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All You Need to Know About Quartz Countertops

Wondering whether this fashionable material is perfect for your kitchen or bathroom project? Get all of your research done right here.

Quartz Countertops in the Kitchen

Photo: istockphoto.com

Beautiful, durable, easy-care quartz is among the most popular countertop materials available—but it is pricey. If you’re considering quartz for your kitchen or bathroom, first get the 411 on this trendy topper before you buy. This complete countertop primer will set you up all of the necessary information on selecting and caring for quartz countertops, so you can make a smart decision and enjoy your work surface for years to come.

What Is a Quartz Countertop?

A visit to a kitchen showroom nowadays will show you a dazzling array of quartz countertop designs and patterns that remarkably mimic real marble and other natural stone. But quartz has come a long way! First appearing in Italy in the 1960s, these countertops were developed—by combining ground quartz particles with resins into a slab—as an alternative to stone that wouldn’t easily crack or break. While the resins added just enough flexibility to do the trick, early quartz countertops were a dull-looking cream and tan. Cutting-edge improvements in solid-surface technology have elevated quartz from functional to fabulous. With an abundance of finish choices and endless combinations of color and edge styles, you’ll likely find something stunning that suits your home.

Not only will you appreciate the look of quartz, you’ll find it remarkably easy to maintain—unlike marble and natural stone, which require a special sealant and can be finicky to care for. Quartz contains 90 to 94 percent ground quartz and 6 to 10 percent polymer resins and pigments, combined to produce a granite-hard slab that can duplicate the look of mesmerizing marble swirls or earthy natural stone, without the maintenance. Quartz also resists scratching and cracking to a greater degree than many natural countertops, ranking a “7” in hardness on the Moh’s scale (developed in 1822 by Friedrich Moh to rate mineral hardness). Marble, in comparison, ranks only a “3.”

A note to homeowners in the market to remodel: When exploring countertop options, make sure not to confuse quartz with quartzite. Quartz is engineered with pigments and resins, while quartzite is actually sandstone that, through natural metamorphosis, was exposed to intense heat, which caused it to solidify. Mined from large stone quarries and cut into solid slabs, quartzite is also available for countertops—but, unlike quartz, it must be sealed before use and again once or twice a year thereafter.

 

Quartz Countertops in Milpitas CA Zillow Home

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Milpitas, CA

What Are the Pros and Cons of Quartz?

Thanks to its non-porous nature, quartz is mold-, stain-, and mildew-resistant, making it a breeze to keep not merely clean but also germ- and bacteria-free. Quartz also resists heat damage—up to a point. Manufacturers market quartz as able to withstand temperatures up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (one reason it works well as fireplace surrounds). But “thermal shock” can result from placing a hot pan straight from the oven or stovetop onto a cold quartz countertop, which can lead to cracking or discoloring. And while quartz does resist staining because liquids can’t penetrate its surface, it’s not 100 percent stain-proof. Messes should be cleaned up quickly to best preserve quartz countertops’ original color.

The biggest downside to quartz, however, is cost. While a preformed or laminate countertop will set you back a few hundred dollars, quartz countertops cost between $70 to $100 per sq. ft., installed, comparable to the price of natural stone countertops. For a mid-size kitchen, you can easily spend a few thousand dollars for quartz.

If you’re planning a backyard kitchen, steer clear of quartz altogether. It’s not suitable for outdoor installation, as the sun’s UV rays can break down the resin binders and degrade the countertop, leading to fading and eventual warping.

 

Choosing a Style for Quartz Countertops

Photo: istockphoto.com

How Do I Choose the Best Look?

With such a vast selection, making up your mind can be a challenge! So bring home a few quartz samples from a kitchen showroom before settling on a specific color or design. Under your own lighting, and against the backdrop of your cabinets and walls, you’ll be better able to choose a pattern and design that complements your kitchen décor. It helps to have a good idea of what you want your finished kitchen to look like before you buy. You can browse through design books at any kitchen center, or get ideas from show homes and home-design magazines and websites. As you plan, keep these points in mind:

Seams: If your counter is longer than 120 inches, or if it involves a complex configuration, quartz may have to be fabricated in more than one section, which means you’ll have one or more seams. Seams are typically less visible on dark-toned quartz but can be quite noticeable on light-toned or multicolor countertops, such as those with obvious veining or marbling patterns.

Thickness: Countertop thickness ranges from ½ inch to 1-¼ inch, depending on style, brand, and size. If you’re ordering a large countertop or want an elaborate edge design, the fabricator may suggest a thicker slab. If your heart is set on a thin countertop but your kitchen is large, expect to have one or more seams. Thickness also depends on custom features, such as integrated drain boards and elaborate edge profiles.

Design Details: Custom designs in a wide array of colors are available, from neutral grays, off-whites, and subtle tans to bold blues, bright yellows, and striking solid blacks. In addition to shade, you can choose from quartz made from small particles for a smooth appearance, or from larger grains for a flecked look. The surface can be sleek and glossy or feature a flecked, pebbled, embossed, or even suede appearance.

Edge Ideas: Custom edge profiles in complex designs bring distinction to your cook space but add to the final cost. You can opt for a bold square countertop edge, a chiseled raw-edge look, or select a softer, rounded bullnose corner. A reverse waterfall edge resembles the shape of crown molding and adds a touch of traditional elegance, while contemporary edges, including slanted, mitered, or undercut create the illusion of a thinner slab. Ogee (S-shape) is a popular edge design that fits just about any decor.

Bathroom Buys: Selecting a quartz countertop for a bathroom is slightly different from buying one for your kitchen. Bathroom vanities come in standard sizes, so you can purchase pre-made vanity countertops. Many come with pre-molded sinks or pre-cut holes to accommodate drop-in sinks. Bathroom vanity quartz countertops range from $400 to $1,000 depending on length, and installation for them is more DIY-friendly.

 

Installing Quartz Countertops

Photo: istockphoto.com

What Should I Expect with Installation?

Professional installation is highly recommended for quartz countertops in kitchens, due to the custom nature of cabinet configuration and the weight of the slabs, which often require multiple workers just to lift. To protect your investment, installers should be certified to mount the specific brand of quartz you purchase. Many quartz countertops come with 15-year or even lifetime warranties, but often only when installed by certified professionals. Once you’ve settled on a countertop style and color, here’s what to expect for installation:

Phase One: A representative from the manufacturer will come to your home and measure your cabinets to create a template for the countertop. It takes an average of two weeks for the countertop to be made.

Phase Two: The new countertop installs directly on the base cabinets with adhesive—no underlayment is required. The installers will precisely fit any seams as necessary, filling them with epoxy resin that matches the countertop. It takes from a few hours to a full day to install a typical quartz countertop.

Phase Three: You or your plumber can now proceed with installing under-sink plumbing.

 

Quartz Countertops in Jacksonville, NC Zillow Home

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Jacksonville, NC

How Do I Keep Quartz Looking Great?

Beyond the actual appearance, the beauty of quartz is that required care for your new countertop is relatively easy, but there are still a few crucial do’s and don’ts to mind.

Do wipe up spills promptly with paper towels or a damp cloth. While quartz is non-porous, liquids like wine and coffee can stain the surface if allowed to dry.

• Don’t use abrasive cleaners or scrubbers on your countertop. Scouring powders and steel-pads can scratch and dull the surface.

• Do use an all-purpose spray kitchen cleaner or mild commercial household cleaner for daily cleaning needs.

• Don’t use, or spill, acidic or high-alkaline products on your countertop. Quartz tolerates cleaners in the mid-pH range, but products that fall on either end of the pH scale can dull its luster. Avoid spills from drain cleaners, oven cleaners, acetone (fingernail polish remover), paint remover, solvents, bleach, dishwasher rinse agents, and any products that contain trichlorethane or methylene chloride. Take a better safe than sorry approach: If you don’t know for sure that a product is appropriate for quartz, don’t use it.

• Do use a non-scratch nylon pad or sponge to safely scrub away sticky food residue.

• Don’t use a metal knife to remove hardened food items, such as stuck-on candy-making spills. Instead, use a plastic putty knife to gently scrape them away.

• Do use spray glass cleaner after wiping your countertop clean, and buff the surface dry with a clean towel for a streak-free shine. Opt for a mild, oil-based cleaner (like Goo Gone) to remove tough ink or dye stains, and then rinse with plain water.

• Don’t use your quartz countertop to chop and dice foods. Use a separate cutting board to prevent knife marks on the countertop.

• Do tackle tough cleaning chores, such as splattered grease, by spraying your countertop with a kitchen degreasing cleaner and leaving it on for 5 to 10 minutes before wiping away with a clean damp cloth.

• Don’t set hot pans directly on the countertop to avoid discoloration and cracking. Keep plenty of trivets handy and use them faithfully.


DIY Lite: An Easy Hiding Spot for Bathroom Cleaning Supplies

What bathroom couldn't benefit from a little extra storage, especially for the unsightly stash of cleaning supplies? Build this sleek cabinet, and you'll never have to stare at a toilet brush again.

DIY Bathroom Storage

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

When you’ve already filled your bathroom’s medicine cabinet and limited under-sink space with extra toiletries, a surplus of shampoo bottles, medicines, and makeup, you probably don’t want to squeeze a cleaner or toilet brush in the crowded space, too. Rather than leaving them out and uncovered next to the toilet, create a designated storage station that hides the ugly essentials and brings your bathroom one step closer to serene. We’ve got you—and your bathroom cleaning supplies—covered, both figuratively and literally, with this easy-to-build, cabinet-like DIY bathroom storage unit.

 

DIY Bathroom Storage - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 1×8 lumber (10 feet)
- Ruler
- Pencil
- Jigsaw
- Palm sander
- Sandpaper
- Wood glue
- 1-½-inch nails (24)
- Hammer
- 12mm plywood
- 1-¼-inch wooden dowel
- 1-½-inch screws (4)
- Drill
- 1-½-inch × ¼-inch wood lath (8 feet)
- Wood stain
- Paint
- Varnish
- Brush
- Rope
- Wooden curtain ring
- Small hinges with screws (2)

 

DIY Bathroom Storage - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 1
Let’s first make the necessary cuts for building the structure of the cabinet. Cut the lumber into five pieces: two 16-inch pieces to make the top and the bottom, and four 19-inch pieces to make the sides and the inner division. Then, slice the four 4-inch pieces from the wooden dowel to make the cabinet’s legs.

Using these dimensions, your finished DIY bathroom storage cabinet will stand 25 inches tall, 16 inches wide, and 8 inches deep. Measure out where you want to place the cabinet now so that you can adapt those dimensions as necessary to fit your own space.

 

DIY Bathroom Storage - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 2
Lay the 16-inch bottom piece in front of you, squeeze a line of wood glue at each short end, then stand and press two 19-inch side boards in the glue. Be careful to align the sides with the outermost edges of the bottom and the top boards in order to build a perfect box.

Hammer four 1-½-inch nails through each end of the bottom piece to secure the sides. Then, glue and nail the top board in place.

 

DIY Bathroom Storage - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 3
Measure 5 inches inside the left side of the box, and mark this both on the bottom and top boards. Apply a little wood glue to the short edges of the third 19-inch piece you’ve cut—a soon-to-be cabinet divider—and slide this board into place where you’ve marked it to go. Hammer in four more 1-½-inch nails both through the top and the bottom to hold the divider in place. The 5-inch space to the left of the divider will provide the perfect storage space for stacking toilet paper rolls.

 

DIY Bathroom Storage - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 4
Since this DIY bathroom storage will stand next to the toilet, adding legs (those 4-inch dowel cuts) will make it easy to clean underneath it in the future. Flip the cabinet so that the bottom faces you, and measure 1-½ inches in from each corner; mark where you’ll place the leg.

Drill four small pilot holes, one at each mark, as well as holes into the center of each dowel piece.

 

DIY Bathroom Storage - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 5
Drill a 1-½-inch screw through the floor of the cabinet and into a dowel at each corner to affix the legs.

 

DIY Bathroom Storage - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 6
Add a little glue to the drilled end of a dowel piece, then twist it onto the bathroom storage unit. Repeat for each leg.

 

DIY Bathroom Storage - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 7
Make the back of the cabinet using strips of wood lath to create good ventilation on a cabinet that will likely store store lightly damp toilet brushes and cleaning products. Cut three pieces of 1-½-inch × ¼-inch wood lath to be 19 inches each. Line the top and bottom ends of each with wood glue, and place them through the open cabinet at the back; the top and bottom should fit snugly with the wood structure you’ve made so far. Wait for the glue to dry before moving the unit.

 

DIY Bathroom Storage - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 8
Now, it’s time to build the door from 12mm plywood: Draw and cut out with a jigsaw a rectangle of 19 by 21 inches.

 

DIY Bathroom Storage - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 9
Sand the storage unit and the door with a 100-grit paper, with extra attention given to the cut edges.

 

DIY Bathroom Storage - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 10
Stain or paint the cabinet’s frame and door with colors that complement your bathroom’s design. We used a combination of the two on the new DIY bathroom storage: an Early American stain on the structure itself and a contrasting white paint (a satin or semi-gloss paint is best for use on walls and fixtures in the bathroom, since it is often easier to clean) for the door. Since this finished piece will move to a high-moisture zone, it’s important to wait for the piece to dry completely and then finish with a coat of varnish over any wood stain as an extra layer of protection.

 

DIY Bathroom Storage - Step 11

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 11
Think about where you are going to place your cabinet and, as a result, which way the door will need to swing. For easy opening, add a handle to the door. You can choose a more traditional drawer knob, but we repurposed a wooden curtain ring for the job.

Drill a hole into the corner of the door opposite of where you’ll attach hinges. Take about 10 inches of rope, fold it in half, pass the folded end through the center of the ring, and pull the loose ends through the small loop that you’ve created until tightened; the ring should now have two ends of rope hanging loosely from it. Pass these through your door’s drilled hole and knot on the other side to securely attach it. You can cut any extra length just after the knot.

Door pull in place, you’re ready to attach it to the storage unit. Lay two hinges on the side of the open-face storage cabinet that is opposite where you’ll have the door pull (we mounted the the door pull in the upper left of the cabinet, so our hinges are located on the right side). Each hinge should be placed 1 to 2 inches from the top or bottom, with one plate screwed into the edge of the 19-inch side and the other screwed into the back of the door.

Thanks to your brand new bathroom cabinet, organizing your cleaning supplies and toilet paper rolls will soon be an open and shut case!

 

DIY Bathroom Storage Cabinet for Cleaning Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

DIY Bathroom Storage Cabinet for Hiding Cleaning Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.

 

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.


Solved! How Long a Water Heater Actually Lasts

Avoid an unpleasant, unexpected dose of cold water by keeping tabs on your hot water heater's age and condition so you'll know when to replace it. Among the benefits of the timely installation of a new water heater, you'll probably enjoy lower energy bills—as well as uninterrupted access to hot showers.

SHARES
How Long Does a Water Heater Last

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q. We just bought a house, and the previous owners told us that the water heater is about six years old. Does that mean we’ll have to replace it soon? How long does a water heater last?

A. As long as it’s still heating water sufficiently, without leaks or strange noises, you might still get a few more years of service from it. A water heater’s useful life varies, depending on the type of water heater, the quality of the unit, and how well it’s been maintained.

A traditional tank-type water heater lasts an average of eight to 12 years. Inside the tank, an anode rod protects the interior lining by attracting all corrosive particles to itself through a process called electrolysis. When the rod has corroded to such an extent that it can no longer do its job, those particles settle at the bottom of the water tank, where they eventually destroy the lining. Once corrosion starts inside the tank, the water heater has entered into its final stage of life.

How Long Does a Water Heater Last If It's Tankless

Photo: istockphoto.com

A tankless water heater can last up to 20 years, sometimes even longer. Also called “on-demand” water heaters, these appliances do not work continuously to maintain a supply of hot water—and, as a result, they last longer than their tank-style counterparts. Eventually, though, tankless water heaters (which do not use anode rods) will also suffer from corrosion and require replacement.

Your existing water heater’s serial number holds the clue to its age. Even if you can’t track down the documentation for your current appliance, you can examine the serial number, which consists of a letter followed by a series of numerals, located on the upper portion of the water heater to determine when it was manufactured. Typically, the letter stands for the month—“A” for January, “B” for February, and so on, through “L” for December—and the next two numbers indicate the year it was made. A serial number that leads with “A10,” for example, was manufactured in January 2010. This rule of thumb applies to most hot water heater manufacturers, but you can confirm this on the company’s website if you have any doubts.

As you enter the second half of your water heater’s life, watch for the signs of an aging appliance. Should you notice any of the following, start shopping for a replacement before you get caught by surprise.

• A banging or rumbling noise often occurs near the end of a heater’s lifespan. While manufacturers recommend annual flushing of a tank-style water heater—and it’s a requirement for keeping a warranty in effect—few people actually follow that suggestion, so calcium buildup from hard water collects in the bottom of the tank. The sediment builds, hardens, and eventually forms a thick crust that can cause the water heater to creak and bang when in use.

• Tinted hot water, either red or dirty yellow, coming from any faucet could mean rust. It’s important to determine whether the discoloration also appears when the cold water is running; if not, your problem probably originates inside the water heater rather than within rusting galvanized piping.

• A drop in water temperature: If water doesn’t heat up as much as it used to or for as long, the water heater may be nearing the end of its service life.

• Water pooling around the base of a water heater tank also suggests bad news. First, check to make sure the leak isn’t coming from a fitting or valve that just needs to be tightened or replaced; call in a professional to check out the problem and perform any necessary maintenance. If you find the leak comes from the tank itself, it may be cracked or corroded internally.

Water quality and location can affect a water heater’s life. Hard water wreaks havoc on a water heater and can reduce its service life by two or more years. Likewise, water heaters located in garages or crawl spaces, where the temperature drops significantly, have to work harder to heat the water, and they tend to wear out more quickly than units installed in a temperature-controlled house. If either of those elements factor into your setup, start looking for end-of-life warning signs earlier than the manufacturer recommends.

Call the manufacturer if the water heater is still under warranty. While the above issues can signal the end of an aging water heater’s life, if your unit is only a few years old, the problem could be repairable. It may be worth calling the manufacturer or a plumber to check the appliance out before you invest in a new model.

Start thinking about replacing your water heater two years before the end of its predicted lifespan. When a tank-style water heater approaches eight to 10 years of age, or a tankless water heater approaches 15 to 18 years of age, it’s time to start thinking about replacing it—not only to avoid the annoyance of breakage and the inconvenience of having no hot water, but also to minimize energy consumption. After several years of use, either type of water heater is subject to mineral deposits and sediment buildup that can cause it to require more power to heat water, reducing the appliance’s overall efficiency. Install a replacement, though, and the combination of a decade’s worth of technological advances and the new model’s clean interior mean that your utility bill is sure to drop in the months to follow.


How To: Get Mold Out of Carpet

Take the right approach to getting rid of this unhealthy, unsightly organism—for good.

How to Get Mold Out Of Carpet With Dehumidifier

Photo: istockphoto.com

Untreated dampness on carpet—whether caused by a persistent leak, overzealously watered plants, or a not-quite-housetrained puppy—can create mold growth in a matter of days. And mold, which can appear as green, gray, or white patches on carpet and add a strong musty odor to a room, can lead to chronic allergies, asthma, even bronchitis. While you may be able to mitigate smaller spots of mold yourself, sections greater than 5 feet in width require treatment by professionals, because it’s likely the mold has invaded the underlay or flooring, which is much harder to remove. In cases both small and large, it’s critical to act fast; mold is a living, growing organism, and spores spread rapidly. Keep in mind that you must determine how to get mold out of carpet as well as address its root cause—groundwater seepage or other external factors must be resolved at the same time.

There are various means for how to get mold out of carpet, some more effective than others. Natural anti-fungal remedies, such as vinegar and tea tree oil, are known to “inhibit,” not kill, mold. Bleach can banish mold, but it can also discolor carpet. So an anti-fungal spray designed to kill mold, available in retail stores and home centers, maybe be your best bet.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Facemask
- Rubber gloves
- Eye protection
- Stiff bristle brush
- Dustpan
- Trash bag
- Anti-fungal spray that is safe for carpets
- Disposable rags
- Dehumidifier


Step 1
Ventilate the space by opening windows or, if possible to remove the rug, take it outside to treat it. While not all molds are a health hazard, it’s best to proceed cautiously by donning a facemask, eye protection, and rubber gloves before you get to work.

Step 2
If you cannot remove or lift the carpet, proceed by treating the visible surface mold. If its is possible to lift the carpet, do so until you reach the the area with mold and examine the backing. Backing with substantial mold growth of more than a few feet in width should not be merely cleaned—you’ll need to replace the carpet. If that’s a price you’re not prepared to pay, you can opt to cut off the mold-covered area with a 12-inch border past the damage and insert new carpet, instead of replacing the entire room. Be sure to remove and replace the portion of underlay or carpet pad as well to thwart mold’s return.

How to Get Mold Out of Carpet with a Stiff Brush

Photo: istockphoto.com

Step 3
Scrub the surface of the carpet with a dry, stiff bristle brush to remove the visible mold spores. Brush these into a dustpan and discard it in a trash bag. (Vacuuming is not recommended, as spores on your vacuum can be spread to other areas in your home.) If you can brush-scrub the back of the rug as well, do so.

Step 4
Thoroughly saturate the moldy area, and at least 6 inches around it, with anti-fungal spray that specifies it’s safe for carpets (it should also boast a “mold barrier” or mold-prevention). If able to lift or remove the carpet, spray both the front and the back. Also spray the area of the floor the moldy portion was in contact with. Let the anti-fungal spray sit for an hour.

Step 5
Blot the anti-fungal spray with a dry, clean, disposable rag to soak up excess. Do not rinse the area with water or any other treatment. The anti-fungal agent will continue to work until it has fully dried. Resist using a fan to accelerate drying; that can blow mold spores elsewhere and create new problems. Instead, close your windows, turn the heat up in the room, and use a dehumidifier to let the carpet dry naturally for at least 24 hours. Don’t walk on the area or allow pets to interfere with it while it’s drying as the mold is still “alive” and can potentially be spread.

Step 6
Clean the bristle brush and dustpan of any mold spores by scrubbing with hot soapy water, then spraying with anti-fungal treatment and allowing to dry completely. Dispose of the rag and the rubber gloves.

Step 7
Once the carpet has dried thoroughly, re-apply the anti-fungal treatment as in Step 4, then follow with Steps 5 and 6, using a clean, fresh, disposable rag to blot. Discard the rag after blotting.

Allow the dehumidifiers to run for a few more days to remove mold spores from the air too.

After the carpeting has dried fully, you should be mold-free. Don’t take this for granted, though. Continue checking the spot every day or so for a few weeks to ensure that mold growth hasn’t returned. It can be a slow recurrence, especially if you were unable to remove or lift the carpet, so give it a month before you completely rest easy.

Mold Prevention Tips

• Don’t set potted plants directly onto carpet, not even with a water tray underneath. Use only glazed pots, not terracotta, on carpeting and use a moisture barrier, such as a rubber tray or mat.

• Never pile firewood onto carpet; always have a moisture barrier between the wood and carpet.

• If your pet has relieved itself in an area more than once, speak to your local pet store about deterrent sprays that can make the spot less appealing for Fido or Chairman Meow.

• With humid areas or a humid home, invest in quality dehumidifiers to keep moisture at a constant minimum. This will protect hardwood flooring and artwork as well as carpeting.


How To: Drill Into Concrete

Bore a hole through masonry or concrete in a minute or less when you use this special tool and the correct technique.

How to Drill into Concrete with a Rotary Hammer

Photo: istockphoto.com

While concrete’s cool, industrial aesthetic is a go-to design touch in modern homes, its density and strength are what have long made it an attractive building material. That durability can be quite the obstacle, however, for homeowners trying to mount an art installation on a concrete feature wall, drill a hole to set a fence post at the end of the driveway, or sink a hole through the back corner of a concrete countertop. Such activities run the very real risk of damaging a drill bit or accidentally marring the concrete surface in an overzealous, poorly executed attempt at how to drill into concrete.

You can, in fact, drill a hole in a concrete interior feature wall armed with nothing more than your trusty rotary drill and a masonry bit—so long as you take care to not burn out the motor of the drill or demolish the bits. Older concrete, however, is often much more dense than some of the cosmetic concrete used in modern finishes, so boring through a 50-year-old concrete wall in your foundation with your old-school rotary drill just won’t cut it. When you’re working with older concrete—or if you’re planning to drill multiple holes about two to four inches deep and up to ¾ inch wide—it’s best to upgrade to an electric hammer drill.

Specially designed for drilling into masonry or rock using a rapid hammer action, these drills and their carbide-tipped masonry bits are widely available at tool rental shops. A quality hammer drill (also known as a rotary hammer) can bore a two-inch-deep, ¼-inch-wide hole in less than a minute, which is much faster than a rotary drill and thus justifies its roughly $40 afternoon rental cost. When renting or buying a hammer drill, look for one with good power, ideally more than one speed setting, a stop function, and an auxiliary handle for your spare hand for enhanced comfort, control, and safety.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Pencil
- Ruler
- Hammer drill
- Masking tape (optional)
- Goggles
- Tungsten carbide masonry bits
- Large masonry nail (at least 3 inches)
- Hammer
- Canned compressed air
- Vacuum

How to Drill into Concrete

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
Mark the desired position of the holes in pencil on the concrete surface, and double-check their locations before you proceed. Also, during this planning and prep work, consider the drilling depth necessary for each hole. If your drill’s features include a stop bar, set it to the exact depth you want by following the drill manufacturer’s specifications. No stop bar feature? Instead, wrap a piece of masking tape around the drill bit to show you where to stop.

STEP 2
Don your goggles, then insert the appropriate tungsten carbide masonry drill bit for your desired hole size into the hammer drill. Next, get into position to drill by planting your feet firmly on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Hold your drill securely with both hands: Grip it in one hand like a handgun, and, if there’s no auxiliary handle for your spare hand, use that hand to brace the back of the drill.

It’s critical to control the drill so it doesn’t run away once you begin work. When you lean in to bore the hole, the drill bit should be perfectly perpendicular to the concrete. Be prepared for some recoil from the drill’s hammer action.

STEP 3
Make a guide hole first. Many hammer drills offer only two speeds, so turn your drill on at the slower speed for best control when making the guide hole. If your drill has only one speed, then work in short, controlled bursts of a few seconds each until you’ve established a hole. The guide hole needs to be just 1/8 to ¼ inch deep.

STEP 4
When you start with a guide hole at least 1/8 inch deep, your drill will be easier to control, but all the same continue to operate the drill with a steady, light-but-firm touch so you’re never forcing it in. If you’re feeling confident, turn the speed to full, keeping a firm grip on the tool with both hands, and drill into the concrete until the hole is complete.

Beware: Concrete can have air pockets and pebbles or stones that can make resistance unpredictable, with the result that it can be disturbingly easy to lose control of the tool for a moment.

STEP 5
If you hit obstructions, never force the drill farther into the concrete. This can damage the bits or drill, or cause you to lose control of the drill and mess up your hole, damage the concrete surface, or worse.

Whenever you reach any too-tough-to-crack spots that impede progress, set the drill down and grab the masonry nail and hammer. Put the tip of the masonry nail at the problem spot and give it a few taps—not hard whacks—with the hammer to break up the obstruction. When you’re done, resume drilling the concrete at a slow speed until you’re sure you’ve passed the rough patch.

STEP 6
Periodically pull the drill out to brush away concrete dust. Considering you can bore a two-inch hole in under a minute using a hammer drill, pausing every 15 to 20 seconds should suffice.

STEP 7
Once you have drilled your hole to the necessary depth, blow all of the concrete dust out of the hole with a can of compressed air then vacuum up whatever has fallen to the ground. You should still be wearing your goggles throughout this process in order to protect against any concrete dust and shards that might fly in your face and scratch your eyes.

STEP 8
Repeat this procedure for any other holes you need. Once through, a pass with a vacuum will make cleanup a breeze.


Buyer’s Guide: Standing Desks

Don’t just sit there! Learn everything you need to know about these workplace wonders that may help you stay healthy on the job.

Best Standing Desk Roundup

Photo: istockphoto.com

Sitting at a desk all day had long been associated with “secretary’s spread,” but doctors at the Mayo Clinic point out more serious health risks associated with spending long hours in a chair, including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, even cardiovascular disease. If you’re like most people, you can’t very well become a professional hiker, so the most sensible way to get off your derriere may be with a standing desk. Though not new—Leonardo da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin were said to be proponents—today’s best standing desk options have come a long way. So if you’re considering purchasing one for your home office (or appealing to your office manager to supply one at work), read on to learn what to look for and check out some top-rated picks.

The Right Desk for You
Just as endless sitting can be detrimental to your health, standing for long periods can be hard on your legs, lower back, and feet. The solution, say experts, is to frequently alternate between standing and sitting—which is why there are several types of standing desks available.

• A stand-only desk is handy if you also have a separate traditional desk nearby, but if you work at a PC, it can be bothersome to move your monitor and keyboard every time you want to switch positions. Stand-only desks are best suited to busy offices with multiple workstations where employees freely move from one area to another without interrupting productivity. This line of desks start around $200 for the bare bones and run as high as $1,000 for hardwood models.

• A sit-stand desk is adjustable, either manually or by motor. Budget-friendly manual models adjust upward and downward by turning a crank or by loosening a knob and then pulling or pushing the desk surface to the desired position. Powered models often come with presets so you needn’t fuss to suit your height every time you change. Convenient adjustment comes at a cost: Manually adjusted sit-stand desks range from about $200 to $800, depending on size and manufacturer, while motorized versions start at around $600 and run upwards of $4,000 for executive models that incorporate even more bells and whistles (read: Wi-Fi and artificial intelligence).

• A sit-stand conversion desk is used in combination with an existing desk. They’re extremely popular because they let you keep your existing desk, with all your pens, paperclips, and other office supplies at your fingertips, with the added benefit of an adjustable desk surface. Conversion desks may be motorized or manual, and range from $200 to more than $1,000, based on brand and power options.

 

WHAT GETS A STANDING OVATION

These top models have got reviewers—everyone from the experts who tested selections out on a quest to find the best standing desk to the consumers who put them to task every day—up out of their seats.

 

Best Standing Desk - Ergo Desktop's Kangaroo Pro Junior

Photo: amazon.com

Ergo Desktop’s Kangaroo Pro Junior ($424)
In the sit-stand conversion desk category, the Kangaroo Pro Junior comes highly recommended by Forbes. After years of testing various models in their own workspace, Forbes chose the Kangaroo Pro Junior for employees who like their existing desks but want versatility. The Kangaroo Pro Junior is a non-attached unit that rests securely on the desk surface but can be lowered or even set aside when necessary. It comes with a work surface and a separate monitor mount that adjust independently for a custom fit. The main work surface is 24 inches wide and 18 inches deep, big enough to comfortably hold a laptop or keyboard. You can manually elevate the work surface, via lifting, up to 15 inches above your existing desk surface. Amazon buyers give the Kangaroo Pro Junior an enthusiastic 4 out of 5 stars for portability, stability, and quick manual surface adjustment. Available from Amazon.

 

Best Standing Desk - LUXOR 48" Crank Adjustable Standup Desk

Photo: luxorfurn.com

LUXOR Standup-CF48-DW Desk ($335)
For sturdiness, spacious design, durability, and ease of adjustment, the Jerusalem Post made the LUXOR 48” Crank Adjustable Stand-Up Desk its top pick. The non-slip desk surface measures 29.5 inches deep and 47.2 inches wide, giving the user ample room for a laptop, widescreen monitor (or dual monitors), keyboard and other desktop essentials. The working surface adjusts from 29 inches to 42 inches in height and its generous size and smart design make it perfect for the highly motivated to pair with a treadmill or stationary bike. With 3-inch rolling casters, it can easily be relocated without scratching floors; once in place, locking brakes keep it from moving. Amazon buyers give the LUXOR Standup desk 4.6 stars; one buyer notes that the desk can be lowered, via manual crank, from standing to sitting in less than 30 seconds, making it a snap to adjust. Available from Amazon.

 

Best Standing Desk - Stir Kinetic M1 Sit-to-Stand Desk

Photo: amazon.com

Stir Kinetic M1 Sit-To- Stand Desk ($2,990)
Macworld calls the motorized, tech-savvy Stir Kinetic “the smartest desk $2,990 can buy.” Its embedded touch screen allows finger-swipe control as the desk quickly and smoothly adjusts from sitting to standing height. At 33 inches deep, 66 inches wide, and adjusting up to 36 inches in surface height, it also boasts an ergonomically curved desk front with gently sloping sides for ultimate standing comfort. There’s a cable slot and four AC power outlets to accommodate a laptop, monitor, peripherals, even a plug-in a desk lamp. Amazon buyers give the Stir Kinetic a full 5 stars for sleek design and cutting-edge technology. The desk is Wi-Fi- capable, offers cloud storage, and features an integrated fitness app designed to sense your presence and coax you into healthier work habits. You can program it to gradually increase your standing time and to adapt to your personal habits. Available from Amazon.


How To: Test for Asbestos

Discovering if this highly toxic, widely used material is present in any area you may want to demo is absolutely necessary. Learn why—and how—right here.

How to Test for Asbestos Before Demolition

Photo: istockphoto.com

For a century, the naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral asbestos was a mainstay of the building industry, used to create products of all kinds. Due to its strength and heat-resistance, it was widely used in flooring (including vinyl tiles), popcorn ceilings, insulation, concrete, ductwork, and much more. Like a sleeping monster, asbestos lurking in building materials poses no risks unless and until it’s disturbed, when its dust becomes extremely dangerous—so it’s crucial to test for asbestos prior to any demolition. Otherwise, the microscopic fibrils in asbestos are so abrasive once broken down that, if inhaled, they can cause lung-scarring illnesses and even lung cancer.

Because asbestos can’t be seen with the naked eye, materials must be submitted to an EPA-certified laboratory for testing prior to a remodel. Even removing a sample to send to the EPA requires stringent precautions, and in many states it’s illegal to do sample removal yourself. In nearly all states, if you live in an attached house, testing and sample removal generally requires EPA-certified contractors. If your state does allow self-gathering of samples in detached housing, you can purchase a kit for between $30 to $60 or pick up the supplies to do so yourself, making sure to follow these instructions for how to test for asbestos to the letter.

Note: Despite evidence of toxicity first arising in 1899, asbestos remained widely in use in a vast number of construction materials until the 1980s and continues to have construction applications to this day (see a complete list here). Keep in mind that asbestos use was so pervasive and insidious, it could be in nearly anything but the wood in your home—from countertops to insulation, wiring, carpet underlay, and more. If you have widespread asbestos concerns, the wisest move is to have a contractor perform a thorough testing before any demo begins.

 

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Disposable facemask
- Disposable rubber gloves
- Disposable coveralls and shoe covers (optional)
- Vacuum
- Plastic sheet
- Spray bottle
- Utility knife or chisel
- Wet wipes
- Pliers
- Heavy-duty or freezer-grade zip-locking plastic bags
- Permanent marker
- Disposable rags
- Duct or packing tape
- Vacuum bag
- Paint
- Old or disposable paint brush
- Garbage bags

Step 1
Do not attempt to clean any item or area you intend to collect a sample from, in case asbestos also exists in the surface dust. Ensure dead, still air in your work area so that any potential fibers, which can be microscopic, won’t become airborne. Shut all the windows and doors and turn off all fans, heaters, and air conditioning systems that can circulate air.

Step 2
Don all of your protective gear: face mask, gloves, coveralls (or long sleeves and long pants), and shoe covers. You’ll need to discard whatever you’re wearing during asbestos removal, so spending $5 to $10 on disposables is well worth it. Do not allow anyone in the area who is not wearing protective gear.

Step 3
Lay plastic sheeting around the work area to catch any potential asbestos dust that may settle. Spray the entire area thoroughly with water, so that all the surfaces are misted and the air is humid. This will help ensure that any dust created will quickly subside.

Step 4
Working as passively as possible to minimize dust, use a chisel or utility knife to loosen a sample of the material you want tested. The sample must weigh between 5 grams and 100 grams (just under ¼ lb). Without touching or disturbing the loosened sample, spray it down with water, and mist the air around you.

Step 5
Place a wet wipe in the mouth of the pliers, which will prevent microscopic fibers from sticking to the pliers. Carefully pick up the sample with the pliers and place it inside a zip-locking plastic bag. Drop the wet wipe in as well.

How to Test for Asbestos and Remove Health Hazards Before Demo Day

Photo: istockphoto.com

Step 6
Seal the plastic bag. At the top of the bag, neatly print the following information in reasonably small letters: where the sample was taken, the date of collection, and what the sample contains. Now place this sealed bag into a second zip-locking plastic bag to be sure it stays secure. Mist the air one more time to ensure dust settles.

Step 7
Carefully fold up the plastic sheeting and dispose of it in a plastic trash bag. Fold down the top of the plastic bag and securely tape it shut to contain any fibers.

Step 8
Thoroughly vacuum the area. Once done, carefully replace the vacuum bag and dispose of the old one in a plastic trash bag, taping the bag shut as you did with the plastic sheet, to contain particles. If you use a bagless vacuum, put the canister inside a trash bag and carefully tap out all dirt and dust. Use a wet rag to thoroughly wipe the canister down. Dispose of this rag in a plastic trash bag. Repeat the wipe-down with a wet wipe or two, just to be thorough. Dispose of these along with the rag.

Step 9
Clean the entire work area and anything nearby where dust may have landed with another wet rag. Dispose of the rag with the others, and tape that bag closed.

Step 10
Seal the area from which you took the sample by applying a thick, thorough coat of any kind of paint. When the paint dries it will prevent any more dust from kicking up. Discard the paintbrush in a plastic bag.

Step 11
Carefully remove your coveralls or clothes, facemask, and gloves, and dispose of them in the trash bag with the paint brush and tape it up. Dispose of all trash correctly.

Step 12
Check the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program’s website for an EPA-certified asbestos-testing lab that will take your sample. You may require a printer to print out a submission declaration form. Follow their instructions for submitting your samples. It can take three weeks or more for a response to a sample collected by a homeowner, so plan ahead, and be patient. Samples collected by EPA-certified professionals can be tested in as little as 48 hours, which may make the premium of paying a pro worth it for you.

If your sample tests positive for asbestos: Find an EPA-certified contractor to begin asbestos removal. It is illegal in many states to do asbestos removal yourself, and you can be heavily fined for doing so. Removal of, or simply sealing up and disposing of asbestos (since you can’t take just it to a landfill), requires a special contractor’s license in most states. The many uses of asbestos in homes, its insidiousness, and the complicated process of delicately removing it mandate that it is not a project even the most ambitious of DIYers should ever undertake.


How To: Wash a Comforter

Goodbye, dust mites—hello, good night's sleep! With a few simple steps, you can wash your bulkiest piece of bedding in your own laundry room and ultimately improve sleep quality.

How to Wash a ComforterPhoto: istockphoto.com

Nothing beats crawling under a cozy comforter after a long day, but did you know the bulky piece of bedding likely harbors an abundance of dust mites? Since comforters don’t get washed as often as sheets and pillowcases, they’re hotbeds for allergens that can affect your health and sleep quality. Regular washing–every six months for most comforters and annually for wool or down comforters–keeps your bedding clean and reduces the amount of dust on the surface.

Comforters made with delicate fabrics, like wool, should always be handled by professional dry cleaners to prevent shrinkage and damage. But, fortunately for your bank account and busy schedule, you can wash a majority of comforters in your own home—so long as you have a large capacity washing machine. Extra-bulky down comforters, however, should be washed at a local laundromat instead, where double- and triple-load machines handle the plump bedding better than smaller at-home washers. You don’t want to over-stuff your appliances, after all: Filling dryers past their capacities can prevent proper drying, lead to mold and mildew growth, and even cause fires. Whether you end up in a laundry room or laundromat, follow these straightforward instructions for how to wash a comforter thoroughly so that you can rest easy in your clean bedding.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Needle and thread (optional)
- Rag
- Baking soda (optional)
- Mild laundry cleaning product

STEP 1
Check your comforter’s care label for manufacturer instructions. Some labels list recommended temperature settings or hand-wash instructions. At this same time, examine the comforter for tears or pulled threads. Dry cleaners will often repair these imperfections for a price, but you can DIY the repair with a needle and strong thread. Loose fabric should always be fixed before washing, since your machines can exaggerate the damage.

STEP 2 (optional)
If any stains on your comforter need treating, shift the underlying filling to the side as much as possible so you’re working with just fabric. Dampen a small corner of a clean, soft rag with water, and lightly scrub to lift the stain. Next, apply a small sprinkle of baking soda (if you’re working with a light-colored comforter) or mild laundry cleaning product like Woolite (if you’re working with a dark-colored comforter) to the stain and continue to gently scrub with the rag. Once the spot has disappeared, remove the baking soda or cleaner by dabbing it with a clean section of the wet rag. Blot to dry.

How to Wash a Comforter

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3
Determine if the comforter will fit into your washer. The comforter should be loosely stuffed into the washer and still feel fluffy—not firmly packed—to the touch. Also, make sure you have a surplus of space at the top of the basin (about 20 percent from the top) so the entire comforter gets covered by water during the wash cycle. If you have to cram the fabric into the machine, it’s too bulky for at-home laundry treatment; take it to a laundromat instead. The following instructions for how to wash a comforter apply to any machine, residential or commercial.

STEP 4
Select the “gentle” or “delicate” setting on the washer to start. Then, set the water level for maximum, and adjust the temperature per the instructions on the comforter label. Keep in mind: Cold water will protect colors, preserve fabrics, and prevent shrinkage, but it won’t kill dust mites (you need 130 degrees Fahrenheit to eliminate those). Still, trust your label for the max temperature your bedding can handle in washing and drying.

STEP 5
Add a mild laundry cleaning product to your machine, per the instructions on the bottle, and then start the machine. One trick sometimes used in the hospitality industry is to pour a bucket of temperature-appropriate water into a top-loading washer as the basin begins to fill with water from the cycle (or, in the case of front-loading machines, before you press “start”). Some high-efficiency machines don’t use enough water to thoroughly clean bulky materials like a comforter, so the extra liquid will ensure the dirt gets properly diluted.

STEP 6
Once the cycle ends, transfer the comforter to a dryer. Again, don’t force the comforter to fit into a too-small machine; if you need to transport the wet comforter to a laundromat for drying, do so in a large trash bag. Follow the label’s recommendations for dryer settings, likely a low temperature.

STEP 7
Remove the comforter after 20 minutes, fluff its fabric, place it back into the dryer to continue the cycle, and repeat. Depending on the efficiency of the dryer, your comforter may take a couple of hours to dry. This stop-and-go process ensures an even, thorough dry.

STEP 7 (optional)
After drying your comforter in the machine, hang it on a clothesline for a few hours, if possible. The sun will evaporate any remaining dampness and impart a fresh smell to the fabric.

If you typically use a duvet cover, consider skipping it for a couple of nights so that the washed comforter’s fabric can breathe, thus eliminating any lingering, deep-set moisture. Instead, head off to make your bed with a newly clean, dust-free comforter!


How To: Sweat Copper Pipe

Ready to take on more complex plumbing jobs? Learn this technique of creating leak-proof joints.

SHARES
How to Sweat Copper Pipes

Photo: istockphoto.com

For DIYers eager to take on plumbing tasks, one of the most important skills to master is how to sweat copper pipe—a process commonly referred to as soldering—in order to achieve leak-proof joints. The job consists of two main tasks: first prep work to clean the pipes, and then the heating process for flowing solder to seal pieces (two pipes or, more commonly, a pipe and a joint) together. Be sure to dress for the job in a heavy, long-sleeved shirt and wear insulated gloves to protect against potential drips of molten metal. Also keep in mind that if your pipes aren’t already cut to length, you’ll need to do that prior to sweating. While sweating copper pipe can seem intimidating at first, with patience and attention to detail you should soon be a pro.

MATERIALS NEEDED
- Copper pipes
- 120-grit emery cloth
- Wire fitting brush, sized to the pipe you’re working with (optional)
- Lead-free tinning flux (sometimes called soldering paste or plumbing flux)
- Acid brush
- Insulated gloves
- Clean rags
- Safety goggles
- Lead-free solder
- Flame protector cloth (optional, but recommended)
- Propane soldering torch

We recommend that you learn on practice pipes, a worthwhile investment until you build enough confidence to tackle plumbing in your home.

How to Sweat Copper Pipes and Fittings

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
Examine inside all cut copper pipes to ensure that the burr (a ridge of copper shards caused by the saw where the cut was made) has been removed, to allow unimpeded water flow once the joints are sweated. If burr remains, follow the steps to remove it here.

STEP 2
Clean both the outside and inside of the first inch or so of pipes (the cut lengths and/or the joint) with emery cloth, which you can find in home centers and hardware stores sold alongside flux and solder. If a wire fitting brush is handy, it will make short work of cleaning inside the copper pipe. Otherwise, wrap the emery cloth around your index finger, stick it in the mouth of the pipe, and twist to clean.

Cleaned copper will shine like a brand new penny. After cleaning, it’s critical to avoid touching the copper pipe with your bare hands, lest natural oils and dirt on your skin interfere with the sweating process.

How to Sweat Copper Pipes using Plumbing Flux

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3
Don insulated work gloves for protection against the acid in the flux. Apply a thin, even layer of tinning or plumbing flux to the newly cleaned sections of the exterior and interior of the copper pipes with an acid or flux brush. Wipe off excess flux with a clean rag.

STEP 4
Hang flame protector cloth over any wood, metal, or other surface capable of scorching within 8 inches of the work area where you’ll be using the propane torch and put on a pair of goggles for eye protection. Fire up the torch and hold it about 2 inches from the fitting. Pass it slowly over the flux-covered sections for 10 to 20 seconds until the flux begins to melt, becoming shiny. The copper will soon darken and the flux will sizzle and/or bubble, even smoke. This means the acid has begun to work. The surface will become dull and etched, creating a bondable surface.

STEP 5
Wearing your insulated gloves, push the connecting pieces together until fully sealed (or as far as they’ll go). Twist the copper pipes slightly to distribute flux evenly inside the joint. Wipe off excess flux with a clean rag.

STEP 6
Set your torch to a lower-power “rosebud” flame. A full-power torch flame resembles a cone with a narrow point—the point heats the area it touches more than it heats the rest of the copper pipe. A rosebud flame, however, wraps around the pipe, bringing the whole pipe up to sweating temperature at once. This allows for cleaner, more even sweating. Using the rosebud flame, begin heating the connecting pipes at the joint seam.

How to Sweat Copper Pipes

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 7
Hold the lead-free solder opposite to the rosebud flame at a 90-degree angle to the joint seam. (Since leaded solder is still sold in stores, be sure to check that you supply is actually lead-free—a critical choice for pipes that route water supply.)

Now, touch the heated pipe with the solder. If the pipe is hot enough, the solder will melt—this is called “flowing the solder.” If the pipe isn’t hot enough, the solder won’t melt or flow, so keep it up with the torch until the solder melts upon touching the joint. Once the melting point is achieved, solder will trickle down, flowing around the seam, sealing the two pipes together, successfully sweating the joint.

STEP 8
Turn off the propane torch and set it down. (Note: Never leave the torch on when it’s not in use, as it could easily fall over and become an extreme fire hazard.) Wipe off any excess solder with a clean rag.

Allow the pipe to cool for at least a full minute before applying any pressure. You’ve successfully sweated your first copper pipe—well done!


How To: Clean Aluminum

Using only a handful of household products, you can make your dull aluminum utensils, sinks, and outdoor furniture shine like new once more.

How to Clean Aluminum

Photo: istockphoto.com

The world’s most abundant metal, aluminum, contributes to many products homeowners use every day: pots, pans, utensils, furniture, and even car parts. In any of these examples, its naturally soft exterior is often anodized—or combined with other metals, like copper or magnesium—to create an alloy that stands up to regular wear and tear. As with many other metals, aluminum products can acquire an unattractive (yet harmless) dull appearance over time resulting from the metal’s natural reaction to oxygen. Removing this tarnish requires careful handling and cleaning, since scrubbing and abrasive cleaners can scratch or discolor the surface. Whether you’re looking to restore shine to your cookware, sink, or furnishings, follow the outlined steps below for how to clean aluminum properly.

How to Clean Aluminum

Photo: istockphoto.com

CLEANING ALUMINUM UTENSILS AND POTS

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Mild dish soap
- Aluminum pot
- White vinegar
- Whole lemons
- Cream of tartar
- Scrub sponge or pad
- Clean rags
- Non-abrasive metal polish

For regular maintenance, hand wash aluminum utensils and pots with mild dish soap and warm water. If your kitchenware has stuck-on stains, try the following method—which cleans pots and utensils at the same time!

STEP 1
Remove all food and grease from your aluminum utensils with soap and water, then place the items in a large aluminum pot. Don’t use pots made with cast iron or other metals for this method, since the acid involved can damage their finishes.

STEP 2
Fill the pot with water, leaving about 1 to 2 inches from the top for boiling. For every quart of water, add 2 tablespoons of a cleaning agent of your choice: white vinegar, lemon juice, or cream of tartar.

STEP 3
Bring the pot of water to a boil, and simmer for about 15 minutes. The aluminum interior of the pot should appear brighter. Allow the contents to cool before pouring out the water.

STEP 4
Rinse and dry the utensils, then use a non-scratch scrub sponge or pad to gently rub the inside of the pot. Rinse with water and dry thoroughly with clean rags.

STEP 5
To tackle stubborn discoloration on the outside of aluminum pans, it’s best to use a non-abrasive metal polish by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Mild discoloration on the outside of pans can be eliminated with the same method for cleaning an aluminum sink, listed below.

 

How to Clean Aluminum

Photo: istockphoto.com

CLEANING AN ALUMINUM SINK

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Dish soap
- Sponge
- Whole lemon
- Table salt
- Clean cloths

To prevent a build-up of grime and food particles in your aluminum sink, regularly clean the surface with dish soap, a sponge, and warm water. Avoid scrubbing the sink with abrasive brushes or pads, so you don’t damage the soft metal. Use the following deep-cleaning method when you notice a tarnished or dull appearance to the aluminum.

STEP 1
Clean the sink with dish soap and water to remove all traces of grease. Rinse well.

STEP 2
Cut a lemon in half, and dip it in table salt. Scrub the surface of the sink with the lemon until you notice the aluminum brightening.

STEP 3
Rinse well with water and a cloth. Dry thoroughly with a clean, dry rag.

 

How to Clean Aluminum

Photo: istockphoto.com

CLEANING ALUMINUM FURNITURE

MATERIALS AND TOOLS:
- Hose
- Mild dish soap
- Rags
- Large bowl
- White vinegar
- Cream of tartar
- Lemon
- Soft scrubbing pad (optional)
- Salt (optional)
- Car wax (for outdoor furniture)

If your aluminum furniture is coated or painted, cleaning it depends more on its exterior finish than its aluminum base. For example, vinyl-coated aluminum furniture should be treated as a vinyl item rather than an aluminum one. The following method works well for uncoated, unpainted aluminum furniture, like patio chairs and  dining tables—just save your cleaning for a cloudy or cool day, since aluminum tends to get too hot to handle in direct sun.

STEP 1
Soak your furniture with water from a hose, then clean with soapy water and a rag.

STEP 2
Mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water in a large bowl. You can choose to use another acid like cream of tartar or lemon juice, but vinegar is the cheapest option. The exact measurements will depend on the size of your aluminum furniture, but at least 2 cups of water and 2 cups of vinegar should be a good starting point.

STEP 3
Soak a clean rag in the solution, then apply it to the surface of your furniture. You can also rub the solution in with a soft scrubbing pad. For difficult spots with greater discoloration, resort to the lemon-and-salt method used for cleaning aluminum sinks (listed above).

STEP 4
Once the aluminum surface brightens up, rinse the furniture thoroughly with your hose. Dry with clean cloths.

STEP 5 (optional)
If you’re working with outdoor furniture, finish with a coat of your favorite brand of car wax applied per the manufacturer’s instructions. This layer will protect the surface from weather damage throughout the season.