Category: Kitchen


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

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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

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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

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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.


How To: Make Concrete Countertops

Concrete is a striking and practical choice for countertops, made from a DIY-friendly materials that enables any confident homeowner to achieve quality results.

How to Make DIY Concrete Countertops

Photo: craftworkhome.com

The brute strength of concrete has made it the go-to building material for a variety of such outdoor installations as driveways, walkways, and patios. But there are some who love concrete not only for its high durability and low maintenance, but also for its distinctive look. In fact, probably due in part to its affordability, concrete has become a popular countertop material in both kitchens and bathrooms. What makes concrete an even more budget-friendly option is that—in contrast to, say, natural stone—it’s easy to work with. A proficient or even beginning do-it-yourselfer can make a concrete countertop himself, saving the costs associated with hiring a contractor to do it. If you think you’re up to the challenge, scroll down to read the details of the process. Who knows? Soon you might find yourself making concrete countertops the DIY way!

 

1. BUILD THE FORM

How to Make Concrete Countertops - Form

Photo: diynetwork.com

Start by determining the dimensions you want the countertop to be. Next, build a form into which you can pour the concrete so that once it dries, the hardened material will conform more or less exactly to your desired specifications. For this type of concrete form, melamine-coated particleboard works best; it’s readily available, inexpensive, and most important, concrete doesn’t stick to it. Caulk all joints in the melamine construction to ensure that the concrete dries with neat edges. If you have only limited experience with caulk, it’s recommended that you outline the joints with painter’s tape. That way, if you misapply any caulking, you can painlessly correct the mistake by just removing the tape. To smooth any imperfections in the caulk bead, run a wetted finger along the silicone before it dries.

Is your concrete countertop going to be inset with a sink? If so, the form you build must include cutouts for the sink itself and (if necessary) for a faucet. To leave room for these fixtures, you can build recesses into the form (as in the picture above). Or you may be able to get your hands on a foam mold of the sink and its accouterments—manufacturers often make these molds available, not so much for DIYers, but for the contractors who do this stuff every day. Yet another option—perhaps the easiest—is to buy a sheet of high-density foam of the same thickness as your countertop. Cut the foam into pieces of the appropriate length and width, then sand their edges and cover the pieces with foam tape (sold at hardware stores). Finally, use caulk to secure the foam pieces into the right positions within the melamine form.

 

2. REINFORCE THE FORM

How to Make Concrete Countertops - Mesh

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Now lightly coat the melamine frame interior with olive oil; doing so will let the concrete slip more easily from the frame later on. Before you can even think about pouring the concrete, however, one essential step remains: adding reinforcement, in the form of steel mesh. For best results, suspend the mesh at the middle point in the vertical height of your melamine form. How? Drill screws into the outside walls of your frame; connect the mesh to the screws via zip ties, strong ties, or even a bungee cord; then extend the metal wiring across the breadth of the frame. Bear in mind that in order for this approach to be successful, you must be careful to mix the concrete to a watery—but not too watery—consistency. If this all sounds painstaking, consider the alternative: Mix the concrete however you like; pour it to fill the form halfway; set in the steel mesh; then fill the rest of the form.

 

3. MIX THE CONCRETE

How to Make Concrete Countertops - Mix

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When you’re ready to mix concrete for the project, closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Aim to achieve a thick, oatmeal-like consistency. If you find that it’s too hard to work with, add a little water (but only a little). The wetter the concrete, the more brittle it becomes upon drying. Consider augmenting the concrete with additives that inhibit cracking and shrinking. Known as admixtures, these ought to be readily available at your local home improvement retail store.

 

4. POUR THE CONCRETE

How to Make Concrete Countertops - Bob Vila

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Pour enough concrete into the form to fill its volume completely, then use your hands to work the material along the edges and into the corners. If you attached the steel mesh reinforcement to the frame itself, cut those connections now. Then proceed to use a flat board, such as a one-by-four, to level, or screed, the concrete. Move the board back and forth in order to smooth the surface and fill low spots. Keep a trowel at the ready, so you can quickly deal with any excess.

Next, use a wood float, raising its leading edge slightly, to smooth the concrete further. Meanwhile, tap the sides of the form gently with a rubber mallet (or grab a partner and shake the form side to side very lightly) so as to create the vibrations necessary to dissipate air bubbles. After letting the concrete harden for a couple of hours, come back to the form and once more run a tool over the concrete surface. This time, reach for the trowel and use it to eliminate any lingering imperfections.

 

5. REMOVE THE FORM

How to Make Concrete Countertops - Remove

Photo: hgtv.com

Lay a plastic sheet over the concrete to prevent it from losing too much of the moisture it needs to cure properly. Generally speaking, the longer you allow the concrete to dry, the stronger it ends up being. For maximum strength, you can let the concrete harden for a period of weeks, but for this purpose leaving it alone for a few days is plenty. Once that time has elapsed, go ahead and remove the melamine frame, then lift the concrete countertop into position on top of your base cabinets.

 

6. FINISH THE JOB

How to Make Concrete Countertops - Finishing

Photo: hgtv.com

There’s a good chance at this point that small cracks or bubbles may be visible in your countertop. If you like them, do nothing. Otherwise, you can perform spot repairs with concrete patching compound. Remember, however, that after applying the patches (and allowing them to dry), you must then sand the countertop with diamond-grit sandpaper (manually or using a power sander). Finally, wash the counter thoroughly, removing all debris and fine particles of dust; let the countertop dry completely, then finish the job by applying a concrete sealer or a coating of food-safe polyurethane (optionally followed by an application of canuba wax).

 

Stand back and admire those concrete results!


Weekend Projects: 5 “Make Your Own” Kitchen Islands

By cleverly repurposing readily available materials, you can create a convenient and functional kitchen island without the expense of an elaborate custom renovation.

In the kitchen, an island is surrounded on all sides not by water, but by foot traffic and day-to-day household activity. Situated at the heart of the home’s busiest room, a well-designed kitchen island justifies its pride of place in three ways. First, it extends the work surface area, picking up where the countertops leave off. Second, it offers additional (and often much-needed) storage space. And third, the kitchen island makes possible the convenience of casual dining, not to mention the simple joy of just hanging out. Can you reap these benefits without committing to the cost and interruption of a full-blown renovation? Absolutely. Even within a weekend, you can build a DIY kitchen island that enhances both the look and the efficiency of your kitchen. Scroll down to see five favorite DIY kitchen islands.

 

1. DO A DOOR

DIY Kitchen Island - Door Top Table

Photo: urbanboyscoutfurniture.com

Here’s a DIY kitchen island with character. Because it uses an old door (discovered in a salvage yard), the project costs very little to complete, but it certainly makes a big design statement. Either cover a solid-wood paneled door with cut-to-size glass, or choose a flush door that can be sanded down to a smooth surface.

 

2. PICK PALLETS

DIY Kitchen Island - Shipping Pallet

Photo: designmag.fr

Shipping pallets are a DIYer’s best friend. Readily available, often free of cost, these plywood structures lend themselves to countless home projects, including this DIY kitchen island with rustic appeal. It takes only three pallets to make this simple table, or you can use six to create a larger piece with an equal degree of charm.

 

3. CREATE WITH CRATES

DIY Kitchen Island - Wooden Crates

Photo: evergreenfurniture.etsy.com

If your ideal DIY kitchen island offers lots of integrated storage, check out this easy option: A set of wooden crates are painted white and sanded to a patina before being screwed together. Arranged Rubik’s Cube-style, the crates form the base for a polished wood tabletop. Alternatively, top with butcher block or remnant stone.

 

4. SALVAGE A SOLUTION

DIY Kitchen Island - Reclaimed Wood

Photo: interiordesign.net

In this ambitious DIY kitchen island project, scraps of salvaged wood unite in an offbeat patchwork pattern, perfect for anyone who loves the look and history of reclaimed lumber. Add cabinet hardware—hooks, handles, or knobs—not only for the sake of functionality, but also to enhance the mix-and-match design effect.

 

5. DRESS UP A DRESSER

DIY Kitchen Island - Converted Dresser

Photo: littlecornerhouse.blogspot.com

To make this homey DIY kitchen island, start with a new or old dresser, first making sure that the furniture stands to counter height, about 36 inches. Paint the piece in a color that matches your cabinetry or otherwise coordinates with your kitchen decor, then finish the job by attaching a suitable wood or stone countertop.


Quick Tip: Hanging Kitchen Cabinets

Follow these steps for best results when you hang kitchen cabinets as part of a remodeling project.

Here are some things to think about when you want to hang kitchen cabinets. Start by hanging your upper cabinets so that the lower cabinets won’t be in the way. Snap a level chalk line along the wall to align the base cabinets. Then establish a plumb line to make sure the top and bottom cabinets line up. Use shim shingles to help you level the base cabinets, then use drywall screws to secure your cabinets to the wall studs.

For more on kitchen cabinets, consider:

Kitchen Cabinets 101
Cabinet Door Styles: What’s Yours?
The Basics of Kitchen Cabinet Installation


How To: Clean Oven Racks

Over time, oven racks become covered with grease, grime, and baked-on food. Here are some (relatively) painless ways to get them clean and shiny again.

How to Clean Oven Racks

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Ugh, is there anything worse than a dirty oven? If you use the appliance at all, chances are that baked-on grease, sticky grime, and burnt bits are going to accumulate—maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday. While many homeowners are lucky enough to enjoy a self-cleaning oven, that convenience comes with a consequence. Over time, the self-cleaning functionality ends up damaging the racks. To prolong their life, it’s recommended that, when possible, you clean oven racks the old-fashioned way. Fortunately, by using any of the following methods, you can get the job done quickly and with a minimum of hassle.

Bathtub Bliss

• Fill the tub with very hot water, just enough to cover the racks. Add up to 1/2 cup of dishwashing soap (or up to 3/4 cup laundry detergent). Let sit overnight.

• Alternatively, sprinkle baking soda over the racks, then douse them with vinegar. Once the foaming stops, submerge the racks in hot water and let sit overnight.

• In the morning, scrub the racks with an old dish towel to remove grease and grime, and use an old toothbrush to dislodge any baked-on grime. For really stubborn bits, add salt to the toothbrush to make the scrubbing more abrasive. Afterwards, rinse the racks thoroughly before returning them to the oven.

How to Clean Oven Racks - Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

Trash Bag Treasure

• Place oven racks into an unused trash bag. Add 1/2 quart of ammonia. Seal the bag and let sit overnight.

• Open the bag in the morning; be wary of ammonia fumes. Rinse the racks thoroughly and replace.

Commercial Cleansers

• Because many cleansers produce toxic fumes, if you plan on using a commercial cleanser, clean oven racks outside.

• Cover a work surface with sheet plastic or newspaper. Lay down the oven racks in a single layer.

• Put on rubber gloves, then spray oven cleaner generously onto the racks. Let sit for about 10 minutes.

• Scrub the racks either with a rag or an old toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly with a garden hose before replacing.

It’s a dirty job, but if in your household, you are the person responsible for the task of cleaning oven racks, take heart: It requires only a few common household items, several hours of soaking, and a little bit of elbow grease to get the job done.


How To: Make a Mosaic Countertop

For an out-of-the-ordinary effect to catch the eye in your kitchen, consider installing a mosaic tile countertop.

Here’s a unique way to use ceramic tile for a very unusual countertop. Just break up the tiles into random pieces, use thin-set mortar and create the pattern of your choice. Let the tiles set overnight, and then use ceramic-grade grout with an additive to prevent wide joints from cracking. Let set for ten minutes and wipe with a dry synthetic pad (a wet pad would wash the joints out).

For more on kitchen countertops, consider:

How To: Work with Mosaic Tile
Bob Vila’s Guide to Kitchen Countertops
One-of-a-Kind Countertops: 6 Ways to Make Yours Unique


Quick Tip: Butcher Block

Beloved by many homeowners, hardwearing butcher block kitchen countertops enable you to prepare food without cutting boards.

A butcher block table can help make your kitchen much more efficient. Built to take a beating, butcher block doubles as a functional chopping surface as well as an eating or serving table. Butcher block is often made of hard maple—a dense, strong wood that doesn’t add flavor to what you’re chopping on it. It’s cut across the grain, so it’ll wear evenly without warping. Just keep it clean and oil it occasionally.

For more on kitchen countertops, consider:

Kitchen Countertops 101
12 Wow-Worthy Woods for Kitchen Countertops
Counter Intelligence: Choosing the Right Kitchen Countertop