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How To: Clean a Popcorn Ceiling

Dust and dinginess turning your a textured ceiling into an eyesore? Follow this simple cleaning routine for a brighter interior once more.

How to Clean Popcorn Ceiling

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you live in a house that’s more than a few decades old, you likely have popcorn ceilings, which rose in popularity in the mid-1900s. Contractors liked the spray-on texture because it was cheap and easy to apply; homeowners at the time liked it because it dampened noise and hid any flaws made during application.

One downside to these ceilings, however, is that their pocks and bumps easily catch dust—and that dust emphasizes the texture’s edges like a shadow. Cleaning them at least once, if not more, a year brightens the surface overhead and helps many homeowners learn to live with their dated ceilings. (Not to mention, the act of dusting can offer relief to allergy sufferers.) To effectively navigate all of the nooks and crannies of the texture, follow the techniques outlined here for how to clean a popcorn ceiling.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Plastic tarps
Protective mask
Goggles
Stepladder
Vacuum with brush attachments
Longhandled broom
Duct tape
Paint roller
Lint brush with sticky paper (optional)
Water
Liquid dish soap
Sponge
Bleach or vinegar
Spray bottle(s)
Circulating fan

A WORD OF CAUTION

Before you tackle a deep cleaning of your vintage popcorn ceiling, be advised: Popcorn ceilings installed before the ’80s could contain asbestos, which is dangerous if inhaled. To prevent any possibility of lung-scarring illnesses and even lung cancer, make sure you follow guidelines for checking asbestos levels.

STEP 1: Prepare the room.

Collect all tools and materials in an easily accessible place. Cover your furniture and flooring with large plastic tarps to prevent dust, cobwebs, or liquid cleanser from dirtying (or damaging) furnishings and flooring below as you work. Protect your lungs from dust by wearing a protective mask, and shield your eyes with goggles.

RELATED: 15 Remarkably Easy Ways to Create a Dust-Free Home

STEP 2: Remove all dust from the popcorn ceiling with either a vacuum, broom, or duct tape.

Choose whichever method for dust removal suits you best. For any of the following, you’ll first decide whether you want to work with two feet on the ground using an extendable tool to clean the ceiling or climb a stepladder to clean small segments up-close. If you use a stepladder, be careful not to over-extend your range, which can lead to instability and loss of balance; instead, clean within a specific range (several square feet) before climbing down, moving your ladder, and addressing the next patch.

(1) Vacuum: Suck up surface dust and cobwebs using your vacuum’s attachments. Choose the widest brush attachment, one without hard plastic parts that could chip or damage your paint. If your vacuum has a long handle, you can stay on the ground and work. If you decide to climb a stepladder, climb up and down with your machine in tow carefully.

(2) Broom: Turn a long-handled broom around so that its wide, soft-bristled brush faces the ceiling. Sweep the brush over the ceiling, allowing the dust to fall onto the tarps.

(3) Duct tape: Attach duct tape to a paint roller, or use a sticky lint roller. Climb your step ladder and gently roller the ceiling. Most of the dust should stick to your implement. Replace duct tape or renew lint paper when dust no longer adheres.

How to Clean Popcorn Ceiling

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3: Test a cleaner on a hidden part of the ceiling before attacking stains.

Before you attempt to fade or remove stains caused by water, smoke, or grease, test a small, inconspicuous area of the ceiling to ensure you’ve picked an effective cleaning solution that won’t damage the ceiling. The strength of the solution you choose will depend on the cause, age, and severity of the stains.

• Grease stains: In a kitchen, you’re likely to spot some discoloration due to the amount of cooking grease that gets airborne during meal prep. To remedy, mix a mild solution of warm water and liquid dish soap in a large spray bottle, something you can handle easily on your stepladder. Spray solution onto the stain, and lightly dab the area with a rag or sponge. Let dry for several hours.

• Water, mildew, and smoke stains: Mix water with bleach in a spray bottle and apply to the ceiling. Lightly mist the area to prevent additional water damage. Start with one part bleach to five parts water. Wait for several hours. If the stain isn’t lifting, add more bleach and lightly mist the area again. Let the test area dry overnight to determine if the solution is working.

STEP 4: Proceed with the cleaner of choice to deep-clean any particularly dingy areas on your popcorn ceiling.

Mist the rest of the ceiling area with the appropriate cleaner—either the liquid dish soap solution or the bleach solution—that has been determined as posing no damage to your ceiling. (You should still be wearing protective gear, including goggles and face mask, when working with these cleaners.) If you’re using a stepladder, remember to work only within a limited range, climbing down and moving your ladder regularly.

Let the ceiling dry overnight with any windows open and circulating fans on to keep room ventilated.

STEP 5: Repaint or remove popcorn ceiling if you’re not happy with how it looks when cleaned.

If some stains linger, albeit faded, consider repainting your popcorn ceiling. Now that you have removed surface dust, your ceiling is prepared for a new paint job! Or, if you remain unhappy with the appearance of your popcorn ceiling, it may be time to remove it altogether.


How to: Clean a Fish Tank

Complete this easy routine once or twice a month to keep your fish happy and healthy—and the glass clear so that you can fully enjoy their company.

How to Clean a Fish Tank in 6 Easy Steps

Photo: istockphoto.com

Generally speaking, aquarium fish make great low-maintenance pets with minimal needs for attention and cleaning—perfect for busy households that are easing into pet ownership. But in order to keep your fish healthy and prevent the spread of harmful algae that can be caused by overfeeding and light exposure, aquariums require a basic cleaning and 25 percent water change every two to four weeks.

Fish are very sensitive to chemicals, including household soaps, so it is important to know how to clean a fish tank correctly. The proper method and supplies keep out toxins while maintaining the beneficial bacteria that your fish need to survive. You can partially clean a fish tank using some of the supplies readily available in your home, but you’ll also want to invest in a few specialty products from your local pet store to do the best job, including algae scraper pads and a siphon vacuum.

After your shopping trip, check out our guide for how to clean a fish tank in six easy steps while maintaining the delicate ecosystem inside your freshwater aquarium.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Hand soap
Algae scraper pad
Razor blade
Plastic scraper blade
Pot
Bleach (optional)
Aquarium siphon kit
Large buckets
Aquariumsafe cleaners
Vinegar (optional)
Paper towels (optional)
Liquid dechlorinator treatment
Thermometer
Aquarium testing and treatment kit

STEP 1: Clean the interior of the tank using an algae scraper pad.

First wash your hands, making sure to thoroughly rinse all of the soap off because you will be reaching into the tank.

Leave the fish alone; your pets won’t need to be removed to tackle a routine cleaning. In fact, taking the fish out of the aquarium may actually cause more harm than good: The transfer itself can stress out your pets, and too much time out of the aquarium in their temporary homes (with water that is neither filtered nor aerated) could danger their health.

Then, clean the inside glass with an algae scraper pad, not regular household cleaning sponges—even if they are brand new, they may have traces of chemical residue that could be lethal to your fish. Use the pads to loosen algae from all four interior walls of the tank; once dislodged, the fish tank’s filter should take care of removal. For any stubborn residue on your tank’s windows or hard-to-scrub corners, gently scrape the glass with a razor blade. If your tank is acrylic, use a plastic scraper blade instead.

RELATED: 10 House Hacks Every Pet Owner Needs to Know

STEP 2: Clean large decorations using plain water.

Pull out large rocks, artificial plants, and other decorations from the tank and carry them to your sink. Clean these tank decorations by running water over them while using the algae pad to gently scrub. Do not use any soap when cleaning a fish tank, as even traces of soap can be deadly for fish.

If the algae won’t come off by scrubbing, bring a pot of water to a boil, turn off the heat, and then place the items in the hot water for 20 minutes. The boiling water will both kill the algae and loosen the residue so that it’s easier to scrub off. Non-porous decorations can also be soaked in cold water with bleach diluted to a five to 10 percent solution before scrubbing them clean under a running faucet.

How to Clean a Fish Tank in 6 Easy Steps

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3: Siphon the gravel and remove up to a quarter of the tank’s dirty water.

With the large decorations still removed from the tank, clean the gravel with a siphon. Pet stores sell inexpensive siphon kits consisting of a length of flexible tubing capped by a plastic vacuum head specifically for the purpose of easily cleaning the gravel and removing water.

Submerge the vacuum end of the siphon kit into the tank and slowly lower the rest of the tubing into the water as well until all the air inside the tube is replaced with water. Holding the vacuum end underwater in one hand, seal the discharge end with your other hand (your thumb should be enough to cover the opening) so that the tubing fills with tank water. Then lift the tubing out of the tank, point the discharge end down into a large empty bucket located on the ground near the fish tank, and release your thumb. The dirty water will flow from the vacuum end through the length of the tube and into this container.

You can now clean the gravel by plunging the vacuum head down into the rocks, letting the siphon suck up surrounding gunk, and using your thumb to modulate the water flow on the discharge end. This process will start to suck up aquarium gravel and debris, but ultimately those stones fall back into place while the dirty water continues on its way out. Repeat until you have removed 25 percent of the water in the aquarium. Dispose of the dirty water in the bucket by pouring it down the drain and rinsing the bucket clean.

STEP 4: Address the exterior of the tank with aquarium-safe supplies.

Clean the top, light, hood, and outside glass as needed using aquarium-safe spray cleaners that can be purchased from your local pet store or by wiping surfaces with a vinegar-soaked paper towel and rinsing with water.

STEP 5: Top with fresh water and bring the tank back to equilibrium.

Put all of the decorations back in the tank. Next, in the empty bucket, prepare tap water to replace the amount you removed in Step 3. Add liquid dechlorinator treatment to the new water based on its volume and the instructions on the product label and place a thermometer inside to check that this new water settles to the same temperature as the remaining tank water before pouring it into the aquarium. Use an aquarium testing and treatment kit to ensure you have the correct balance of ammonia, pH, and nitrates in the water, so your fish can adjust to life inside their newly-cleaned home.

 

How to Clean a Fish Tank in 6 Easy Steps

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 6: Wait several days, then clean or replace the filter.

Do not clean your filter at the same time you clean the rest of the tank, as the filter contains beneficial bacteria that may have been lost during the water change. Instead, wait a week before cleaning or replacing your filter medium, and then follow the manufacturer instructions for your particular model.


Solved! What to Do About Ice Dams

If your roof is weighed down by the presence of heavy icicles and more in these snowy months, follow these techniques for removing the ice dams immediately—before the damage is done.

3 Methods for Removing Ice Dams (and How to Save Yourself the Headache in the First Place)

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: After a recent snowstorm, a large band of ice formed above the edge of my roof and created some heavy icicles as well. The weight of the ice is starting to pull the gutter loose and I’m afraid it will pull it off entirely. Is there anything I can do to get rid of the ice before it tears up the gutter or falls on someone?

A: What you’re describing is an “ice dam,” and, unfortunately, it’s very common on homes in areas that experience cold and snowy winters. An ice dam is the result of snow that has melted and then refrozen, and the culprit for that thaw-and-freeze cycle is an abnormally warm roof. When the air inside an attic is warm, that warmth can transfer through the roof and begin to melt the layer of snow, which in turn causes droplets to run down the roof. When those droplets reach the edge of the roof, they refreeze, because the part of the roof above the overhang (the eaves) doesn’t receive warm air from the attic. As additional snow melts, runs down, and refreezes, the layer of ice continues to build, creating a literal dam—a barrier that prevents water from running off the roof.

You’re correct, it’s dangerous to people (and pets) walking beneath, and it poses a risk to the roof and gutter system. As the ice dam builds it gets heavier. When the weather warms enough for the ice to melt, the dam can loosen enough to come crashing to the ground—sometimes taking your home’s gutter with it. Ice dams can harm the roof in other ways as well: As water seeps between shingles and freezes, it expands, loosening the shingles and penetrating through the layers of the roof until you have a leak and/or interior ceiling damage.

Since you’re dealing with one (or more) already, we’ll share some of the best techniques for removing ice dams. But keep this in mind for future winters: The key to long-term protection lies in preventing ice dams before they occur.

3 Methods for Removing Ice Dams (and How to Save Yourself the Headache in the First Place)

Photo: istockphoto.com

Melt the ice dam with calcium chloride socks. Calcium chloride is the same stuff used for melting ice on driveways and sidewalks, but don’t just sprinkle it on the ice dam. Instead, fill long socks or the legs of pantyhose with the granules and then tie off their ends with string. A 40-lb. bag of calcium chloride costs around $10 and will fill approximately 10 to 12 tube socks. By pouring calcium chloride into this tube-like form, you can position it vertically over the dam—with the sock’s end hanging an inch or two over the roof edge—and melt a tube-like channel through the ice dam, which will allow additional water that melts to run safely off the roof.

A word of caution: Do not substitute rock salt for calcium chloride, as rock salt can damage shingles and kill bushes and foliage beneath. Make sure the ice melt product you buy contains only calcium chloride, which is safe for shingles and vegetation.

Break an existing ice dam into small chunks with a mallet. Breaking an ice dam can be dangerous and, if you’re not extremely comfortable being on a snowy and icy roof, better left to the professionals. Breaking an ice dam is usually done in conjunction with melting the ice in some fashion, such as with the use of calcium chloride socks as described above, or with roof steaming (below). First, a cautious homeowner or professional hire should clear the roof of excess snow and melt drainage channels in the dam. Then, as the ice is beginning to melt, the edges of the channels can be carefully chipped away with a mallet to widen them and hasten drainage.

Breaking an ice dam can result in large swaths of ice crashing off the roof, breaking windows, damaging bushes, and injuring anyone below, so extreme caution must be taken. The person breaking the ice dam should do so from the vantage point of being on the roof, not from the ground where the heavy sheets of ice will fall.

Have a professional steam your ice dam away. Steaming away ice dams is a professional-only task because it requires the use of commercial steaming equipment that heats water and dispenses it under pressure. The roofing professional will first remove excess snow from the roof by shoveling and then steam channels through the ice dam to help it melt. He may chip away parts of the dam as he goes until the roof is clear of ice. Hiring a professional ice-dam removal crew can be pricey, running approximately $200 to $300 per hour.

 

3 Methods for Removing Ice Dams (and How to Save Yourself the Headache in the First Place)

Photo: istockphoto.com

Escape the damage caused by ice dams by preventing them from forming in the first place. Some prevention methods require removing snow from your roof, while others entail lowering your home’s attic temperature to prevent heat transfer from the attic to the roof. Try one or more of the following steps to help prevent ice dams from forming.

Rake the lower three to four feet of your roof after a snowfall. You can pick up a lightweight roof rake, with a 20-ft. extension, for less than $30 at many home improvement stores. Immediately after a snow, when the snow is still soft, rake the lower part of your roof (the eaves) clear of snow. This will help reduce ice buildup.

Add attic insulation. The idea is to stop the transfer of heat through the roof, which triggers the thaw/freeze cycle. An extra 8- to 10-inch layer of attic insulation will not only help prevent heat transfer, it will also help retain heat inside your home, so you’ll spend less to keep your house warm in winter.

Seal all interior air flow leaks in the attic. No matter how much insulation you add to your attic, if warm air from your living space is entering the attic through gaps and vents, your attic will still be too warm. Eliminating interior air flow involves sealing all gaps around sewer vent pipes with insulating foam and having bathroom and dryer vents rerouted from the attic through an exterior wall of your home.

Ventilate your attic to keep it cool. Intake attic vents should be installed along the underside of the roof eaves, in the soffit, and exhaust vents should be installed at the top of the roof. Cool air will naturally enter the soffit vents and, as it warms in the attic, rise and exit through the exhaust vents at the top of the roof. Because roofs vary in size and configuration, developing an attic ventilation system is a job for a qualified roofing professional.

Install deicing cables. You can find roof de-icing cables at home improvement stores for $125 to $250 that install directly on top the shingles, via clips, over the eaves of the roof. Those will work in a pinch to keep ice dams from forming, but they are visible and raking your roof can dislodge them.

Invest in a professionally installed deicing system that connects beneath the shingles. A professional system should be installed by a qualified roofing company at the same time they install new shingles on the roof. These systems will not mar the look of your roofline and they are designed to last for years. Depending on the size of your roof, a professionally installed system could add an additional $2,000 to $4,000 to your total roofing cost.


Solved! What to Do When Your Snow Blower Won’t Start

Try these DIY troubleshooters before the next storm to get your snow blower going again.

Snow Blower Won't Start? 6 Troubleshooting Tips to Try

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: After our first snow of the season, I got the snow blower out of the shed but the darn thing wouldn’t start. It ran fine the last time I used it, about nine months ago. Any tips or tricks to get it running again myself, or do I have to take it in for service?

A: Like all motorized equipment, snow blowers require periodic maintenance in order to operate efficiently. Yet because yours ran well when you last used it, there’s a good chance the problem is something minor that you can fix yourself. Before trying the troubleshooters below to fix a snow blower that won’t start, pull out your owner’s manual (or download a copy from the manufacturer’s website). While virtually all snow blowers feature the same components—valves, filters, gas tanks, carburetors, fuel lines, and switches—their configurations vary by brand, so the manual will help you locate and identify them. All tools required can be found in any auto-supply store if you don’t already have them on hand.

Snow Blower Won't Start? 6 Troubleshooting Tips to Try

Photo: istockphoto.com

Make sure all switches and valves are in the correct starting position. Today’s snow blowers have many switches, buttons, and valves that must all be in the correct position for the machine to start. Your manual may call for the throttle to be in the “High” position, the fuel shut-off valve in the “Open” position, the choke in the “Full” position, and the run switch set to “On.” Some snow blowers even use images instead of words. Check to make sure all of switches and valves are set according to the manufacturer’s specifications, or else your snow blower won’t start.

Drain and replace old gas in the tank. Since your snow blower has sat idle for months, the gas could easily have developed gummy residue, which can make starting the machine difficult. Siphon out the old stuff with a small siphon pump, and follow these steps for how to dispose of the gasoline. Then, fill the tank with fresh gas and try starting it again.

RELATED: 11 Mistakes Homeowners Make Every Winter

Add fuel stabilizer to the gas tank. Even if you’ve drained and refilled the gas tank, residue from the old gas could be clogging the carburetor. To dissolve it, try adding fuel stabilizer, a gasoline treatment product that helps liquefy residue. Add it to the snow blower’s gas tank at the rate specified on the container, and then try to start the machine. Even if it doesn’t immediately start, keep cranking (by pulling the starter cord repeatedly) to help work fresh fuel and stabilizer through the carburetor. If the snow blower won’t start up, wait an hour or two to allow the fuel stabilizer more time to dissolve residue, and then try again.

Prime the engine to force fuel into the carburetor. Gas engines are often slower to start in cold weather (precisely when you need your blower!), so your next move is to give it a little boost of fuel. First, prime the engine by pressing the flexible primer bulb, a small rubber or silicone bulb located on your snow blower near the carburetor, three to five times. This will force a small amount of fuel into the carburetor where it can more easily ignite. Immediately after priming, try to start the blower. Since it hasn’t been operated for months, it could take three or our attempts before it kicks on.

Clean or replace the spark plugs. Three things must be present in order for your snow blower to run correctly: fresh fuel, the proper amount of compression in the engine, and a spark to ignite the fuel. So cleaning or replacing the spark plugs could do the trick.

Use a socket wrench and a spark plug socket to remove the plugs. Once they’re out, inspect the porcelain sleeves for cracks. If you find a crack, replace the plug with a new one. Clean built-up carbon deposits from the electrodes (on the threaded end of the plug) with commercial plug cleaner or carburetor cleaner and a wire brush. Dry the plugs and reinsert them. If the snow blower won’t start even after your tinkering, the plugs may be shot beyond repair and should be replaced.

RELATED: How To Maintain a Snow Blower for Peak Performance

Examine the fuel line for damage. The fuel line, which runs from the gas tank to the carburetor, should be flexible and pliable. Over time, fuel lines can harden, and a brittle line is prone to leaking fuel, either from a crack or around the connections where it meets the gas tank and the carburetor. A leak can prevent fuel from reaching the carburetor and keep the snow blower from starting. If the line is hard, cracked, or kinked, replace it with a new one.

Clean the carburetor. If none of the above steps have gotten your snow blower going, you may need to clean the carburetor more aggressively to dissolve gunk and residue. A carburetor’s purpose is to combine air and fuel in a precise ratio for efficient combustion, so if it’s clogged with residue it can’t do its job. Check your owner’s manual for instructions on how to access the carburetor, located beneath the air filter. After removing the air filter cover and the air filter, you’ll be looking at the carburetor (a metal case with a cylindrical opening).

Carb cleaner is a solvent that comes in an aerosol can with a straw that fits on the nozzle to deliver a forceful shot of gunk-dissolving spray directly into the carburetor. Where the air filter was connected to the carburetor, you’ll see an open cylindrical valve—this is the air-intake valve. Spray the carb cleaner inside the air-intake valve (instructions on the can will specify how much to use). Replace the air filter and filter cover and then try to start the snow blower.

 

Snow Blower Won't Start? 6 Troubleshooting Tips to Try

Photo: istockphoto.com

Call a service technician. No luck? Troubleshooting beyond this point may require dissembling parts of the machine. If your snow blower is still under warranty, contact the manufacturer or the store where you bought it for instructions on how to proceed. If it’s an older machine, take it to a small engine repair shop; stores that sell lawn mowers, snow blowers, rototillers, and other small equipment often also offer repair and maintenance services. Having a service technician repair your snower blower could run anywhere between $75 and $300—sometimes as much as it would cost to replace it with a budget-friendly pick—depending on the extent of the problem.

If repair estimates wind up on the higher end of that range and your machine has quite a few years on it, now might be the time to upgrade. Check out our buyer’s guide to the best snow blowers on the market for key considerations to choosing your next outdoor tool as well as some top-of-the-line recommendations.


What’s the Difference? Plywood vs. OSB

Protect an unfinished home from the elements—and a finished home from the consequences of plumbing disasters—by starting with a durable subfloor built from the right materials.

Plywood vs OSB Subfloors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Though building codes treat both materials equally as “structural panels,” plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) are quite different compositionally. Plywood is made from glued thin strips of wood veneer (called plies) that are layered at alternating 90-degree angles and placed in a hot press; the resulting cross-laminated and layered material is structurally enhanced and resistant to the expansion and contraction that affects solid wood. OSB, on the other hand, consists of 3-inch to 4-inch strands of wood that are also layered and configured in a crossing pattern, then glued and pressed.

RELATED: Be It Ever So Humble: 12 Amazing Things Made with Plywood 

When plywood was developed to replace solid-board sheathing for subfloors and decking, builders were generally reluctant to switch to the new product, which ultimately became the standard for subfloor applications. So, unsurprisingly, when OSB came on the scene as an alternative to plywood, detractors were quick to point out its deficiencies. Its affordable price aided its growing popularity, and it soon surpassed plywood as builders’ choice in home construction—floors as well as wall and roof sheathing. Which is the better option, plywood vs. OSB? Well, each has their own strengths and weaknesses when used as exposed decking or subflooring.

Understanding the Differences in Plywood vs OSB Subfloors

Photo: istockphoto.com

OSB is considered more structurally consistent than plywood. Since a sheet of plywood consists of several large veneers of wood, it’s susceptible to instances of knots and other imperfections (which, if aligned, could create slightly softer spots throughout the material). Meanwhile, OSB compacts as many as 50 layers of strands into a single sheet the same thickness as that plywood, ensuring a much denser—and heavier—product throughout.

• OSB absorbs less moisture, but plywood dries out faster and more completely. How the subfloor materials react to water matters during both an open-air construction phase of a house as well as homeownership when a leak or flood might compromise the subfloor. Slower absorption of moisture is ideal for throwing a tarp out over an unprotected subfloor or catching a leak before real damage. But OSB also takes a longer time to dry out, giving the trapped moisture more time to degrade the material than a quick-drying plywood subfloor.

• OSB does not have the delamination issues that can plague plywood, but it’s prone to edge swelling when exposed to moisture. Though both are examples of laminated wood (meaning that each consists of thin sheets of wood that have joined with glue and compressed into a larger, rigid sheet), water damage is more likely to cause plywood’s glue to fail and its layers to bubble. This swelling effect can disappear when the plywood dries completely without impacting its structural integrity. OSB’s biggest weakness is at its edges, which will remain swollen even after the board has dried. In fact, due to the problems that edge swelling creates underneath a finished floor, a couple of national ceramic tile associations have discouraged the use of OSB as a subfloor or underlayment below a tile floor.

• OSB generally costs less than plywood. Sure, the cost of any wood product will fluctuate by region and supply, but this cost comparison generally holds water. It’s the reason a good number of high-volume builders had turned to OSB. The cost of plywood will vary depending on wood species, a factor that can also affect performance. For either of these materials, enhanced versions (which are detailed in the next section, “Understanding the Upgrades”) will cost more, but the savings come in time and materials. The enhanced plywood or OSB installation should survive exposure to moisture, meaning builders likely won’t need to install a partial replacement or second subfloor in order to install finish flooring.

 

Understanding the Upgrades: Enhanced Plywood and Subfloor Products

When a roofless, partially built structure takes on water, the plywood or OSB used for floor decking can absorb water, swell, delaminate, and require sanding or replacement before finish flooring can be installed. “Wood and water just do not mix well,” says Jeff Key, marketing manager for wood products at Georgia-Pacific. To address these water issues, OSB and plywood manufacturers are refining their products. The fix is to use water-repellent or water-resistant products in place of ordinary plywood or OSB.

 

Understanding the Differences in Plywood vs OSB Subfloors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Enhanced OSB
Products like AdvanTech, an OSB product by Huber Engineered Woods, were brought onto the scene to meet the need for moisture-resistant OSB. Essentially an enhanced OSB material, AdvanTech uses a resin integrated with the wood to resist water absorption and reduce the swelling that plagued the original OSB subflooring. Huber even offers a 50-year warranty on AdvanTech.

Using a water-resistant subfloor product saves the builder time and money because they make compromised deck sections a thing of the past. “I use the AdvanTech sheets so I don’t have to worry about sanding the edges later,” says James Langeway, a Vermont contractor. LP Building Products offers Top-Notch, an enhanced subflooring system with an edge coating to prevent water absorption and a self-draining notch design that drains standing water away from the panels.

 

Understanding the Differences in Plywood vs OSB Subfloors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Enhanced Plywood
Acknowledging that some builders are going to be loyal to plywood, Georgia-Pacific went national with a line of enhanced plywood, called Plytanium DryPly. DryPly is plywood treated with a water-resistant coating that prevents 40 percent of the absorption that occurs when uncoated plywood gets wet. “Our product comes with a 100 percent builder satisfaction guarantee against delamination, edge swelling, and joint sanding,” says Key. By combatting moisture issues, this new generation of plywood aims to go head-to-head with the enhanced OSB products. “There really isn’t another plywood product out there like it,” adds Key.

This evolved plywood may claim an overall advantage over OSB, since plywood is a stiffer, longer-lasting subfloor option. It will also hold up better under flooring accidents like leaks or flooding, and has greater nail withdrawal strength to hold the nail in under stress. “The difference with plywood is not felt initially during the first walk-through by the owners,” says Key. “It is made for long-term durability.” This sentiment is backed by Georgia-Pacific’s lifetime warranty on the product.
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All You Need to Know About Walk-in Showers

Get the answers to all your questions and concerns about this trendy bathroom remodel.

Walk-in Showers 101: All You Need to Know Before Installing One of Your Own

Photo: istockphoto.com

Converting an old bathtub to a walk-in shower—be it a prefab unit or custom job—is high on many a homeowner’s remodeling wish list. A walk-in shower can create the illusion of more space and give the bathroom a clean-lined look. And for folks that prefer a quick shower to long soak, this conversion is sure to suit your active lifestyle. But before you tear out that old tub, read up on the design, installation, and costs of such a project. These logistical considerations and design ideas for walk-in showers will set you up for success.

 

Walk-in Showers 101: All You Need to Know Before Installing One of Your Own

Photo: istockphoto.com

What Are the Advantages of a Walk-in Shower?

Unlike standard stalls, walk-in showers don’t require a curtain or door to block the spray of water, resulting in a spacious, open look. While prefab units have shallow curbs to keep excess water from running onto the bathroom floor, many custom walk-ins are designed with no curbs, just a gently sloping floor—which means greater accessibility, a big benefit for those with joint injuries or mobility issues.

Another asset is multi-nozzle spray, a standard feature in many walk-in showers. Depending on your individual preference, you can have as many as 10 spray nozzles directing water to all sides of your body.

What Are the Walk-in Shower Drawbacks?

Keep in mind home resale value before converting all of your tubs to walk-in showers. Optimally, your home should have at least one bathroom with a full-size tub. Appraisers and real estate agents classify bathrooms by fixtures, and, in order to qualify as a “full bath,” there must be a tub. A bathroom with a shower but no tub is deemed a “three-quarter bath.”

Other concepts to keep in mind prior to conversion:

• Bathing small children is usually easier in a tub than in a shower.

• An open shower offers less privacy than a standard shower stall with a door.

• The lack of a shower door can create a drafty feel during showering.

How Much Freedom Do I Have with Design?

Walk-in Showers 101: All You Need to Know Before Installing One of Your Own

Photo: istockphoto.com

While the size of your walk-in shower will be determined by the amount of the bathroom’s available floor space, homeowners have lots of decorative leeway in custom design. You can:

• Select the color and type of tile for the floor and walls.

• Opt to install glass panels or even glass blocks on one or more sides.

• Select the shape. Geometrics, such as squares, rectangles, and hexagonal lines, are popular, but you can opt for virtually any wall shape—even a curved wall—if you have adequate floor space. Standard building code recommends a minimum of 30 inches of walking space between bathroom fixtures, so leave adequate room to walk between the new shower and the vanity or commode.

• Create a shower that meets the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recommendations to accommodate a person with mobility issues. In addition, check with your local building authority to see if any supplementary codes apply. The ADA suggests a minimum size of 36 inches by 36 inches for a walk-in shower, which features a bench attached to one wall for sitting. Even if you eschew the bench, 36 inches by 36 inches is a good minimum size for ease of showering. If the shower will accommodate a roll-in shower chair, the ADA recommends a minimum size of 30 inches by 60 inches to permit easy in-and-out access.

How Much Will It Cost?

The least expensive option—a prefab walk-in shower kit—costs between $800 and $2,500, based on size and quality. Installing the shower pan and any doors included yourself is a money-saving option if you’re knowledgeable in plumbing and framing, while professional installation will add another $750 to $2,500, depending on the layout of your bathroom and plumbing requirements.

A custom walk-in shower is strictly a job for the pros, and substantially more expensive than a prefab kit. The shower pan is formed by hand from concrete, which is then covered by a waterproof membrane, followed by tile. Additional plumbing is necessary for directional nozzles. Wall construction includes the installation of concrete-backer boards to hold the tile. Adding glass sidewalls, which are thicker than standard sheet glass, further increases the cost. Depending on the final size and the materials chosen, a professionally installed custom shower can run $6,500 to $15,000 or more.

 

Walk-in Showers 101: Buying and Installing a Shower Kit

Photo: amazon.com

What Can I Expect During Installation?

Here’s a general idea of what a walk-in shower project entails:

1. Demolition and disposal of the old tub and wallboard.

2. New wall framing, if necessary, to accommodate the shower configuration.

3. Mechanical rough-in, which involves installing new water supply lines for a showerhead and faucets, and/or multiple nozzles, as well as the positioning of the drain. If you’re including an overhead shower light, an electrician will wire it during this phase.

4. Installation of moisture-resistant wallboard (often concrete fiberboard) over the wall studs. (This step isn’t mandatory with a prefab unit.)

5. Shower pan installation. A prefab shower pan needs only to be set in place and attached to the framing, but a custom shower pan must be hand-formed from concrete to achieve the correct drain slope. Then a waterproof membrane will be installed to prevent leakage.

6. Installation of tile on custom shower walls. If you’ve chosen a prefab unit, this is the time to position the wall surround.

7. Installation of fixtures includes attaching nozzle spray heads, a showerhead, faucet handles, and the drain cover.

8. If adding glass wall panels, they’ll go on last to reduce the risk of chips or breaks that are more likely to occur if they’re installed earlier.

 

Walk-in Showers 101: All You Need to Know Before Installing One of Your Own

Photo: istockphoto.com

How Should I Care for a Walk-in Shower?

Congrats! You’ve got a new updated bathroom. The following care and maintenance steps will keep your new shower looking and smelling great.

1. Turn on a top-notch bathroom exhaust fan to remove excess humidity from the room prior to taking a shower.

2. Use an open-bottom shower caddy to hold containers of bath gel, shampoo, conditioner, and bar soap. Leaving these items on tile shelves or the floor can lead to sticky, slimy residue and mildew growth.

3. After every shower, use a daily shower spray (which you can make yourself or find in your supermarket cleaning supply aisle), which breaks down soap residue. Spray lightly on tile walls and floors to help shed water and keep soap scum and hard water deposits from forming.

4. After using a daily shower spray, remove excess water from tile walls rubber squeegee if desired. This helps walls dry faster, a good idea if you’ve experienced mildew problems in the bathroom.

5. Spray tile walls once a week with an all-purpose bathroom cleaner, using a brush with stiff nylon bristles to scrub tile and grout lines. Rinse with plain water.

6. Clean glass panels with commercial glass cleaner and soft clean cloths (or absorbent paper towels) after each shower to keep glass sparkling clean.

7. Seal the grout lines every six months, or as recommended by your tile setter, to prevent hard water stains and mildew from forming.


What’s the Difference? Satin vs. Semi-Gloss Paint

Both satin and semi-gloss finishes can lend a beautiful sheen to any interior paint job. If you’re stuck between the two, read this guide to help you determine which coat to put on.

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Satin vs Semi-Gloss: How to KnowWhich Paint Finish is Best For Your Project

Photo: unsplash.com via Bente Whyatt

When you’re choosing fresh paint for your walls or wooden furniture, after color, the next big decision to be made is that of sheen. Two middle-of-the-road options for paint finish—satin and semi-gloss—are quite popular for being neither too shiny nor too matte. In fact, telling them apart can get somewhat tricky. Both finishes are available in traditional oil-based paints and modern latex paints alike. Both are options for cans of paint as well as cans of paint-and-primer combos. The two types of finishes can be found in special latex paints with low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compound) versions. The subtle differences between the two can make one distinctly better fit for your project than another.

Read on to see these two popular paint finishes go head to head, satin vs semi-gloss. The following key comparisons can aid you in choosing the one that best suits your next paint project.

RELATED: All You Need to Know About Paint Types

First things first: Semi-gloss has more sheen than satin. The types of finishes you’ll likely find in most paint collections—ranging from most to least reflective—are glossy/high-gloss, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, and flat/matte. Semi-gloss is slightly higher on the scale than satin and, thus, promises a little more reflectivity.

Satin vs Semi-Gloss: How to KnowWhich Paint Finish is Best For Your Project

Photo: istockphoto.com

Semi-gloss’s extra sheen may change how your paint color looks on the wall. While both finishes have a hint of sheen, more light from your lamps or the room’s uncovered windows will bounce off of semi-gloss surface than a satin surface (which actually absorbs some additional light instead). As a result of the way light reflects, the same paint color may appear slightly darker in a semi-gloss finish and slightly lighter in a satin one. So, factor that in when you’re making your final decision about which paint finish to use.

Semi-gloss is more durable and easier to clean. The higher the gloss, the easier the cleanup of messes like fingerprints and smudges. For objects and areas that get a lot of use and therefore require frequent wipe-downs—bathrooms, kitchens, playrooms, kids’ bedrooms, and any other area children may feel tempted to draw on walls with Crayola—semi-gloss is often the wiser option. Because the surface is slicker, it’s more resistant to moisture and easier to go over with a damp cloth or special sprays designed for minor household disasters. (Either semi-gloss or satin finish, though, beats out their eggshell and flat/matte finishes for durability.)

Semi-gloss better draws the eye to architectural elements. Generally speaking, cleaning needs aside, satin is the default choice for many do-it-yourselfers refreshing interior walls and furniture, while smaller doses of semi-gloss highlight home features: cabinetry, mantels, stair railing, window trim, door casings, and crown molding. Even if you apply the same color in two different sheens in a room—satin to the walls and semi-gloss to the trim—the reflection will make the craftsmanship of the molding pop.

Satin is more forgiving of pre-existing imperfections than semi-gloss. If you’ve got dings and dents in your walls, your cabinets, or your soon-to-be-painted dresser, the reflective nature of semi-gloss will only draw more attention to every flaw. A satin finish is more flattering over pocks, divots, and scrapes since it draws the light in and tricks the eye into seeing a more even surface. So, if you want to deflect attention away from faults and blemishes without spending hours sanding them away, satin is the way to go.

The cost between the two is negligible, but you may pay a few cents less on the dollar for satin. Generally speaking, the more gloss a paint offers, the more it will cost. Semi-gloss paint is manufactured with more binders (resins responsible for sheen) than satin paint in order to deliver the reflection and durability for which it’s known. So, if you’re looking to a little bit of money repainting walls throughout the whole home, satin is the most budget-worthy option of the two that still offers a hint of sheen.

 

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Of all the options available to remodelers, paint provides the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to achieve a transformation, inside or out. Ready to look at your home in a new way? Click now for the color ideas to make your project beautiful.


5 Steps to Solving All of Your Garage Storage Problems

The garage often serves as a dumping ground for old paint, broken toys, and boxes of clothes awaiting a ride to the local thrift store. Luckily, with the right storage, your vehicle doesn't have to squeeze into its dedicated space. Find what meets your needs in a handful of steps.

How to Organize a Garage

Photo: istockphoto.com

Is it starting to seem like there’s no storage space left in your house? Is every closet, cabinet, and drawer totally crammed? Well, the solution to your storage woes may be as close as your garage. Sure, it’s already housing your tools and gardening gear, and maybe even your car, but the average garage can fit more boxes and bins than just about any other space in the home. It may be a messy catchall right now, but with planning, you can turn the garage into an efficient, well-organized household storage annex.

If you get anxious even considering the prospect of dealing with the chockablock situation in your garage, take heart. This isn’t going to be a piece of cake, but with help from professional organizer Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Organizer: A to Z Storage Solutions, we’ve broken the task into a series of discrete, manageable steps. The process begins with clearing out the clutter and ends with implementing smart garage storage ideas suited to your needs. Corralling the chaos starts right now!

 

How to Organize a Garage - Wall Storage System

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1: Visualize the Possibilities

Avoid the common mistake of hastily throwing organizational products at the mess and, instead, start with some strategy. “Imagine what the space will look like when it’s cleaned out and how nice it will feel to drive into it each time you come home,” Smallin suggests. “Hold this image in your head to inspire you.”

Then list out zones you’d like to see in the space to organize items by task or interest. “Your pots, fertilizer, and garden hose should be grouped together for a gardening zone,” says Tim Keaton, Head of Brand and Product Marketing for Gladiator/GarageWorks. “And your golf clubs, soccer balls, and baseball bats should be kept together for a sporting zone.” Other logical zone groupings include holiday decorations, kids stuff, and a workshop area with space for a sturdy bench, plus pegboard or cabinets.

RELATED: 11 “Neat” Garage Storage Solutions

Once you’ve determined what zones you’ll need, work logically to map out where they’ll be easiest to access. For instance, are there certain household items in the garage that you’re likely to need on a regular basis? If so, locate these items near the door so that retrieving them only requires a quick and painless trip. Garden equipment and the lawn mower, on the other hand, make more sense placed by the door leading to the yard. Meanwhile, stash seasonal items like holiday lights in higher, harder-to-reach spots.

In fact, thinking vertical is key. “Look up and you’ll find a ton of wasted space,” says Keaton. “Using vertical space leads to creating more useable space. In addition to hanging rakes and tools, consider hanging up your bikes and wheelbarrow.” Hoists and overhead racks maximize space near the ceiling.

 

How to Organize a Garage - Clear Space

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 2: Take Everything Out

Start by emptying out of the garage. Carefully carry everything out of the garage and lay it down in a staging area, either in an unused part of the home or on the lawn or driveway if clear skies are in the forecast. “Group things in categories,” right from the getgo, Smallin says. “All the garden tools together, for instance, or all the sporting goods.” Organization in taking out items will make it easier to create those zones when you bring your possessions back in.

Broom clean the entire space, taking care to get all the leaves that may have blown in and any cobwebs that may have gathered in forgotten places. And, while you have a good view of it, consider whether the space could benefit from a fresh coat of paint (on the walls or the floor).

RELATED: The 10 Best Things You Can Do for Your Garage

 

How to Organize a Garage - Packing Boxes

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3: Decide What to Keep or Toss

Cleaning day is a great time to check the condition and usefulness of the items stored in your garage. As you lift out each piece of equipment, toy, or tool, put aside anything that’s broken beyond repair or simply not needed anymore—it won’t be coming back into the garage. One rule of thumb: “Get rid of anything you haven’t used in the past year,” advises Erin Gentry, Associate Public Relations and Consumer Engagement Manager at Rubbermaid.

Group those items you’re eliminating into four piles: toss, recycle, donate, or sell. If parting with perfectly good items proves to be paralyzing, find motivation in a moneymaking garage sale or gain satisfaction from helping a favorite charity. People in your community may be interested in the things you no longer need.

RELATED: 10 Tips for a Money-Making, Hassle-Free Yard Sale

Here are additional sources to get you started:

1-800-GOT-JUNK: This national franchise will remove everything from appliances to tires to trash, donating and recycling whatever is possible. (Ask the hauler to obtain a tax receipt if you are donating to a charity.)

earth911.org: Check here to find local recycling centers where you can safely dispose of paint and chemicals.

donationtown.org: Use this site to match your items with a local charity and arrange pickup.

After you’ve winnowed down the contents of your garage, sort what’s left into groups. After all, items used together ought to be stored together—ideally in the zones planned during Step 1.

 

How to Organize a Garage - Space Planning

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 4: Assess Your Storage Needs

Refer now to the gameplan you made in Step 1, and make lists of the type of storage you’d need to make it happen: two bins to corral sports equipment and three more for seasonal decorations, pegboard and hooks to hang gardening tools, metal shelving the height of the wall, and so on.

Then, look around. An empty garage makes it easy to inventory whether you have enough shelving, boxes, and cabinets to neatly store those items you’re keeping. Chances are that you already own enough supplies to fulfill most of the garage storage ideas you had in mind. These seven storage essentials will get you far:

Garage Storage Ideas - Plastic Bins and Shelves

Photo: istockphoto.com

• Plastic bins. One of the simplest and smartest garage storage ideas is to place like items into stackable, clear plastic containers with lids and labels. (Opaque bins work, too, as long as you detail specific contents on the label of each one—this saves time searching for items later.) These will keep your belongings clean, protect against insects and rodents, and increase the amount of usable floor space. Plus, clear bins create a uniformity among very diverse collections—toys, holiday decorations, home improvement supplies, and more—that in turn cuts down on visual clutter.

• Open shelving. Stackable bins make great use of square footage. Even better than storing one on top of the other, though, is placing them one over the other on a set of sturdy shelves. The extra few inches of clearance above each bin provides easy access without having to first lift off three. Plus, depending on their construction and material (metal, plastic, wire, or wood), 12- or 16-inch-deep shelves are typically capable of holding the heavier items (unlike pegboard).

• Ceiling-mounted racks. For infrequently used belongings, ceilings provide ideal, out-of-the-way storage space. Ladders and seasonal gear can be kept here, hung by clips or straps fastened to the joists. Or you can take advantage of hoist pulley systems, which cleverly operate like the cords on window blinds. Bear in mind, however, that ceiling storage must be oriented so that it doesn’t interfere with the operation of the garage door.

• Closed cabinetry. Even when organized so that you can find everything, collections half-used paint cans, garbage bags, lawn equipment, and backyard toys still appear jarring in the close quarters of your garage. Cabinets with doors are highly desirable because they can hide this chaos from view when you pass through the garage on the way to or from home. If you already have these, great! If not, keep in mind that cabinets—be they freestanding or wall-hung, with countless material and style options—tend to cost more than other solutions. Consider mixing-and-matching with another system from this list to both lower costs and successfully store even the bulkiest items.

Garage Storage Ideas - Pegboard and Hooks

Photo: istockphoto.com

• Pegboard. If you’ve got a lot of ceiling height in your garage, use those tall walls wisely. Inexpensive and easy to install, this perforated hardboard has been a garage storage favorite for generations. By hanging and outfitting pegboard with a custom combination of compatible pegs, hooks, clamps, bins, and shelves, you can use this utilitarian method to store and organize just about anything of modest weight. Store paintbrushes and rollers, lawn and garden equipment, and the contents of your overstuffed toolbox out in plain sight and easy reach.

RELATED: 9 Ways to Get on Board with Pegboard

• Panelized systems. Cover entire walls with specially designed panels by companies including GarageTek, Rubbermaid, Schulte, and Gladiator/GarageWorks and coordinate with any number of companion add-ons (e.g., hooks, bins, ball holders, cabinets, and shelves). Though these ultra-flexible panelized systems can handle heavy and awkwardly sized items, that sort of strength and utility comes at a cost, if you need to add new ones.

• Wall hooks and hook racks. Hooks are inexpensive, easy to use, and available in all sizes for a variety of tasks. Unlike pegboard and wall systems, though, these wall-mounted options offer slightly less flexibility for how you can use vertical space. Certainly, individual hooks can be placed anywhere you really only need to keep a couple of items accessible: keys, scissors, garden hoses, or (if heavy-duty) bikes. You can suspend even more items a hook rack, from tool belts to rakes and shovels with their business ends above the pegs. Still, configurations are limited.

Short on bins or shelves? See one or two garage storage ideas on the list that seems a perfect addition to what you already own? Subtract your inventory from your wish list of solutions, and take the pared-down version shopping in the next step.

 

How to Organize a Garage - Garden Tools Garage Rack

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 5: Get and Implement What You Need

Whatever smart organizational products you don’t have on hand, you can purchase with a quick trip to a local home improvement store—and, thanks to the inventory you made, in the exact amount you need. This strategy will ensure that you do not buy so much stuff that you and your overcrowded garage are back at square one.

While there are lots of garage storage ideas—from hooks and chrome racks to customized, professionally installed systems priced in the thousands—organization hinges on consistency. As you pick out the last of your storage, choose cabinets and racks of the same color and type. Look for systems made of metal, plastic, or wood specifically treated for garage use. And remember that bigger is not always better. You need a garage storage system that will allow you to find your stuff and still leave room for the car.

A few other shopping tips to keep in mind:

• Open shelving is a solid choice for bins and equipment alike. Invest in deep shelves for larger items like snow tires. Know that you’re picking a free-standing or wall-mounted model with the right weight limit for what you want to store.

• Ensure cabinet choices serve both form and function. Tall cabinets with double doors are great, but be sure they come with enough adjustable shelves to optimize the space inside. Include at least one lockable cabinet to keep dangerous chemicals and power tools out of reach of children and pets. If you’re adding some low cabinets, consider putting them on casters for a flexible garage layout and even topping them with a durable work surface that you could use in projects.

• Decide whether you want a professionally-mounted wall panel systems or a DIY alternative. This type of heavy-duty wall storage is a big spend, especially since some products require pro installation. To save money, consider models that use tracks or rails—these are easiest for do-it-yourselfers to install. Whatever your decision, you won’t regret your investment when you see your payoff: By capitalizing on the wall space, you can fit more into your garage without sacrificing access.

Puzzle-piece your garage storage solutions together according to the master plan and then reload. Remember: Group items by task and prioritize convenient access to those items used most often. With these principles in mind and your stash winnowed, you should be in great shape the next time you need to find…well, anything.

 


How To: Clean Silver Plate

Restore the spotless shine to dirty or tarnished silver plate pieces with a few common household cleaners.

How to Clean Silver Plate

Photo: istockphoto.com

Silver plate platters, tea sets, and flatware—typically made of copper, brass, or nickel and topped with a thin layer of pure silver or a silver alloy through the process of electrolysis—add a touch of class to any table (at a far more reasonable price than solid silver). Yet silver plate can lose its luster through regular use, accumulating dirt and tarnish, a dingy film formed when traces of sulfur in the air chemically react with the silver surface to produce silver sulfide.

Because the silver plate coating is delicate, it requires uniquely gentle cleaning (unlike its solid sibling, which can actually stand up to mild abrasives like toothpaste). Read on to learn how to clean silver plate safely and easily after everyday use and periods of tarnish, and you can enjoy it on a daily basis—not just when company comes.

RELATED: 8 Things You Never See on the Dining Table Anymore

 

How to Clean Silver Plate

Photo: istockphoto.com

EVERYDAY CLEANING

Use this procedure for how to clean silver plate to get rid of dirt and grime that accumulates from regular use.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Plain water
Acidfree liquid dish soap
Gloves
Soft cloth or sponge

STEP 1
Determine whether your silver-plated item is lacquered (sealed with a clear protective coating) or non-lacquered by pressing the tip of a fingernail into an inconspicuous location. If this leaves a small mark, it’s lacquered; if there’s no mark, it’s non-lacquered.

STEP 2
Insert a sink stopper into the drain of an empty sink. If cleaning a lacquered silver-plated item, run warm water from the tap until the sink is three-quarters of the way full. (Hot water can strip the lacquer.) If cleaning a non-lacquered item, run hot water from the tap.

STEP 3
Add to the water half teaspoon of acid-free liquid dish soap (check the ingredient list, avoiding soaps with “citric extracts” or citric acid, a common ingredient in citrus-scented dish soaps that can have a mild corrosive effect on silver plate). Using a gloved hand, stir the contents until the soap has completely dissolved.

STEP 4
Submerge the silver-plated item in the soap bath completely. Give the piece three to five minutes of dwell time to loosen dirt or grime, then remove it and place it on a clean surface.

STEP 5
While the item is still wet, gently rub its entire surface with a soft, dry cloth or dish sponge to slough off loosened dirt and grime. Steer clear of steel wool, polishing cloths, or other abrasive utensils, which can scratch silver plate.

STEP 6
Rinse the item under warm tap water to wash off lingering debris, then wipe it down with a soft, dry cloth. Now, don’t forget to polish to completely restore the metal’s luster! Jump to the last section to read how to shine your silver plate.

 

How to Clean Silver Plate

Photo: istockphoto.com

DEEP CLEANING

Use this technique for how to clean silver plate at least once a year or whenever you notice the dark, shadowy film of tarnish form.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Glass bowl
– Aluminum foil
Plain water
– Two-quart saucepan
– Baking soda
– Tongs
– Soft cloth

STEP 1
Line the base and sides of a large glass bowl with a sheet of aluminum foil (either the shiny or dull side can be facing up), then set the silver-plated item inside the bowl directly on top of the foil.

STEP 2
Boil four cups of plain water in a saucepan, then move the saucepan of water from the heat to an empty sink. Add a quarter cup of baking soda to the saucepan while the water inside is still hot. The water will bubble as the baking soda dissolves.

STEP 3
If cleaning non-lacquered silver plate, immediately pour all of the hot water and baking soda solution over the silver-plated item in the foil-lined glass bowl. If the item is lacquered, wait until the water is warm to the touch before pouring it over the silver-plated item (hot water can strip the lacquer). The baking soda will immediately begin to chemically react with the silver sulfide. You should start to see the dark film diminish within one minute and, depending on the degree of tarnish, disappear entirely within five to 10 minutes.

STEP 4
Remove the silver-plated item from the bowl using tongs, then rinse it under warm tap water to wash away any lingering film. Wipe the item down with a soft, dry cloth, and polish according to the next section before storing.

 

How to Clean Silver Plate

Photo: istockphoto.com

 

POLISHING

Following either the regular or deep cleaning routines, use this procedure to restore sheen to silver plate.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Gloves
– Silver polish (either paste- or cream-based)
Plain water
– Soft cloth
– Anti-tarnish silver storage bag
– Anti-tarnish fabric lining

STEP 1
After donning gloves, squeeze a dot of silver polish onto a soft, clean, dry cloth. Gently rub the paste- or cream-based polish (e.g., Wright’s Silver Polish Cleaner, available for $5 on Amazon) over the entire surface of the clean silver-plated item using circular motions.

STEP 2
Rinse the item under warm tap water to wash away excess polish, then dry the item immediately with a clean soft cloth; air-drying can lead to unsightly water marks.

STEP 3
Store your cleaned and polished silver-plated items in an anti-tarnish silver storage bag (e.g., the Hagerty Holloware Bag, available for $15 on Amazon) or a kitchen drawer covered with anti-tarnish fabric lining (e.g., Kenized Anti-Tarnish Silver Cloth, available for $12 on Amazon). These fabrics absorb sulfur present in the air, preventing the chemical reaction that causes tarnish.


Solved! When to Use Your Washer and Dryer’s Permanent Press Cycle

Combat creases in clothes, accessories, and linens the easy way with this little-known laundry appliance setting.

What is Permanent Press? How to Best Use the Wash and Dry Setting

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: I’ve always been pretty simple with my laundry settings—hot water for whites, cold water for darks—and haven’t taken advantage of the other less-than-straightforward settings on my washer and dryer. What is Permanent Press, and when do I use it?

A: Think of the permanent press setting on your washer and dryer as your first line of defense against unwanted creases in your favorite fashions. The setting—which evolved from the 1950s-era invention of permanent press fabric that was chemically treated to ward off wrinkles—sets in motion a wash or dry cycle that removes existing wrinkles in fabric and prevents new ones from forming. That alone reduces the need for manual ironing after a load, which can fade, shrink, or burn fabric over time. And, since the cycle is gentler on laundry than a Regular wash or dry cycle, it also maintains the color and condition of your clothes, accessories, and linens and prolongs their usefulness. But the setting is better suited for some clothes than others, so read on to learn how it works and how best to put it to use.

In washing machines, it uses a combination of warm and cold temperatures as well as a fast wash and slow spin to de-wrinkle the load. The permanent press setting is more commonly found on traditional washers with agitators (spindles that twist and turn to remove dirt) but it’s also available on some high-efficiency washers that house fin-like impellers instead of agitators to remove dirt. Set the machine’s dial to “Permanent Press,” and the 30-minute cycle—which is five minutes shorter than the average Regular cycle—will wash your load in warm water and rinse in cold water with fast agitation. The warm water relaxes and removes creases in clothes, while the cold prevents color fading and shrinking. Then, during the spin (water drainage) phase of the cycle that occurs after the rinse phase, the washer transitions to a slow spin, which prevents the formation of new wrinkles in the laundry.

In dryers, Permanent Press leverages medium heat to de-wrinkle laundry. Throw in five pounds of wrung-out laundry, turn the dial to “Permanent Press” or “Perm Press,” and the dryer’s setting will kick on at medium heat (usually between 125 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit) for either all or the majority of the 30- to 40-minute cycle. That’s both 10 minutes shorter and 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the average Regular dry cycle, a combination that helps smooth creases as the clothes dry. If your dryer includes a cool-down phase at the end of the permanent press cycle (not all dryers do), the dryer will transition to a cool temperature toward the end of the cycle to prevent fading and shrinking of laundry.

This cycle is ideal for wrinkle-prone fabrics made of synthetic fibers. Permanent Press is best suited for washing and drying fabric made with synthetic fibers—e.g. polyester, nylon, acrylic, rayon, or knitwear; permanent press (no-iron) fabric; or fabric made with a blend of synthetic and natural fibers. While you can still safely use the permanent press setting to wash or dry fabrics made with purely natural fibers like cotton or jute, avoid using it on delicate fabrics like lace, cashmere, or silk. These delicates call for cold water, slow agitation, and slow spin throughout the wash cycle, and low heat during the dry cycle, which makes the gentle or delicate wash or dry cycle the best choice for washing or drying them.

What is Permanent Press? How to Best Use the Wash and Dry Setting

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It’s most effective on lightweight, moderately soiled laundry. Since the slower agitation and spin rate at the end of a permanent press wash cycle are gentle on clothes, accessories, and linens, you should reserve it for lightweight clothes and accessories: dress shirts and pants, dresses, t-shirts, sweaters, scarves, socks, and bed sheets with light to moderate soiling. Heavy-duty clothes and linens like jeans, blankets, or towels—particularly those that are heavily soiled—need the faster agitation and spin of a regular or heavy-duty wash cycle to get clean. These heavy-duty wears also take longer to dry, which is why you want to put them through a longer and hotter regular or heavy-duty dry cycle. Put heavy-duty wears through a permanent press dry cycle, and they may come out slightly damp and require another dry cycle to get fully dry.

Your load will require less ironing and, a bonus, less de-pilling. Synthetic fabrics are not only more prone to forming wrinkles but also pills, those balls of fiber on fabric that take a steady hand with a razor or an electric pill remover to shave off. The longer these fabrics stay in the washer or dryer, the more pills they develop. Thus, the shorter duration of a permanent press cycle results in clean, dry fabrics with fewer pills and wrinkles!

Know this: Permanent Press won’t magically banish every wrinkle. While this wash or dry cycle will smooth the majority of visible wrinkles in a load of laundry, it won’t necessarily clear every crease. If you continue to spot wrinkles in clothing following a permanent press dry cycle, use these tips to finish the job:

• Manually iron the piece on an ironing board using the heat setting specified by the ironing symbol on the label of the piece. The good news: It should only take a touch-up!

• Spritz warm water from a plastic spray bottle directly onto the wrinkled fabric, then dry with a hairdryer on low heat. Hover the dryer over the wrinkle no closer than two inches from the fabric until the heat smooths it over.

• Spray a store-bought wrinkle remover like Downy Wrinkle Releaser over the offending wrinkles in the fabric, then let the fabric hang-dry completely to eliminate the crease.

Proper loading and unloading of laundry can also help minimize wrinkles. To ensure that a permanent press wash or dry cycle results in as few wrinkles as possible on laundry day:

• Loosely pack items in the washer or dryer so that the appliance is no more than three-quarters full. Laundry is more likely to crease when it has no room in the washer or dryer drum to move freely during the permanent press cycle.

• Never wrap items directly around the agitator or impellers of your washer; they can get caught on them and wrinkle or tear.

• Transfer laundry from the washer to the dryer immediately after the permanent press wash cycle ends (this is when it will be in its most wrinkle-free state) and start a permanent press dry cycle.

• When a permanent press dry cycle ends, immediately retrieve the laundry from the dryer drum and hang or fold it. Left in an unfolded pile, items at the bottom of the pile are likely to develop creases under the weight of the pile.