Kitchen - 3/21 - Bob Vila

Category: Kitchen


The Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Cast Iron

Discover the few simple secrets that can help you clean and care for your cast-iron cookware. So, what are you waiting for? Break out that old skillet and get cooking!

Cleaning Cast Iron

Photo: fotosearch.com

Use well-seasoned cast-iron cookware once, and chances are that you’re hooked for life. More than simply a nontoxic, nonstick, durable, and long lasting material, cast iron also boasts even larger advantages that at-home chefs adore, such as even heating and flavor enhancement. While that long list of benefits may make switching to cast iron seem like the obvious choice, a few downsides slow homeowners from doing so—namely the confusion surrounding its care and cleaning. But don’t let that scare you off from investing in kitchen mainstays that can last years—even generations—to come. We’ve simplified its maintenance into a series of crucial dos and don’ts to ensure that you get the longest, most productive use from your cast-iron cookware.

Cleaning Cast Iron - Cast Iron Cooking Pan

Photo: fotosearch.com

DO season your new cast-iron cookware before you use it.

Even if a new pan is advertised as nonstick or preseasoned, you should give it a good seasoning before its first use. This process involves baking oil into the pan or skillet at a high temperature to seal the cast iron, ultimately protecting the pan from moisture and rendering it nonstick. In the words of the Lodge Cast Iron website, “The more you cook, the better it gets.”

To season your cookware, preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven warms, wash and thoroughly dry the skillet. Then, using a paper towel, apply a thin coating of vegetable oil to the inside and outside of the skillet. But beware: Too much oil will make the pan sticky, so keep your coating light. Place the skillet upside down in the oven on the middle rack, and lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the bottom rack to catch any drips. Bake for one hour, then turn off the oven and allow the skillet to cool completely before removing it.

 

DON’T send cast-iron cookware through the dishwasher.

Putting your cookware in the dishwasher or using harsh detergents or abrasive scrubs will break down the seasoning, removing the nonstick coating and flavor-enhancing properties of your cast iron.

 

DO clean your skillet as soon as you’re done cooking.

If you’re a “leave it in the sink to soak overnight” kind of cook, cast-iron cookware isn’t for you. Rinse your pan while it’s still warm (not too hot) as soon as you’re done cooking. If you need to dislodge cooked-on food, certified House Cleaning Technician and author of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness Donna Smallin Kuper suggests using a credit card instead of a store-bought scraper to gently remove the residue. A handful of sea salt, a touch of vegetable oil, and a plastic scouring pad or poly dish scrubber will scrub off what’s left. Rinse the pan with water and dry immediately.

The Lodge website also suggests that you “rub with a light coat of vegetable oil after every wash,” then set the seasoning by placing the cookware over a burner set on low heat for three to four minutes.

 

DON’T let it stay wet.

Cast iron is still, after all, iron, and iron rusts when exposed to water for too long. For that reason, leave wet tasks like boiling water to your other cookware, and let your cast iron tackle the searing, baking, frying, and other non-water-based cooking. When it’s time to wash your wares, dry cast iron immediately after in order to prevent rust and to preserve the nonstick surface.

 

DO reseason if your pan feels sticky, loses its nonstick properties, or looks gray.

Cast iron needs to be reseasoned on occasion, and the signs that the time has come are easy to spot. To reseason your pan, scrub it thoroughly with a touch of dish soap and a plastic scrub brush, dry it completely, then season it just as you would before a first use. Because it can remove the seasoned nonstick coating, soap is not recommended as a regular cleaner, but it can be used to prepare cast iron just prior to reasoning.

 

DON’T throw out your pan if it develops rust.

Clean off all rust with a metal scouring pad or fine steel wool, then wash the pan thoroughly using water, a soft brush, and a small amount of soap—if you feel you must use soap at all. Rinse and dry the pan immediately, then reseason the pan as if you’re seasoning it before a first use.

 

With proper care, cast-iron cookware can last 100 years or more. If you haven’t fallen in love with your cast-iron cookware yet, forget about the seasoning and cleaning challenges and just start cooking. It’s really hard to mess up a cast-iron skillet for good. Scrubbing and reseasoning can almost always give cast-iron cookware a new life and provide a second chance for cooks who are just getting to know their cookware. Great cooking opportunities and unlimited second chances? Just two more good reasons to give your old cast-iron cookware a try.


Quick Tip: The Easiest Way to Minimize Grout Stains

Turn gungy grout like-new again using this easy and colorful approach!

How to Change Grout Color - Stained Grout in the Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Bainbridge Island, WA

Often used as filler between tiles on the bathroom tub surround, kitchen backsplash, or foyer floor, grout can be a homeowner’s hero in warding off water and preventing surface erosion. However, as happens with white carpet or couches, lighter grout makes stains and dirt appear even more pronounced and unsightly. So, you’re not interested in a weekend’s worth of regrouting the tile every time you spot a stain—and who could blame you? Fortunately, you can easily change the color of grout to camouflage its dinginess and discoloration by using these techniques to clean, stain, and seal your existing grout.

How to Change Grout Color - Dark Grout in Mosaic Tile

Photo: fotosearch.com

For grout to adequately absorb a stain, it will first require a thorough deep-cleaning. Pour a homemade paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda into the grout lines, scrub with a grout brush, rinse with clean water, and let dry for least half an hour. As long as the tile is non-porous and the grout porous, it should be ready for a color change! Dip a stiff-bristle brush into a dark grout stain and carefully brush it along the grout lines. As grout stain is permanent, aim to avoid contact with the tile itself as best you can, and keep a damp cloth close by so that you can wipe up any stain on tile immediately. After drying the first coat of stain for at least 24 hours, apply additional coats as needed to achieve the desired depth of color.

Once the grout is perfectly stained and dried, apply an oil-based sealant to grout lines in water-exposed areas of the home. Seal the grout at least once a year to keep water and other tile threats out of reach—and dirt and discoloration out of sight for good!


How To: Unclog a Garbage Disposal

Knowing the common causes for clogs—and how to unclog a garbage disposal—is key to keeping money in your wallet instead of down the drain with costly repairs.

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

Photo: flickr.com via Rhonda Fleming Hayes

When faced with the conundrum of how to unclog a garbage disposal, most people would agree the easiest solution is to simply call a plumber. However, the easiest choice may not always be the fastest or most cost-effective solution. So, why not try your hand at fixing the problem with a few simple home remedies before calling in the professionals? If successful, handy homeowners could save time and money, while gaining valuable DIY experience—and confidence for future repairs—at the same time.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Flashlight
– Long-handled tongs (or pliers)
– Plunger
– White vinegar
– Baking soda
– Lemons (optional)

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal - With a Plunger

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
For homeowners attempting repairs, the first thing to do is turn off the breaker that controls the disposal—a successful home repair will never be remembered as much as a trip to the emergency room.

STEP 2
Once the breaker is turned off, shine a flashlight into the clogged disposal. Do you see any objects that could be causing the clog? If so, carefully use a pair of long-handled tongs or pliers to retrieve these items and clear the way. Once all visible items have been removed, turn the breaker back on, and then turn on the disposal. (It may be necessary to push the reset button on the disposal.) If it drains water and works properly, congratulate yourself and be sure to tell everyone it took hours to fix (kidding); otherwise, continue on.

STEP 3
Again, turn off the breaker. With no more foreign objects to retrieve, it’s time to consider another cause for the clog: lingering leftovers. Food can clog garbage disposals when it isn’t broken down enough to be flushed out of the drainpipe. In these situations, it’s helpful to use a plunger first to try to loosen food that has clogged the disposal.

After covering the drain completely with the plunger, allow water to cover the edge of the plunger and plunge the drain a few times. When finished, see if water will drain—a good sign that scraps might also do the same. If so, turn on the breaker and disposal to see if the food remnants can now be processed through the drainpipe. Should it work, add a notch on your DIY belt. If not, it may be time to prepare a cocktail—for the clogged drain, that is.

STEP 4
Ensuring the breaker and disposal are both off, pour ¼ cup of baking soda in the garbage disposal. Next, pour ½ cup of white vinegar over the small pile, and be prepared for fizz and foam. Because many garbage disposals contain plastic parts, harsh drain cleaners can be detrimental. The combination of baking soda and vinegar ultimately offers the same type of unclogging ability, but on a much gentler scale.

After five to 10 minutes, turn the breaker and the disposal back on. Then run hot water into the disposal for another few minutes. (Again, the reset button may be necessary to get it started.) If it works properly, call it a day and make yourself a cocktail this time. If not, you may want to consider calling in your last resort: the professionals.

STEP 5
Turn off everything and call a plumber. But the job isn’t done after your pro clears up the problem and goes on his way. Remember to do your part by putting half of a lemon in the disposal every 2 to 3 weeks to keep the blades operating properly and the disposal smelling as fresh as your newfound respect for plumbers—this 2-minute maintenance can save you hours of headache down the road.


3 Fixes for Oil Stains

You never know when, but at some point in the cooking process it seems that oil finds itself out of the frying pan and into your fabrics. We found three smart solutions to remove it no matter where it lands.

How to Remove Oil Stains

Photo: fotosearch.com

Cooking oil appears in many forms—olive, vegetable, canola, etc.—and is a necessary ingredient for almost anything you whip up in the kitchen. But everyday accidents are almost as common as this pantry staple, often leading to spills and splatters on your household fabrics. Whether you’re frying up veggies for dinner, noshing on a vinaigrette salad while watching TV, or transporting a pasta dish from the kitchen to the dining room, you’re bound to discover an oil stain on your clothes, upholstery, or carpets more often than you’d like. Quickly remedy these splotches with one of these three tips for removing common cooking oil stains.

 

POWDER YOUR CLOTHES

How to Remove Oil Stains - Clothes

Photo: fotosearch.com

Who hasn’t had a little oil hop from the pan and onto your favorite shirt during dinner prep? To remove these stains from your clothes, you’ll need to gather baking soda, an old toothbrush, dish soap, and paper towels. Start by blotting any excess oil with a paper towel. Sprinkle a light layer of baking soda onto the spot, and let it sit for 30 to 60 minutes. Next, use your toothbrush to scrape off the powder. (If it comes off in clumps, that’s a good sign—it means it’s absorbing the oil!) Once the baking soda is removed, gently work a few drops of dish soap into the stain, and then toss it into the washing machine on hot. Skip the dryer until you can confirm that the stain is totally gone, otherwise you’ll set the stain instead of removing it.

 

CARE FOR YOUR CARPETS

How to Remove Oil Stains - Carpet

Photo: fotosearch.com

Although you can use the same treatment mentioned above for oil spills on the carpet, you might need something a little stronger for set-in stains. If possible, scrape off any hardened oil with a spoon or butter knife, and then blot with a paper towel to soak up whatever you can. Next, dispense a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto a clean cloth, and test it on an inconspicuous area of your carpeting. If no discoloration occurs, reapply the alcohol to the rag and dab—don’t rub—the stain directly. Next, mix up a solution of water and dishwashing liquid (make sure the soap doesn’t contain lanolin or bleach), and apply to the stain with a sponge until it disappears. Finish by blotting with a dampened rag to remove any soap residue.

 

HELP YOUR UPHOLSTERY

How to Remove Oil Stains - Upholstery

Photo: fotosearch.com

If a rowdy football party (or spirited viewing session of your favorite reality TV show) leads to an oily food spill on your upholstery, don’t panic. First, check the tag and determine its cleaning designation. Then, depending on what the tag suggests, proceed with one of the following strategies:

• If your upholstery’s tag features an “X,” you should avoid spot treating it yourself and leave it to the professionals to take on.
• An “S” label indicates you should attack the stain with a water-free remover, like a dry cleaning solvent, cornstarch, or baking soda. If you choose a dry cleaning solvent, use one cloth to apply the formula following the manufacturer’s instructions, and then blot using a clean second cloth so that you continue to lift up (not reapply) the oil stain. If you’d rather use cornstarch or baking soda, simply sprinkle on a light layer and let it stand for 10 to 20 minutes before vacuuming it up; repeat the process if the oil stains still persist, or apply a bit of dry cleaning solvent using the method above.
• A “W” tag means a water-based method is best. Rub a small amount of dish soap onto the spot, let it sit, and then use a dampened rag to rinse the stain.
• “SW” ensures both a water-free or water-based solution will work. Once you determine which ingredients you have lying around, you can move forward with any of the above approaches to remove the stain and get back to what’s important: sautéing and savoring!


Quick Tip: The Right Temperature Setting for Your Fridge

Preserve foods and prevent food-borne illnesses by freezing these refrigerator temperature recommendations into your memory.

Ideal Fridge Temperature

Photo: fotosearch.com

The kitchen is the heart of the home, a place for cooking, eating, and gathering with friends and family. But oftentimes we’re so focused on maintaining the perfect temperature for guests’ comfort that we forget to create a welcoming environment for another VIP at the dinner party: the food in our fridge. In an overly hot or extremely cold refrigerator, your culinary creations can perish at a quicker rate and run the risk of developing microorganisms like Salmonella and E. coli. By maintaining an ideal fridge temperature, you can slow or stop the invasion of bacteria while also maintaining the flavor and texture of your food.

Ideal Fridge Temperature - Fridge Thermometer

Photo: fotosearch.com

While most modern refrigerators contain adjustable temperature dials and displays, they are not always a true measure of the fridge forecast. More confusing yet, some compartments run at different temperatures from others (the doors may be warmer zones while the bottom and back may be cooler). For the most accurate overall reading, pick up an inexpensive fridge thermometer and set it in the center of the middle shelf. The lucky numbers you should aim for are between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit, as that range is high enough above the freezing point (32 degrees) to stop your celery from turning into icicles, yet low enough below 40 degrees—the point at which bacteria starts to triple (yes, triple)—to keep foods safe. After finding and adjusting the general temperature, set the thermometer in the different sections of your fridge to gauge the variations, and then arrange your food accordingly: dairy products and eggs in the chillier zones, and condiments in the warmer ones.

And don’t forget about the crisping bins at the bottom of the fridge, as they can play a similarly vital role in keeping produce fresh and vibrant. Use the click or toggle settings on the bins to adjust the humidity higher or lower. Store quick-to-rot produce like apples and pears at a lower humidity, while reserving quick-to-wilt greens like lettuce for the higher humidity bin. After setting the optimal fridge temperature from top to bottom, you can rest easy knowing your food is being properly preserved.


DIY Lite: Declutter Your Kitchen with a Coffee Mug Tree

Keep your coffee mug collection on display between brews using this unique handmade tree.

Coffee Mug Tree - How to Organize Your Coffee Bar

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

In a groggy morning, you want that first cup of coffee to be as accessible as possible. That means mugs at the ready so that you can find them even with your eyes half-shut. To remove fumbling in the cabinets from your morning routine, corral (and display) your favorite cups at your coffee bar using a DIY mug rack. Easily assembled with dowels and a concrete base, this modern mug tree injects warmth into your kitchen, breakfast nook, or drink station—all before your java begins brewing.

 

Coffee Mug Tree - Supplies to Make Your Own

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
– 1-1⁄4-inch wooden dowel
– 5/8-inch wooden dowel
– 1⁄4-inch wooden dowel
– Ruler
– Pencil
– Handsaw
– Utility knife
– Drill with a 5/8-inch bit and a 1⁄4-inch bit
– 2-inch nails (4)
– Hammer
– 2.5 lbs of dry concrete mix
– Trowel
– Painters tape
– Plastic container (8 inches diameter)
– Level
– Wood glue
– Foam brush
– Mineral oil

 

STEP 1

Coffee Mug Tree - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The thickest wooden dowel (1-1⁄4 inches in diameter) will serve as the “trunk” of your mug tree. Cut it to be 18 inches long. Then, you will use the 5⁄8-inch dowel to make “branches” for hanging cups; cut it into three pieces, each 8 inches long. Sand every piece to remove splinters.

 

STEP 2

Coffee Mug Tree - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Next, you’ll drill three holes through the trunk that for the 5⁄8-inch dowels to slide through. Using a ruler, mark where to drill the first hole at 1 inch from either end—going forward, this will be the top of the tree. Then mark for the second hole 5 inches from the first, and a third hole 5 inches from the second.

As you’ll see in the photo of the finished project, the top and bottom branches run parallel, while the middle one is perpendicular. Keep this in mind while making the cuts: Hold the trunk firmly with one hand and use the 5⁄8-inch bit to drill the top and bottom holes through the same side of this large dowel, then roll it so that you can drill the middle hole perpendicular to the others.

 

STEP 3

Coffee Mug Tree - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

To prevent hanging cups from easily slipping off any of the branches, you’ll create a short hook at the end of each from the thinnest dowel. First, switch to your 1⁄4-inch bit and drill a hole at each end of the 5⁄8-inch dowels (the three branches), without piercing all the way through.

Then, cut the 1⁄4-inch dowel into six 3⁄4-inch-long pieces. You can use a utility knife or a small handsaw—just watch your fingers. Set all of the dowel cuts aside for now except for the trunk.

 

STEP 4

Coffee Mug Tree - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Take the end of the trunk that is without a hole—the bottom of the tree—and hammer in four nails, equally spaced around the dowel’s circumference. (If the nails were clock hands, they’d be at 3, 6, 9, and 12.)

 

STEP 5

Coffee Mug Tree - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, mix up your concrete. Pour the dry mix into a plastic bucket that’s 8 inches or so in diameter (about as wide as your branches are long). Then add as much water as the package recommends, and stir. Your wet mix should be at least an inch deep to create a substantial base for the tree.

 

STEP 6

Coffee Mug Tree - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Push the trunk, nail-end down, into the center of the concrete-filled bucket. Check with a level to ensure that the stick is perfectly vertical, and then tear 4 long strips of painters tape and lay them across top of the container to hold your trunk steady while the concrete cures. Don’t move it for at least 48 hours.

 

STEP 7

Coffee Mug Tree - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Once the concrete is fully dry, cut off the plastic mold. Sand the concrete base for a better finish.

 

STEP 8

Coffee Mug Tree - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Slide the 5⁄8-inch dowels through each of the three holes. When they are pushed exactly halfway through, twist them so that the holes at the ends face up.

 

STEP 9

Coffee Mug Tree - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Squeeze a dot of wood glue into each of the remaining holes and fit a short, 1⁄4-inch-wide dowel inside. Allow the glue to bond for the amount of time recommended on the bottle, for best results.

Finally, brush a coat of mineral oil—or any other desired (food-safe) finish—and, while that dries, head to the cabinets to unload all of your favorite mugs. You’ll be able to hang them from your assembled coffee mug tree and enjoy the newly organized kitchen corner before the next morning!

Coffee Mug Tree - How to Build Your Own

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

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


Genius! The In-a-Pinch Vegetable Peeler

If your space is full of bulky gadgets that you almost never use, declutter by DIYing a simple, smaller version of this meal prep must-have.

diy-vegetable-peeler-1

Photo: instructables.com

Single-use kitchen gadgets—garlic presses, juicers, and vegetable peelers—all do their jobs exceedingly well, but even a small collection quickly clutters drawers, counters, and cabinets. Each additional helper eats up space, especially if you’re not using them for a month or more at a time. Still, the guilt of trashing tools you’ve spent good money on keeps them around. For zero regrets and a decluttered kitchen, donate your underused gadgets today, then follow the lead of DIY-er ShakeTheFuture to craft this disposable (and totally free!) vegetable peeler.

His process, which he demoed for the camera, is simple: Start with a clean soda can. Wiggle the tab back and forth until it falls off, and then lop off the top with scissors or a can opener. Once the metal flap is removed and the thin rim bent, the inside edge of the hole (once used for drinking) can be used for quick, angled cuts—perfect for skinning potatoes, carrots, apples, and more.

Even though the peeler is free to make, you don’t have to be broke to see the beauty in this simple DIY. Minimalists will approve of the peeler’s stainless steel design and slim profile, and campers will love whipping up dinner with a convenience that’s normally reserved for home-cooked meals. At about 1/3 the size of traditional peelers, it saves space in a storage-starved kitchen without sacrificing functionality—an a-peel-ing idea for every renter or homeowner. And if your DIY peeler is so small that you’re afraid you’ll lose it, go ahead and toss it after dinner! You can remake it in minutes with a clean soda can and a pair of scissors.

FOR MORE: Instructables

diy-vegetable-peeler

Photo: instructables.com


The Dos and Don’ts of Painting Laminate Cabinets

Prime your laminate cabinets for the perfect paint job with these tips for surface preparation, paint selection, and application.

Painting Laminate Cabinets - Kitchen Paint Job

Photo: fotosearch.com

Short of committing to a more costly replacement of outdated kitchen storage, repainting laminate cabinets is an affordable way to turn the eyesore into eye-catching, modern cabinetry. But while you may be well-versed in painting most any old wood furnishings, from side tables to pantry doors, laminate is another beast altogether. Not nearly as porous as its wooden lookalike, this type of surface requires unique preparation, paint, and paint application. Follow these best practices to reinvigorate your laminate cabinetry with a fresh face that lasts!

DON’T PAINT OVER DAMAGED LAMINATE

If laminate is cracked, warped, or peeling, that damage can interfere with the bonding of paint to the cabinet. Ensure that the laminate is in good condition by repairing minor laminate damage or re-facing cabinets before applying paint.

 

DO REMOVE CABINET HARDWARE

Remove knobs, pulls, and other visible cabinet hardware before painting laminate cabinets for smooth paint application without obstructions. You can mask metal on the hinges with painter’s tape and paint the doors in place, or, if the hinges are visible and removable, take the doors down from the cabinets and paint them separately on a work bench or sawhorse.

Painting Laminate Cabinets - White Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs home in New York, NY

DON’T LEAVE DIRT AND GRIT BEHIND

It may be tempting to eyeball your cabinets and decide that any dirt is minimal enough to conceal with a paint job, but your dirty secret will get out when the color fails to adhere well to the laminate. Before you start painting laminate cabinets, gently wipe away settled-on grime and grease using trisodium phosphate. Then, rinse with fresh water and dry the cabinets completely.

 

DO SAND THE CABINETS

To create a strong bond between the paint and your cabinet, you’ll need to roughen up the slick laminate with the help of a gritty companion: sandpaper. (For better coverage of a large surface area, consider upgrading to a motorized orbital sander. Your upper body will thank you.) Thoroughly scuff the surfaces of the cabinet with 120-grit sandpaper—enough to get a dusting, but not so much that you tear through the paper-thin laminate surface—and clean up any dusty remains with a handheld vacuum and a damp cloth.

 

DON’T USE ANY OLD PRIMER AND PAINT

Laminate doesn’t play well with all primers and paints, only those specially formulated to adhere to its picky surface. If you opt for a primer, choose a bonding primer tenacious enough to stick to laminate, and then top it with an oil- or latex-based paint after the primer has cured. If you select a paint that can be applied directly over laminate, you can skip the primer—just know that this qualification may limit your color choices (or, at the very least, rule out using paint leftover from another household project).

Painting Laminate Cabinets - Green Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Altanta, GA

DO PUT YOUR PAINT TO THE TEST

Paint in hand, you’re almost ready to get to work. But first, double-check that your stock is well suited for the job. Testing its bonding capabilities before diving into an entire paint job could save you from a case of peeling paint down the road—and the need to redo hours of work. Apply your paint to a small, inconspicuous area of the cabinet (like the back of one you hardly ever open), let it cure, then inspect the bonding. If you spot some bubbles in the coat, that means it is not adhering well; consult a paint dealer at your hardware store to pinpoint a more suitable paint for the job.

 

DON’T LEAVE BRUSH STROKES BEHIND

If  your first-choice paint applicator for the traditionally flat surface of laminate cabinets is a brush, take a moment to reconsider. These popular paint tools tend to leave an unsightly trail of brush strokes in their wake. Opt instead for a roller, sprayer, or a paint pad for a streak-free finish.

 

DO MINIMIZE YOUR EXPOSURE TO FUMES

Due to the powerful fumes released from the primer and paint (and your close proximity to them when painting laminate cabinets), station a respirator in the room for increased ventilation, and keep children and pets out of the room. Lastly, pull on a pair of chemical-resistant work gloves before you go off to paint the town—or, perhaps in this case, cabinets—red!


7 Smart Tips for Saving Big Money on Major Appliances

If you’re in the market for a major home appliance this year, strategize to save with these secrets for savvy shopping.

Discount Appliances - Ovens and Stovetops at the Store

Photo: fotosearch.com

If your New Year’s resolutions include remodeling a room or two, while you’re at it you should consider replacing any outdated appliances you still have hanging around. Yes, even on a budget you can spruce up your kitchen or laundry room with these investment pieces—and for just a fraction of the retail cost. The key to finding great deals is to think outside the “big box.” Don’t settle for full retail rates when you can score big savings by seeking out strategic shopping alternatives, from online e-tailers to secondhand sellers. Once you know when and where to look, you can get a real deal on all your major appliance purchases.

Discount Appliances - New Refrigerator

Photo: fotosearch.com

Time It Right for Retail Bargains

September and October are the best months to buy most major appliances, as these are the months when manufacturers unveil the latest models. Even January is a good time for savings, though; while the selection may be limited, the prices on last year’s models will be significantly lower.

Ask About Floor Models, Returns, and Discontinued Items

Retailers will often discount a floor model by as much as 15 percent, even if it hasn’t been damaged in any way. If the model has been discontinued or sustained damage, however, you could see the savings increase by as much as 20 to 30 percent. If the damage is significant, or if the product has been used or returned, expect as much as 40 to 50 percent off the price of the appliance.

Negotiate with Competitors’ Coupons and Price-Match Guarantees

As the saying goes, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Some retailers match competitors’ coupons or advertised prices, so it’s important to do your homework before you shop and make sure you have the published prices on hand as evidence. If you can’t negotiate a lower price, perhaps you can score some perks with free delivery and installation—it never hurts to ask.

Don’t Overlook Mom-and-Pop Shops

Local independent businesses don’t have as much overhead cost as big-box stores, so the savings may be passed on to you, the consumer. Shoppers often overlook these small retailers when it comes to large appliance purchases, but consider the perks: Smaller businesses are often more customer service-oriented, so they may place an emphasis on individualized attention both during and after the sale, especially when it comes to installation and future repairs.

Survey the Online Market

These days, manufacturers and retailers offer the same products online as they do in their showrooms, making online shopping for large appliances increasingly popular and stress-free. Online shopping offers yet another advantage: Although supply is necessarily limited at brick-and-mortar stores, great deals and selection can be found year-round on those same stores’ websites.

To make things even easier, aggregate sites like Bizrate, mySimon, and PriceGrabber search the Internet for the appliances you want using their own large databases and then provide a list of the most competitive prices. (PriceGrabber even includes shipping costs in its results!) Should you find a favorite appliance just outside your budget, you can set alerts on a few of these product search engines to notify you of a price drop.

Cash In On Craigslist

Once you get over the stigma of buying things secondhand on Craigslist, you can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars on major appliances. Even more open-minded? Browse white appliances, too, rather than restricting your search to “stainless steel finish.” The online marketplace is saturated with appliances that have white finishes, because people often replace good-quality appliances in an effort to “upgrade” to stainless steel for purely aesthetic reasons. That translates to more options at competitive prices. Who knows? A white appliance covered in panels of faux stainless steel contact paper may be the budget-friendly alternative of your dreams.

Don’t Discount Scratch-and-Dent Specialists

Pay a visit to your local scratch-and-dent appliance store, which stocks never-been-used appliances that have been dinged on the sales floor. Your big-box store might have a corner devoted to damaged pieces; otherwise, a quick search on Google should turn up the specialty scratch-and-dent store nearest you. But don’t discount (pun intended) the amazing savings you can find from online scratch-and-dent specialists, such as DesignerHomeSurplus.com.

While no one wants a range or refrigerator with a huge gouge down the front, you may not mind a little imperfection in your laundry room. Considering the fact that many of the scratches are cosmetic, a touch-up with a little appliance paint might be all that’s needed to get the machine looking new again. With a little elbow grease and some ingenuity, you can avoid shelling out megabucks for these major investment purchases.


The Do’s and Don’ts of Open Shelving

Before you opt for open shelving, consider these best practices for installation, upkeep, and styling that will help you make the most of this popular trend in kitchen design.

SHARES
Open Shelving Kitchen - Modern Style

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Lake Oswego, OR

Open shelving provides a unique opportunity to showcase your dishware (and your personality) in the kitchen. You might believe that the storage and organization options it offers are as wide open as the shelves themselves—but the wrong move here could turn your rosy design dream into an unattractive, cluttered mess. Whether your kitchen already features open shelving or you’re considering a cabinet makeover, adhere to these best practices to make optimal use of your shelves.

Open Shelving Kitchen - Storing a Ceramic Collection

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Bridgehampton, NY

DON’T Start Full

Just as you wouldn’t start a meal on a full stomach, don’t start out by just rearranging shelved items or styling shelves that are already fully stocked. Clear off your work space by first removing all your possessions from the shelves. Once you have a clean slate, you’ll be able to implement a fresh, well-devised organizational scheme and refine the aesthetics of your shelf arrangement.

 

DO Secure Heavy Ceramics

If you intend to load up your open shelves with your entire ceramic dish collection, secure the shelves with wall anchors to create the sturdiest foundation possible. Then, assemble your pieces into bottom-heavy arrangements, keeping the biggest ceramics on the lowest shelves and limiting stacks to eight or fewer pieces.

 

DON’T Set Yourself Up with Unreachable Arrangements

Now that you’ve removed the barriers that your cabinet doors imposed, all your kitchenware will seem more accessible. Don’t, however, let this apparent convenience tempt you to stow must-have necessities like frequently used dishes, everyday Corningware, and your spice collection on higher shelves. Instead, continue to place these essentials within arm’s reach, and reserve the higher shelves for decorative pieces and seldom-used dishes.

 

DO Install a Range Hood

Think about the last time you opened a cabinet and the door or knob felt sticky to the touch. Grease, cooking fumes, and condensation from the stove are often deposited on kitchen surfaces. Without the protection of a wooden or glass door, open shelves can leave their contents vulnerable to stubborn n grimy buildup. Consider installing a range hood to siphon off unwanted heat, smoke, odors, and airborne grease before these particles end up on your possessions.

 

DON’T Always Shelve Your Glass

Especially if you live in an earthquake-prone area, refrain from resting glassware on floating shelves—particularly at the upper reaches where these pieces are apt to come to an earth-shattering end. Consider instead lodging them in whatever closed cabinet spaces you have left, or aboard a wheeled bar cart. To further disaster-proof your shelving, install shelves with a lip at the edge to keep any objects in motion from sliding—and falling—out.

 

DO Employ Variety

In your closed cabinetry, you may have grouped together similar cookware, glasses, and spices, but with open shelving it’s important not to forget that crucial spice of life: variety. Now that your storage contributes as much to the appearance of your kitchen as its function, create visual distinction on the shelves by mixing and matching different sizes and shapes of dishware, and throwing in the occasional splash of color or decor.

 

DON’T Forget to Bust Dust Early and Often

Critics of open shelving often cite these surfaces’ tendency to accumulate dust as their major downfall. But if you regularly cycle through your most-used dishware, you can ensure that your cookware will never sit long enough for the dust to settle. Wipe down the shelves themselves frequently to ensure that unwelcome dirt bites the dust.

 

DO Try It First

Before taking the plunge on an open shelving arrangement, give it a test run by temporarily removing existing cabinet doors. This is a great, no-cost change that provides a window into how your new shelves will look. If you don’t like the appearance—or if you learn that you just can’t keep your shelves organized enough for the new style—you can easily revert by putting the doors back on their hinges.

Open Shelving Kitchen - Remove Cabinet Doors

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Seattle, WA