Category: Kitchen


How To: Install a Dishwasher

Unlike the plug-in appliances used in rooms beyond the kitchen, a dishwasher must be hardwired and hooked up to the home's plumbing. If you're up to challenge of installing it yourself, you can save real money.

How to Install a Dishwasher

Photo: shutterstock.com

Installing a dishwasher may seem daunting, but with the right instructions and a little care, it can be a rewarding DIY. And with the money you’ll save by not hiring a professional, you can afford to splurge on a high-quality appliance that will serve your household well for years. A word of wisdom, though: To keep things simple, aim to replace your current dishwasher with a model of the same or similar size. If your kitchen has never included a dishwasher before—or if the one you’ve purchased is significantly larger than your existing model—sophisticated cabinetwork may be necessary to accommodate the new machine. That’s beyond the scope of this article. But if your new appliance fits snugly into the space left by your old dishwasher, these instructions can help you install the replacement within hours.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 1/2-inch flexible copper tubing
- Tubing cutter
- Tube-bending spring
- Two ½-inch compression fittings
- Adjustable wrench
- Teflon tape
- 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch brass plumbing elbow
- Hose clamp
- Plumber’s strapping
- Cable clamp
- Wire strippers
- Electrical wire nut
- Level
- Drill/driver

STEP 1
If your current dishwasher is still in place, the obvious first step is to remove it. Before going any further, shut off the water supply to the dishwasher and cut power to the unit. To do this, you’ll need to shut off the power at the electrical panel by toggling the switch associated with the circuit on which the dishwasher runs. Double-check that the power is truly off by trying to turn on the machine. If the dishwasher doesn’t respond, it’s safe to move on by breaking the three connections that allow the dishwasher to do its dirty work: the drain line, the water supply, and the electrical supply.

STEP 2
With the old dishwasher out of the way, you can now prep the connections for the new unit. While the existing electrical wiring may be reused, it’s a good idea to replace the water supply line (unless the existing supply line is copper, in which case you can skip ahead to Step 3). Remove the old, most likely braided plumbing line, and begin snaking 1/2-inch flexible copper tubing from the front of the dishwasher cabinet to the hot-water valve under the sink. Once you’re finished, use a tubing cutter to cut the line away from the remainder of the tubing coil.

How to Install a Dishwasher - Isolated Appliance

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 3
Under the sink, maneuver the tubing as close as you can to the hot-water valve. To make the connection, it may be necessary to use a tube-bending spring, a small plumber’s tool that enables you to shape the tubing as needed. Secure the connection with a compression nut, which you’ll tighten with your hands before finishing off with the wrench.

STEP 4
Look on the bottom of the dishwasher to locate the channels along which the water supply and electrical cable are meant to run. Measure their locations with respect to the sides of the dishwasher, then transfer those measurements to the floor of the cabinet. Now use the tube-bending spring to shape the copper tubing so that it travels along the side of the cabinet and then runs along the supply line you’ve marked on the floor of the cabinet. Do the same for the electrical cable.

STEP 5
Your new dishwasher will have come with its own drain hose. Assuming you’ve removed the drain hose for the old dishwasher, go ahead and run the new one from the dishwasher cabinet through the existing hole and to the area under the sink. As you do so, be careful not to let any kinks interrupt the hose. In a later step, you will connect the hose to the dishwasher and the sink drain.

STEP 6
Enlist another person to help you ease the dishwasher onto its back. From there, you can more easily remove the panel cover at the base of the unit and access the water inlet, through which clean water will feed into the unit. Wrap Teflon tape around the threads of the inlet and use an adjustable wrench to attach either a 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch brass elbow, depending on your appliance. Now, using the tube-bending spring, turn the flexible copper supply line so that it meets the brass elbow you’ve added. Where the two meet, the copper must run for at least two inches without any bends. Secure the connection between the tubing and the elbow by placing a compression fitting over the straight run of copper. Tighten the compression nut with your hands before giving it an extra turn with an adjustable wrench.

STEP 7
Turn your attention to the electrical cable (which may be left over from the old dishwasher hookup). Slide a cable clamp over the exposed wires, right where the wires disappear into the plastic or metal sheathing around the wire bundle. Then locate the junction box and remove its cover plate. Loosen the nut on the cable clamp and push the wires (along with the threaded end of the clamp) through the junction box’s hole. Once you have finished, use a screwdriver to tighten the nut again on the part of the clamp that remains outside the box.

STEP 8
Inside the junction box, use wire nuts to join the identically colored wires, white to white and black to black. If the wires coming from your home are sheathed in plastic (such as Romex), then be sure to connect—by means of another wire nut—the green wire (the ground) to the dishwasher’s green (or bare copper) wire. Otherwise, wrap the the dishwasher’s ground wire around a mounting screw on the junction box, then fasten the screw so that the ground doesn’t budge. Finally, fold all the wires into the junction box before screwing the cover plate back onto the receptacle.

How to Install a Dishwasher - Diagram

Photo: removeandreplace.com

STEP 9
Back in Step 5, you ran the drain hose from the dishwasher cabinet to the sink drain. Now it’s time to make the necessary connections. First, slip a hose clamp over the “sink side” of the hose, then fit the hose over the inlet on the sink drain. With plumber’s strapping, secure the hose against the top of the sink cabinet (or high on its rear side), so the hose arcs before it reaches the inlet. That U-shape is very important, because it prevents sink backflow from entering the dishwasher. Meanwhile, in the dishwasher cabinet, connect the other side of the hose to the dishwasher’s drain. This latter connection should be very quick and easy to make.

STEP 10
With the dishwasher in place, adjust its feet until the mounting brackets meet the underside of the counter. Check with a level to make sure that the appliance isn’t tilting to either side; adjust as necessary. Now use the drill/driver to drive screws through the mounting brackets, firmly securing the dishwasher in position. Replace the access panel cover at the base of the unit, which you removed in Step 6.

STEP 11
Turn on the water supply and return power to the circuit to which the dishwasher is connected. Don’t turn on the dishwasher yet; over the next few hours, keep a close eye out for leaks. If there aren’t any, take your new dishwasher out for its first test run!


How To: Fix a Clogged Garbage Disposal

As annoying as a clogged garbage disposal can be, the good news is that in many cases, you can fix the problem yourself, saving the cost of a visit from the plumber.

Garbage disposals are handy household tools, but if you’re not careful, they can get jammed or clogged. To keep this from happening, it’s important to know what not to put in a disposal. The list includes:

- Fibrous foods
- Coffee grounds
- Egg shells
- Bones
- Glass
- Rubber
- Metal
- Potato skins
- Grease

It’s also important not to overfill your disposal. Plus, always remember to run cold water into the unit as you’re grinding food. Doing so not only keeps the unit cool, but also helps force the garbage through the cutting blades.

If your disposal does get clogged, here are three things you can do to try to fix it. First, see if there’s something blocking the blades. Use a stick of some kind to try dislodging whatever may be stuck. If that doesn’t work, the next step is to check under the sink. Locate the small hole at the bottom of the disposal and reach for the wrenchette that came with your unit. If you don’t have a wrenchette, an Allen wrench will usually do the trick. Move the tool back and forth to free any object that might be lodged in the disposal. If this doesn’t work, it’s possible the circuit breaker may have been tripped. Find the red button at the bottom of  the disposal, and press it to get the power flowing again.

If you’re still stuck, call in the experts. You can find a trusted local plumber quickly using a tool like HomeAdvisor.com’s ProFinder.


Bob Vila Radio: Think Before You Install a Kitchen Island

A potentially welcome addition to the heart of your home, the kitchen island deserves thoughtful planning.

Installing a kitchen island doesn’t just enhance the look of your kitchen. It can also make meal prep a lot more enjoyable and provide a great setting for socializing. If you’re thinking of adding a kitchen island, here are a few pointers to keep in mind.

Kitchen Island Planning

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON KITCHEN ISLANDS or read the text below:

Make sure you allow adequate space, and not only for the island itself, but also for the space around it. Most contractors suggest at least three feet between the island and kitchen appliances. Four is even better. If seating is part of the plan, position stools around corners rather than in a straight line. That makes for easier conversation.

Electrical outlets? The more the merrier. Below-counter nooks are perfect for setting up a charging station for your mobile devices.

One other point: Before you start the project, make sure you really want a lot of people hanging out in your kitchen. Once you’ve installed the island, it’s likely to become a very popular spot!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 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: Clean Kitchen Cabinets

Having cooked countless meals in your kitchen, the cabinets are now covered with stubborn gunk and grime. Learn how to use common pantry items to prepare a cleaner that can leave your cabinetry looking spotless again.

How to Clean Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: shutterstock.com

Kitchen cabinets are opened and closed more often than the front door is. Such frequent use—along with leakage, spills, and the cabinets’ proximity to food prep—inevitably leads to grime. In fact, kitchen cabinets are notorious for hosting the sort of stains that remain stubborn against conventional cleaners. If you’ve been battling buildup to no avail, read on to learn how to clean kitchen cabinets using simple, non-toxic items that most homeowners keep on hand.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- A bucket or large bowl
- Warm water
- Baking soda or vinegar
- Large spoon
- Microfiber cloths

STEP 1
Fill your bucket or bowl with several cups of warm water. Next, mix in your preferred cleaning agent, be it baking soda or vinegar. How much should you add? That depends on which of the two you’ve opted to use. If baking soda, dump in a couple of cups. If vinegar, a couple of splashes should do the trick.

How to Clean Kitchen Cabinets - Interior Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Dip a clean microfiber cloth into the mixture. (Don’t use paper towels; they’re too delicate.) Squeeze the cloth to wring out any excess. The cloth should be moist but not dripping wet. Next, test the cleaner on an inconspicuous part of your cabinetry to make sure that it neither dulls nor discolors the finish.

STEP 3
Wipe down your cabinets, paying extra attention to the hardware (knobs, pulls, and handles) and to the areas immediately adjacent those often-touched components. Re-moisten the cloth if and when necessary. Start over with new cloths as others become soiled in the process of cleaning. Keep at it until you’ve wiped all of the cabinets and they look as clean as you want them to.

STEP 4
Rinse away any baking soda or vinegar residue with a microfiber cloth that you’ve moistened with clean water. Go over the entire area that you previously wiped down with the cleaning agent. Finally, go over the cabinetry once more with a dry cloth. The goal here is to leave the kitchen not only clean, but dry.


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

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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

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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.