Kitchen - 4/24 - Bob Vila

Category: Kitchen

All You Need to Know About Indoor Composting

If you're venturing into indoor composting for the first time, use this guide to get a sound start and a superior compost for your garden.

Top Tips for Indoor Composting


Composting is an affordable way to nab food for your plants while reducing waste in your home or apartment and in local landfills. But did you know that you can get the same benefits of an outdoor compost pile or bin—without sacrificing precious lawn or patio space—through indoor composting? Find out why indoor composting is such a desirable option for homeowners and renters, then continue reading to learn how to build and maintain a healthy indoor compost bin of your own.

Benefits of Indoor Composting

The biggest advantage of an indoor compost bin is that it thrives year-round at a temperature between 40 to 80 degrees, whereas outdoor compost bins and piles need to be shielded from direct sunlight or heavy rainfall and insulated when the temperature falls below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Even when insulated, your outdoor compost output is hampered in winter since waste degrades more slowly in cold weather.

Indoor composting is also advantageous for small-space dwellers since you can store a compost bin in any dark and dry space indoors, such as the basement, a closet, an under-the-sink kitchen cabinet, or even out on a counter. Meanwhile, outdoor compost piles require three-by-three-by-three feet at a minimum—lawn space that an apartment renter may not have.

Indoor Composting Methods

The two main methods for composting indoors are aerobic composting and vermicomposting. Aerobic composting uses microbes from garden soil to convert kitchen waste and other organic material into compost, the decayed organic matter that can be used as homemade plant fertilizer. Vermicomposting uses worms and soil microbes to convert organic waste into vermicompost consisting of worm castings (manure) and decayed organic matter. Both compost and vermicompost are rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and both can be used to fortify garden soil. Of the two, vermicompost holds slight advantage, as it tends to help soil retain water and guard against soil pathogens more effectively than regular compost.

Recommended Bins for Indoor Composting

Your best bets for compost bins are lidded plastic storage containers, garbage cans (plastic or metal), or wooden crates (topped with a wooden board cut to fit the opening). Whichever style you choose, consider size carefully: The bin should comfortably fit inside the space where you intend to store it and yet be large enough to house more than the weekly volume of food scraps you plan to compost. Generally, 18-gallon containers are a good size for households with two to four members, while smaller households with minimal food waste can get by with 5- to 10-gallon containers.

Keep in mind that both aerobic composting and vermicomposting need oxygen for decomposition to occur and for soil microbes and worms to thrive. To enable adequate airflow in the compost bin, power-drill a grid of 25 to 36 quarter-inch air holes (evenly spaced apart) into the bottom and lid of your compost bin, then drill two horizontal rows of holes spaced one-and-a-half inches apart into each side of the bin. Place the bin upright on a plastic or rubber tray that is wider than your bin and has at least two-inch walls so that any liquid that accumulates at the bottom of the bin will drain out into the tray. Check back regularly so you can dump out the excess water that collects throughout the week.


Top Tips for Indoor Composting


What to Put in a Compost Bin—and When

Altogether, your compost bin will contain a combination of three parts brown matter (carbon-based materials such as shredded newspaper, torn cardboard, and dead leaves) and one part green matter (the nitrogen-based materials you toss out, such as food waste and plant clippings). So, to start preparing your indoor composting collection, fill the empty bin of choice nearly three-quarters of the way with dampened brown matter. Gently hand-toss the damp bedding in the bin, then evenly sprinkle a cup of garden soil over it.

If you’re aerobic composting, use a trowel to bury the day’s compost-safe food scraps and other organic waste in the soil layer, and then replace the bin lid to let composting begin. Compost-safe materials include green matter such as raw fruits and vegetables (flesh and peels), houseplants, grass clippings, coffee grounds, and tea leaves, along with brown matter such as nut shells, pulverized egg shells, coffee filters, tea bags, dead leaves, small twigs, hay, straw, wood chips, cardboard, newspaper, and cotton rags. Never place cooked food, dairy products, meat, fish bones, or fat in your compost bin, as these substances produce odors that can lure pests.

If you’re vermicomposting, top the soil layer with one pound of red worms (Eisenia foetida or Lumbricus rubellus) for every 3.5 pounds of organic waste your household generates each week (worms can eat half their weight in waste each day). You can purchase red worms for around $30 to $40 per pound at garden centers. Steer clear of dew worms (which die off quickly) and invasive worm species such as the Alabama Jumper. Replace the lid of the compost bin until you’re ready to compost to prevent worms from escaping. Gather your scraps in a separate plastic container over the course of the week. Once a week, use a trowel to bury the scraps in the worm layer, then replace the bin lid to let composting begin. Scraps that are safe for aerobic composting are also safe for vermicomposting.

How Waste is Converted into Compost

During traditional aerobic composting, microorganisms in the soil layer use the available supply of nitrogen, carbon, and water in the compost bin to break down the kitchen waste and bedding and release nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, leaving behind a nutrient-rich compost. This process also requires a steady supply oxygen, which is why you’ll have to turn the contents of your bin with a compost fork once a week to aerate it. It can take two to four months or longer for the full contents of the bin to turn into a soil-like compost. At this point, you can remove and use the finished compost, then add new bedding, soil, and food scraps to the empty compost bin to resume composting.

During vermicomposting, worms swallow the waste and bedding in the compost bin, absorb the nutrients, then excrete the worm castings and partially decomposed material that make up vermicompost. You never have to manually turn the compost since the worms naturally aerate the compost as they tunnel through it. In roughly three to four months, vermicompost should replace all the original bedding and waste in your compost bin. You can push this compost to one side of the bin with a shovel and then add new bedding and soil to the empty side. As you bury fresh kitchen waste into the new soil, the worms will move over to the side of the bin that needs to be composted.

The conversion of waste into compost through either aerobic composting or vermicomposting doesn’t produce odors other than a mild earthy scent. If you notice foul odors, check and remedy any of the following conditions:

The moisture level in the bin could be too high. Resolve by adding more brown matter to increase dryness.

There could be too much food in the bin. Don’t add any more waste until what is present is decomposed, then feed the bin less often),

There could be a lack of oxygen. Add more holes to the bin, aerate the compost more frequently with a compost fork, or place a brick between the compost bin and tray to elevate the bin and improve airflow.


Top Tips for Indoor Composting


Tips for Successful Indoor Composting

Take these steps to maintain a healthy indoor compost bin.

• Don’t leave waste exposed to air in the compost bin—this will attract fruit flies. If you can’t bury the waste completely in soil or worm layer, cover the exposed scraps with additional soil or brown matter.

• Chop or tear all kitchen scraps prior to composting. Soil microbes and/or worms can break down smaller scraps more quickly, thus speeding up the decomposition process.

• Your compost bin should be roughly as moist as a wrung-out sponge at all times, so water the compost with a watering can as needed if the compost looks visibly dried out or the decomposition process appears to have stalled.

• Keep a watering can and a bag full of shredded newspaper or dead leaves in close proximity to the compost bin for quick refills of water or brown matter when the compost becomes too dry or too moist.

• If vermicomposting, pay attention to what your worms are not eating—this food will rot rather than decompose, so you’ll want to avoid composting it in the future.

• If you maintain a healthy vermicompost bin, you can expect worms to breed. If you’re left with more worms than you can feed, remove and share the extra worms with your friends and neighbors to use in their compost bins.

How to Use Your Indoor Composting

The compost or vermicompost derived from aerobic composting or vermicomposting can be used for a variety of indoor and outdoor applications.

• Sprinkle the compost directly over grass as a lawn conditioner.

• Combine one potting soil with two parts compost to create nutrient-rich soil for a raised garden bed.

• Spread the compost over potting soil as mulch for indoor or outdoor planters.

• Collect any liquid that has drained into the tray below the compost bin and dilute it (ten parts water to one part compost liquid) to create a nourishing compost tea you can spray over plant leaves.

• When you begin a new composting cycle, throw a handful of finished compost from the previous batch over the soil layer in the bin for a boost of soil microbial action.

Bob Vila Radio: Extinguishing Grease Fires

Don't make a bad situation worse. Here's how to deal with grease fires safely and effectively.

Grease fires are serious business. Would you believe they account for nearly a quarter of at-home fire-related deaths?

Putting Out A Grease Fire




Every homeowner ought to know what to do in the face of stovetop flames.

First, never attempt to put out a grease fire with water, or any other liquid. Instead, if you can reach the control safely, turn off the range burner as quickly as you can. Don’t attempt to move the pan; that may simply cause the fire to spread.

Next, cover the pan with a pot lid, or even a cookie sheet—anything to block the supply of oxygen to the fire. Note that it’s also possible to smother a grease fire with table salt or baking soda. But never use flour, biscuit mix, or baking powder—all of those are combustible.

If you don’t have a fire extinguisher in your house, let alone within easy reach of the cooking appliances in your kitchen, reconsider your choice. This is precisely the sort of situation where a fire extinguishers proves its worth. You’d simply pull out the pin, aim the nozzle, squeeze the lever and sweep the flames.

Sure, using a fire extinguisher makes a mess. But that’s no doubt preferable to your house burning down.

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 hereto subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

Buyer’s Guide: Electric Grills

To enjoy cookout flavor indoors, get the lowdown on the best machines on the market.

Best Electric Grill Options


Grilled food fans, rejoice! The industry has been busy perfecting electric grills, filling a need for folks who want the ease and flavor of grilling all year long. This guide will help you understand what’s out there and how to choose the best electric grill for your needs, from super sandwich presses to heavy-duty models that can take on an entire dinner party’s worth of meat and vegetables.

Electric Grill Basics

Not everybody has a big backyard or a temperate climate all year long. So while BBQ purists who insist upon that charred, smoky flavor may scoff at electric grills, the devices do allow you to grill food indoors or out on a porch or balcony in a building that prohibits open flames. Plus, electric grills don’t produce the smoke and char proven to carry carcinogenic properties, potentially posing a health risk after prolonged periods. In fact, some newer models use infrared heat, which tends to cook meat more consistently than other forms of heat, including fire.

3 Best Electric Grill Picks for You and Your Space


An electric grill’s heating element, located inside or just beneath the cooktop, is powered with a cord similar to any other kitchen appliance—just plug it into a wall socket and cook away! Grease runoff is caught in a drip pan typically included with the grill, and when you’re through, there’s no waiting for coals to cool down or dealing with gas canisters; you simply turn it off and/or unplug it.

What’s more, cleanup is typically pretty simple, especially on models with removable plates that can be washed in the sink or dishwasher. Most exciting for “real” grill enthusiasts, some models now better approximate the same heat intensity of a traditional grill—and food tastes better for it.

Before you buy, check your community’s policies on electric grills. Property managers, homeowners associations, and condo boards often have specific rules regarding these kinds of devices, so don’t risk a heated exchange over an avoidable conflict.

Features to Consider

Small, convenient countertop grills are generally best suited for indoor use, while stainless steel varieties and those on legs are typically meant for outdoor use and storage. Personal models like the ever-popular original George Foreman grill are perfect for making a single sandwich or a couple of small burger patties (which require about 20 to 25 square inches of cooking area apiece), while larger varieties may have a cooktop as vast as 500 square inches—enough to quickly service a large family all at once.

Wattage varies, with smaller indoor models running around 1200 watts and larger models coming closer to 2000. The more wattage, the more powerful the grill, which generally makes it capable of producing higher temperatures and distributing heat more evenly than its lower-watt counterparts. For a small grill, you’ll only need enough power to consistently heat a humble amount of food at a time, so lower wattage on an 80-square-inch countertop grill, for example, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

While countertop versions are fine with short cords, you’ll want a longer cord (or an extension cord, in some cases) for a grill you intend to use outdoors. And additional features might include removable/dishwasher-safe grates, adjustable thermostats, and temperature gauges.

Best Bets

Do you want the best electric grill for your indoor or outdoor 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.

Best Electric Grill - George Foreman GRP1060B


George Foreman GRP1060B ($25)
Amazon reviewers love this classic countertop grill made famous on television by its iconic namesake, boxer George Foreman. The GRP1060B refers to itself as “4 serving,” meaning it can hold four small burger patties at once, and the 1500-watt model heats up in two-thirds the time of its predecessors. Available in black at its budget-friendly price (or platinum for about $10 more), this great little grill offers a quick, easy, and affordable way to cut the fat and avoid the char, cooking most foods in 10 minutes or less. Available on Amazon.


Best Electric Grill - Char-Broil Bistro 1750-Watt Infrared


Char-Broil Bistro 1750-Watt Infrared ($179)
For a little more heft and the look of a traditional grill, the Char-Broil Bistro 1750-watt infrared electric grill earns high marks from Lowe’s shoppers who cite its heavy-duty construction and ability to thoroughly grill food without cool spots, although not particularly quickly. Infrared heat helps meat cook consistently, and once a batch is complete, a removable warming tray keeps everything at an ideal serving temperature. Reviewers also mention the standing grill’s easy assembly, ample 320-inch cooking surface and one charcoal-to-electric-grill convert even remarked, “An infrared grill changed my charcoal heart.” Available at Lowe’s.


Best Electric Grill - Kenyon City Grill


Kenyon Electric City Grill ($475)
The professional home goods reviewers at The Spruce awarded the Kenyon Electric City Grill the number one spot among its top seven electric grills of 2017. While it comes at a hefty price, its sturdy construction, minimalist design, and ability to produce similar heat to gas and charcoal grills set it above its contemporaries in the premium grill category, mostly made up of stainless steel models. The 1300-watt countertop grill offers 155 square inches of cooktop, its low smoke output and disposable drip pan make cleanup a breeze, and its relatively light weight (24 pounds) and double handles mean it’s easy to lift and carry. Available at

Bob Vila Radio: Pros and Cons of Quartz Countertops

Though it's not the cheapest kitchen countertop choice, quartz offers striking beauty and like-a-rock durability—a combination of characteristics that make the material an enduringly popular pick.

Thinking about quartz countertops for your kitchen? You’re not alone. Quartz has been among the most popular choices in counter materials for a number of years, and for a number of reasons. Read on for a brief introduction to this beautiful, durable stone.

Quartz Countertop Pros and Cons



Listen to BOB VILA ON QUARTZ COUNTERTOPS or read below:

Quartz contains 90 to 94 percent ground quartz and 6 to 10 percent polymer resins and pigments. The combination produces a slab that’s as hard as granite on the one hand, marble-like in appearance on the other.

That said, take care when shopping. Quartz often gets confused for quartzite—a sandstone exposed to intense heat until it solidifies. Though similar to quartz, in price and in other respects, quartzite tends to be the higher maintenance of the two.

Also note that if you’re planning quartz countertops longer than 120 inches, or with cut-outs, it may be necessary for the stone to be fabricated in sections. Sections mean seams. For those seams to stand out less, opt for a dark-toned quartz.

What about wear and tear? Quartz resists heat but isn’t invulnerable. Dealer specs usually say it’s able to handle temperatures up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. But in some cases, setting an exceptionally pan onto a cold quartz surface has been known to cause cracking or discoloration.

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!

Solved! The Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets

Giving your kitchen a refresh? Follow this guide to choosing the best paint for cabinets.

Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets


Q: Our kitchen is ready for a refresh, starting with a new color for the cabinets. What’s the best paint for kitchen cabinets? I need advice on choosing the right primer, color, and finish.

A: A fresh coat of paint will not only transform your cabinets, it can give your whole kitchen a clean, fresh look—and it sure will save you money over an entire cabinet replacement. So kudos to you for extending the life of your wood cabinetry by sprucing it up yourself! The guide below will help you pick products for solid wood cabinets, and also work for plywood panel, wood veneer, and MDF cabinets with proper sanding.

Choose the best color. You’ll want the new cabinet color to complement your countertops, flooring, and overall color scheme but by no means feel pressured to make everything match—contrast can be interesting. When choosing colors, also consider your climate: If you live somewhere warm and have lots of natural light streaming into the kitchen, you may want to stay away from dark paint, which can act as a magnet for the sun’s heat. Keep in mind, too, that very pale and very dark shades show wear, tear, and cooking splatters more quickly than the wide range of hues in between.

As for cabinet interiors, you can skip painting them altogether if you line them with contact paper—an inexpensive, attractive option that can protect and extend the life of your shelving.

Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets


Prime before you paint. Priming will keep discoloration, splotches, and visible knots in the wood at bay. Primers fall into two main categories—light and dark—so generally speaking, you’ll choose your primer based on your paint color. If redoing your cabinets in white, cream, or a pastel shade, use a primer suitable for light paint, and if going with a dark color, get a primer that won’t peek through. Most manufacturers clearly state each primer’s paint color suitability on the label, so it should be easy to find what you need. Purchase enough primer for two coats to go over finished cabinets (or, less likely, just one coat for raw wood or matte-painted cabinets).

Address the oil versus latex debate. The two primary differences between oil-based paint and latex-based paint on kitchen cabinets are final texture and dry time. Oil-based is more traditional and popular with purists who like the “painterly” look of brush marks, while latex gives a more consistent finish. But oil-based paint can take up to a full day to dry, as opposed to a couple of hours for latex. Plus, if you choose a low- or no-VOC latex paint, the odor will be considerably less offensive as it cures.

Go for the gloss. With all that opening, closing, cleaning, and other handling, kitchen cabinets endure a good deal more wear and tear than other surfaces—something to keep in mind when choosing a paint finish. Higher-gloss finishes stand up better to daily use and are far easier to clean without dulling the color over time. So skip matte, satin, and eggshell finishes in favor of semi gloss or high gloss.

If you choose to paint the interiors, use an eggshell finish, which stands up well to the weight of heavy dishes. Glossier finishes, while ideal for cabinet exteriors, can dent slightly when used on shelves and even stick to the bottom of your dinnerware. Once you’ve chosen your primer and paint and picked up a few accessories like paint trays, drop cloths, an angled sash brush (great for cabinet grooves), and perhaps a small roller to ease your way across broad, flat surfaces, check out this tutorial on how to paint kitchen cabinets and you’ll be on your way to a brighter, fresher kitchen in the span of a single weekend.


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

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.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
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




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.

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!