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Archive for the ‘Household Equipment’ Category

Cleaning Your Humidifier

February 16th, 2015

imageIn the winter our houses tend to dry out causing static electricity, dry nose, throat and skin problems.  One way to add moisture to our homes is to use a humidifying device.  These machines can be cool mist, steam or evaporative (a fan blows air through a moistened absorbent material like a belt or filter).  These will add moisture back into the home if it is dry but care must be taken to avoid excessive moisture which can lead to bacterial growth if the machines are not maintained and cleaned regularly.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you are using a humidifier in your home:

  • Use distilled or demineralized water in your machines to reduce hard water deposits. Tap water often contains more minerals which can be released in the mist. If the particles are fine enough they can be breathed in which could cause health problems depending on what the type and amount of minerals are.
  • Try to change the water in your humidifier daily. By emptying the tank and wiping it dry it will keep any film and scum from developing in your machine and will reduce the growth of microorganisms. If the tank is not removable use the manufacturer’s instruction to keep the machine clean.
  • If you are using a steam vaporizer keep it out of the reach of children. The steam can cause burns if anyone comes in direct contact with it.
  • Make sure that the humidity in your house doesn’t go beyond 50 percent. If so moisture can build up on windows and walls and can cause mold growth. A tool called a hygrometer can measure the humidity level in your house. They are usually found at your local hardware store.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions on what cleaning products to use. If bleach or other products are used, the tanks will need to be rinsed well before using so that those strong chemicals smells are not released into the air in your house.
  • At the end of the season make sure that all of the parts are cleaned and dry before putting it away. Also clean it thoroughly before bringing it out to use again the next winter.

Remember breathing dirty air can cause problems ranging from flu-like symptoms to infections.  If you suffer from allergies or asthma the problem can be even worse.  By keeping your humidifiers clean and using them correctly you can make your house comfortable and safe.

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Cleaning, Home Environment, Household Equipment, Housing

Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes

January 19th, 2015

 

Here in the upper Midwest plumbers have been busy with the recent cold snap. When the temperature plummets, the risk of pipes freezing goes up. In fact frozen pipes are one of the most common causes of property damage during frigid weather and can cause thousands of dollars in water damage for the home or business owner, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.  Pipes that freeze most frequently are those in unheated interior spaces such as basement, attics, and garages.  But pipes that run through your cabinets or that are against an exterior wall are also at risk. Here’s some advice from the American Red Cross on how to prevent your pipes from freezing as well as how to thaw them if they do.

FREEZING PIPE PREVENTIONIMG_1412

During the cold weather months, take measures inside to keep your pipes warm and water running. Some may conflict with your desire to conserve water and heat, but the extra expense is nothing compared to a hefty repair bill.  Here’s what to do.

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. (If you have small children, be sure to remove any harmful cleaners and household chemicals.)
  • Let the cold water drip from a faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe-even at a trickle-helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night.
  • If you plan to be away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55 ⁰ F.
  • For the long term, add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in those areas.

THAWING FROZEN PIPES

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, you probably have a frozen pipe.  Likely places for frozen pipes include those against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.  If the water is still running, you can take the following steps but if you suspect a more serious problem, call a plumber.

  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, chances are others are frozen too.
  • If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen section is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.

If you need supplemental heat, you can add a space heater to a room where pipes may be at risk.

jill sig

Consumer Management, Home Environment, Household Equipment, Winter

Preventing Falls at Home

January 15th, 2015

This time of year when you hear of people falling most likely you are thinking it is from icy sidewalks.  Each year though thousands of older Americans fall inside the home.  According to the National Council on Aging one in three older Americans falls every year.   Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people aged 65+.  The elderly are not the only ones at risk for falling.  All of us including small children can be injured.

There are several things that can be done to help prevent falls.

  • Establish an exercise routine. Regular exercise helps improve strength and balance.
  • Make sure that you have your vision checked yearly. If your vision is not clear it can cause an increase in falls.
  • Wear shoes both inside and outside. Slippers and socks can sometimes have slippery soles.
  • Get up slowly after you have been sitting or lying down.
  • Go over all medication that you are taking with your doctor or pharmacist. Some can make you dizzy or sleepy without you realizing it.
  • Make sure that the lighting in the room is adequate. If there are dark areas it may lead to tripping over something that has been left on the floor.
  • Make sure if there are throw rugs that they have a non-slip backing so they don’t move when they are stepped on.
  • Keep unnecessary items off of the floor. Magazines, books, blankets as well as other items should always be picked up.
  • Make sure items are stored where they can be easily reached. If you must use a step stool make sure that it is steady and that a chair is never used.
  • Be sure that there are grab bars in a bathroom when needed by the shower, tub or toilet. If a shower or tub is slippery use a non-slip bath mat.
  • Use a night light so that you can see where you are walking at night when it is dark. Many now automatically come on by themselves when it gets dark.

With a few simple changes in a home falls can be prevented for not only older relatives but young ones as well.

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Cleaning, Consumer Management, Home Environment, Household Equipment, Housing

Steps to Safely Fry a Turkey

November 24th, 2014

Have you ever thought about deep frying a turkey? It gives you very tender meat with a nice crispy texture, but in order to keep yourself and your food safe you need to follow some precautions.

  • Completely thaw your turkey or use a fresh turkey. Be sure to remove the neck and giblets bag before cooking.
  • Make sure that your surface where you are frying is flat and in a safe outdoor location that is far away from garages, decks and house siding.
  • Do NOT stuff your turkey.
  • Use a turkey that weighs 12 pounds or less.
  • Make sure your frying pot is large enough for your turkey to be covered by 1 to 2 inches of oil and that there is at least 3-5 inches space between the oil and the top of the pot, so the oil does not boil over the sides.
  • Heat the oil to 350° F. After it has reached this temperature slowly lower the turkey into the hot oil. Constantly monitor the temperature of the oil and never leave it unattended.
  • It will take approximately 3 to 5 minutes per pound for the turkey to cook.
  • Use a meat thermometer to see if the turkey has reached a minimum internal temperature of 165° F. in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
  • If it has not reached that temperature return the turkey immediately to the oil to finish cooking.
  • When the turkey is finished cooking remove from the oil and place on a sturdy tray lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
  • Let rest for 20 minutes before carving.
  • Be sure that the heat is turned off and the pot is put in a spot where nothing will disturb it.

By following these precautions your guests will enjoy a juicy turkey and you will have a safe Thanksgiving!

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Food Preparation, Food Safety, Holiday ideas, Household Equipment

Tips for Storing Furits and Vegetables

September 15th, 2014

fridgeAre you wondering what should be stored in the drawers of your refrigerator?  It is important to know how to best use them to keep your produce at top quality for as long as possible!

Refrigerator drawers are designed to help you adjust the humidity level so it can be different from the rest of the refrigerator.  Many drawers have a control that allows you to increase or decrease the air flow coming into them.  Less air flow means higher humidity.  Since different produce require different levels of humidity it allows you to tailor the drawer to the produce inside and it will last longer.

Here are a few tips to store your fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator:

  1. Vegetables typically like high humidity and fruits like lower humidity.
  2. Leafy greens like high humidity (85-95%) and cold temperatures(32-40°F).   This includes lettuce, spinach, chard, collards, mustard greens and watercress. Bulbs like green onions, leaks and endive should also be stored here.
  3. Apples, grapes, cherries, apricots, nectarines and other tree fruits like less humidity and cold temperatures (32-35°F).
  4. Don’t put ripe fruits and veggies in the same crisper drawer since fruits give off ethylene gas.   Apple, pears, plums, cantaloupes and peaches are all high-ethylene producers. This can cause green vegetables to turn yellow, lettuce to get rust colored spots, potatoes to sprout and carrots to turn bitter.
  5. Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and grapefruit can be stored in the main part of your refrigerator since they prefer even less humidity.
  6. Some fruits and vegetables do better outside of the refrigerator. Tomatoes, potatoes and onions prefer a cool, dark, dry place. (65-70°F).
  7. Wash your fruits and vegetables before eating, not before storing them.

By storing your foods properly you save money since your fruits and vegetables will remain fresh as long as possible!

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Food Preservation, Food Safety, Household Equipment

Vacuum Sealers

July 17th, 2014

vacuum sealer machineVacuum sealers are machines that are marketed for vacuum packaging food at home. There are many different models available but these machines are intended to extend the storage time of refrigerated foods, dried foods and frozen foods. I bought one to use with freezing meats and leftovers to keep the quality better for a longer period of time. The benefit of removing the air before sealing is the increased storage time of refrigerated, dried and frozen foods. If the air is not removed, oxygen can cause fats to develop rancid flavors and change the food’s color, texture and flavor. Vacuum seal bags are designed to help keep meat and other foods fresh in the freezer by preventing the loss of moisture and the development of freezer burn.

What vacuum sealers do not do is make a product that needs to be refrigerated shelf stable. The removal of oxygen from a food package doesn’t eliminate all bacterial growth; it just changes the type of growth that can occur. Temperature control is critical for safe vacuum-storage. If foods that require refrigeration are vacuum sealed then left at room temperature, there is a risk of harmful bacteria growing and causing illness. This also means that frozen items that are vacuum sealed should be thawed in the refrigerator, NEVER on the counter.

To avoid risks when vacuum sealing follow these safe food handling tips:

  • Vacuum sealing food does not replace the need to pressure can or water bath home canned foods that are stored at room temperature.
  • Keep vacuum sealed perishable items that need refrigeration (fresh produce, meat and fish, semi-dried foods, and moist bakery items), in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Use a vacuum sealer to extend the shelf life of properly dried nuts, fruits and vegetables and meat jerky. The removal of the oxygen will help these foods continue to taste fresh.
  • Wash your hands before and during the sealing process. Keep utensils, cutting boards and counters clean.
  • Don’t allow the food you are vacuum sealing to be out of the refrigerator before or after you seal it.

Remember to always follow safe food handling practices and enjoy the benefits of vacuum sealing foods.

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Food Safety, Household Equipment

CLEANING YOUR BARBECUE GRILL

June 5th, 2014

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With Father’s Day fast approaching, I’ve been reminiscing about grilling in the backyard with my dad. He had an award-winning recipe for Grilled Stuffed Pork Chops and my mouth waters to this day just remembering biting into them. He was a livestock producer so we always had an abundance of fresh meat cuts to barbecue on the old Weber charcoal grill, along with fresh-picked Iowa sweet corn and my mom’s fresh garden vegetables. Such good memories!

Cleaning the grill was not such a fun memory, however. Like most people, I still don’t enjoy cleaning the grill; but a dirty grill can mean off flavors and/or excess smoke the next time you barbecue.  The following are  steps we can take to make this “dirty job” easier:

GRATES:

BEFORE lighting the grill, apply non-stick spray on the grates. This cuts down cleanup time later. The grates need to be cleaned completely after every use. Use a stiff wire brush (or if you don’t have one, crumpled up aluminum foil works for this). Most people don’t know that it’s actually better to do this AFTER you cook while the grill is still warm as cooling hardens the food on the grate.

CHARCOAL GRILLS:stock-photo-grill-138335288[1]

Many charcoal grills come with a handy ash catcher attached to the bottom. These grills still need to be cleaned after every use to help cut down on excess smoke and bad flavors. Simply brush out the ashes and cooked foods that have dropped to the bottom of the grill. Occasionally get in there and really scrape out that stuff that seems to develop on the bottom.. At least once a year, get out a bucket of soapy water and give it a really good clean and rinse.

 

 

 

timthumb[2]GAS GRILLS:

Your gas grill may have a “clean” setting on the knobs. I’m sorry to report that this is not how you clean your grill. It will burn up stuff that has fallen down into the grill, but it doesn’t really clean it. Like a charcoal grill, you need to clean your gas grill after each use by cleaning the grates and brushing off the sides and lid. Regularly lift out the cooking grate and clean off the barrier above the burners. This might be lava rock, briquettes, or some variation of metal plates, and cooked on grease and food particles should be cleaned periodically.

Once a year, do a more thorough cleaning on your gas grill. To do this, start by disconnecting the gas and then lift out the grill parts layer by layer. Once you get down to the burners, inspect them thoroughly. Make sure nothing is blocking the flow of gas. If a burner is clogged, it will give you uneven heat and make for poor grilling. If you can clean it, do so, otherwise, replace it. If your grill uses lava rocks or ceramic briquettes you need to make sure that these are not too heavily encrusted with cooked on foods. If they are, replace them to avoid bad tasting smoke that dirty rocks can produce.

Take everything out of the gas grill and clean it completely with soapy water. Heat up the grill completely before you cook again to make sure that any leftover soap residue burns off.

One more handy tip: I use rubber or plastic gloves to clean my grill – it saves fingernails and keeps soot and grime off the hands.

Taking these steps to clean your grill regularly will help ensure delicious barbecued meals time after time.  Make memories in the backyard with your friends and family and enjoy the summer grilling season – it flies by quickly!

jill sig

Cleaning, Food Preparation, Home Environment, Household Equipment

Smelly Fridge??

March 10th, 2014

imageIf you have ever lost your power for a long period of time or had your refrigerator or freezer fail and food has spoiled, you know how hard it is to remove the odor.  Here are some steps to help you get your refrigerator or freezer odor free.

  1. Dispose of any food that has spoiled.
  2. Wash all of the shelves and drawers in hot water and detergent.  Then rinse using a sanitizing solution of 1 tablespoon unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water.
  3. Wash the interior of the refrigerator and freezer with hot water and baking soda.  Make sure that you also clean the door and gasket.  Rinse with the sanitizing solution.
  4. Leave the door open for about 15 minutes to allow for air to circulate.  Remember if you have small children make sure that they don’t get trapped inside.

If the odor still remains try one or more of the following:

  1. Use equal parts of vinegar and water and wipe the inside of the unit.
  2. Leave the door open and allow the refrigerator or freezer to air out for several days.  Again take precautions if you have small children.
  3. Try stuffing both the refrigerator and freezer with crumpled up newspapers sprinkled with water.  Close the door and leave the papers in for several days with the appliance is running.  Next, remove the newspapers and clean with vinegar and water.
  4. Sprinkle coffee grounds or baking soda on cookie sheets or in shallow containers and put in several shelves of the refrigerator or freezer.
  5. Place a cotton ball soaked with vanilla in both the refrigerator and freezer.  Check in 24 hours for improvement.
  6. Look for a commercial cleaner.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

With persistence, most odors can be removed.  If you are unable to clean it and need to dispose of the refrigerator contact your local waste collector to find out what rules apply to disposing it.

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Cleaning, Household Equipment

Oh the smell of burned popcorn…

March 3rd, 2014

imagePhew!  Have you ever burned popcorn in your microwave and wondered how to get rid of the smell?  Try mixing ½ cup of lemon juice and 1 cup of water in a bowl.  Cook in the microwave for 5 minutes.  The fresh lemon smell will go up and out of the vents, cleaning them, since that is where the odor is residing.  If the smell isn’t completely gone try adding more lemon juice and boiling it again!

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Cleaning, Household Equipment

Cloudy glassware?

February 20th, 2014

etchingIf you have cloudy glasses after they come out of the dishwasher it could either be from hard water filming or etching.  To identify the cause try soaking the glassware in undiluted white vinegar for about 5 minutes.  If the film is gone, the cloudiness is from hard water.  If it is not removed,  the glasses are etched.

Etching is a permanent pitting or eroding of the actual glass surface.  It usually appears as shades of blue, purple, brown or pink when the glass is held at an angle toward the light.  As the etching becomes more advanced it starts to appear cloudy or can even look frosted.  Unfortunately there is no way to restore glasses that are etched.

Here are some tips to help avoid etching on your glasses.

  1.  If all of the food is removed from the dishes prior to loading them in the dishwasher it increases the alkaline concentration of the dishwasher detergent and it increases the possibility of etching.
  2. Adjust the amount of detergent according to the level of water hardness.  If you have soft water less detergent is needed.
  3. Having the water temperature too high can also be a problem.  Water entering the dishwasher should be between 120° F – 140° F.

If the vinegar removed the cloudiness here are some steps to keep it from returning.

  1. Use the correct amount of detergent for the level of hardness in your water.  If you have extremely hard water it is very hard to get acceptable dishwashing results.
  2. If the water temperature is too cool it can also cause a film.  Try running the hot water in your sink before starting the dishwasher.  That will clear the cold water from the line.  This is especially important when using a shorter wash cycle.
  3. The use of a rinse aid improves the sheeting action of the water, allowing it to slide off the dishes more easily and not leave water spots.

Use these tips to keep your glasses looking new!

Carolyn

Cleaning, Consumer Management, Household Equipment