Category: Kitchen


How To: Clean a Garbage Disposal

If your sink smells like the dumpster behind a restaurant, take ten minutes to clean out your garbage disposal with these freshening tips.

How To Clean A Garbage Disposal

Photo: shutterstock.com

Consider the environment within the average in-sink garbage disposal: It’s cool, dark, and moist, and there’s a near constant influx of food that gets shredded and scattered about. No wonder it gets smelly from time to time! To clean a garbage disposal and eliminate the odor-causing bacteria, follow these instructions.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Flashlight
- Needle-nose pliers or tongs
- Ice cubes
- Rock salt
- Vinegar
- Baking soda
- Old toothbrush
- Liquid dishwashing soap
- Lemon or orange peels

STEP 1
There are two cardinal rules when it comes to cleaning a garbage disposal. The first is always to disconnect the power to the appliance before working on it. The easiest way to cut its power is simply by unplugging it. Normally, it’s plugged in to the wall under the sink. If you can’t locate the outlet, go to the electrical panel in your house and cut electricity to the circuit on which the garbage disposal is powered. To confirm that the power is off, try turning on the garbage disposal.

Next, point a flashlight down the drain to identify objects that may be lodged in, or wound around, the impellers that macerate the solids sent through the disposal. Look for such things as bottle caps, aluminum can pull-tabs, or vegetable fibers. If you find any, remove these items with needle-nose pliers or tongs. Yes, the second rule of cleaning a garbage disposal is never to stick your hand into the chamber.

Clean a Kitchen Sink's Garbage Disposal

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Drop about a dozen ice cubes into the garbage disposal, followed by a half-cup of rock salt. Restore power to the disposal, so that you can turn on the mechanism while running water down the drain. Keep it on for about a minute, until all the built-up grime and gunk has fallen away from the disposal blades. Check the drain with a flashlight again. If the blades are clean, go and shut the power back off.

STEP 3
Pour a cup of vinegar and a half-cup of baking soda into the disposal. Let the combination fizz for about 15 minutes. In the process, the acidity of the solution kills bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli. Stick with the natural cleaners here; no toxic chemical should be used. Just as bacteria can come flying out of the disposal, compromising the sanitation of your kitchen sink, so too could a chemical.

STEP 4
While the vinegar and baking soda are busy fizzing inside the disposal, combine the two again—this time outside the appliance, on the counter—to create a thick paste. Put some of that paste on an old toothbrush, and use it to scrub down the top and bottom surfaces of the rubber flaps along the neck of the disposal. Those flaps are likely to be as bacteria-ridden as any other component. So while you’re at it, think about giving a good scrubbing to the rubber parts on your sink stopper, too, if there are any.

STEP 5
Now’s the time to engineer one final flush of the garbage disposal. First, plug the drain opening. Second, run the water in the sink until its basin is about three-quarters full. Add a teaspoon of dish soap, then finally remove the drain plug, letting the water drain out all while the disposal runs.

Additional Notes
You can add a fresh aroma to the sink and disposal by sending citrus peels through the disposal. And in the future, with regular cleaning of the garbage disposal, you can make sure odors stay away. Mark your calendar with a reminder to clean the garbage disposal every two weeks or so. For regular cleaning, any method works, be it ice and rock salt or vinegar and baking soda. Each takes only a few minutes, and if you stay on top things, you can avoid the more laborious and time-consuming process detailed above.


How To: Clean an Oven

Smell something smoky? Check your oven. Spills and splatters from long-gone casseroles could be to blame. Roll up your sleeves and follow this step-by-step to get your oven back to working order.

How to Clean an Oven

Photo: shutterstock.com

You’ve put it off for months, hoping the little spills and splatters inside the oven would vanish of their own accord. There comes a time, though—as much as you wish it weren’t true—when you must clean an oven to ensure its continued operation. Of course, that’s assuming you don’t have a self-cleaning oven. These marvelous inventions have been around for a number of years. They maintain themselves by heating to an extremely high temperature that burns away residue. Older appliances are not so conveniently equipped. But by following the instructions detailed below, you can clean an oven completely in only a handful of steps.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Baking soda
- Water
- Sponge
- Old newspapers
- Spray bottle
- White vinegar
- Clean microfiber cloth

STEP 1
Start be removing the oven racks. These may need to be cleaned, too. The most effective method of cleaning oven racks is to give them a good, long soak in hot, soapy water (liquid dish soap or a crumbled dishwasher tablet ought to suffice). Can’t fit your oven racks in the kitchen sink? As an alternative, you can soak them in the bathtub. Just be sure to line the tub with an old towel so as to prevent the metal racks from chipping or scratching the delicate finish on your tub.

How to Clean an Oven Door

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Within the oven itself, use a metal spatula to gently scrape away residue. The sides of the oven may be messy too, but most of your effort is likely to be spent on clearing ashy chunks off the bottom of the oven chamber. Most baked-on spills and splatters can be removed this way, but you’re not finished yet!

STEP 3
Mix baking soda with just enough water to create a thick paste. A typical ratio is one half-cup of baking soda and two or three tablespoons of water. Apply the paste to every surface inside the oven, including the back side of the door. Let sit for several hours or overnight, allowing the paste to penetrate deeply.

STEP 4
Once six or eight hours have gone by, lay old newspapers or paper towels on the floor in front of the oven. Next, using a slightly moist sponge, wipe out as much of the paste as possible. Lots of grease and ash should come out along with the paste. Continue wiping, rinsing the sponge as necessary, until no more paste remains in the oven. If the chamber still seems dirty, you may want to repeat the process, reapplying the baking soda and letting it sit before attacking the oven with a sponge yet again.

STEP 5
Fill a spray bottle with a 50-50 mixture of white vinegar and water, using it to spray down the glass portion of the oven door. Wipe away the moisture with a clean, dry cotton or microfiber cloth.

Additional Notes
In the future, to make oven maintenance less of a time-consuming chore, why not regularly wipe down the oven chamber with soapy water? If you stick to a program of more frequent, less intensive cleaning, your oven may never again need such major TLC. Hey, it’s something to think about, at least!


How To: Clean Stove Burners

Return a messy stovetop with grease-covered burners to like-new condition in under 30 minutes. Here's how.

How To Clean Stove Burners

Photo: Shutterstock.com

We’ve all been there: It’s the end of a long day, and rather than wipe up the splatters on the range, you decide the mess can linger for a day. A week later, you still haven’t cleaned the stove burners, and—largely thanks to the pasta sauce you’ve just brought to a low simmer—the situation has only gotten stickier. OK, it’s time. All it takes is one deep cleaning to restore the stovetop to its pristine state. Follow these steps to clean stove burners quickly and with a minimum of hassle.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Dishwashing soap
- Sponge
- Baking soda
- Scouring pad
- Ammonia (optional)
- Clean cloth

STEP 1
Before going any further, wait until the burners have completely cooled. Next, remove the grates (for a gas range) or burner coils (for an electric range). In the latter case, it takes only a little tug-and-lift motion at the point where the coils connect to the sockets on the stove. If those coils don’t budge, refer to your appliance manual in order to avoid causing any damage. Once the grates or coils are off, move them over to your countertop to be cleaned separately.

Dirty Stove Burners

Photo: Shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Combine lukewarm water and a bit of dishwashing soap in a bowl. Dip a cloth or sponge into the solution, then proceed to scrub the burners. (With an electric range, do your best to avoid getting the sockets wet.) If you’ve cleaned the burners somewhat recently, you may have luck with this approach.

STEP 3
To tackle tougher stains, enlist the abrasive power of baking soda. Mix a handful of baking soda with a little bit of water to form a thick paste. Coat your burners in the paste and let them stand for about 20 minutes. Once that time has passed, caked-on residue should have become soft enough to be removable with  a sponge. Lastly, rinse off the burners to make sure that none of the paste remains.

STEP 4 (optional)
If neither of the above has worked to clean your stove burners, there’s one more method to try. Place each burner into its own plastic bag, along with a quarter-cup of ammonia. The goal is not to cover the burners in ammonia, but simply to seal them in with the ammonia fumes. Let the plastic bags sit overnight in your sink, in case of a leak. On the next day, with proper ventilation in the kitchen, open the bags and now—finally—the burners should come clean under a sponge. Once the burners are no longer caked in residue, remember to rinse them thoroughly to remove all traces of the ammonia.

STEP 5
Pat down the burners with a clean cloth or paper towels and let them air-dry. Before reconnecting the coils on an electric range, be certain that both the coils and the stove sockets are both completely dry.

Additional Notes
One trick for everyday cleaning is to spray the burners with vinegar. Let them sit for a while (perhaps while you put dishes in the dishwasher), then wipe down the vinegar-treated burners with a clean cloth or paper towel. Cleaning burners after each use of the range makes it so grease and food residue cannot accumulate, and that negates the need for a deep cleaning like the process laid out in the steps above.


Buyer’s Guide: Best Refrigerators

With so many available sizes, finishes, features, and configurations, picking the right refrigerator can be a challenge. Let us simplify the process with this quick rundown of important considerations and a sampling of well-reviewed models.

Best Refrigerators

Photo: shutterstock.com

The kitchen plays host to more appliances than any other room in the house, and the king of them all is the refrigerator. Whereas it was once a plain white box of no-frills functionality, the refrigerator has evolved to boast a range of stylish finishes, plus an ever-widening assortment of features, some more useful than others. If it’s been years since you last shopped for a fridge, you may be surprised by how much the product landscape has changed. So as you navigate the many options, keep these factors in mind to make a selection that meets your day-to-day needs, satisfies your style preferences, and fits within your budget.

Size/Capacity. When it comes to refrigerator size, there are two measurements to know. The first is the appliance’s exterior size. If you’re buying a new fridge as part of a major kitchen renovation, then you’re free to consider larger- or smaller-than-standard appliance sizes, because your countertops and cabinetry can be designed to fit around whichever model you choose. However, if you’re working within an existing kitchen layout, the new refrigerator needs to fit into the space vacated by the old one. In some kitchens, there may be a height limitation, but width is more typically the crucial dimension. Standard refrigerators measure between 30 and 33 inches across. Depth varies as well. Some models are designed to sit almost flush with the edge of the countertop. Counter-depth refrigerators yield a sleek, almost built-in look, although because they are shallower, these fridges may not offer as much storage capacity as full-depth models.

The fact is that once the refrigerator has been installed, you’re going to care less about its exterior dimensions and more about its interior capacity. Standard-width refrigerators typically have interior capacities ranging from 19 to 22 cubic feet. While some models offer up to 33 cubic feet of capacity, they are wider (and sometimes taller) than the average model. Compact refrigerators, some as narrow as 18 inches, are experiencing new popularity, not in dorm rooms or offices, but in smaller homes. While these so-called column refrigerators often lack a freezer, you can buy a separate (equally small) freezer to serve as a companion.

Best Refrigerators - Full Interior

Photo: shutterstock.com

Configurations. In their quest to expand interior capacity and pack in extra features, manufacturers have struck upon a bevy of innovative configurations. While the most common configuration is still the familiar freezer-on-top design, some of the other popular arrangements include:

side-by-side combinations: Appealing to those who reach into the freezer as often as the fridge, these feature a vertical, full-length split, with the refrigerator on one side and the freezer on the other.

bottom-freezer styles: A fast-growing subcategory, this design positions the refrigerator above the freezer; while the fridge portion often has hinged French doors, the freezer pulls out along sliding tracks.

• four-door models: We’re used to “four doors” being a descriptor for cars, but here the term refers to refrigerators that feature an extra drawer (for meats and beverages) between the two-door fridge and pull-out freezer on bottom.

In deciding upon the ideal refrigerator configuration for your kitchen, don’t forget to account for a model’s door swing in relation to nearby walls, cabinetry, and other appliances. Another important consideration: Many appliances work best when installed with a certain amount of clearance on all sides. Read the literature and work with the appliance salesperson (and/or your contractor or kitchen designer) to make sure that the refrigerator you are purchasing is going to actually fit in your space.

Energy Efficiency. In any product showroom, you’ll find that each refrigerator carries an Energy Guide label, summarizing the appliance’s energy requirements and annual operating cost (based on average natural gas and electricity rates). To minimize monthly energy bills, focus on models bearing the Energy Star designation. Such refrigerators exceed federal minimum standards for efficiency and quality.

Additional Features. Bells and whistles are as prevalent here as in any other appliance category. Among the most popular are temperature-controlled drawers, adjustable storage shelves and bins, and through-the-door ice and water dispensers. On pricier models, you can find wine-chilling compartments, Bluetooth-enabled sound systems, and even integrated television and/or computer screens. In addition, most brands today offer a range of colors and finishes, from matte white to stainless steel and beyond.

To help you find the best refrigerator for your home, we’ve picked a few favorites, weighing the above factors against critical reviews on the top shopping sites:

 

Maytag M1TXEGMYW Top-Freezer Refrigerator

Best Refrigerator - Maytag

Photo: maytag.com

One of the most reviewed refrigerators over on The Home Depot, this traditional top-freezer model received 4.2 out of 5 stars, with consumers praising its “convenient” ice maker as well as its “large capacity.” The Energy Star-qualified unit provides 20.6 cubic feet of interior space, with adjustable full-width Spill-Catcher glass shelves; FreshLock humidity-controlled crispers for produce; and Cool Flow ventilation that helps evenly refrigerate large items. Available in an assortment of finishes, including stainless steel, the Maytag, though not the newest kid on the block, impresses as a low-cost, high-performing choice. Price: $799

 

Kenmore Elite 71323 French Door Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator

Best Refrigerators - Kenmore

Photo: kenmore.com

Sears shoppers gave the Kenmore Elite 5 out of 5 stars, citing its “roomy” 21.6-cubic-foot interior, which is housed within a modest 30-inch-wide frame. Energy Star-qualified, the refrigerator features a full-width pantry drawer, specially designed to hold extra-large, typically hard-to-store items like party platters. Other features include a filtered water dispenser, factory-installed ice maker, and a pull-out freezer with a two-tier design that maximizes storage space. Price: $2,099

 

LG LDC24370ST Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator

Best Refrigerators - LG

Photo: lg.com

Available in white or stainless steel, this LG bottom-freezer refrigerator combines contoured doors, commercial handles, and hidden hinges for a streamlined and seamless look. It’s spacious, too, with the refrigerator and freezer portions adding up to a total capacity of 23.8 cubic feet. Best Buy shoppers gave it 4.7 out of 5 stars, voicing appreciation for its LED lighting, quiet operation, and easy-to-clean adjustable shelves. The Smart Cooling system at its core relies on six temperature sensors and multi-airflow cooling to monitor and maintain temperature, with an electronic interface displaying the system status at any given time. Price: $1,619


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

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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

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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.