Kitchen - Bob Vila

Category: Kitchen

Video: How to Clean Oven Racks

In even the cleanest of kitchens, this fixture often goes unwashed. For a cleaner home, it's time to finally give your oven racks the TLC—and elbow grease—they deserve.

You know the saying “out of sight, out of mind.” Well, when it comes to your oven’s interior, it’s “out of sight, and never clean.” If you’re like many homeowners, you may not remember to clean your oven and oven racks unless you encounter a baking disaster—an exploding potato or a leaking pie that leaves its residue all over the oven interior.

There’s no reason to ignore the chore. Although cleaning an oven rack may seem awkward and unwieldy, it’s really a simple job. All you need is the right tutorial and a little time.

For more cleaning tips for your kitchen, consider:

10 Unusual Tips for Your Cleanest Kitchen Ever

11 Ways You’re Accidentally Ruining Your Cookware

9 Health Code Violations Hiding in Your Kitchen

5 Things to Know Before Installing a Brick Backsplash

To ensure a fret-free brick backsplash installation with an enduring, professional-quality finish, take all of these factors into account.

5 Things to Know Before Installing a Brick Backsplash


Once a purely practical feature to guard against everyday spills and splatters, brick backsplashes are now desirable in residential kitchens and baths for their distressed glamour. But if you aim to install one yourself, read on to bone up on must-know—yet perhaps somewhat surprising—info that will save you time, money, and effort during installation and also allow you to maintain your backsplash once it’s up.

1. Get the look for less!
You can’t beat a solid brick backsplash for strength and durability, but it will set you back between $12 and $20 per square foot to purchase and install. That’s why budget-conscious homeowners often opt for brick veneer: decorative paneling made of thin, interlocking real brick panels. Synthetic brick lookalikes fashioned from porcelain, a clay and concrete composite, or plastic are also available for even less money, but the genuine brick variety more accurately recreates the aged allure of solid brick.

Installation of a solid brick backsplash involves laying brick over an existing masonry foundation that lies behind the wall, but brick veneer can be installed in a single layer (usually a half-inch to three-quarters of an inch thick) over metal, concrete, or wood backing, or even directly over drywall with wall anchors or constructive adhesive. This shorter, less complex installation process, plus lower material costs, will save you from $2 to $9 per square foot as compared with solid brick. Brick veneers have another advantage beyond lower price: While solid brick alone offers little insulation or water resistance, during brick veneer installation, moisture-resistant insulation can be added to help prevent indoor heat from escaping and moisture from seeping in.


5 Things to Know Before Installing a Brick Backsplash


2. Update your tool set.
If planning to DIY a solid brick or brick veneer backsplash, you may need to add to your toolset. Bricks and veneers will need to be cut prior to mounting in order to fit edges or corners. Your best bet for cutting brick is with an angle grinder fitted with a toothless diamond cutting blade. Use a tape measure and pencil to measure and mark the area of each brick you want to cut. As you finish cutting each brick with the angle grinder, tap the excess material with a mason’s hammer to snap it off.


5 Things to Know Before Installing a Brick Backsplash


3. Get smart about sealant.
Coating a solid brick backsplash with a clear polyurethane sealant is highly recommended. The sealant, in either a satin or matte finish, will help keep air and moisture out and also keep stains from bath products, food, oil, and cooking fumes at bay. If installing a brick veneer backsplash with insulation behind it, you may wish to skip the sealant, but should you choose to add one, choose a clear silane- or siloxane-based sealant to help block out moisture and preserve the color. Avoid silicate-based sealants, which can discolor brick veneer.


4. Clean with caution.
While the porous surface plus the deep recesses of mortar joints make both brick and brick veneer backsplashes prone to grimy build-up, you mustn’t be heavy-handed with cleaning. Undiluted acids or abrasive products like steel wool or sandblasters can fade and even erode brick.

Instead, simply spray away surface dust and dirt with plain water from a spray bottle. For persistent dirt or stains, prepare a paste of equal parts dish soap and table salt. Spread the paste across the brick and mortar with a damp rag and then scrub gently with a bristle brush. Never use a wire brush—the metal traces left behind can discolor brick.

If dish soap and salt don’t do the trick, dilute a tablespoon of boric acid in a gallon of warm water, then gently work the solution into the brick with a bristle brush. The more potent astringent properties of boric acid will help disintegrate stains, while its anti-fungal properties can help prevent the formation of rot on brick. Finish either cleaning treatment by removing the soap paste or boric acid solution from the brick with a clean rag saturated with warm water.


5 Things to Know Before Installing a Brick Backsplash


5. Face up to efflorescence.
Brick structures both indoors and out can become spotted with white mineral deposits that look like chalk powder. This efflorescence occurs when water-soluble salts formed within bricks, mortar, or brickwork backing migrate onto the surface of the brick. The salts can come from groundwater or soil that contacts the brick or backing, or from water, sand, or cement introduced into the brick or mortar during manufacturing. This means that efflorescence can show up on even well-maintained solid brick or brick veneer backsplashes.

Because the job of a backsplash is to protect walls from splashes, it’s a natural target for moisture, a common source of efflorescence. But you can take pains to reduce the risk of this unattractive spottiness. Before installing a brick backsplash, avoid resting solid brick or brick veneer panels on wet ground. After installation, apply a clear, waterproof brick and masonry sealant to solid brick and be sure to quickly fill minor cracks that appear in brick or brick veneer with clear, silicone caulking.

If mineral deposits do sneak their way on, prepare a solution of one-and-a-half cups of muriatic acid diluted in a gallon of water, then dip a bristle brush into the solution and scrub it over the entire brick backsplash. Let the solution dwell for a few minutes, then rinse completely with a spray bottle and plain water, or the spray head in your faucet.



DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

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

Solved! What to Do About a Smelly Dishwasher

With so many food particles swirling around, your dishwasher is bound to pick up some unwanted scents over time. Follow this quick fix to clear the air and banish foul smells.

Smelly Dishwasher – Solved!


Q: I’ve noticed an unpleasant odor coming from my dishwasher, and my usual dishwashing detergent clearly isn’t strong enough to tackle it. Any ideas for freshening things up a smelly dishwasher?

A: It’s certainly ironic to think about such a clean appliance smelling so foul, since the appliance’s job is to wash and sanitize dishes. But in reality, even top-of-the-line machines can fall victim to stray food particles. Over time, these tiny pieces get trapped in your dishwasher’s filter, and the buildup can create a faint odor that grows more offensive by the day. Thankfully, homeowners can easily fix a smelly dishwasher with a few simple steps and good old-fashioned vinegar.

First, empty out the dishwasher. Remove all dishes and utensils, then use a damp microfiber cloth to clear out any debris on the floor and sides of the dishwasher’s interior. You may want to remove the bottom rack for easier access.

Smelly Dishwasher – Solved!


Let vinegar work its magic. Fill a glass cup or bowl with about one cup of distilled white vinegar, and place it snugly on the top rack of your dishwasher between the prongs used to separate glasses. Vinegar is a perfect agent for cleaning a dishwasher since it will cut grease, clear away old detergent build-up, and neutralize food odors. Run the dishwasher through a single cycle on the hottest setting possible. Then, once the cycle is complete, leave the door open for about an hour to let the dishwasher air out completely. (A damp interior could lead to mildew growth, the source of yet another unwanted stench!)

Always take safety precautions. When cleaning your smelly dishwasher, never mix vinegar with chlorine—this can create toxic fumes. While you may not intentionally use the two at once, they could accidentally interact if there’s still some liquid dishwashing detergent left over in the tray from a recent cycle. Best practice: Read your detergent label to see if the solution contains chlorine. If so, make sure there’s no potential for disaster by wiping out the detergent tray with a damp paper towel before you start the machine.

Add a fresh scent. Despite its indisputable cleaning properties, not everyone is crazy about white vinegar’s scent. If you’d like to mask it with something more pleasant, add a few drops of an essential oil to the vinegar. Lavender, orange, lemon, or peppermint oils will create a crisp and welcoming aroma in your kitchen. Plus, the non-toxic essential oils have antibacterial properties to boot!

Repeat to prevent the odor from returning. To avoid a whiff of a smelly dishwasher in the future, repeat the vinegar cleanse once every few months, or whenever it’s needed. Now you’ll always breathe easy in your kitchen—no matter how often you run the dishwasher.

How To: Seal a Granite Countertop

Protect your pricey kitchen investment with the right sealant and these techniques.

How to Seal a Granite Countertop


If you’ve got a gorgeous granite countertop and want to keep it in “show home” shape, you may need to seal it. Some countertops come pre-sealed, but if yours did not (or you’re not sure) don’t delay giving it the shield it needs. Improper cleaning, neglected spills, and other issues of everyday use could easily mar the surface otherwise. The proper penetrating (or impregnating) sealer will soak into the granite, filling the porous gaps, to keep damage at bay. True, a sealant only buys you time—unattended spills will seep into sealed granite eventually—but the right one and the following steps for how to seal a granite countertop will certainly help protect your investment.

Water-based sealants are environmentally friendly, while solvent-based sealants may go deeper into the stone—though this is arguably only important on polished granite. Check water- or solvent-based sealant labels for the active ingredient “fluorocarbon aliphatic resin.” Though the product will be pricier than those containing such agents as siloxane and silicon, fluorocarbon aliphatic resin will provide five to 10 years of protection, versus six months to three years with other sealants. What’s more, fluorocarbon aliphatic resins repel oil as well as water, so your granite won’t be ruined by a salad dressing mishap. A quart of fluorocarbon aliphatic resin sealant costs about $35 and offers between 150 to 250 square feet of coverage, depending on brand. A 24-oz spray bottle of lesser solvent runs around $15 but might require reapplying every six months or so.

Ahead, you’ll find general guidance for how to seal a granite countertop with either variety, but specific directions vary according to brand and active ingredients. It’s crucial to follow label instructions on the sealant you buy in addition to these handy guidelines for the best results.

– Microfiber cloths
– Spray bottle
– Liquid dishwashing detergent
– Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol
– Granite sealer
– Rubber gloves
– Soft rags

Determine if the countertop requires sealing. Somewhere inconspicuous, like in a corner of the counter, put a few drops of water on top, and a few inches away, put a few drops of oil. After 15 minutes, check to see if the water or oil has seeped in and darkened the granite. If so, proceed with these instructions for how to seal a granite countertop. If not, then the countertop is already sealed, and doing so again will not offer extra protection but only leave an unattractive hazy film.

Clean the countertop 24 hours before sealing, making sure to avoid potentially damaging vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, bleach, or harsh commercial cleansers. First, take everything off the counter and wipe it down well with a clean, dry microfiber cloth to remove all surface dust. Then, mix one teaspoon of dishwashing detergent and two tablespoons of isopropyl alcohol in a pint spray bottle and fill with cool water. Generously spray the countertop and wipe clean while polishing in a circular motion, using a microfiber cloth. Wait 24 hours before proceeding: The space occupied by the cleaning agent is the same space that the sealant will penetrate, so you must ensure that the cleaning liquid has fully evaporated.

How to Seal a Granite Countertop


Read the sealant’s label thoroughly to understand the application method. Should our instructions vary from the label, defer to the manufacturer. Open nearby windows and doors for ventilation. If it’s raining, do not open windows that could allow rain to hit the countertop; instead, open windows in other areas of the room or in adjacent rooms.

Put on rubber gloves and grab the rags. In an area usually covered by a small appliance, test the sealant to ensure it won’t affect the finish. Apply a small amount per manufacturer’s directions, by spraying or pouring onto a cloth and then rubbing it evenly over the test area.

Wait the recommended time for the sealant to absorb into the granite, usually 15 to 20 minutes, but sometimes much longer. Don’t let it sit longer than recommended, because that could discolor the stone.

If the sealant test area looks great, proceed to Step 7. If it has discolored, wipe up any remaining sealant with a clean rag. Then snap a few photos of the area and show them to an associate at your local home center for advice on a more appropriate product. Once you’ve acquired a new sealant, clean the counter and test the new sealant.

If the test was successful, apply the sealant over the entire counter, beginning at one end and working your way to the other. Apply in sections, using a circular motion, of an arm’s length in diameter, to ensure equal coverage throughout. Wait the manufacturer’s recommended time for the product to absorb into the countertop.

After the absorption period has passed, wipe any extra sealant off with a clean, soft, dry rag, rubbing in a circular motion. Some products require a second coat, so follow instructions to do so. If the product you use requires one coat, allow it cure, which can take between two and 48 hours. Nonetheless, granite experts recommend waiting a full 48 hours before wiping a newly sealed granite countertop with anything wet. Also, avoid returning any kitchenware to the counter until after the curing period.

Once the countertop has fully cured, put your kitchen back in order. Keep the spray bottle of cleaner you created around for periodic use every month or two. For daily cleaning, a dab of dish detergent and a wet rag will get the job done beautifully. Strive to wipe up spills immediately and then dry the countertop to keep your granite looking great.


How to Seal a Granite Countertop


Bob Vila Radio: Cutting the Crud on Your Kitchen Cabinets

Exposed to everything from cooking grease to children's sticky fingers, kitchen cabinetry slowly but surely builds up stubborn accumulations of dirt and grime. Fortunately, with a simple, effective mixture of common, non-toxic ingredients, you can restore the look of your cabinets, quickly and with relative ease.

In any home, no matter its age or design, the kitchen always seem to serve as the hub of daily activity—a gathering spot not only for household occupants, but also for the spills and stains that collect on floors, counters, and even cabinets.

DIY Kitchen Cabinet Cleaner


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There are plenty of store-bought cleaners capable of removing stubborn, deeply embedded grease and grime from cabinet doors. But you can also DIY your own solution using nothing more than a few pantry staples. You’ll need a bucket, warm water, baking soda or vinegar, and a few microfiber cloths.

To begin, fill the bucket three-quarters full with warm water. Next, mix in a couple cups of baking soda or alternatively, a few splashes of vinegar. Now dip a microfiber cloth into the bucket, twist the material, and squeeze to remove any excess water. You want the cloth to be moist but not dripping wet.

Before proceeding, first test your DIY cabinet cleaner in inconspicuous area in order to be sure that it doesn’t cause any harm to the cabinet finish. Safe to proceed? Wipe down all the cabinets and all their hardware, remoistening the cloth with the cabinet cleaning solution as often as needed.

Once the cabinets look clean, remove cleaning residue by wiping everything down with a fresh cloth moistened in plain tap water. Finally, wipe the cabinets with a fresh, dry cloth so as to leave them moisture-free as well as freshly cleaned.

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Buyer’s Guide: Mini Fridges

Looking for a mini fridge to keep food and beverages cold? Check out the features you should prioritize in your new appliance—and three budget-friendly options that hit the mark.

Best Mini Fridge


A space-smart decision for dorm rooms and tiny spaces alike, the mini fridge keeps food and beverage close at hand without taking up much real estate. Some homeowners rely on these compact appliances for supplementary storage, whether for their craft beer collection in a finished basement or their large supply of bottled water in the garage. Others buy the appliance as a budget-friendly alternative to a full-sized refrigerator in a single-person household—not only do mini-fridges cost less up front, they also consume less energy and save you money on bills! Depending on the intended use, homeowners have many different factors to weigh during the hunt for the best mini fridge: interior and exterior size, storage capacity, portability, organization, number of doors, energy consumption, and accessories. Read on for how to select a new appliance that meets all of your needs, and you’ll end up with a space-smart solution for keeping food and drinks at the ready!


Mini fridges come in two basic configurations: cube-shaped and tall.

• As the smaller design option, cube-shaped mini fridges fit well beneath a desk or cabinet. Most units weigh anywhere from 35 to 55 pounds, making portability easy around the house for your immediate needs or when it comes time to change offices. These models top out at 22 to 24 inches in height, and they typically boast about 2 cubic feet of interior space—enough to hold about one case of soda, plus a few snacks or leftovers—all for under $150. Despite how well they fit into tighter spaces, these refrigerators tend to work less efficiently than larger options. Temperature settings can unreliably fluctuate, and freezer burn is common.

Best Mini Fridge


Tall mini fridges are considered a better value—and therefore more popular—thanks to the extra interior space and better shelving options. These appliances have anywhere from 3 cubic feet up to about 6 cubic feet of interior space, and they often come with a separate freezer compartment (although the freezer compartment usually isn’t as reliable as a normal freezer). With an average height between 32 and 36 inches, most tall units won’t fit under a standard desk, but they can hold a couple cases of soda or a few days worth of food. Given their larger size, tall fridges are heavier than cube fridges, weighing an average of 50 to 65 pounds. Prices range from $100 up to $300.


In general, most mini fridges have a similar design, although cube-shaped appliances have fewer shelves and door bins than tall models. Some models have adjustable or removable shelves and door bins, which come in handy when struggling to fit items in the fridge. A few mini fridge units include door-mounted dispensers that hold a vertical stack of cans, while others can accommodate tall soda bottles or milk containers. In addition, some mini fridges come with locking doors, which might be beneficial in a high-traffic, multi-use environment like an office or dorm room. Keep in mind that most mini fridges don’t include an ice dispenser or crisper drawer for produce.

Just like other appliances, mini fridges are available in a wide variety of colors and finishes, including black, white, stainless steel, wood grain, and novelty looks


If you’re looking for a fully functional freezer, it’s best to stick with a normal-sized refrigerator or purchase a stand-alone option. One-door mini fridges often have a small freezer box located within the main compartment, but most can’t maintain accurate freezing temperatures (especially when powered by thermoelectric systems). Plus, most freezers in one-door fridges are too small to be of any practical use. Two-door mini fridges, which have a separate freezer, generally keep frozen food colder and, therefore, safer to eat. These two-door models typically have a thermostat mounted in the fridge’s interior, so they maintain better temperature control than single-door models.


In general, mini fridges consume less energy than their full-sized cousins. Look for a unit that is Energy Star-certified, which means it consumes the least amount of electricity possible. Most mini fridges run on standard 120-volt A/C electric power. Some are designed for use in cars, vans, or RVs, and these typically come with D/C adapter, allowing the unit to run off of the vehicle’s battery power.

Mini fridges typically rely on two basic cooling systems: compressor-powered or thermoelectric. We recommend fridges with compressor-powered cooling systems (the same system used by regular-sized fridges) since they maintain accurate temperatures better than thermoelectric units.



Do you want the best mini fridge for your space? Take a look at three of the top-rated and best-selling models on the market today, based on reviews by actual users and ratings by leading consumer testing sites.

Danby Designer


Danby Designer DCR044A2 ($136.95)

The Danby Designer DCR044A2 receives consistently high marks for combining a large interior storage area with a compact exterior size. The unit received 4.1 out of 5 stars from Amazon shoppers, who call it a “good deal” and a “great beer fridge.” Standing just under 33 inches tall, the Danby has 4.4 cubic feet of refrigeration capacity and is Energy Star rated for efficiency. Interior features include a convenient beverage dispenser, mechanical thermostat, push-button defrosting system, adjustable shelves, a full-width freezer, and space for tall bottles. The Sweethome, which named the Danby Designer DCR044A2 the “best mini fridge,” raves about the built-in nine-egg tray and slide-out tray. But The Sweethome also warns that the freezer unit fluctuates temperature– a common problem in mini fridges that can result in freezer burn and unsafe temperatures for long-term meat storage. Thanks to the mini fridge’s smooth back, homeowners can position it directly against a wall. Available on Amazon.


Best Mini Fridge - Buyer's Guide


Midea WHS-65LB1 Compact Single Reversible Door Refrigerator and Freezer ($87.69)

For those looking for a small cube-style mini fridge, the Midea WHS-65LB1 fits the bill. At 19 inches tall and 18.5 inches wide, the unit can slide easily underneath a desk, countertop, or cabinet. And, despite its small size, the fridge boasts 1.6 cubic feet of storage—enough to fit more than a case of soda. The unit also comes with a separate chiller compartment, which is half the width of the fridge; even with the temperature fluctuations typical to this style of mini fridge, it’s handy for short-term storage of frozen dinners. Amazon shoppers awarded it a 4.0 out of 5 stars, calling it “perfect,” “lightweight,” and “quiet.” Available on Amazon.


Buyer's Guide - Best Mini Fridge


Magic Chef HMBR350SE ($169)

The Magic Chef HMBR350SE compact refrigerator features 3.5 cubic feet of interior space, three easy-to-clean glass shelves, and a convenient can dispenser built into its door. The Energy Star–qualified unit receives 4.2 out of 5 stars from Home Depot shoppers, who praise the “easy setup,” “perfect size for limited space,” and “constant temperature.” Measuring 32.5 inches high, the sleek Magic Chef mini fridge has a full-width freezer and a flush-back design. Consumers will enjoy the upfront interior analog controls, which allows easy adjustments to the temperature. The unit comes with a one-year warranty on parts and labor. The Sweethome notes that interior storage falls short when compared to the Danby Designer model, though. Available at Home Depot.

How To: Clean Burnt Pans

Don’t throw out that scorched pot or pan just yet! Get burnt pans spic-and-span again with this fast and fun six-step approach.

How to Clean Burnt Pans


Whether you’re caramelizing onions, simmering a sugary fruit jam, or baking homemade biscuits, your culinary masterpiece can quickly turn into a burnt meal or dessert if the pot or pan is unattended and left to overheat. Worse than chomping down on a charcoaled or extra-crispy entrée is cleaning up the charred mess of stuck-on food left behind in the pot, sauce pan, or baking sheet used to cook it. Although commercial solvents promising to clean burnt pans do exist, some can introduce chemicals into your cooking or even damage the delicate surface of your stainless steel or ceramic cookware. Fortunately, with natural household ingredients and this guide on how to clean burnt pans, you can safely wash up scorched pots and pans, prolong the life of your cookware, and—most importantly—get cooking again!

– Wooden spoon
– Measuring cup
– Water
– White vinegar
– Trivet (optional)
– Tablespoon
– Baking soda
– Sponge or non-scratch scouring pad

How to Clean Burnt Pans


Turn off the stove and allow the burnt pans or pots to cool completely before handling them. Then, use a wooden spoon to gently scrape off and discard any large, loose food particles from the cookware into the trash.

With only the burnt residue left in the pans, place the emptied pans on the cool stovetop and fill each with a cup each of water and white vinegar. You want the burnt food debris to be fully submerged under the liquid. For larger pans in which the food stain is still exposed, continue to add water and vinegar in equal parts until the liquid covers the full extent of the stains.

Turn on the stove burners and bring the water-vinegar solution to a rapid boil. Allow the solution to boil for 10 minutes. Then, turn off the stove and transfer the pans to a cool surface. (If your countertop surface is susceptible to heat damage, be sure to place these pans on individual trivets.)

While the water-vinegar solution is still hot, add in two tablespoons of baking soda to each pan to be cleaned. The solution will begin to fizz, signaling that the chemical reaction of the two handy household cleaners is at work dissolving any burnt remains in the pans. But rest assured that even though baking soda is tough on food residue, it is a mild abrasive agent that won’t scratch the bottom of your stainless steel or ceramic cookware.

If your pans bear particularly stubborn stains that the boiling process did not loosen substantially, add up to one more tablespoon of baking soda in each.

Note: While baking soda is safe for use on stainless steel or ceramic cookware, you should never use alkaline-based cleaning agents like baking soda on anodized aluminum cookware, as it can react negatively with the pan coating. If you’re cleaning up aluminum pans, skip this step altogether and proceed to Step 4.

How to Clean Burnt Pans with Baking Soda


Discard the water-vinegar solution from the pans into the sink. Unlike specialized cleaners that contain chemicals, baking soda is natural and safe for consumption, so small traces of excess baking soda can’t hurt you if cooked into your next meal. But you don’t want to leave the water-vinegar solution to dwell too long in a pan because stainless steel pans in particular are prone to develop hard water stains.

Gather a soft sponge or a non-scratch scouring pad and slowly and gently scrub the stained areas. Avoid using steel wool or another metal scouring pad on your pans, as their abrasive texture can scratch or damage your stainless steel or enamel cookware with repeat usage.

With a little elbow grease, the food residue should readily come off pots and pans with the sponge. If any stubborn residue lingers, sprinkle a pinch of baking soda over the offending area and then vigorously scrub it again for up to a minute to lift the residue. The baking soda will both polish and add a soft shine to your cookware.

Rinse the clean pans under cold water to discard the loosened food particles. Then, let them dry completely before storing.

In the future, keep a close eye—and a kitchen timer—on finicky foods to prevent them from burning. If kitchen accidents do happen, you now have a proven technique to clean up after them.


The above method works well for cleaning burnt pans, but did you know that Coca-Cola can also get the job done? To learn more, check out our video below.


Genius! Put Your Favorite Drinks on Tap at Home

Drinks are always on the house when you serve homemade brews and sodas from this double-tapped drink dispenser with a space-saving storage secret.

DIY Drink Dispenser

Photo: user averagejones

The lack of storage space in small kitchens constantly forces homeowners to make sacrifices. For Reddit user averagejones, the cooking and entertaining hub couldn’t accommodate her home brewing hobby. Serving fresh pours of her favorite beverages would mean trudging downstairs to get a pint from a single-tap keg stored in her basement fridge. The inconvenient trip to the basement aside, the keg swallowed a good quarter of the space in the fridge. Plus, it could only dispense either beer or soda at any given time, which was not exactly convenient when entertaining a pack of thirsty guests. Ready to re-imagine the traditional keg and reclaim lost fridge space, averagejones devised a DIY home beer tap with two taps that could serve up both beer and soda—right when and where she needed it most.

To make the clever contraption, the ale aficionado enlisted 100 feet of plastic tubing and a couple of tap handles. She ran the tubing through the kitchen floor and into two slim kegs in the basement fridge, one for beer and one for soda. The separate soda and beer lines were a crowd-pleasing improvement to averagejones’ earlier single-tap keg system, since they meant more variety—now multiple users could dispense their choice of what was on tap. Back in the kitchen, averagejones connected the tubing to two cast iron pipes that were secured to the lid of a restored wine barrel and outfitted with tap handles. Thanks to the false back of the half-barrel, this dispenser can hide the plastic tubing behind it from view while offering shelving for glasses and other barware to boot!

This DIY drink dispenser acts as a personal beverage bellhop, conveniently carrying your favorite drinks from the dusty basement to the more comfortable and social location of the kitchen. Whether you’re a self-proclaimed beer connoisseur or you simply like the idea of a personal soda fountain, follow this smart DIYer’s instructions for even easier access to your favorite beverages. You’ll gain much-needed room in the fridge and, given the space-saving silhouette of the half barrel dispenser, you’ll also reserve plenty of floor space in the kitchen for sipping and savoring good times with guests.

FOR MORE: Reddit


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The Easy and Affordable Way to Upgrade Your Kitchen Cabinets

Tired of your kitchen? Obviously one way of rejuvenating the room would be to take it down to the studs and start over. But introducing a new look and feel doesn't have to mean a comprehensive (read: pricey) overhaul. In fact, with a combination of much more modest measures like hardware replacement and cabinet refacing, it's often possible to achieve similarly dramatic results for a whole lot less.

Replacing Kitchen Cabinet Hardware


Hang on a second: Before you decide to take on the hassle and expense of a full-fledged kitchen renovation, consider that a variety of cheaper, easier alternatives can deliver a similarly dramatic transformation, especially in combination. For instance, homeowners typically treat details like cabinet hardware as trivial—as “an afterthought,” according to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services. But in the kitchen, he says, seemingly unimportant components “can make a surprisingly big impact on the overall room design.” That said, replacing your cabinet hardware isn’t magic; it can’t make timeworn cabinets look new again. If your kitchen has seen better days, take the time to look closely at the condition of both the cabinet boxes and the cabinet doors. So long as the boxes remain in decent condition, you can actually leave them intact and only reface or replace the cabinet doors. Especially when paired with new hardware, updated cabinet fronts can totally remake the look of your kitchen in short order and typically on a small budget.

Whether you decide to install new cabinet doors or simply refinish the existing ones, Eldredge cautions that when it comes to selecting cabinet hardware, it’s a mistake to “focus on aesthetics alone.” To prove satisfactory over the long term, new hardware must do more than merely look good. There are a key practical considerations to keep in mind. Want to learn more about high-impact, low-budget kitchen upgrades? Keep reading!



Replacing Kitchen Cabinet Hardware - Aesthetic Considerations


If you decide to install new hardware as part of your cabinet upgrade project, it won’t take you long to realize that, as Eldredge puts it, “Homeowners are spoiled for choice.” With so many compelling hardware options, many find it a challenge to choose from all the available styles and finishes. To make the selection process more manageable, Eldredge recommends narrowing the field incrementally, one phase at a time. First, he says, “decide which type of hardware to install.” There are certainly exceptions, but conventional wisdom holds that for ease of use, knobs pair best with doors and pulls pair best with drawers. Once you have settled the question of which type or types of hardware you prefer, you can move on to picking a style. To do so, Eldredge recommends taking cues from your cabinets. In a sleek, modern kitchen with crisp, clean lines, “people tend to go with more streamlined, angular hardware,” he says. In traditional kitchens, meanwhile, “You’re more likely to see hardware with finer details and curves.” When you’re updating both the cabinet and their hardware, however, you’re free to consider a virtually infinite number of exciting design combinations. Nothing’s off the table.

A similar approach can help you choose not only a hardware style, but a hardware finish as well. For instance, many experts recommend matching the new cabinet hardware finish to the finish of the existing kitchen lighting and plumbing fixtures. Others argue it’s best for the hardware to match the appliances. Still others maintain that, above all, the hardware must complement the color of the paint or stain on the cabinetry. For light-colored or white-painted cabinetry, Eldredge says, “black and stainless steel are among the most popular.” For darker cabinets, on the other hand, it’s wise to “think about oil-rubbed bronze or brushed nickel,” he says. Ultimately, though, when you’re updating cabinetry, Eldredge admits, “guidelines are only guidelines; they can get you only so far.” Given the sheer number of variables at play, the advice and guidance of experienced professionals can be immensely valuable. One advantage of working with a nationwide household name like Sears Home Services is that project coordinators explain all the options for making the most of your remodeling dollar. Want to discuss your kitchen with a qualified expert? Click to schedule a free in-home consultation today!



Replacing Kitchen Cabinet Hardware - Practical Concerns


“How the hardware looks—that’s only half the equation,” Eldredge explains. After all, even if you’re not a home chef, “chances are good that you interact with your cabinet hardware morning and night,” Eldredge says. Under the circumstances, it’s only prudent to make sure you like the way a knob or pull feels in your hand as much as you like the way it looks to your eye. To that end, Eldredge says, “I always tell people to test hardware before installing it.” If the hardware pinches your fingers, or if its sharp edges seem likely to cause discomfort down the line, keep looking. You’re not going to be pleased with your choice if you can’t handle the hardware naturally, without a second thought. By the same token, take time to ensure that the size and shape of your chosen hardware suits the heft of your cabinetry. Whereas standard-size knobs usually suffice for doors of average dimensions, more substantial doors and most drawers open more easily with hardware large enough to accommodate several fingers. When you’re updating both cabinet doors and cabinet hardware, therefore, it’s often wise for your decisions about the former to determine or at least inform where you land on questions involving the latter.

Finally, recognize the larger context for a cabinet hardware upgrade. Kitchens are heavily trafficked and subject to frequent, hard use, so they inevitably collect grease, grit, and grime. Complicating matters further is that, while it’s easy to spot crumbs and spills on, say, countertops, it’s often not quite so easy when it comes to cabinet hardware. So do yourself a favor and as Eldredge advises, “Factor everyday care into your decision-making.” As much as you may love the look of certain elaborate, intricate hardware designs, it’s worth asking if those special details are worth the extra effort that’d be required to keep them clean. At the same time, being that cooking grease and dirty fingerprints accumulate not only on hardware, but also on the surrounding cabinetry, many homeowners also choose to replace or reface their cabinet doors with a low-maintenance material or finish. After all, you can’t have a kitchen that’s easy to care for if you don’t have easy-care components installed in the parts of the room most likely to experience wear and tear over time.


Different homeowners weigh different considerations when planning a budget kitchen upgrade. But no matter the project scope, any given remodel always ends the same way—putting your plans into action. Of course, if you’re only planning to put in hardware of the same type and size as your existing knobs and pulls, then it’s an easy swap that you can probably handle on your own, without a contractor. However, if you want to go a step further, updating not only your hardware but your cabinetry as well, then more often than not, taking the next step means hiring capable pros. Sears Home Services sets itself apart from local contractors in many ways, but not least is that when you work with Sears, whether straightforward or complex, coordinators guide you each step of the way through the remodeling process, from the earliest planning stages all the way through to the completed installation. Normally, when you’re working with a contractor, you have the right to expect the job to get done on time and on budget. But with Sears Home Services, you can expect all that and more—namely, a Satisfaction Guarantee demonstrating a commitment to the lasting success of your project.


This article has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of

Solved! What to Do When Your Garbage Disposal Stops Working

Sometimes a faulty garbage disposal only needs a nudge to get back up and running. Before you call in the pros, try these five troubleshooting tips.

Garbage Disposal Not Working


Q. After dinner, I rinsed off the dishes in the sink like I always do, and then I flipped on the garbage disposal switch to grind the food scraps. Nothing happened. Should I start shopping for a new disposal? Or, is there a way to fix the one?

A. Garbage disposal not working? Well, while there’s a slim chance that you might have to replace your disposal, it’s unlikely. Odds are that the problem is something you can fix, often in just a few minutes. Proceed with the following DIY troubleshooting tips to get your garbage disposal back up and running.

Garbage Disposal Not Working - Beware What You Run Through It


Start with a power check. Whenever an appliance like a garbage disposal is not working, the first thing to do is to check is whether it’s still plugged in. While this step might sound overly simplistic, think about the under-sink area in your home: If you store cleaners or a wastebasket under your sink, the garbage disposal plug can easily get knocked loose or pushed out of the outlet. Plug it in, and you’re back in business!

Or, the fix could be as simple as pressing the reset button. If the disposal cord is securely plugged in, try the reset button next. You can typically find it on the side or the bottom of the under-sink part of the garbage disposal, depending on the model. You may even have to feel around the back of the unit to locate it. When you find it, press it once—firmly—and release. Overloading the garbage disposal with food scraps can cause it to overheat and trip the reset button.

If you hear a hum coming from the disposal, something could be jamming the grinding plates. Make sure the switch is off and unplug the garbage disposal from the outlet before you attempt to remove the jam. After you’re sure there is zero power to the unit, reach into the garbage disposal and feel around for a small object that could be jamming the plates—forks, spoons, rings, and other small non-food items are common culprits. Most blockages can be removed by hand, but all is not lost if you can’t wiggle it free on your first try. On the bottom of the garbage disposal, in the very center, is a small depression that receives a ¼-inch hex-head wrench or a ¼-inch hex-head key. Fit the key or wrench in the depression and twist it back and forth firmly to rotate the grinding plates and free the stuck item.

Too many appliances might be drawing power from the electrical circuit. In newer homes, local building codes typically require the electrician to run a single circuit for the garbage disposal and the dishwasher to share. In homes where additional outlets are on the same circuit, however, running the garbage disposal while something else is operating—such as a toaster or countertop griddle—could cause the breaker to trip. Before you locate the tripped breaker in your home’s main electrical panel to flip it back on, test how many other outlets in the kitchen still have power. Plug something small, like a desk lamp, into any other outlets available in the kitchen; if additional outlets have no power, it’s likely that too many outlets are on the same circuit. A simple workaround is to run the disposal only when no other appliance is going, but a more permanent fix would require an electrician to run one or more additional circuits in order to prevent overloading the one that powers the garbage disposal.

If the garbage disposal still won’t work after exhausting all your options, it might be time to consider a replacement. While the above steps will fix most garbage disposals, they won’t fix blown motors or factory defects. Contact the manufacturer if the disposal is relatively new to find out if a replacement could be covered by warranty.

Treat your garbage disposal with care to ensure a long useful life. So that you don’t run into a garbage disposal malfunction in the future, remember this: It works wonders grinding up soft bits of food that remain in the sink after meal preparation, but it’s not designed to chew through chunks of fibrous food scraps, like raw celery, carrots, or cabbage. Put the bulk of your food scraps in the trashcan, or better yet—if they’re non-meat scraps—the compost pile. Always run the garbage disposal with plenty of cold water and allow the unit to run a few seconds after the food grinding is complete to clear away residual bits of food that can cause odors.


Garbage Disposal Not Working - How to Know When It's Time to Replace