Category: Kitchen


How To: Cure a Smelly Garbage Disposal

If there's an unpleasant stench wafting from your garbage disposal, it's time to give it a good cleaning. Here's how to get rid of stinky food residue in your disposal.

Photo: shutterstock.com

There’s no denying the convenience of the garbage disposal: It simplifies so many of the activities that take place in the kitchen. Frequent use of the appliance, however, can sometimes lead to foul odors. If you’ve noticed a not-so-pleasing scent emanating from yours, don’t worry—it’s nothing permanent. Getting rid of a garbage disposal smell is by no means an arduous task. In fact, you probably have everything you need for it in your pantry, and the job won’t take more than 10 minutes.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Scrub brush or dish wand
- Dish soap
- Ice
- Kosher salt
- Lemon peels

STEP 1
Start by dabbing about a tablespoon of dish soap onto your choice of either a scrub brush or dish wand. Scrub the visible portion of the garbage disposal, paying special attention to the seam where the disposal flange meets the sink basin. Small particles have the tendency to linger there, and even mold can sometimes grow.

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
When you run the kitchen faucet while operating the garbage disposal, its housing never completely fills with water. That’s normal. But if your garbage disposal has begun to smell, it can be a huge help to give the guts of the appliance a good soak. Here’s how to do it: Plug the drain in your sink, fill the basin about halfway with water, and then add a bit of dish soap (or vinegar, a natural cleaner). Next, unplug the drain and activate the garbage disposal. Doing so propels the soapy water through the housing, rinsing off its hidden nooks and crannies.

STEP 3
Even after the bath you gave the garbage disposal in Step 2, there may still be slimy residue left inside the appliance. To dislodge it, you need to go only as far as the spice rack: As it happens, kosher salt can be an effective abrasive cleaner. Pour a large cup of ice cubes into the garbage disposal, switch on the appliance, then add one-half cup of the salt. Together, the ice and salt should combine to grind away what remains of the odor-causing residue.

By now, the garbage disposal smell that had been bothering you should be gone. If you’ve got an extra lemon lying around, why not imbue the kitchen with a fresh citrus scent by simply grinding a few peels through the appliance?

Preventing Bad Smells
Although it’s easy enough to eliminate a garbage disposal smell, prevention is perhaps the best cure. Bear in mind these simple guidelines, and you’ll cut down on the accumulated food residue in the disposal that causes the foul odors in the first place. First, remember to use the disposal only for the organic materials it was designed to handle. Also, try to keep fibrous vegetables—for example, celery—and starchy foods like potatoes out of there. Meanwhile, don’t be hesitant to put eggshells and small fruit pits through the machine, as they actually go a long way toward cleaning its blades. Finally, dispel persistent particles from within the housing by always running the machine for five seconds longer than you think is strictly necessary.

With regular care and a bit of extra attention on occasion, your garbage disposal can be a boon to your everyday life without becoming a stinky inconvenience.


Bob Vila Radio: Banquettes

In an awkwardly shaped or small-size space, banquettes are casual dining spots perfectly suited for breakfast and snack time.

Banquette seating has a nostalgic charm that may remind you of your favorite diner or that cozy spot in your grandmother’s kitchen. But banquettes have more to offer than nice memories—they’re also smart space-savers. Is a banquette right for your kitchen? Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Listen to BOB VILA ON BANQUETTES or read the text below:

Kitchen Banquettes

Photo: kentkitchenworks.com

Banquettes are great for providing seating in areas that are too tight for a traditional table and chairs. They make good casual dining spots and are perfectly suited for breakfasts and snack time (that’s why they’re so common in eat-in kitchens). And banquettes excel at making the most of awkward corners or alcoves, transforming these potentially wasted spaces into functional, welcoming dining nooks.

A banquette isn’t the best choice, however, for large families, particularly in homes that lack a more formal dining space. Bench-style seating means disruption every time someone needs to get up for a glass of milk or another piece of bread. And while banquette benches are fun seating for kids, they can be tough for older family members to negotiate.

Finally, it can be difficult to keep the bench clean. If you opt for a banquette, you may want to invest in a table that can be rolled in and out for easier access to those crumb-littered corners of the banquette.

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.


Bob Vila Radio: Pantry Storage

Ready-made and do-it-yourself organization solutions help you ensure that even in a well-stocked pantry, you can always find what you're looking for.

A well-stocked pantry is key to planning and preparing meals efficiently. But even if you keep loads of ingredients on hand, they won’t do you any good if you can’t find them. Here are a few tips on keeping your pantry items organized, visible, and easily accessible.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PANTRY STORAGE or read the text below:

Pantry Storage

Photo: shutterstock.com

The first step is to get rid of stale or expired items—and anything else that you don’t think anyone in your household will ever eat. Next, if possible, completely clear out your pantry shelves, clean them off, and start organizing. Make collections of like items—for example, soups and other canned goods, or pastas, legumes, and grains. As you restock your pantry, you’ll want to keep these groups together, making sure you can see every item.

Fortunately, there are plenty of products (and DIY solutions) oout there to help you organize a pantry. Among the handiest are undershelf baskets, which add storage space and keep frequently used items accessible. Lazy Susans can help with accessibility but in small pantries, they can be inefficient space hogs. Stair step-style shelf organizers help keep soups and other canned goods readily visible; you can DIY your own by using lengths of wood. Finally, consider storing grains, cereals, and other bulk items in clear plastic stackable containers. They use space efficiently and let you see what you’ve got.

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.


Get the Look: Country Kitchen

A country-style kitchen has undeniable appeal. While country kitchens can range from traditional farmhouse to something more sophisticated, they all share certain fundamental design, color, and style characteristics. Here's how you can get the look of a country kitchen in your home.

Crisp Architects

Photo: Crisp Architects

The country kitchen is an American icon. The warm, welcoming feeling we get when we see homey gingham curtains, beaded-board paneling, or a deep farmhouse sink may stem from a fond childhood memory of grandmother’s house or a pleasing picture in our minds from an old movie or television show. Whatever the source, the look is one that endures in kitchen design today.

But while the style is firmly rooted in the past, today’s country kitchens are far from old-fashioned. Modern amenities and plenty of personal touches fit seamlessly alongside nostalgic details, as in this sunny kitchen designed by Crisp Architects, of Millbrook, New York. To help you get a similar look in your own home, we’ll describe the essential elements of a country kitchen and suggest ways you can reinterpret those details to make the finished project distinctly your own.

Pittsburgh Paint

Pittsburgh Paints "Easy Being Green" Palette

Color Scheme
An abundance of white permeates most country kitchens and sets the stage for an infusion of softer hues, like pale straw or sage green. Even when there are dashes of bolder color—a red-and-white checked tablecloth, for example, or a collection of blue canning jars—they rarely dominate the space. In this kitchen, warm white cabinetry is punctuated by a soft green color surrounding the sink and inside the open shelves.

Surfaces
Natural materials and weathered surfaces give newer country kitchens lived-in character. Beaded-board paneling is a common sight in most schemes, sometimes used as wainscoting below painted walls or around the outside of a work island. Here you’ll find it on the ceiling and on the back inside wall of the cabinets. Warm wood tones are also a necessity in a country kitchen, whether a solid plank floor underfoot or an unexpected variation like this one, where wood planks frame floor tiles. Tiles used for backsplashes in country kitchens are often white. As a fun twist in this kitchen, white tiles are set on a diagonal and accented with smaller green squares.

Crisp Architects

Photo: Crisp Architects

Cabinetry
The appeal of glass-front cabinets in country kitchens is twofold: They not only trigger nostalgic images of farmhouse kitchens, they also allow homeowners to showcase favorite china patterns or collections. Color-coordinated dinnerware looks especially pleasing behind glass. If you prefer solid doors, or if your budget does not allow you to replace the cabinets you have now, consider whitewashing existing cabinets for a fresh country look.

Hardware
Replacing old, indistinct hardware with vintage designs (like this kitchen’s half-moon drawer pulls) is an easy and inexpensive way to give existing cabinetry a country update. Country-style looks for knobs include glass and porcelain designs as well. Many manufacturers today make hardware with a nostalgic look, but you might also consider contacting a source for architectural salvage in your area for more options and a fun treasure hunt.

Appliances
Although this decor harks back to simpler times, today’s country kitchens have all the amenities we’ve come to rely on. That being said, the placement of modern appliances within a country-style setting is usually less conspicuous than in a contemporary interior where state-of-the-art gadgets might be the focal point of the room. Take this kitchen’s four-foot-wide Sub Zero refrigerator, for instance. Wood paneling on the exterior allows it to blend into the cabinetry around it.

Moen Annabelle Faucet

Photo: Moen Annabelle Faucet

Sink and Faucet
An apron-front sink is a classic element in country kitchens, and fortunately, the style has made a comeback in recent years. With many offerings from a number of manufacturers, these attractive fixtures are now much easier to find. If you prefer a sink that’s set into the countertop, however, consider an old-fashioned swan-neck faucet to complement the overall style of the room.

Lighting
Bright, sunny mornings are one of the best times to enjoy a country kitchen. Large windows left bare or adorned with the simplest of curtains are optimal in such settings. For overhead lighting, pendant lights with glass shades are a popular option. Additional recessed lighting amplifies a room’s brightness while letting the other design elements in the room command full attention.

Accessories
Once the country background is in place, accessories and collections allow you to personalize the space and add those perfect finishing touches. Baskets, blue canning jars, and vintage ceramics such as yellowware mixing bowls or ironstone pitchers are all classic choices. Be wary of over-accessorizing, though. Confine larger collections to a single cabinet or hutch to keep the room’s overall look uncluttered.


How To: Clean Granite Countertops

To maintain its glossy shine, granite should be cleaned regularly—and carefully. Here's how.

How to Clean Granite Countertops

Photo: shutterstock.com

In many people’s minds, granite means strength and resilience. But to clean granite countertops successfully, a homeowner must act with caution. The stone can actually be damaged by many of the products and techniques that are perfectly safe to use on other kitchen surfaces. You don’t have to be a genius to clean granite countertops; the job just requires a bit of extra care and attention. Follow the steps outlined here, and you’re bound to be satisfied with the result of your efforts.

REGULAR CLEANING
Your best bet is nothing more sophisticated than mild dish soap that’s been diluted with water. Bear in mind, however, that because granite scratches easily, the solution ought to be applied with a cotton cloth or soft sponge—that is, not with an abrasive scrubber. Before gently wiping down the counter, wring out the cloth or sponge so as not to compromise the highly absorbent stone (it can become discolored under standing water). Dry off the countertop as a final stage in this routine, not only to protect the granite from water damage but also to eliminate streaks and leave the surface with an eye-catching, irresistible shine.

STAIN REMOVAL
Don’t panic! Most of the time, stained granite countertops can be cleaned with household items so common that you probably already have them in your pantry. No matter the source of the stain, start with baking soda. If you wish to clean a water stain, mix the baking soda with a small amount of hydrogen peroxide. For an oil-based stain, mix the baking soda with water. In either case, the mixture should generate a thick paste. Generously spread that over the stain, then cover the area with plastic wrap, taping down its edges. Leave the stain remover overnight (or even for a couple of days), before rinsing and wiping down the granite.

ADDING PROTECTION
Most installations of granite are protected by a layer of sealant. If you’ve repeatedly tried and failed to remove stains from your counters, chances are that the sealant has ceased to function as it should. In situations where the sealant is to blame, stained granite becomes difficult or impossible to clean, at least for the average do-it-yourselfer. Your best bet is to hire a professional to completely clean and then properly reseal the stone, thereby preventing future problems.


Bob Vila Radio: Microwave Steam Cleaning

It's a fact of life that microwaves get dirty over time. When it's time to give yours a wipe-down, follow these steps to make this workhouse appliance sparkling clean and fresh-smelling.

The best way to keep your microwave clean is to wipe it down after every use. But that doesn’t always happen—you’re in a rush, or the kids make themselves a snack and leave a mess behind. Before you know it, you’ve got caked-on food on the carousel, the walls, and even the top of the oven.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON MICROWAVE STEAM CLEANING or read the text below:

Microwave Steam Cleaning

Photo: LG

Before you start scrubbing with a chemical cleanser that could end up in your next serving of pasta, try grandma’s best cleaning product. Sponge on a paste of baking soda and vinegar, then wipe down the appliance interior with four tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in warm water. Finally, wipe with plain water.

For a steam cleaning that leaves your microwave fresh as well as clean, squeeze the juice of two lemons into a microwave-safe bowl, then add the rinds and two cups of water. Microwave on high until the water comes to an active boil. Turn the oven off but leave it closed, with the bowl inside, for ten minutes. After that, remove the bowl, wipe down the interior, and wash the carousel.

You’ll be left with a microwave that’s not only sparkles, but also smells fresh and lemony.

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: Clean a Dishwasher

It's tempting to think that your dishwasher gets a good cleaning every time you run it through a cycle, but that's unfortunately not the case. Here's how to keep it sparkling clean, sweet smelling, and effective.

How to Clean a Dishwasher - Open

Photo: shutterstock.com

The idea of cleaning a dishwasher may seem a bit strange at first, but think of it this way: You regularly maintain your vacuum, right? Well, the dishwasher isn’t dissimilar. Whereas accumulated dust and debris are what threaten the performance of your vacuum, food scraps, soap scum, and stubborn grease are what compromise your dishwasher. Even if you installed the unit pretty recently, you should know how to clean your dishwasher in order to maximize its efficiency.

MATERIALS
- 1 cup plain white vinegar (or unsweetened lemonade mix)
- 1 cup baking soda

How to Clean a Dishwasher - Interior

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 1
Detach the bottom rack so that you can access the dishwasher drain. Thoroughly examine this crucial area, removing any gunk or chunks you find, because they not only impede drainage but can also damage the appliance.

STEP 2
Fill a dishwasher-safe container with one cup of white vinegar, placing it on the upper rack of the otherwise empty machine. Close the door and run the dishwasher through a hot-water cycle. Once the vinegar has worked its magic, you should find that it has washed away grease and grime, and even removed any musty odors that may have been present. Note that you can use a package of unsweetened lemonade mix rather than vinegar to achieve the same result. Remember to stick with regular lemonade, though; flavored options can leave stains.

STEP 3
Now sprinkle a cupful of baking soda across the bottom of the appliance, then run it on a short hot-water cycle. When the cycle’s done, you should notice that your fresh-smelling dishwasher now boasts a brightened, stain-free interior.

OPTIONAL
Has your dishwasher suffered a vicious attack from nasty mold? If so, add a cup of bleach to the bottom of the basin, then run the machine on a full cycle—that is, unless the interior of your dishwasher contains stainless steel, in which case you should completely avoid the use of bleach (bleach and stainless steel are not friends).

 

Keeping Your Dishwasher Clean
Perhaps the best way to keep a dishwasher clean is to treat it with basic respect and consideration day in and day out—after all, the machine isn’t invincible. Observing a set of simple usage guidelines can help you wring the best possible performance from this workhorse appliance, even as you prolong its life span.

• The dishwasher shares a drain with the kitchen sink, so if you have a garbage disposal, run it before washing the dishes to ensure that the drain is clear.

• It’s smart to conserve electricity and water by running the dishwasher only when it’s full, but resist the temptation to pile dishes too high or too tightly.

• Don’t prewash dishes too thoroughly before adding them to the dishwasher. For detergent to do its job effectively, there needs to be a certain amount of grease and food residue present. Otherwise, the detergent simply creates foam during the wash cycle, and that excess can be detrimental to the appliance.


Bob Vila Radio: Fixing Chipped Stove Enamel

Is your enamel stove looking a little worse for wear? You can restore the appliance to gleaming, pristine condition by repairing any portions of the surface that have gotten chipped in the course of cooking.

There’s something so crisp and clean about a kitchen with a traditional, white porcelain enamel stove. But sometimes all it takes to chip that gleaming surface is a dropped pan or a clumsily replaced grate. Over time, the exposed metal can rust, not only worsening the look but also damaging the appliance. Fortunately, it’s not too hard to repair those scratches and dings, getting your stove to look as good as new. Here’s how.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FIXING CHIPPED STOVE ENAMEL or read the text below:

Fixing chipped Stove Enamel

Photo: jollygoodegal.com

First, purchase a porcelain enamel repair kit in a color to match your appliance. These kits can be found online or at home improvement or hardware stores. Start by washing and thoroughly drying the damaged spot. Then sand the chipped area with 400-grit sandpaper, wiping it down with a damp rag. Make sure the area’s dust-free and completely dry before continuing.

Shake the bottle of liquid enamel well, then apply according to the directions on the repair kit. Typically, you’ll use a provided applicator to brush or dab some of the liquid onto the chip. One application should do it, but for deeper dings you’ll probably need several coats to build up an even surface. Allow each coat to dry (according to the manufacturer’s directions) before adding another. Be sure to wipe off any drips with a dry rag as you’re working.

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: Laminate Kitchen Countertops

With the right tools and an appropriate degree of detail-mindedness, even beginning do-it-yourselfers can laminate kitchen countertops successfully.

I’ve got some tips for you on how to laminate countertops in your kitchen. Roll on contact cement and allow it to set approximately 15 minutes until it’s tacky. Now here’s the trick: Place dowels across the countertop and position the new laminate exactly where you want it. Then remove the dowels one by one, pressing the sheet of laminate down. Since the contact cement is unforgiving, the dowels allow you to perfectly position the laminate before the glue binds.

For more on countertops, consider:

Kitchen Countertops 101
Trending Now: Laminate Countertops
Bob Vila’s Guide to Kitchen Countertops


How To: Clean a Microwave

To clean a microwave and take it from grimy to shiny in a jiff, try any one of these easy methods (none of which involve toxic chemicals).

How to Clean a Microwave - Interior

Photo: shutterstock.com

You know it’s time to clean your microwave when obnoxious smells fill the kitchen every time you open the appliance door. Fortunately, there are at least a couple of easy ways to clean a microwave using common household items that may already be in your pantry. Get ready to say goodbye to that odor of burnt popcorn!

No matter which method you decide on, the first step in cleaning a microwave is to wipe down all interior surfaces with a soft sponge or paper towels. For any stubborn food residue, use a plastic kitchen scraper. Tempting though it may be, steel wool should be avoided; it leaves scratches that ruin the microwave’s finish. Once you’ve given the interior a first pass, try one of these three approaches for a good, thorough cleaning.

LEMON JUICE

• Lemons contain citric acid, which cuts through grease and grime, and leaves behind a pleasant aroma. Cut two whole lemons into wedges, then squeeze the juice of each one into a small, microwave-safe mixing bowl. Once you have juiced them, throw the lemon rinds into the bowl, along with two or three cups of water.

• Place the bowl in the microwave, then set the appliance to run on high for two or three minutes—long enough for the water to start boiling vigorously. Without opening the microwave door, let the bowl stand for about 10 minutes, during which time its steam can penetrate any baked-on food and grease present in the interior.

• Open the microwave door and remove the bowl. If your microwave has a turntable, take it out of the oven (along with the carousel upon which it rotates). Soak these parts in hot, soapy water while you continue. With a damp cloth or sponge, wipe down the microwave and, if necessary, steam the interior once again.

 

VINEGAR AND BAKING SODA

How to Clean a Microwave - Exterior

Photo: shutterstock.com

Vinegar and baking soda combine to create a powerful cleaning agent. Both are inexpensive, and most people tend to keep a box or bottle of each item on hand. (Also, it’s worth mentioning that vinegar acts as a natural disinfectant.)

• Add four tablespoons of baking soda to a quart of warm water, being sure to mash and stir so that the powder fully dissolves. Dip a cloth or sponge into the mixture, repeating as necessary, and wipe down the entire interior.

• Pour one-half cup of water and one-half cup of white vinegar into a small, microwave-safe bowl. Place the bowl in your microwave, running the appliance on high for two or three minutes—long enough for the water to boil vigorously. Keeping the microwave door closed, let the bowl stand for about 10 minutes while the steam works its magic.

• Open the microwave door, take out the bowl, and remove the turntable (if your microwave has one), along with its carousel. Soak these parts in hot, soapy water, while you move on to clean the microwave interior with the vinegar-and-water solution you’ve prepared. Keep at the task until no baking soda residue remains inside the oven.

 

COMMERCIAL CLEANSERS

• Various commercial cleaners are available. Typically, these produce strong and in my opinion quite unpleasant fumes, which linger in the microwave and can make your food taste a little off. If you want to try a commercial cleaner, I recommend purchasing a fume-free product and letting the door stand open for a couple of hours after you finish cleaning.

Of course, the more often you use the microwave, the more frequently you should clean it. But I would say that for the average homeowner, cleaning the microwave once every two weeks is an appropriate schedule if you want to keep the appliance looking—and smelling—its delightfully clean best.