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Fixing Scratches in an Enameled Cast Iron Sink

Dear Home Ec 101,

I have a fairly new (less than 1 year old) cast iron Kohler sink, it is the shiny black one, the manual recommended using the Kohler cast iron sink cleaner and I have used it regularly and I have used a plastic mat on the bottom of the sink, to try to prevent scratches. Yet I have some minor scratches. Is there any way to safely remove the scratches from my sink without harming the enamel?

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Again I LOVE your site and by the way I am hooked on Method products!! Love them!!

Signed,
Scratched in Scanlon
Heather says:

Take a deep breath, I have good news for you, dollars to donuts those are not actually scratches in your sink. I highly doubt you were sitting there with a chisel and hammer purpose trying to gouge your sink. That’s pretty much what it takes to mar the finish of a quality enamel finish. What you are actually seeing is called a “pot mark” and it’s just a scuff from the sink taking a tiny bit of metal off of your cookware.

It’s a lot like when somebody just barely grazes your car in a crowded parking lot and leaves a bit of their paint on your car. A bit of buffing is all it takes to get rid of their carelessness and it’s pretty much all that is needed here, too.

Go ahead and use the recommended cleaner, but find a cork, perhaps from last night’s wine-braised pot roast? Apply the cleaner full strength to the scratch on the cast iron sink and then use the cork to gently scrub the marks away and your sink will look good as new!

Pot marks will likely become a source of irritation over the years, but at least you now know that you have not inadvertently scratched your shiny, new sink. It’s going to look good as new for a long, long time.

Good luck and please let me know how it turns out.

Oh and thanks for letting me know about Method, I’ll be sure to pass that along.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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A Home-Ec 101 Guide: How To Clean Home Appliances

how to clean appliances

They are our modern day servants and we are at a loss when our home appliances stop working. By taking care of them and keeping them clean you can extend the life of your appliances so they can help you through your daily life.

To read more about the article just click on the title.

How to Clean a Drip Coffee Maker

Multiple ways to keep your coffee maker clean and running smoothly.

How to Clean a Smooth Top Range / Stove

I immediately removed the pot from the burner but there were scorch marks on the pot, and ‘melted stuff’ on the burner.  I was able to scrub the pot bottom clean, but am not sure what to do about the burner, and it’s my ‘favorite’.

How to Remove Melted Plastic from a Smooth Top Range

My husband nearly burnt our house down recently because he turned the stove on and forgot to take our plastic strainer out of it. The plastic is everywhere, now hard and stuck.

How to Clean Out the Refrigerator

I’m gearing myself up to finally tackling the scary fridge. It hasn’t been cleaned since the dawn of refrigeration, so there’s a ton of ultra-scary-ew-nasty-what-is-that-gunk in the fridge. But, I don’t want to use any harsh chemicals, as I’m concerned about the smell/taste of it transferring over to the food once I’m done.

How to Clean a Stinky Garbage Disposal

If you Google the problem you’ll find 101 different remedies for your stinky situation. The problem is then deciding which ones are effective and which are a waste of time or potentially dangerous to your appliance.

How to Clean a Toaster

I clean out the crumb tray, wipe everything down, and shake it like a martini over the trash can, but when I set it back down, its still got crumbs falling out. Repeat process many times, plus when I look down in the toaster it looks like a pepper shaker exploded on the inside.

How to Clean an Electric Kettle

Since it can’t go in the dishwasher or even really be hand washed other than just rinsing it out, I am always careful to empty any leftover water out before I store it. My parents came to visit in July and apparently when the kettle was put away there was some water left in it which I just discovered last night…. I used it to boil water for instant gravy last night and the gravy tasted funny, not sure if it was the water or the gravy mix.

How to Clean and Shine Stainless Steel

You aren’t the first homeowner to fall for the gleaming lure of stainless. It’s so pretty there in the show room. What you don’t see are the legions of employees wiping down the appliances night and day.

How to Clean Ceiling Fans

How do you clean ceiling fans? I’m especially wanting to know how you manage to clean them without dust bunnies falling down onto the furniture.

How to Clean Greasy Oven Glass

We like to roast meats in the oven after searing them on the stove, using a frying pan. Consequently, we have serious grease stains on the inside of the over door and the glass. The stains are very difficult to remove.

How to Clean Sugary Spillovers in the Oven

When I looked in the oven, I noticed that some of the syrupy filling had spilled over onto the bottom of the oven, but the pie was done, so I took it out and didn’t think to even wipe up the sticky mess.  It has since encrusted itself to the bottom of my oven and whenever I try to preheat the oven, it fills our home with smoke.

How to Clean a Humidifier

Humidifiers can quickly become bacteria factories if they are not cleaned thoroughly. The problem is, minerals can quickly build up on your humidifier which becomes breeding grounds for bacteria. Ewww!

Regular Dishwasher Maintenance Improves Performance

My dishwasher just isn’t doing as great a job anymore. I haven’t changed anything: same soap, I scrape the plates, I still use a rinsing agent. What could be going on?

Need help cleaning a home appliance that isn’t covered here? Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

guide to chemical cleaners

Click this picture to learn more about cleaners!

house cleaning help

Click the picture for more cleaning help!

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Cutting Board Care

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I’m interested in learning proper care of a wooden cutting board. I use one for veggies, and meats (I use bleach on it after it has been used for meats) and a separate board for fruits. The reason is that if I cut fruits on the cleaned veggie board, the flavors of onion, garlic, and other stinky stuff gets picked up by the fruit, and well, it tastes yucky. I’ve tried scrubbing with lots of hot soap & water & scrub brush, to no avail. How do I get it clean, and should I treat the wood with anything?

Thanks!
Vampire-Free Since ’08

Heather says:

I could have written this the other night.

At home I have multiple, large cutting boards, but I was at someone else’s house preparing dinner -mango salsa and grilled halibut with watermelon for dessert. I had been procrastinating cutting up the watermelon as they are a giant pain in the rear and I hate the chore. Without thinking I used the same cutting board that I had used for the mango salsa.

Oops.

Fast forward to the next day when I received a phone call about the leftover watermelon smelling of garlic. /shrug It happens. It can be prevented, I was just lazy and or forgetful, you can choose which.

Garlic odor can be neutralized with white vinegar. Keep some vinegar in a spray bottle, rinse the cutting board, spray it with white vinegar, give the acid a moment to work and then wash the board as you normally would. Yes, you will have to smell white vinegar for a few minutes, but you won’t experience the joy of unintentional flavor transfer.

As a general rule, stick with the multiple cutting boards for marathon cooking and to avoid cross-contamination.

Wooden cutting boards do require special care, check out this post on cutting board basics for the full rundown.

For the TL:DR crowd -never soak, wash quickly with hot soap and water, rinse, sanitize with dilute bleach and dry fully. Treat once a month with food grade mineral oil and remove gouges with a scraper not sandpaper.

While we’re at it, you may want to sharpen your knife skills and learn about how to use bleach safely. Nothing ruins date night -or the entertainment budget- quite like a trip to the ER.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com

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Can This Smelly Freezer Be Saved

Dear Home-Ec 101,
Help!
Due to a series of unfortunate events, my small chest freezer (that sits under the house) was left unplugged for 3 WEEKS! Of course the entire inventory was a total loss, but the real problem is the SMELL. It really smelled like something died down there, and it permeated the house for a couple of days.

I have cleaned, bleached, Lysol-ed and baking soda-ed, all to no avail. It sat open and unplugged for a couple of weeks to air out It’s not as bad as it once was, but now that I have plugged the freezer in and closed the lid, the once (finally) faint smell seems stronger. I’m afraid the odor will attach itself to any new food I put in. I am almost ready to throw in the sponge and just get a new freezer, but my inner tightwad is having a hard time with that!
Heather, can this freezer be saved?

Kind regards,
Fetid Freezer

Heather says:

I have good news, there is a very good chance your freezer can be saved. There is a product called activated charcoal, which is charcoal that has been treated with oxygen to make it very porous. This means that it has a ridiculous amount of smell grabbing surface area.

There is a term called adsorb, don’t mix it up with absorb. To absorb means to take in and adsorbing means clinging by chemical attraction. See? SCIENCE! (Do you have any idea how hard it is not to do a Jesse Pinkman reference right now?)
Oh what the heck, I can’t resist, but I’ll stick to the clean version.

 

jesse-science

Those funky odors are the result of organic chemical compounds, which thankfully activated charcoal is super good at attracting and trapping. It’s thankfully much better at grabbing bad odors than the plastic in your freezer.

You can find activated charcoal in the aquarium supply sections of some large box stores and it is also on Amazon under the name activated carbon. Some people complain about the cost of activated charcoal, but compared to the cost of a new freezer, it’s pretty reasonable. It’s really going to come down to how much time and disposable income do you have to invest. If you’ve got enough money to replace the freezer and your time is at a premium, that may the route to take as I also suggest completely dismantling the freezer to clean it.

Think of the freezer as a plastic box wrapped in a Styrofoam or other insulating material and wrapped in another box with a motor and freezer coils attached.

You’ll want to dismantle your chest freezer as much as possible, without disturbing the coils or messing with the motor. You’ll want to be really sure none of the liquid from the thawing meat filtered is still inside the freezer insulating materials of the unit. Look for screws, unscrew them, and gently pull the plastic liner out. In most cases, the insulating material is nonporous.

Once the freezer has been disassembled and any missed leakage cleaned up -use an enzymatic cleaner or dilute vinegar OR dilute bleach.  Let the material dry fully, reassemble, and plug it back in. Now place the activated charcoal in the interior of the freezer and turn it on to its lowest setting. You’re not going to want it to run a lot, but you do want the fan circulating the air.

Close the door, cross your fingers, and give it 24 – 48 hours and I bet you’ll be surprised by the difference.

I have heard some people have had success with regular charcoal  briquettes, but please just NOT the kind with lighter fluid as those have their own smell and you’ll just be trading one funky odor for another. You could also crush the briquettes to increase the adsorbing surface area, too.

For those of you out there who have noticed their ice cubes taste like onions or other strong cooking odors, you may find that keeping a mesh bag of activated charcoal in the freezer really improves the taste and smell of your ice.

Best of luck, what an aggravating experience that had to be.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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Acrylic Flooring Part Deux, Why Do We Do This Again?

Dear Home Ec 101,

I like your suggestion of using an acrylic polish, but the PLEDGE web site I saw said:
“Pledge® FloorCare Multi Surface Finish should be removed from your floor every 6 to 8 applications, or annually, with a solution of 1 cup ammonia and 1/4 cup Pledge® FloorCare Multi Surface Concentrated Cleaner in 1/2 gallon cool water. Then rinse floor with clean water.”

I do not look forward to washing a whole floor with ammonia.

Any suggestions?
Don’t Wanna in Wando

PS All together, I love your site. It’s like talking with my sister and mother around the kitchen table.
Heather says:

Your mom and sister sound like my kind of people, provided they like to play Cards Against Humanity around that table.

No one looks forward to cleaning an entire floor with ammonia. If they do, they should probably get their head examined because you’re right, ammonia isn’t pleasant.

Heck, I don’t know anyone that looks forward to cleaning any floor at any time, much less the giant task of stripping and reapplying acrylic polish. That’s why you only use the acrylic polish when you can no longer bear the look of the floor any longer, thus increasing the length of time between applications.

Sweep or vacuum often, use door mats and kitchen mats, and spot mop most of the time and you can probably stretch out the time between the applications of acrylic polish and only strip the floor when you have to -after that 8th application has started to dull.

That is, unless you have a large dog. Why? Claws are the bane of your floor. Those claws will leave little nicks and dings that will wear off that polish faster than anything other than not sweeping regularly.

Remember the acrylic polish protects the flooring itself from damage, so pay attention to the high traffic areas to make sure you aren’t pushing too long between applications.

Remember regular cleaning and maintenance speaks to the investment and value of an item. Flooring is a giant pain in the butt to purchase and install, so it makes sense to take good care of it. If your flooring is actual linoleum and not just vinyl, it has an expected lifespan of 20 – 40 years -this is also why it is significantly more expensive than vinyl flooring. If the flooring is vinyl, it’s only expected to last half as long as linoleum AND the design is only on the surface. The design may wear off long before the flooring needs to be replaced.

So I agree, playing with ammonia isn’t fun, but you don’t really need to do it more than once a year, maybe even less often than that. And if you truly loathe the idea of it, consider hiring a maid type service for that one job. Get a referral. If I had to guess, it’d probably be about the same as a nice dinner out -this will of course depend on where you live and is under the assumption that Taco Bell is not considered a nice dinner out.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.