18 inches wide. A compact washer is usually fitted with one or two racks, while a standard size holds two or three, enough to accommodate at least eight place settings. In any case, adjustable upper racks and removable baskets earn bonus points, as either feature goes a long way toward accommodating awkwardly shaped items. Dishwashers in custom sizes are available by special order, but be prepared to pay more.

Cycle selections. The number and variety of cycle selections will vary from washer to washer, and finding the best selection of cycles for your needs will often be the deciding factor in your purchase. A typical washer will come with settings for a “normal” wash cycle, which can run anywhere from 90 to 135 minutes, depending on the make and model of the machine; a“heavy” cycle for pots and pans; and perhaps a “light” (also known as “delicate”) cycle for stemware. Pricier models offer additional options, including a “rinse and hold” cycle; a cycle for china; and a heavy-duty sanitizing cycle. Some dishwashers also offer different drying cycles, and some feature a programmable delayed start option.

Water usage. Today’s dishwashers are required by law to use a maximum of 5.8 gallons of water per cycle. Some upscale dishwashers even include an “eco” cycle that utilizes less water than a regular cycle, while others are equipped with a sensor that determines how dirty the dishes are and adjusts the water usage and cycle automatically.

Energy efficiency. Models on the market today are required by law to carry an Energy Guide label that estimates how much power the appliance consumes per year as well as the estimated cost of running the appliance based on the national average cost of natural gas and electricity. Look for the Energy Star logo, which indicates that the unit exceeds the federal minimum standards for efficiency and quality.

Noise level. The noisiness of dishwashers is rated in decibels; the louder the noise, the higher the decibel level. Newer models boast thicker insulation around the dishwasher tub and noise levels around 45 decibels. (For reference, a decibel rating of around 50 is roughly equivalent to the volume of a conversation.)

Other bells and whistles. Popular extras available in today’s dishwashers include innovative spray arms to move wash water more efficiently, stemware clips to secure wine glasses, spray nozzles for cleaning bottles and jars, special cutlery racks, programmable controls, and child locks. A variety of exterior options can complement the look of your kitchen (or a pending remodel), including ever-popular stainless steel, mirrored finishes, or a variety of colored finishes, and some dishwashers can even be outfitted with insert panels to match and blend in with cabinetry.

Even if you shop with a checklist of ideal features in hand, finding a dishwasher that fits the bill in such a crowded market can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve culled some of our favorite options to make your search even simpler, weighing the above factors against critical reviews on several of the top shopping sites. Here are the top-rated Energy Star-approved dishwashers you’ll want to have in your kitchen:

Bosch 500 Series Dishwasher

Photo: bosch-home.com

Bosch SHP65T55UC 24-inch Pocket-Handle Dishwasher 500 Series
This 24-inch-wide unit garnered 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon. It boasts a 16-place-setting capacity and features a third rack for smaller items that fits up to 30 percent more in each load. This model offers five cycles and five additional wash options, including Sanitize to wipe out bacteria and ExtraShine to dry glasses—no need to follow up with a microfiber cloth for a spot-free shine. Meanwhile, its 44-decibel sound rating led reviewers to praise this model as “the quietest dishwasher ever.” Price: $899.

Electrolux Dishwasher

Photo: electroluxappliances.com

Electrolux EI24ID50QS
Rated the best dishwasher of 2014 by Reviewed.com, this 24-inch-wide washer’s structure makes loading super simple. It boasts three easy-lift racks, nine stemware grips to secure glasses, and a cutlery basket that can split into two for flexible positioning wherever you find space. We think this model’s wealth of high-tech features makes up for the higher price tag. Among its slick offerings are a circular spray arm for more cleaning coverage, a smart soil sensor, a “clean” light to indicate when the load ends (because it’s that quiet), and a touch-sensitive control panel. Plus, its Fast Wash—one of nine cycles total—cleans a load in 30 minutes, perfect for those nights when you’re short on time. Price: $1,099.

Whirlpool Front Control

Photo: whirlpool.com

Whirlpool Front Control Dishwasher WDF530PAYM
A favorite of Home Depot shoppers, who gave it 4.4 stars and a recommendation rate of 92 percent, this 24-inch-wide unit is both smart and budget-friendly. Its Sensor Cycle intuitively selects the best wash and dry settings for a specific load, saving time and money. Other cycles (there are a total of six) range from the typical normal to an overnight cycle that can tackle the toughest of sticky situations. This unit loads up to 15 place settings comfortably in its tall tub design due to features like a movable AnyWare Plus silverware basket; an adjustable (even removable) top rack; and a large-capacity lower rack that easily accommodates plates, bowls, and large dishes. Price: $549.


How To: Clean a Stovetop

When weeks of hasty dinner prep leave your stovetop in a state, never fear: A combination of common pantry items can restore the shine to your appliance and a sense of order to your kitchen.

How to Clean a Stovetop

Photo: shutterstock.com

On those busy nights when you’re lucky to have found just 20 minutes to put toward preparing a one-pot meal, cleanup seems like it can wait. Regret only sets in days or a week later, when you’re bent over, scrubbing away splatters of caked-on grease or drippings. No matter your homekeeping style—whether you prefer to do a little bit every day or a giant deep-clean once in a blue moon—these tips can help you clean a stovetop effectively, and without going nuts in the process.

1. Take off removable parts. These include such things as the grates over gas burners or the coils on some, not all, electric stoves. If the control knobs on your appliance come off, remove and deposit them—along with the grates or coils—in a bucket or sink filled with hot, soapy water. If your knobs don’t budge, clean them in place with a soapy sponge. (Though people often praise ammonia for its grease-cutting, its use here runs the risk of erasing the knobs’ markings.) Towel away any soap suds left on the knobs, then dry them off before being sure to double-check that all the knobs are set to the off position—safety first!

How to Clean a Stovetop - Dirty

Photo: shutterstock.com

2. Address caked-on spills. You can always use a store-bought cleaner that’s been formulated for use on stovetops. But if you’d rather not spend the money—or hesitate to expose yourself to toxic chemicals—you can brew a potent cleaning solution from natural items you likely already have in your pantry. Try this: Mix equal parts water, baking soda, and salt to create a mild abrasive paste. Apply the paste to any splotches on the stovetop, then wait a few minutes. The paste should work to soften even the most stubborn stains. Finish by firmly rubbing the dirty areas with a sponge or a microfiber cloth. Once clean, buff the stovetop dry.

3. Revisit removable parts. In Step 1, you probably left several components to soak in soapy water. Now go back to those, and you should find their grime has loosened up. Scrub each piece with a sponge—or with a stiff-bristled brush—until clean. Rinse off, dry, and replace the parts where they belong on the stove.

Additional Notes
- If you own a gas stove and have noticed that one of the burners no longer performs as it once did, the problem may be a clogged fuel port. With the grates off, take a closer look, using a flashlight if necessary. If you spot a blockage, use a bent paper clip to gently dislodge the offending debris.

Now that your stovetop sparkles, the trick is to maintain its state of cleanliness. The best way to do so is by wiping down the grates/coils and the surface of the appliance after every use. Add stovetop clean-up to your post-dinner routine, if you can. Spending two minutes a day ultimately takes less time than periodic deep-cleaning—and the former definitely involves less hassle and labor than the latter.


5 Simple Steps to a Perfect Pantry

Bring neatness to your pantry—a notoriously hard-to-organize space—with these tips and tricks, based both on common sense and experience.

How to Organize a Pantry

Photo: cawarchitects.com

In many households, meals start in the pantry. Whether it’s an oversize cabinet, a converted armoire, or a separate small room, we rely on the pantry to store as many canned goods, paper products, pet supplies, packaged foods, and cleaning solutions as the laws of physics allow. No matter how compact or generously sized, pantries hold more and function better if well kept. But neatness can be difficult to maintain in these notoriously jumbled, chronically overstocked storage areas. Read on for five simple yet effective pantry organization tips, all geared to help you get in and out with a minimum level of frustration along the way.

 

1. MAXIMIZE AVAILABLE SPACE

How to Organize a Pantry - Maximize Space

Photo: yestertec.com

Put every square inch to good use. That means packing as many shelves, drawers, or cabinets into the pantry as possible. In an awkward corner or cavity where nothing else would fit, capitalize on exposed sections of the wall, using them to support hooks, pegboards, or magnetized panels. Also, if there’s a door into the pantry, don’t overlook the straightforward, no-frills benefits of a hanging pocket organizer, perfect for loose items like bags of rice or pouches of beans.

 

2. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

How to Organize a Pantry - Configurable

Photo: farrowarcarodesign.ca

Successful pantry organization depends in part on the changeability of the space, whether or not it can be modified over time as storage needs shift. Whenever there’s a choice, opt for configurable shelves over fixed-in-place ones. Built-ins are nice, but stand-alone metal units are a fraction of the cost, at least as functional, and most important of all, they’re almost endlessly versatile. Adjustable wood cabinetry exists, but it tends to be one of the costliest options.

 

3. CONSIDER USING CONTAINERS

How to Organize a Pantry - Containers

Photo: neatmethod.com

It may seem unnecessary—and for some people, it probably is unnecessary—but if you struggle to keep the pantry tidy, I recommend storing dry goods (e.g., flour, sugar, and rice) in transparent, airtight containers. There are many round-shaped options to be found in this product category, but rectangular containers stack much better, affording a more efficient use of space. For miscellaneous small items, use inexpensive baskets or repurposed crates to cut down on clutter.

 

4. GO LABEL CRAZY

How to Organize a Pantry - Labeling

Photo: onmyagendaonline.com

Many homeowners love open storage, because with no cabinet doors or drawer faces to obstruct the line of sight, you can see what you’ve got at a glance. Particularly in the pantry, where so many different items commingle, the downside of open storage is how visually chaotic it can look. One solution is to store like items in opaque containers, each labeled in keeping with its contents. To make your labels, get creative with washi tape, clothespins, or chalkboard paint.

 

5. ADD STYLE

How to Organize a Pantry

Photo: getmytour.com

The pantry’s role is a functional one, but loving how it looks may motivate you to keep the space more organized day in, day out. Paint the walls a cheery color, or hang wallpaper over visible portions of the wall. Space permitting, install a funky pendant light or chandelier. And if you’re buying baskets and bins to fill the shelves, coordinate them not only with each other, but also with the decorating scheme that exists elsewhere in the kitchen and throughout the rest of your home.


Bob Vila Radio: Dealing with Finicky Fridge Doors

If you're tired of checking and rechecking the fridge to make sure the door has closed tightly, read on to find out how easy it is to fix that problem for good.

If your refrigerator door doesn’t open and close as it should—or if it doesn’t seal as tightly as it’s supposed to—the  problem could be that the fridge is not level.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON LEVELING YOUR REFRIGERATOR or read the text below:

Fortunately, getting your fridge to sit up straight isn’t a difficult job. For safety’s sake, start by unplugging the appliance. Next, remove the grill on the bottom. That’ll expose the adjustable leveling feet.

Place a level on top of the fridge, positioning across the front of the cabinet. Note the position of the bubble in your level. Then use either pliers or a crescent wrench to adjust the leveling bolts until the bubble in your level moves to the middle.

Once that’s done, turn your level so it sits front-to-back on the top of the cabinet. Recheck the level and fine-tune the adjustment on your leveling bolts as needed. If the floor where your refrigerator sits is not level, you may need to position shims under the leveling feet to make up the difference.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


How To: Defrost a Freezer

Defrost older freezers from time to time, not only to keep the appliance working efficiently, but also to prevent ice from hogging the storage space within. It's a simple task—you'll just need a few towels, a little time, and some heat.

How to Defrost a Freezer

Photo: shutterstock.com

Have you got a freezer full of frost? That’ll happen. Fortunately, defrosting a freezer isn’t as big a deal as people make it out to be. Yes, it’s a bit of hassle, but there are definitely benefits. Once you’re done, you can expect the appliance to run more efficiently, which can mean lower electricity bills. And you’ll win back precious freezer space for storing microwave pizzas and pints of ice cream. Rather than put off the chore for another month (or six), scroll down now to learn how painlessly simple it can be to defrost a freezer.

Preparation
At the outset, you face perhaps the most difficult step in the process: Because food must be removed from the freezer before it’s defrosted, you’ll have to somehow keep everything from thawing out in the interim. If you can’t borrow space in a neighbor’s freezer, the best alternative is to place frozen food into a cooler (or even an airtight plastic bag), together with a suitable number of ice packs. Of course, another way to handle the problem is to plan far enough ahead so that you can eat up a good portion of your stock of frozen food in the weeks before you defrost.

Next, turn off the freezer before taking out all the removable parts inside, such as shelves, drawers, and trays. (Some parts may be so covered in ice that they refuse to budge; in that case, wait until the ice has melted enough to release its hold.) Before you move on, pile up old towels or dishrags beneath the freezer door to soak up the water that inevitably drains out of the chamber during the defrosting process.

How to Defrost a Freezer - Appliance Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

Melting the Ice
To persuade the ice within the freezer to melt faster, there are at least a couple different strategies you might try:

• Place bowls of hot water into the freezer. The heat from the steaming water will get the ice melting. Replace the bowls every five minutes or so to sustain the momentum.

• Use a hairdryer to blow hot air over the ice. For safety’s sake, move the hairdryer around so that no one area gets too hot, and be absolutely certain that the melting ice comes nowhere within reach of the electrical outlet you’ve plugged the dryer into.

Of course, if you’re in no hurry, you can simply wait for the ice to melt on its own!

Cleaning the Interior
Once the ice begins to melt, break it up into pieces and remove them with a plastic spatula. Don’t scrape too hard—and definitely don’t use a metal tool—or you could damage the interior of the freezer. As you pull out chunks of ice, put them in the sink or a large mixing bowl. All the while, try to keep dripping water contained to the towels you’ve placed at the base of the appliance.

With the ice gone, proceed to clean the freezer. Dry it completely before turning the appliance back on. If there are water droplets in the chamber when the freezer returns to operation, ice is just going to accumulate again, and quicker than you might expect.

The more often you defrost the freezer, the less time-consuming the process will be.


Get the Look: Retro Kitchen

Cheerful colors and nostalgic details lend their charms to these kitchens inspired by the past. Read on to learn how to re-create the look in your own home.

Retro Kitchen

Photo: Mitchell Snyder Photography

They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Today, the popular notion of a “dream kitchen” includes an an all-white color palette, a suite of stainless steel appliances, and granite countertops polished to a glimmering sheen. In years past, however, such a design would most likely have struck homeowners as cold, antiseptic, and uninviting. Indeed, kitchen design philosophy has changed a great deal over the decades. Some of us are old enough to remember, for example, that kitchens used to be colorful! From the flooring to the countertops and curtains, everything seemed to feature an eye-catching hue. Some traditions are best left in the past, of course, but if you’ve been yearning to cook in a space with more personality, in a room that recalls a bygone era, these tips can help you design the retro kitchen of your dreams.

Colors
What’s the best color scheme for a retro kitchen? That depends. You can hark back to the 1950s by channeling the most popular colors of those long-ago days, bold turquoise and red. Or for a look that says “The Sixties,” choose mustard and avocado—colors that some are still trying to forget, not bring back. In the kitchen pictured, designers Kevin Fischer and Charlotte Cooney, of Alice Design/Domestic Arts, chose pale yellow and tomato-red, a combination that recalls the early 20th century; builders Hammer & Hand brought their vision to life. Since there are so many paint colors available today, a great way to narrow the field is to look at pictures of kitchens from the era you’re trying to re-create, and see what strikes your fancy.

Related: 10 Design Essentials for a Retro Kitchen 

Surfaces
Though somewhat quaint-seeming now, surfaces like linoleum flooring and laminate countertops were once considered state-of-the-art. Fortunately, both remain in production and are readily available online or at your local home center. As popular in the past as they are today, simple white tiles are another classic, worthy of consideration no matter time period you’re using as a guide. After all, the goal isn’t to create a perfectly accurate, museum-quality historical reproduction. Rather, it’s to borrow the best from the past in pursuit of a design that, instead of being hopelessly outdated, looks forward as much as it looks back.

Retro Kitchen - Cabinetry

Photo: Mitchell Snyder Photography

Cabinetry
White, ivory, or beige cabinetry works well in most retro kitchens, regardless of the paint colors applied elsewhere in the space. Glass-front cabinets are another option with old-fashioned appeal, made all the more persuasive when filled with colorful china or glassware that dates to the era that the room is trying to evoke. Yet another way to achieve a vintage look is by painting cabinetry to match the room’s overall color scheme.

Hardware
Replacing cabinet knobs and drawer pulls ranks as one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to add period detail. While many sources stock new hardware that resembles older designs, some people enjoy the thrill of the hunt, searching for authentic examples in flea markets and architectural salvage yards.

Sink and Faucet
Homeowners are spoiled for choice when it comes to fixtures that mimic yesterday’s styles. For instance, apron-front sinks are enjoying renewed popularity and work superbly in spaces modeled on the early 20th century. In a 1970s-themed kitchen, a stainless steel undermount model pairs nicely with a colorful laminate counter. Faucets, meanwhile, range from those with long, arching necks to boxy designs perfect for kitchens mimicking the postwar period.

Related: 10 Design Essentials for a Retro Kitchen 

Lighting
Most older kitchens sported an overhead light in a style that complemented the room. Depending on the era, that fixture might have been a milk-glass pendant or a sleekly sculptural ceiling light. Some people opt for a reproduction, while others scour salvage shops near and far in pursuit of the genuine article.

Retro Kitchen - Appliances

Photo: Mitchell Snyder Photography

Appliances
To get your hands on period-appropriate appliances, you basically have two options. One is to buy new models whose designs are steeped in nostalgia. The other is to search for refurbished relics. Stoves with porcelain exteriors in white, red, soft blue, or even pink have undeniable appeal, but such treasures can be difficult (or quite costly) to obtain. A compromise would be to choose standard modern appliances with the simplest possible silhouettes.

Accessories
The little things make such a big difference in identifying a space as belonging to this or that time period. A colorful set of dishes or glassware, for instance, can be displayed as a focal point, while vintage tablecloths, curtains, clocks, or telephones (or new designs that resemble older models) further enhance the illusion. On the walls, consider hanging colorful collectibles like fruit-crate labels and recipe booklets, or artwork that dates back to the era that you’ve selected as the inspiration for your retro kitchen.