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Buyer’s Guide: Electric Blankets

We’ve got you covered with this electric blanket primer, including several recommendations for smart buys on the market today.

3 Options for the Best Electric Blanket

Photo: amazon.com

As the temperatures drop, we crave warmth and coziness—but before you turn up the heat, consider an electric blanket. About twice as energy-efficient as a space heater, electric blankets have been given a thumbs-up from the United States Department of Energy for their inexpensive, low-impact energy consumption, typically using only 400 watts to run. (A space heater consumes 750 to 1000 watts, and central heat can gobble up even more.)

Whether your home is prone to drafts or you just love bundling up in a toasty cocoon around the house, the best electric blanket can keep you comfortable all winter long. Read on to learn the ins and outs of this cold-weather staple—everything from size and safety to technical capabilities and cool (er, warm) features—so you can make the perfect purchase.

Appearance and Price
Electric blankets come in a host of different sizes, so think about how and where you’ll want to use yours. If you want to snuggle up on the couch while reading or streaming television, a throw-sized model might suit your needs. If you’ll be sleeping under it every night, you’ll probably want one the same size as your bed. Fortunately, electric blankets are available in California King, King, Queen, Full, and Twin, as well as smaller sizes similar to a typical throw. There’s a wide assortment of solid colors and various patterns from which to choose. While some have a quilted texture and others do not, electric blankets are usually very soft to the touch, made of fleece or microfiber (i.e., polyester). Depending on the manufacturer and features, they range in price from under $50 to upwards of $300.

Safety Considerations for the Best Electric Blanket

Photo: istockphoto.com

Technical Specs
Originally called “heated quilts” or “warming pads” and around since the early 1900s for use in hospitals, electric blankets first became popular for home use in the 1950s. They’ve haven’t changed all that much since then, but they do have features worth considering!

Heat settings. Many electric blankets have up to 10 heat settings so you’re sure to find the temperature that feels best to you.

Automatic shutoff. This feature, which automatically cuts off the blanket’s heating mechanism after a specific time (usually eight to 10 hours), is an important safety feature that can keep you and your surroundings from overheating or even catching fire. It comes standard in most modern products, but do double-check to make sure.

Separate controls. If you’re sharing your blanket with a loved one who likes things warmer or cooler than you do, opt for a blanket with two zones, each with its own separate controls.

Instructions for machine washing. Many electric blankets can be cleaned and dried in your home’s laundry machines. Just be sure to use the specified washer/dryer settings and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter (which always include untethering all remotes, cords, and peripherals, among other safety precautions).

Warranty and Safety
Although it feels like a soft, simple textile, an electric blanket is actually an appliance and should be treated as such. Especially if you’re investing a few extra bucks on super-soft material or extra features, make sure your blanket comes with a refund or replacement warranty.

Safety is of utmost importance when using an electric blanket, so, again, be sure to follow all the manufacturer’s instructions to a T from the first use to the last. There are also two crucial rules to remember: Keep the blanket as flat as possible to avoid pockets of excessive heat buildup (especially when using higher settings) and never lay objects like books or cell phones on top of or underneath your blanket. It’s too easy for your belongings to trap heat between themselves and the blanket, causing the blanket’s coils to overheat—which could destroy them or burn everything around them.

Best Bets

To help you find the best electric blanket and warmth all season long, we’ve picked a few favorites based on the considerations outlined above and critical reviews on the top shopping sites.

 

Best Electric Blanket - Sunbeam Velvet Plush Electric Blanket

Photo: amazon.com

Sunbeam Queen Velvet Plush Heated Blanket, $130
The professional reviewers at Wirecutter give this plush heated Queen-sized blanket from Sunbeam the highest marks of any electric blanket they tested. While they don’t rank it as the softest or most comfortable, they cite its very few safety complaints among consumers, as well as its easy-to-use digital controls offering 20 heat settings. Sold in nine colors and all standard bed sizes, the blanket is machine-washable, dryer-safe, and has a 5-year warranty. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Electric Blanket - Biddeford Blanket

Photo: target.com

Biddeford Blanket Microplush Electric Throw, $30
Target shoppers love this microplush electric throw blanket from Biddeford Blanket, which scored hundreds of five-star reviews despite having only six heat settings. Made of polyester, machine-washable and dryer-safe, and available in 10 different colors and patterns, it’s a great size for a sofa at 4 feet by 5 feet. Plus, it boasts a 13-foot cord so you won’t be tethered to an outlet. It’s sold without a warranty—not surprising, considering the unbeatable price. Available at Target.

 

Best Electric Blanket - SoftHeat Microplush Fleece Blanket

Photo: amazon.com

SoftHeat Luxury Microfleece Electric Heated Queen Blanket, $115
Amazon customers can’t get enough of this soft polyester electric blanket; in fact, thousands of reviewers give it 3.9 out of 5 stars for its dual heat zones, ultra-thin wires, and a pre-heat-and-hold feature that uses more wattage when you first turn it on to warm up faster. With automatic shutoff, 10 heat settings and a five-year warranty, this machine-washable, dryer-safe model earns extra popularity for its low-voltage technology, which makes for greater safety and less energy consumption as well. Available on Amazon.


What’s the Difference? Granite vs. Quartz

Before committing to a granite or quartz countertop, learn what distinguishes these two rock star materials.

Granite vs Quartz: Choosing the Right Countertop Material

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Philadelphia, PA

If you’re looking to remodel your kitchen with new countertops—either to boost the beauty of the space or the resale value of your home—granite and quartz are probably near the top of your list of potential materials. Both are sleek and high-end, favored by homeowners for their timeless elegance and rugged durability, but their differences are more than skin deep. Read on to see these two popular countertop materials go head to head, granite vs. quartz. The following key comparisons can aid you in choosing the one that best suits your style, budget, and needs.

Granite is 100 percent natural. Granite is a natural stone comprised of quartz, feldspar, and mica, formed over millions of years deep below the earth’s surface. It’s extracted from quarries as large rocks, which are then cut into slabs for home design applications. The quartz used for countertops, on the other hand, is an engineered stone consisting of 90 to 94 percent naturally occurring ground quartz and another 6 to 10 percent polymer resins and pigments. Although the ground quartz component is mined directly from the earth, it must be bound with manmade resins to form quartz slabs. Because these resins contain chemicals that can emit the pollutants known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), folks who want optimal indoor air quality will feel more comfortable with granite, which won’t release VOCs.

 

Granite vs Quartz - Why Homeowners Love Granite Countertops

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Scottsdale, AZ

Granite offers more visual variety. Both granite and quartz countertops come in a variety of hues and patterns to suit the unique color palette of your kitchen. However, the interlocking minerals of white feldspar, gray quartz, and black mica in granite gives granite countertops natural striations and swirls that vary in shape and size from one point on the slab to another, resulting in a visually varied look. Quartz doesn’t naturally contain these variations; it tends to look more flecked than vein-y, and maintains a consistent pattern across the slab without much variation—a plus if you want a uniform-looking countertop. The lighter patina of quartz also conceals seams (gaps between adjacent slabs on the countertop) more effectively than granite, whose darker patina (from its mica component) makes seams more noticeable. Which you choose depends on what else is going on in your kitchen. If for example, you’ll have a simple backsplash and paint, you may want a granite countertop as a focal point. But if you’re leaning toward other patterns and textures, more minimalist quartz may be the perfect complement.

Granite has an earthier texture. The mineral crystals in granite, often bearing microscopic fissures (small raised lines with a pronounced color), give it a slightly coarser, earthier texture than quartz. If you’re after a kitchen with a “back to nature” quality, granite is a great choice. Since quartz is bound with resin, it doesn’t have the crystalline structure or natural fissures of granite, giving it a smoother texture. The more finely ground the quartz, the glossier and more polished the overall appearance.

Granite vs Quartz: Which to Choose for Your Countertops

Photo; homedepot.com

Quartz is generally less expensive. The cost of a granite or quartz countertop depends on the thickness of the slab, the color, the edge profile (e.g., square, rounded, or beveled), and whether or not the countertop will house a sink. But with the exception of the cheapest granite, quartz is generally less expensive—$70 to $100 per square foot installed compared with granite’s price range of $60 to $270 per square foot installed. For an average-sized kitchen with 30 square feet of countertop area, a quartz countertop would cost $2,100 to $3,000 installed versus $1,800 to $8,100 for a granite countertop. This cost differential is due to the months or even years it can take to locate and quarry granite, and the higher costs associated with transporting granite from Brazil, Russia, and India, where most of the world’s supply is found. Quartz is more abundant and is often mined in the United States (primarily in Arkansas)—and the savings passes on to you.

Quartz is more resistant to moisture and staining. Both quartz and granite are resistant to heat, scratches, and moderate impact, not to mention they’re truly rock-hard—ranking an impressive 7 out of 10 on the Moh’s mineral hardness scale. But because quartz is non-porous and water-resistant, it requires no sealant to be virtually stain-proof. Granite has a porous surface that absorbs food spills and readily becomes stained unless it is finished with a water-and oil-repellent sealer. It’s recommended that granite is sealed at the time of installation and once a year afterward. This DIY-friendly job entails spraying the entire countertop with a zero- or low-VOC granite sealer (available for $7 to $15 at home centers), letting the sealer soak in for 20 minutes, wiping down wet patches with a soft, dry cloth, and then letting the countertop dry for 48 hours.

Note: Neither material is suitable for outdoor kitchens because direct UV rays from the sun can discolor them.

 

Granite vs Quartz - Why Homeowners Love Quartz Countertops

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Fort Meyers, FL

Quartz is less of a bacteria magnet. If left unsealed, a porous granite countertop can quickly become overrun by bacteria, mildew, and mold—the last things you want in your kitchen!—if you’re highly conscientious about cleaning. A sealed granite countertop keeps germs from penetrating the surface, but because the sealer gradually deteriorates over time, germs will again encroach. The non-porous surface of quartz keeps germs from penetrating the surface without sealing. That said, you ou can keep either type of countertop at its hygienic best by cleaning it daily with either a commercial stone cleaner or a homemade cleaner safe for granite or quartz. Spray the entire countertop and then wipe it down with a microfiber cloth or a soft sponge (preferably while spills are still wet), then be sure to wipe up any remaining cleaner with before it dries to avoid white streaks.

Quartz slabs cover more surface area. The average granite slab, measuring 105 by 54 inches, is narrower and shorter than a standard-sized quartz slab, at 120 by 55 inches, or a jumbo-sized quartz slab, at 129 by 65 inches. While that might make granite slabs slightly easier for installers to handle, you’ll need more slabs to cover the same area, and more slabs equal more unsightly seams. Wider and taller, quartz slabs allow you to cover small and large countertop areas with fewer slabs. Both granite and quartz slabs are available in widths ranging from 0.75 to 1.25 inches.

 

Granite vs Quartz - Why Homeowners Love Quartz Countertops

Photo: homedepot.com

Neither material is DIY friendly. Do-it-yourself installation isn’t recommended for either granite or quartz due to the hefty weight of the slabs. Both weigh around 19 pounds per square foot, or 570 pounds for a 30-square-foot countertop—the weight of two refrigerators!


How To: Remove Rust from Chrome

Though a chrome finish goes a long way to protect metal against corrosion, cracks can enable rusting. Bust rust fast with any of these four methods.

How to Remove Rust from Chrome

Photo: istockphoto.com

Manufacturers add chrome plating to their products to give them a mirror-like finish that says, “I’m high-class.” Aside from its good looks, chrome also protects the underlying metal from corrosion. That’s why you find chrome on faucets, appliances, tools, outdoor power equipment, and your car. But chrome can fail if it’s poorly applied, too thin, or scratched from repeated cleaning with abrasive cleansers. Once chrome cracks, peels, or develops pinholes, it loses those protective abilities, and you wind up with rust and corrosion “blooms” that rise to the surface, resulting in orange or green/blue stains. Here are four different ways to clean rust from chrome and slow down future occurrences.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Commercial soap scum cleaner
Degreasing dish soap
Sponge
Cloth
Paper towels
Rubber gloves
Protective eyewear
Chrome polish/cleaner
 Rust penetrant
Brass wool
#0000 steel wool
Lemon or lime juice
Cola
Vinegar
Aluminum foil
Degreasing spray cleaner
Car wax

But first, a caution: All that glistens isn’t chrome.

High-quality chrome plating is expensive. To cut costs, some manufacturers use cheaper chrome paint that mimics the look of the real deal. The methods described below involving the use of brass wool, #0000 steel wool, and aluminum foil will all scratch paint, expose more of the metal to air, and make the corrosion even worse. If you’re not sure whether you’ve got real chrome of chrome paint, try the foil, brass or steel wool in an inconspicuous spot first to see if it scratches the finish. If it does, choose either the mild-acid or rust penetrant rust remover method and use a rag.

How to Remove Rust from Chrome

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1: Clean the chrome.

For bath and kitchen fixtures, start by removing all traces of soap scum using a soap scum cleaner. For other chromed surfaces that may not have remnants of soap, a degreasing cleaner like dish soap will work just fine to remove all surface dirt. Wipe with a clean rag or paper towel.

STEP 2: Select your rust-busting weapon.

A number of products can get the job done, so choose yours based on the amount of money and energy you’d prefer to invest in this do-it-yourself job.

Chrome or metal polish: While this commercial product tends to cost more ($10 to $15 per container), it provides an all-in-one approach that takes hardly any time at all. Apply this cream, and you’re treating chrome with a cleaning solvent, a corrosion inhibitor, and a sealing agent to fill pinholes and pores and slow down future corrosion in one go.

• Rust penetrant and either brass wool or #0000 steel wool: For about $5 to $8 per can, rust-penetrating products like WD-40 Specialist Rust Release Penetrant Spray or PB B’laster Catalyst penetrate deep into cracks and crevices and dissolve rust. Plus, the lubricant reduces the scrubbing effort of your metal wool. (If you choose steel, be careful not to go with a coarser grade than #0000; others may scratch chrome.)

Homemade mild acid cleaners: Mild household acids can get the job done and save you money and a trip to the store, but not energy—be prepared to put more elbow grease into the project. Choose lemon or lime juice, cola (which contains carbonic acid, citric acid, and phosphoric acid), or vinegar; household acids stronger than these might etch the metal. When the rust is gone, you still have to neutralize the acid, dry, and seal with a wax.

Aluminum foil and water: This soft metal removes rust through a chemical reaction, scrubs without scratching, and leaves a protective aluminum ion layer that slows rust.

STEP 3: Remove the rust.

Pull on your rubber gloves and protective eyewear. Then, proceed with a method for how to remove rust from chrome that corresponds with the rust-removing helper you could get your hands on.

• If using a commercial chrome/metal polish, apply it with a rag or sponge, and rub until the rust is gone. Then wipe with a clean rag and you’re done.

• If using rust penetrant, apply the product to the affected area of your chrome according to manufacturer’s instructions. Often, this involves letting it saturate the rust for several minutes, scouring it away using bronze wool or #0000 steel wool, and repeating. Follow the next step to seal.

• If using a homemade rust remover, apply a mild acid of your choice—lemon or lime juice, cola, or vinegar—and let it soak for about five minutes before scrubbing with a sponge. Wipe dry. Repeat until all the rust is gone. Neutralize mild acid solutions with a stream of water and wipe dry. Then seal according to instructions in Step 4.

• If using aluminum foil, tear the pantry supply into small strips and wad into scrubbing pads. Dip the balled up aluminum in water and scrub the chrome, discarding each pad as it loses effectiveness. Flush with water and wipe dry with a clean cloth before sealing.

STEP 4: Seal the chrome to prevent future rust spots.

Unless you’re using a commercial chrome polish with sealer built-in, apply a high-quality car wax to the chrome. (A synthetic polymer car wax lasts longer than ordinary carnauba wax.) The wax fills in remaining cracks and pores to keep moisture out and slow down future rust outbreaks.


How To: Caulk Baseboards

It’s easy to seal up small cracks between your walls and baseboards with the right materials and a little prep work.

How to Caulk Baseboards

Photo: istockphoto.com

Prepping to paint your walls a new shade? While you may understand how essential priming is when it comes to hiding the imperfections in the wall, an oft-forgotten step of equal importance is caulking the baseboard. Caulk is basically a do-it-yourselfer’s best friend, the way it closes little cracks in wood and drywall alike created by uneven walls and misjudged cuts. In addition to filling gaps and making the joinery look flawless, this sealant serves as an important barrier to keep both critters and drafts out of spaces where they shouldn’t be. Plus, caulk fills in the dust-collecting crevices that make baseboards easier to clean.

Once you get the hang of using the tool, the process for how to caulk baseboards couldn’t be any simpler. We’ve broken it down into six easy steps, from choosing the proper caulk at the home center to getting a perfectly smooth finish.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Latex caulk
Putty knife
5in1 tool (optional)
Wire brush (optional)
Vacuum with attachments
Vinegar
Liquid caulk remover (optional)
Bleach (optional)
Microfiber cloth
Painter’s tape
Caulking gun
Utility knife
Plastic glove
Ice (optional)

STEP 1: Choose the right caulk.

There’s a number of types of caulk available, each tailored to the type of job you’re doing. While bathrooms or kitchens—the “splash zones” of the home—may require a waterproof caulk like silicone around the baseboards, most molding in the house benefits from latex caulks (sometimes referred to as “acrylic latex” or “painter’s caulk”). Latex caulk dries quickly, expands slightly to fill cracks better, exists in a variety of colors, and even comes in a paintable formula. It’s safe to say that, as long as you finish it smoothly according to these next steps, you won’t know where your woodwork stops and the caulk begins.

STEP 2: Prep the baseboards with painter’s tape.

If there’s any existing caulk, remove as much of it as possible; a putty knife, 5-in-1 tool, or wire brush can help dislodge the old stuff. Run a vacuum attachment over the area to get the last of the dust, then finish by wiping it down with vinegar, liquid caulk remover, or bleach and let the area completely dry. Any crumbs of caulk or dust could compromise the seal.

For best results, take the time to apply painters tape to the area above and below the line you want to caulk to help guide a perfectly straight, clean bead.

How to Caulk Baseboards

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3: Load the caulk gun.

Most types of caulk either come in a squeezable tube or, more commonly, a cartridge that requires a caulk gun. If you purchase the latter, cut the nozzle of the tube at a 45-degree angle to the desired bead size (usually 1/8- to 1/4-inch from the tip is best for baseboards, depending on how small or large the gap you’re filling is) using a utility knife, then pierce the inner seal. Insert the cartridge into the caulk gun following the manufacturer’s instructions.

STEP 4: Apply the caulk.

Hold the caulk gun at a 45-degree angle and do a few practice runs on a piece of paper first to get a feel for how much pressure to apply. You’ll find you have to gently and repeatedly squeeze the trigger in order to dispense the caulk. Move at a steady pace, so you don’t end up with beads of caulk that are too thin or too thick. When you’ve got the hang of it, move on to the baseboards and fill the space between the lines of tape.

STEP 5: Smooth the bead before it dries.

When you’ve finished the area you’re working on, flatten the bumps in the caulk for a more professional appearance. You can use a gloved finger dipped in a bit of water or an ice cube to create an even, smooth line.

STEP 6: Peel back the painter’s tape.

Peel off the tape right away before the caulk dries (so that it doesn’t get stuck behind the caulk or rip the new bead off with it). Then let the caulking completely dry according to the manufacturer’s recommendations before painting it to match the baseboards, if necessary.


How To: Remove Grease From Kitchen Cabinets

Cabinet doors are practically a magnet for sticky and unsightly grease stains, and it can be frustrating—and fruitless—to clean them without the proper supplies. Read on for three ways to tackle greasy residue.

3 Methods for How to Remove Grease from Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: istockphoto.com

Kitchen cabinets, thanks to their close proximity to the stovetop, are natural hotspots for grease. Ideally, you’re cleaning your cabinet fronts at least every other week using a damp cloth followed by a dry one, but we’ve all had to deal with a layer that’s too tough to remove with a simple wipe-down. Fortunately, whether you’re trying to remove a fresh oil splatter from a batch of fries or years of caked-on residue in your newly purchased home, certain products have active ingredients that are more well-suited to cut through the grime than others. Here, we’ve detailed three highly effective cleansers in this guide for how to remove grease from kitchen cabinets.

Note: All of these methods are safe to use on finished wood cabinetry, but always try them out in an inconspicuous spot before turning to larger areas to ensure they do not dull or discolor your cabinetry finish.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Greasecutting dish soap
Sponges
Microfiber cloths
Multipurpose cleaner that contains citrus oil
Canning jar
Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, or limes)
Vinegar (optional)
Spray bottle (optional)
Baking soda

 

 

How to Remove Grease from Kitchen Cabinets with Dish Soap

Photo: istockphoto.com

Remove Grease with… DISH SOAP + WATER

Most types of kitchen cabinets can be cleaned with warm water and a few drops of dish soap, which has serious degreasing properties. Mix up a few drops of dish soap (not dishwasher detergent) in a bowl of warm water until soapy. Use a sponge dipped in the solution, but not dripping wet, to gently work the grease and grime out. Follow up with clean water to remove lingering dish soap, then dry the surface thoroughly with a dry microfiber rag.

 

How to Remove Grease from Kitchen Cabinets with Citrus

Photo: istockphoto.com

Remove Grease with… CITRUS-BASED MULTIPURPOSE CLEANER

A natural degreaser, citrus oil can be just the thing you need to cut through layers of tough grime. Check your cleaning caddy (or the store, if you’re fresh out of supplies) for a multipurpose cleaner that contains citrus oil. Spray this onto the kitchen cabinets and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, use a sponge or microfiber cloth dampened with warm water to gently remove the grease. Wipe off any lingering cleaner with a clean damp cloth and dry thoroughly to finish.

The same principle applies to homemade cleaners that contain the rinds of citrus fruit. Whether you prefer all-natural cleaners or sticking to supplies you already have around the house, you can also make your own citrusy cleaning solution in just a few steps. Fill a canning jar three-quarters full of citrus peels and top it off with white vinegar. The mixture needs to steep for two to three weeks, but once it’s done just strain out the peels and pour the remaining liquid into a spray bottle. Apply the same way you would its commercial counterpart.

 

How to Remove Grease from Kitchen Cabinets with Baking Soda

Photo: istockphoto.com

Remove Grease with… BAKING SODA + WATER

For tougher jobs, a slightly more abrasive cleaner may be necessary. The grit of baking soda can do just the trick to dislodge grease particles clinging to the surface of the cabinets. And as a mild alkali, it is good for dissolving grease in water. Mix up a 50/50 combo of water and baking soda until you have a paste. Apply it to grease stains with a clean microfiber cloth using small, circular motions; swap out rags as they become too soiled, and continue until you have a grease-free surface. After you’ve covered all cabinet faces in the powdery paste, use a fresh damp cloth to remove excess paste and a dry cloth to remove the last of the moisture. If you leave moisture behind, it can work its way into the finish of your cabinets and cause visible damage.

 

Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.


Solved! What to Do When Your Oven Is Smoking

Get your smoking oven to cool off with these no-sweat solutions.

What to Do When the Oven is Smoking

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: Over the last few days, my oven has been giving off smoke while in use but is working normally otherwise. Why is it smoking, and is it safe to ignore, or should I take action to stop it, and how?

A: Smoke emanating from the oven door or vent—either as a light haze or dark plumes—should never be ignored. For starters, though you may not have noticed much of a difference in your dinner’s taste the first time this occurred, smoke can negatively impact the flavor and quality of food. Worse than that, though, it can irritate nearby pets or people with respiratory conditions or even signal an impending oven failure or fire. No matter the type of oven in your home, the problem is not altogether uncommon. It occurs in new and old units, electric and gas, appliances with and without food inside, and at any particular operational mode (preheat, bake, broil, or self-clean). Since the right fix will depend on your appliance and circumstances, we’ve outlined the common causes of a smoking oven to clear the smoke and quit for good.

Burn off factory coatings. It’s normal to see smoke during the first one or two uses of a brand-new oven since the heating element inside many modern ovens has an oil-based factory coating that produces smoke as it gradually burns off. Because a smoking oven can lend an unsavory burnt taste to food inside, oven manufacturers usually recommend that you “burn in” the oven (i.e. burn off the factory coating) before using it to cook food for the first time. To burn in your oven, turn it off if on, let it cool completely, then remove any pots and pans from the oven racks. Close the oven and set it to “bake” at the manufacturer recommended burn-in temperature (usually between 400 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit) for the recommended duration (a half-hour to an hour). Once you’ve burned in the oven, you should no longer notice smoke during future uses.

What to Do When the Oven is Smoking

Photo: istockphoto.com

Remove baked-on food remains. In used ovens, smoke is usually a by-product of the burning of food remains in the oven. If you regularly broil high-fat foods like steaks or bake foods like pizzas directly on the oven racks without a baking sheet underneath, grease can splatter on the roof and sidewalls of the oven and food chunks or debris can fall on the floor. If you neglect to clean these remains while they’re still wet, they can harden, and on subsequent use of the oven, burn, emit smoke, and in rarer cases, catch fire. To stop the oven from smoking, turn it off and let it cool completely. Then, open the oven door and remove any large food chunks from the oven floor with plastic tongs, and manually clean the oven (preferably with natural agents like white vinegar, baking soda, and water) to remove food grease, splatters, and debris from the oven roof, floor, and sidewalls.

Wipe up cleaner residue. If you recently cleaned your appliance with a commercial cleaning solvent but now see that the oven is smoking, it’s likely a result of cleaner residue that’s now burning off and emitting smoke. Because chemical-laden fumes can accompany that smoke, you want to snuff it out as
soon as possible. Turn off the oven and let it cool completely, then use a water-dampened rag to wipe up any cleaner residue or spills on the oven floor, roof, and sidewalls. If you have a self-cleaning oven, you shouldn’t be using chemical cleaners since they can damage the enamel lining of these ovens.

Run short self-clean cycles in pre-washed ovens. Smoke that comes from your oven only during self-clean cycles usually stems from food being incinerated under the excessive heat of the cycle. To reduce the volume of smoke generated by burning food during self-clean cycles, turn off the oven and let it cool completely, then wipe away wet food residue from the oven interior with a water-dampened rag and start the self-cycle again—this time at the shortest possible duration to prevent excessive heat buildup in the oven.

Replace faulty heating elements. In electric ovens, smoke emanating from an oven during a self-clean cycle can also signal an impending short in the heating elements as a result of excessive heat buildup. These elements are known to briefly buzz and produce smoke before failure. The easiest way to check if your heating elements are functional is to turn off the oven and then turn it back on. If the bake element (usually at the bottom of the oven) doesn’t glow red while the oven is in “bake” mode, or the broil element (usually at the top of the oven) doesn’t glow red while the oven is in “broil” mode, the non-glowing heating element most likely needs replacing.

Replacement entails cutting the power to the oven from the breaker box and unplugging the oven, removing the screws and wires that connect the element to oven, and detaching the nonworking element from either the top or bottom of the oven. Then, once the new part has been ordered, you can install it and re-attach the wires and screws before restoring power to the oven. A do-it-yourself heating element replacement will run you $15 to $40 in parts, while a professional replacement will run you anywhere from $60 to $130 in parts and labor.

Reduce gas pressure. In gas ovens, high gas pressure commonly results from an improper conversion of the oven from natural gas (a fuel it was originally designed for use with) to the liquid propane fuel type. Higher pressure can generate taller and hotter oven flames from the main burner at the bottom of the oven, which can, in turn, cause high volumes of smoke. If the flame from the main burner meets or exceeds the height of the oven racks, the gas pressure is too high and the risk of an oven fire occurring during use is greater. Consult the oven installer or your gas company to safely correct the conversion—this should reduce the height of the oven flame and stop the oven from smoking.

 

How to Prevent the Oven from Smoking

Photo: istockphoto.com

Properly use and maintain your oven. There are several ways to keep oven smoke at bay:

• Safeguard your oven from spills by placing food in baking or broiling pans before cooking; avoid placing foods directly on the oven racks.

• If your oven has multiple tiers, lay a fireproof, non-stick oven mat on the bottom rack to catch drips or debris from foods placed on the upper rack.

• Maintain a clearance of at least three inches between food and heating elements in electric ovens; food placed too close to the heat source will readily smoke or catch fire. In gas ovens, maintain that same clearance between food and the main burner (at bottom of oven) and the broiler (at top of the oven, if your gas oven has a broiler).

• Following oven use, wipe down wet food or liquids from the inner door glass, sidewalls, floor, and roof with a water-dampened rag.

Clean the interior and racks of your oven on a monthly basis.

• Use the self-clean feature no more than five times each year.


Bob Vila Radio: Regulating the Refrigerator Temperature

Follow these tips to make sure your refrigerator is functioning at the ideal temperature.

When it comes to meal planning, you definitely want to keep bacteria off the guest list. Maintaining your fridge at the proper temperature is a good way to do that.

 

Regular Refrigerator Temperature

Photo: istockphoto.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REFRIGERATOR TEMPERATURE or read below:

Sure, modern refrigerators come equipped with sophisticated thermostats. Trouble is, they’re not always accurate.

To test temperature, head to the home center and pick up an inexpensive fridge thermometer. Position it in the center of your middle shelf. Adjust the controls on the fridge until the thermometer consistently remains in the range of 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that if the temperature drops lower—say, down toward 32 degrees Fahrenheit—food will freeze, while if temperatures rise to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria growth can triple.

Keep dairy products and eggs in cooler bottom and back areas, and condiments in warmer ones, like doors. Use settings on crisper bins to control for temperature and humidity. Greens stay fresh at higher humidity, while other produce, such as apples and pears, usually like it a bit drier.

Recheck temperatures every month or two to ensure the settings remain in the safety range.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country.Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


4 Reasons Why Homeowners Choose Fiberglass Doors

Keep your home secure, weather-sealed, and stylish for years to come with a fiberglass entry door.

4 Reasons Homeowners Choose Fiberglass Doors

Photo: jeld-wen.com

While a front door’s primary job is to provide security and protection from the elements, a great entry is one that balances function with form. A memorable entry makes a statement—and increasingly, that statement is being made in fiberglass. The material has long been appealing for its strength and durability, but now style is taking center stage. Door-shopping homeowners today enjoy ever-growing design options, thanks largely to JELD-WEN, a leading manufacturer of windows and doors that provides the widest range and selection of fiberglass doors on the market.

“Fiberglass has unique attributes that make it a great material for doors,” says Dan Jacobs, JELD-WEN’s Director of Product Line Management for Exterior Doors. Top among the selling points? Durability, energy efficiency, and sheer strength. “It’s a type of door that performs well in any climate and offers looks for every style, from traditional to modern. We’ve built, over the years, a great selection of fiberglass offerings, and we expect to continue to add to options and styles in the future.”

Today’s manufacturing technology combines both beauty and security, giving you the style you want and the peace of mind you demand. No matter your budget, odds are you’ll find a JELD-WEN fiberglass door that meets your high standards.

1. ROBUST DURABILITY
After investing time and money in selecting a suitable entry door, homeowners don’t want to deal with rusting, rotting, or warping only a few years later. Fortunately, fiberglass doors withstand the elements—including frigid temps, the harsh rays of the sun, and driving rain—without cracking or bowing. They aren’t susceptible to corrosion or insect infestation, either.

4 Reasons Homeowners Choose Fiberglass Doors

Photo: jeld-wen.com

To ensure that their fiberglass doors are strong and durable, JELD-WEN uses PolyMicro foam core technology, a process that permanently bonds the frame and the skin of the door together to create a sealed unit. This significantly increases the door’s structural integrity and prevents the damage that can occur when moisture penetrates a door’s surface.

An additional upside to a fiberglass door is its weight. Not as heavy as steel or solid wood, fiberglass’s light weight reduces tensile stress on door hinges and increases the likelihood that the door will continue to open and close without sticking or binding. While steel and solid wood are still fine choices for entry doors, fiberglass’s combination of durability and performance in a lightweight package make it an exceptional option.

2. ENERGY EFFICIENCY
Drafty, poorly insulated doors are a major source of energy loss in the home, where they lead to higher utility bills and lower levels of indoor comfort. But with high-efficiency fiberglass doors, you can say goodbye to this wasteful loss of heat—those manufactured by JELD-WEN have even earned the U.S. government’s ENERGY STAR® rating. These doors feature fully insulated cores designed to reduce thermal transfer between outdoors and in. Prehung entry doors sell as a single unit (already mounted within their frames), complete with top-notch weather-stripping, a leak-resistant sweep at the bottom of the door, and an adjustable threshold sill to help prevent drafts and moisture from entering your home. By replacing a drafty door with an ENERGY STAR®-rated door, you’ll be able to use less energy to keep your home at a comfortable temperature.

For added energy efficiency, homeowners can choose triple-pane or low-E (low-emissivity) glass, which allows optimal visibility while reducing unwanted heat transfer. Low-E glass also filters out harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays to protect rugs, draperies, and upholstery fabrics inside the home that might otherwise fade in the sunlight.

4 Reasons Homeowners Choose Fiberglass Doors

Photo: jeld-wen.com

3. REMARKABLE SECURITY
Quality door hardware plays a role in a secure door, but door design is equally, if not more, important. For starters, the solid construction of a fiberglass door goes a long way toward making it more secure than a wooden door. Here, too, JELD-WEN design improves upon the already strong material by installing a reinforced steel plate within the door frame along the latching side. The plate greatly reduces the possibility of forced entry through a closed and locked door, yet because the plate is hidden within the door frame, it doesn’t detract from the beauty of the door.

Another important safety feature located within JELD-WEN doors is a 12-inch solid wood lock block that comes double-bored for installing a deadbolt and handle set. Together, the steel plate and the lock block provide superior kick-in resistance. Prefer an extra deadbolt? You got it. On select door styles from JELD-WEN, the option of upper and lower deadbolt latches in addition to a center deadbolt takes security a step further.

4. A STYLE BONANZA
Your home’s entry says a lot about you and your sense of style. JELD-WEN understands this and offers a broad selection of fiberglass door designs that help you create a personal statement. Choose an authentic woodgrain texture or a multi-coat factory prefinishing option that promises the longest wear—or, if you prefer, you can paint or stain your door yourself! For natural light and an airier feeling, incorporate windows in the door itself or in the form of sidelights and transoms, with glass options ranging from clear to highly ornate. Then splurge on the perfect finishing touch: a wrought-iron grille, knocker, or even a speakeasy grille—a small, bar-covered opening at eye level, through which in the old days you would have whispered, “Joe sent me.

Homeowners can choose from JELD-WEN’s good, better, or best line of fiberglass entry doors and rest assured, whichever level they select, that they’re getting a quality door for their money. Many of the design and security options are available at all price points, while the highest-end line, the Aurora Collection, offers exclusive options. Read on to learn more about the three fiberglass collections and their many options.

• For affordability and style, it’s tough to beat JELD-WEN’s Statement™ Collection, featuring their prefinished line of Smooth-Pro™ exterior fiberglass doors in 11 designs and a variety of multi-coat finishes. Smooth-Pro™ doors are 6’8” to 8’ high and come in standard 32”, 34”, and 36” widths and as either prehung door systems or individual slab doors (without an attached frame). Customers can choose from contemporary, classic, or rustic colors, such as Denim, Stone, Saffron, Black Cherry, and Juniper. Like the Smooth-Pro™ line, JELD-WEN’s Design-Pro™ line of fiberglass doors comes prefinished and in standard sizes, but instead of featuring bold colors, the Design-Pro™ line mimics the look of real wood, with the choice of Mahogany, Oak, or Fir. If you want a different color or stain, the doors may be ordered and finished on the job site.

• JELD-WEN’s premium Architectural™ Collection offers even greater choice, including the ability to select a specific type of woodgrain texture as well as a choice of finish stain. The look of an entry door in the Architectural™ Collection brings you as close to the look of authentic woodgrain as you can get without installing a solid wood door. Woodgrain options include Cherry, Rustic Cherry, Oak, Maple, Mahogany, Fir, and Knotty Alder. Choose from a multitude of panel designs and various styles of glass, then complete the look with a pair of sidelights. With standard door widths and door heights up to 8’, the Architectural™ line of doors gives homeowners the ability to create a dramatic entry.

• Even the knots on the surface of the fiberglass doors in the Aurora® Collection feel authentic! JELD-WEN’s top line of fiberglass doors leaves nothing to be desired. It offers the look and feel of real wood, luxurious finishes, and a wealth of glass options that, in combination, constitute nothing short of a work of art. The Aurora line offers custom as well as standard door sizes and includes arch-top doors and double doors. In fact, JELD-WEN is the only manufacturer today with a 10-foot-high entry door. This premium line is also awash in customization options, including custom carvings, raised decorative moldings, custom door glass, sidelights, and transoms as well as grilles and accessories above and beyond those found in JELD-WEN’s Architectural™ line.

 

4 Reasons Homeowners Choose Fiberglass Doors

Photo: jeld-wen.com

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of JELD-WEN. The opinions and text are all mine.

 


Bob Vila Radio: Top Tips for a Leaking Toilet

Once you figure out where the leaking water is coming from, put a stop to it with one of these do-it-yourself fixes!

Got a leaky toilet? Believe it or not, it’s a common problem. Continue reading to find out the likeliest causes and the easiest ways to remedy the situation.

Toilet Leaking

Photo: istockphoto.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON LEAKING TOILETS or read below:

First, some of the washers between the bowl and tank may have failed. Shut off the supply valve, empty the tank with a flush, then remove the nuts, bolts, and washers from the underside of the tank. Lift the tank, position it on its side, and see if the washers need replacing.

Another culprit may be faulty fasteners securing the fill valve and ballcock to the bottom of the tank. Before you replace those parts, however, first try simply tightening the nuts and bolts holding them in place—that often solves the problem.

On the other hand, if the leak seems to be coming from the base of the tank, chances are the wax ring that seals the toilet to the floor has failed. Replacing the wax ring is a much bigger job, since it involves removing the entire toilet from its base. If you decide to replace the wax ring yourself—preferably with a friend to help with the lifting—take the extra step of also replacing any bolts that show signs of corrosion. And, once you have the toilet back in place, don’t forget to add a bead of caulk around the base.


All You Need to Know About Limewashed Brick

This white coating promises to refresh worn-down brick exteriors and protect them from the elements—but it's not for every homeowner. Think your home could use an update? Consider the pros and cons of this DIY treatment, and follow the easy steps outlined here.

Limewashed Brick 101

Photo: istockphoto.com

Despite being one of the most durable materials around, brick very visibly ages. Its crisp square edges can soften, and joint repairs on brick siding can leave noticeable imperfections. Even if your brick remains in great shape, the color or shade of the building blocks may now make your house look drab and dated (remember the orange bricks of the ’80s?). Before you grab a bucket of paint to cover any of these blemishes, consider the benefits of an alternative, time-honored coating: limewash.

This application produces a soft white façade that improves your home’s curb appeal while adding a measure of protection against the elements. Unlike some types of brick updates—such as tuckpointing or repointing, which should be done by professionals—limewashing is an accessible project for do-it-yourselfers and inexpensive to boot! If you’re thinking about changing the look of your bricks, keep reading. We’ll run through the basics of limewashed brick and share a simple method for getting this look at home.

LIMEWASHED BRICK BASICS

Limewash is made from powdered limestone that has been treated with heat and water to change its chemical composition, resulting in a stable product that provides a durable coating when applied to porous brick. The terms “limewash” and “whitewash” are often used synonymously, but while limewash is a specific type of whitewash, other types of whitewash do not use lime as an ingredient.

Like other popular brick-coating treatments, such as German Smear, limewash has its roots in antiquity; it was used centuries ago to protect structures from the weather. Both coatings add a thin layer to the outside of the structure, which helps protect the bricks and mortar from the elements. Buildings that were coated every few years developed a durable layer of protection against rain, wind, and harsh sun rays.

In most regions of the world, limestone deposits are plentiful. Therefore, because true limewash contains just lime and water, its use was very accessible and commonly used in the protection of ancient vernacular architecture. Its ability to protect brick, block, and other types of porous material (including adobe, clay, and terracotta) made it invaluable for coating structures dating as far back as ancient Egypt, where it was used it to coat temples and monuments.

Today, limewashing is a staple in the historical restoration industry as well as being a cherished method for updating the look of exterior (even interior) brick on homes. You can find it on commercial buildings and residential houses in all price ranges throughout Europe and the United States, and it’s just as at home on a castle as it is on a cottage.

 

Limewashed Brick 101: All About the Treatment and How to Try It at Home

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Newberry, SC

PROS AND CONS OF LIMEWASHED BRICK

Like all coatings, limewash has its pros and cons. Weigh them before you commit to this exterior update, but know that it can be scrubbed away later if you decide.

Pros:

• Limewash is inexpensive. A whole house can be coated for $10 to $80 in supplies. If you can find hydrated lime locally, which has already been treated in a pressure hydrator and only needs to mix with water, it’s as cheap as $3 to $5 per 50-lb. bag (of which you’ll need two).  If you order it online, you can expect to pay about $40 per bag—an upcharge mostly due to high shipping charges.

• Limewash coating is natural and environmentally safe—a “green” choice.

• Applying limewash is DIY-friendly. See below for how to get started!

• Limewash, which is highly alkaline, resists fungal growth and insect damage.

• Subsequent coats of limewash can be applied over existing coats.

• The coating won’t peel off as paint-based coatings can.

• A layer of limewash offers protection against weathering.

Cons:

• Limewash will erode over time, requiring renewal coating every five to seven years.

• The solution should be applied on overcast days to keep from drying too quickly.

• When dry, limewash may rub off on clothing.

• For coating siding, limewash should be mixed in large batches to avoid batch discrepancies. Because the exact ratio is difficult to duplicate precisely, smaller batches may be slightly different, which can result in noticeable lap marks on the limewashed brick wall when the solution dries.

• Limewash will not adhere to previously painted bricks.

 

Limewashed Brick 101: All About the Treatment and How to Try It at Home

Photo: istockphoto.com

GET THE LOOK

The following method for mixing and applying limewash is simple and will produce good results. We’ll be using two 50-lb. bags of hydrated lime, which is ready to mix with water. While other types of lime, quicklime, and lime putty are also available, quicklime is not hydrated (which is necessary for making limewash) and can cause severe burns. Lime putty is less dangerous to work with but requires aging before it can be made into limewash.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Hydrated lime
 Dust mask
 Goggles
 Gloves
 Water
 Bathroom scales (optional)
 Large paint brush or paint roller
 Large plastic bucket (with tightfitting lid)
 Smaller bucket or roller pan
 Drill with paddle bit (or a stick)

Before mixing or applying limewash, clean the bricks. Spray down brick siding with a water hose to remove dirt and dust buildup. If you have any especially dirty or grimy areas, spray them with an all-purpose cleaner, scrub them with a stiff nylon brush, and then rinse the area with a hose.

Safety first. Lime is caustic and safety precautions must be taken not to inhale the powder or get it on your skin. Put on a dust mask, goggles, and gloves before mixing the limewash solution.

Limewashed Brick 101: All About the Treatment and How to Try It at Home

Photo: istockphoto.com

The most important part of limewashing is getting the solution right. When mixed correctly, limewash should have the consistency of whole milk. Remember, this is a wash, not a paint. It shouldn’t be thick and gloopy.

The correct ratio is approximately 80 percent water to 20 percent hydrated lime (by weight). You can make larger or smaller batches as long as you maintain that approximate ratio. If you’re making a small batch, feel free to use old bathroom scales to weigh the ingredients. To mix an entire 50-lb. bag of hydrated lime (enough to coat a typical 1,600 sq. ft. ranch-style house), you’ll need 30.5 gallons of water. One gallon of water weighs 8.33 lbs. so 30.5 gallons weighs approximately 250 lbs. A 50-lb bag of hydrated lime weighs 1/5th or 20 percent as much, which will give you an 80:20 water-to-lime ratio.

Small batches can be mixed in 5-gallon buckets, larger batches (such as the recipe for a whole bag above) can be mixed in large, heavy-duty plastic trash cans, and then transferred to smaller buckets or roller pans as needed. It helps to have a drill with a long paddle bit to mix the solution but a long stick will do just as well if you take your time and stir the solution thoroughly.

Pro Notes: Unused limewash solution can be saved for a few weeks if it’s tightly sealed to prevent evaporation of the water in the mix. Cover the bucket or trash can with plastic sheeting before putting on the lid. You can use the same batch of limewash for a second coating, just make sure to mix it well again before applying.

Choose an overcast day to apply limewash. Limewash is the most durable when it dries slowly; a hot sunny day can cause it to dry too quickly. You can also slow down drying time by dampening the bricks before application. Just spray them down with a water hose and wait five to 10 minutes before applying the limewash.

Apply the limewash just as you would paint; transfer a workable amount of solution to a small bucket or a roller pan and use a paintbrush or a paint roller to roll it onto the bricks. Start at the top of a wall on one side and work across and downward in 4- to 5-foot swaths. The lime solids have a tendency to settle to the bottom, so stir as you go (and thoroughly before reuse). Don’t be alarmed if you can see right through the mixture as you apply it—it will whiten as it dries. Cover all the bricks evenly, and then wait two to four days before applying the next coat. Each additional coat will make the surface opaquer. Three to four applications may be necessary to reach the desired opaqueness.

MAINTAINING THE LOOK

•  Surface stains on limewashed brick can be removed by rubbing lightly with a damp rag.

•  Limewash coating can be removed with a pressure washer, or by hand, with a bucket of water and a stiff nylon scrub brush if you grow tired of the look.

•  Finished limewash will gradually erode, which can produce a very attractive weathered look, but to retain the original opaque coverage, reapply the limewash every five to seven years.

•  There is no need to remove existing limewash in order to apply renewal coats.