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How to Keep Your Stainless Steel Clean

Article by: Bonnie McCarthy

For the past few years, designers have debated whether or not stainless steel will continue to reign supreme in kitchens across America or lose its popularity to glossy black or white appliances boasting sleek, smooth finishes.

While the trendsetters debate, however, millions of us continue to choose to live with the commercially cool look and functionality of stainless steel. Whether you have a little or a lot of the shiny stuff, here’s what experts suggest we do about those fingerprints, and how to care for and clean one of the hardest-working surfaces in the house.

Keeping Stains off the Stainless. Aside from looking great and having a smooth, nonporous surface that hinders the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms, one of the reasons stainless steel is so widely used in professional kitchens is that it won’t rust easily in spite of daily wear and tear. 

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean rust and stains can’t happen.The experts at the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers say that if the protective film on stainless surfaces is scratched with a steel pad or wire brush, comes into contact with hard water that is allowed to puddle or sit, or is exposed to chlorides from household cleansers, it becomes vulnerable to damage.

Safety first. For safe care and cleaning, start with the right tools. The European Stainless Steel Development Association, or ESDA, suggests using soft sponges and microfiber cloths as the first line of defense.

Don’t clean with steel scouring pads, which can scratch. Instead choose plastic scrubbing pads for tough jobs.

Go with the grain. On stainless steel surfaces with brushed or polished finishes, always wipe and scrub in the same direction as the “grain” lines in the metal.

Better with age. The ESDA says in addition to the availability of an increasing number of fingerprint-proof finishes, regular stainless steel shows fewer fingerprints over time. Patience is a virtue.

Stainless solutions. When it comes to choosing cleaning products, Mindi DiNunno, owner of Polished 2 Perfection, says whatever you decide, the key to cleaning is sticking to it. “Stay consistent,” she says. “Most cleansers don’t blend together well, and it makes it much harder to keep perfect. For appliances, we use CLR [Stainless Steel Cleaner]. It will clean off any hard-water stains from the water and ice dispenser and any drips or food.” 

Like the other experts, she says to make sure to go with the grain.

Since products containing chloride can be harmful to the protective finish on stainless steel, the ESDA advises using the following:

  • Diluted vinegar (for cleaning limescale)
  • Baking soda (to remove coffee deposits)
  • Alcoholic solvents, such as acetone (for removing adhesives)
  • Chloride-free glass sprays (especially efficient for polished, mirror-like surfaces)
  • Commercially manufactured pastes and sprays that specify use on stainless steel

Naturally clean. For a DIY approach to cleaning using pantry items, the sustainable-living team at Eartheasy advises dampening a cloth with undiluted white vinegar or olive oil and wiping in the direction of the grain.

To clean a stainless sink, it suggests pouring club soda on an absorbent cloth to scrub, then wiping dry.

Shine on. Spray cleansers made specifically for cleaning decorative stainless steel surfaces usually contain silicone oil, and although they will remove fingerprints and smudges, they will not prevent them. The ESDA says the silicone oil can be completely removed by washing with mild soap and water. 

Using a polishing paste is another way to keep stainless sparkling. Commercially sold pastes, such as 3M Marine Metal Restorer and Polish, will create a microscopic wax layer on the surface that will make it easy to clean. Since the pastes are resistant to detergents, treatment with a polishing paste may last several months. It can be removed using alcohol on a soft cloth.

It’s important to note that pastes and sprays meant for cleaning decorative stainless steel elements — refrigerator doors, kitchen backsplashes — should not be used on pots, pans or surfaces where food is prepared.

Do not use silver dip polishes, like the ones used for cleaning jewelry, because they are corrosive to stainless steel.

Here’s Help for Your Next Appliance Shopping Trip

Article By: Vanessa Brunner

When shopping for new appliances or planning your dream kitchen, the first step is to do some hard thinking about what you really need, how your kitchen is laid out and the way you live and cook. 

What kind of cook are you? Do you want to go ecofriendly? Mix vintage appliances with new? Will multiple generations be using the kitchen? What’s the best refrigerator shape and style for your household? Once you’ve addressed the necessities, consider special features like a warming drawer or wine fridge to make cooking and entertaining easier and more fun. 

There’s a lot to consider. Start your planning with these practical guides to selecting appliances, along with plenty of photos to inspire you. 

Find the right appliance layout. Is the kitchen work triangle dead? To some this kitchen layout plan seems antiquated; to others it’s vital. Regardless of your point of view, the work triangle has some important aspects that can help you plan your kitchen appliance layout.  

Go the ecofriendly route. Stop smacking your head against the wall every time your electricity bill comes. Choosing and using your appliances wisely can help cut down on your bills and your carbon footprint.  

Look beyond stainless steel. Many homeowners are looking for a change from stainless steel. Mix things up a bit with warm white. The right finish and applications work well in traditional, vintage and modern kitchens. 

 

What’s old is new again. The charm of vintage and retro appliances can be appreciated by almost everyone. But not everyone finds the work involved in finding, repairing and maintaining these appliances worth it. See if this investment is worth your while. 

Embrace universal design. Design your new kitchen for today and tomorrow. Whether you’re living in your “forever” home or want to accommodate special needs right now, these appliances can contribute to a universally designed kitchen that everyone’s comfortable in. 

 

Specific Appliances

Ovens. 
Gone are the days when ovens had to be placed right under the range. Today oven arrangements have more to do with the confines of a kitchen and with individual cooking styles than with appliance limitations. 
 

Cooktops. Finding the right cooktop isn’t just about looks — even if you love those big gas ranges, they could actually hinder your kitchen’s potential. What’s right for you? Take a look at this guide — you might be surprised.

 

Hood fans. Fans are often left until last when shopping for kitchen appliances. Even if they’re not as fun to look at as a colorful new fridge, they’re just as important. Learn the lingo and get ventilation that suits your style and budget.  

Stovetops. The stovetop tends to be one of the most expensive appliances in your kitchen, so make sure your investment is worthwhile. Yes, function and style are important, but you also want to make sure the stovetop fits with your preexisting cooking space, counter height and cabinetry.

 

Ranges. When chosen and installed correctly, a range can act as much like a piece of art as an appliance. Take a look at some of the most popular range colors, materials and styles on the market.

Small-appliance storage. Who doesn’t love kitchen gadgets? Waffle makers, mixers, coffee machines, food processors and ice cream makers are part of what makes cooking fun. But all tof hese single-purpose appliances can pile up fast, taking up tons of counter space. Keep these goodies tucked away neatly with a few smart storage ideas.

 

Microwaves. Microwaves certainly aren’t the prettiest of kitchen appliances, but they’re a necessity for most homes. Make the most of yours — you’d be surprised what a difference the right output and installation can make.  

Refrigerators. There’s quite a range in refrigerator prices — several thousand dollars depending on brand, size and style — so make sure every dollar you spend is worthwhile. How much space do you need? What accessories will make your life easier? This guide can help you narrow down the choices.  

Warming drawers. Keep your food piping hot, warm plates and even slow cook some foods with one of today’s most popular small appliances: a warming drawer.  

Microwave drawers.Most of the time, a microwave gets installed somewhere hard to reach — above the refrigerator, on a top shelf or right above the stove. Installed just below the countertop, microwave drawers make it even easier to warm up your food. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine refrigerators. Most wine lovers don’t have the room for a wine cellar, but that doesn’t mean they can’t keep favorite bottles at hand. A wine fridge is easy to install and takes up hardly any room — perfect for smaller spaces like apartment kitchens. 

12 Ways to Make Your Home Feel New Again

Treat your furniture, walls, floors and countertops to some TLC, to give them a just-bought look for a fraction of the cost!

Photo Credit: The Marshall Kitchen | American Cabinet & Flooring, Inc.

Shopping is the easy part for some – the thrill of the chase, the flutter of excitement at bringing a new treasure home, choosing a new paint color or materials for a remodel. But what happens to those glorious finds and finishes months or years later? Before you give in to the urge to shop for new stuff, consider some home maintenance to show off what you have in the best possible light. You may find that after giving what you already have a little extra TLC, your craving for new stuff fades. You never know; you may even find yourself falling for your home and decor all over again.

#1 – Maintain Upholstery

Regular maintenance can go a long way toward keeping upholstery looking as good as new for as long as possible. Vacuum the fabric and rotate cushions each time you clean the living room, and clean spills and mend small tears right away.

Even if a stain has been there for a long time, it can still often be removed with stain removal or hydrogen peroxide; treat it repeatedly until it fades. Just be sure to test new cleaning products on a less-visible area of fabric first.

#2 – Remove Scuff Marks and Touch Up Paint

Small things like scuff marks from shoes and bags, tiny dings and chipped corners can make a space feel worn out. Spend a day scrubbing, patching and touching up paint, and you’ll notice a world of difference.

#3 – Make Furniture Gleam

If you can’t remember the last time you polished your wood furniture, doing so will probably make you wonder why you don’t do it all the time – the difference is amazing.

The type of finish on your furniture will determine what you use to polish it. Midcentury teak pieces are often finished with oil alone, so simply rubbing in a bit more teak oil from time to time will suffice. Finished wood pieces may respond well to a furniture paste or wax – read the directions thoroughly before trying any new product. 

#4 – Remove Stains from Marble

This porous surface is prone to staining, so it’s important to wipe up spills immediately. Of course, there are time that just doesn’t happen. No matter how or when it happened, there still may be hope for restoring the beauty of your marble. Check the chart available from the Marble Institute of America for methods of removing all sorts of stains. If you still can’t get it out, call a pro – improving the counters you have is still cheaper than getting new ones. 

#5 – Care for Wood Counters

Remove scratches and stains on your wood countertops by gently sanding the area; then rub in a food-grade mineral oil with a soft rag. To prevent future damage, always use trivets under hot items, wipe up spills quickly and cut items on cutting boards, not on the counter.

#6 – Refresh Old Wood Floors

Even if you don’t want to have your wood floors refinished, there are still ways to make them look their best. What you use to refresh your floors will depend on the type of finish your wood floors have.

Floors with a natural oil-rubbed finish can be shined up with wood oil. Really old, worn floors may do well with a wax. Floors finished with polyurethane can be cleaned with a solution of white vinegar and water. Just avoid getting the floors really wet by applying the solution with a barely damp mop and wiping dry with a towel immediately after. Excess water on wood floors of any type can potentially cause damage.

#7 – Refluff Area Rugs

Fluffy rugs like flokatis and sheepskins look amazing when you first bring them home, but… less amazing after several months of wear and tear. Most small natural flokati and sheepskin rugs can be hand washed (or even machine washed on delicate) in mild soap and then air dried.

Between washings, simply shake out and then brush your rug with a dog brush. Just be sure to read the cleaning instructions before deciding on a method.

#8 – Deep Clean Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

Regular vacuuming and spot cleaning will get you only so far. Every once in a while, it pays to rent, borrow or buy a steam cleaner to give your carpeting a deep clean. To help the floor dry as quickly and completely as possible, wait for a dry day ant set up a dehumidifier in the room afterward.

#9 – Condition Leather

Leather furniture can actually look better with age, provided that it is properly cared for. Use a leather conditioner a few times each year to keep the leather from drying out and cracking.

Keep it looking fresh by vacuuming and then buffing with a dry microfiber cloth as needed. Wipe up spills as soon as they happen, using a dry cloth to soak up any liquid. 

#10 – Brighten Whites

Slipcovers, pillow covers, curtains, towels and more can all use a good refreshing from time to time. If you don’t want to use chlorine bleach on your whites, try an oxygen – or hydrogen peroxide-based nonchlorine bleach instead. 

#11 – Touch Up Appliances

Years of use can create all sorts of stains and scratches on the once-pristine finish of your washer and dryer. If new appliances are not in the cards, consider painting yours with a product designed for the task, like the Appliance Enamel paint from Rust-Oleum. You can also use appliance paint on wornout finishes to the dishwasher. Do not use it on surfaces that get hot, like stovetops. 

#12 – Stock Up for Proper Maintenance

Beyond your usual cleaning tools, if there are any special items that would make it easier to care for your home and belongings, go ahead and make the investment. If you have lots of carpeting, for instance, a good steam cleaner could be a worthy addition. Leather conditioner, wood oil, furniture polish – having the little things you need at hand can help you keep your home looking its best. 

Universal Design for Kitchens

A Few Simple Changes Can Enhance the Functionality for Any User

Unlike universal kitchens designed years ago, universal design today doesn’t mean boring design, but quite the opposite. It is important to note that universal design practices are broader than that of barrier-free design, and are in fact universal. Almost without exception, features or flexibility added to a product to accommodate individuals with temporarily or permanently reduced abilities in some areas have proven to be beneficial to users in general. In many cases, more people without a disability will find features useful than the number of people in the original target audience.

A curb cutout is a good example. First, they were implemented for people in wheelchairs; however, they are used much more often by people on bicycles, baby strollers, pushing grocery carts or wheeled luggage than by people in wheelchairs.

If you’ve been designing kitchens with your clients’ needs in mind, you’re probably utilizing universal design. Your clients most likely have specific needs for their families. When designing a universal kitchen, you have to keep in mind the capabilities of each person utilizing the space. In most situations, we are dealing with families with small children, parents and in some cases, even grandparents, so we will take this scenario into consideration. Following are some simple ways to incorporate universal design into a kitchen.

Photo: KraftMaid | Passport Series

Surfaces: make sure they’re firm and stable. If there are overhangs on countertops such as snack bars, make sure they are supported well enough for anyone that might use it as an aid for getting up from their chair.

Dish Storage: the bottom shelf typically is the only shelf accessible to average-sized women, and it can also be too high to get a stack of dishes in and out of easily. Utilizing base cabinet drawers as dish storage will make dishes more accessible to people in wheelchairs, shorter people, elderly and for children. When possible, bring wall cabinets down to countertop height to allow more wall storage for dishes. 

Dishwashers: when able, raise the dishwasher 6 to 12 inches from the floor by adding a drawer below or by using two dishwasher drawers mounted side-by-side or on either side of the sink. 

Cabinet Pulls: there are several different options you can use for this application. The touch-latch option for doors and drawers on full overlay or European door styles make the doors longer than the cabinets to create a lip where you could put your hand behind the door to pull open. Knobs and pulls remain good options as long as they are not petite and smooth. Look for larger pieces with plenty of room for your fingers. 

Appliances: some refrigerators are extremely difficult and take way too much strength to open. If designing for somebody with little upper body strength, I would avoid large appliances with heavy doors. Microwave and refrigerator drawers would be better options. 

Light Switches: switches with large flat panels will work best.

Lighting: create well-lit space using combinations of under-cabinet lighting, general lighting, task lighting and decorative lighting. A dimmer switch on each fixture will allow adjustment for every user.

Counter Edges: A countertop that is a contrasting color from surrounding cabinets and the backsplash or countertop, with a contrasting front edge, makes for a visual aid to determine where one surface ends and one begins. 

Wall Ovens: Mount double ovens side-by-side rather than stacked, and mount them at about 30 inches above the floor. 

Faucets: choose faucets that have levers you could operate with a fist, or better yet, faucets with touch control options. Avoid faucets with controls that take a lot of finger strength or dexterity to operate.

Flooring: slip-resistant and non-reflective floors, distressed wood and slate are two examples of universal flooring.

Counter Heights: consider a table height for children, people in wheelchairs, and for those that find sitting and working easier. Create a standard countertop height for an average user, taller heights for taller people and for people that have difficulty bending over. The taller counter height can be anything higher than 36 inches and should be determined by the user.

Get the Luxury Look for Less

Best and Worst Kitchen Appliances, Countertops, Flooring and More


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(Photo: Thinkstock)

Got a bottomless budget for your dream kitchen? You could pay for the sleekest pro-style appliances the most luxurious stone countertop, and the trendiest hardwood flooring and still end up paying again to fix things that break down, crack, or dent. Or you could use our advice to make every dollar count by sidestepping high-priced pitfalls in the first place. 

And if your budget is more in the $15,000-to-$30,000 range that most homeowners spend on renovations, relax: You can have a beautiful kitchen that’s functional and efficient, and only looks expensive, like the example here. It combines semi-custom cabinets, quartz countertops, and vinyl flooring to achieve an urban sophistication befitting its city setting.

Appliances


Kitchen Aid.jpg

KitchenAid KDRU763V $6,000 (Photo: Consumer Reports)High End: A pro-style, 36-inch range with high-Btu burners; a built-in refrigerator with panels that match the surrounding cabinetry; and whisper-quiet dishwashers are expected in today’s luxury homes. “If buyers walk into a high-end home and see apartment-grade or even midrange appliances, they’re going to wonder what else is missing from their wish list,” says Jim Hamilton, regional Vice President of the National Association of Realtors.

Separate steam ovens, which can cost several thousand dollars and are pitched as a healthful way to prepare vegetables, fish, and even desserts, are a popular trend in high-end appliances. “Restaurants have been steaming food for years. Now the technology is finally coming to the residential market,” says Laurie Haefele, a designer-architect in Santa Monica, CA. Some models combine steam and convection cooking to lock in moisture while browning foods that require it.

But not all high-end appliances deliver. Though we recommend KitchenAid dual-fuel ranges, its electric and gas models have been repair-prone, as have Jenn-Air’s electric ranges, wall ovens, and cooktops. And some of Viking’s Professional-series built-in refrigerators are at the bottom of our ratings.


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Samsung FTQ307NWGX $1,700 (Photo: Consumer Reports)

For Less: Many mainstream brands have upped their styling with “faux pro” features, including beefy controls and a stainless-steel finish. And they equal or surpass their pricey counterparts when it comes to cooking and reliability. GE’s $1,500 Profile PGB910SEM has sleek styling, and it’s our top-performing gas range. Or consider an induction range or cooktop,which uses electromagnetism to deliver pinpoint heating and control. Among refrigerators, cabinet-depth models offer the streamlined look of built-ins for thousands less. 

Flooring

High End: Wood has warmth and elegance and can be used in adjacent rooms, creating a seamless flow between spaces. “Plus if you drop a teacup on a wood floor, the cup has a fighting chance,” says Kelly Stewart, a National Kitchen & Bath Association-certified kitchen designer in Stamford, CT.


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Mullican St. Andrews Solid Oak Strip 10930, $6.30 per sqft (Photo: Consumer Reports)Antique wood floors, milled from timbers reclaimed from centuries-old buildings, have character, but they’ve been particularly prone to wear and tear in our tests. Performance-wise, you’re better off with solid wood flooring with a factory finish, which costs more up front than unfinished flooring but lasts longer and eliminates the mess of on-site finishing. 

Even the most durable wood floors are no match for heavy traffic, especially if it includes sandy shoes and dog’s claws. Durable stones such as granite and quartzite offer more protection and a sense of permanence. “People subconsciously associate stone with stability underfoot, so its a natural choice for flooring,” says New York City architect Leonard Kady. 


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Quick-Step Perspectives Ansel Oak UF1259, $4 per sq ft (Photo: Consumer Reports)For Less: Engineered wood flooring, which has a veneer or real wood over substrate, can be floated over the subfloor, saving on installation costs. The downside is that most can be refinished only once, whereas solid flooring can be refinished multiple times.

Tile is an all-natural option that realistically mimics costly materials. “Antique limestone floors from a mansion in France are marvelous, but you can use ceramic tile to achieve a similar look for a fraction of the cost, and they’re a lot easier to maintain,” Kady says. Vinyl flooring is another less expensive option with some very convincing faux patterns, including wood and natural stone. 

Countertops


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White Carrera Marble, $150 per sq ft (Photo: Consumer Reports)High End: Authenticity is the catchphrase in countertops. That means natural stone for top-tier designers, though many are moving away from speckled granites such as Uba Tuba in favor of wavy marble, especially in popular white kitchens. But given its susceptibility to staining and scratching, marble is not for everyone, cautions Jonas Carnemark, a design-builder in Washington, D.C. who is certified by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

“Designers talk about patina, but you have to remember that’s just a fancy term for scratches and stains,” he says. If, like many homeowners, you want things to stay looking new, consider quartz, a highly durable engineered stone that can resemble natural stone. All white-quartz countertops are also popular thanks to improvements in technology that give them the purest tone. 


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Formica IdealEdge Laminate, $16 per sq ft (Photo: Consumer Reports)For Less: For example, shop around for affordable stone slabs. If you can fall in love with a Danby marble from Vermont instead of one of the more expensive Italian imports, you’re going to save at least 20%. There are even bigger savings out there with granite, especially if you choose from remnants at the stone yard. Some granite has wavy marble-like veining.

Laminate, the most affordable countertop option by far, has come a long way. The latest printing technologies result in faux patterns that look like real stone, or you can choose a solid white that’s suited to contemporary kitchens. Formica has even eliminated the unsightly black line along the edge of the countertop that used to be laminate’s telltale sign. 

Cabinets


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Fieldstone Custom Cabinet, $475 (Photo: Consumer Reports)High End: In the most expensive kitchens, cabinets are custom-built to the precise dimensions of the room. The result is a fully integrated look that’s in keeping with the current taste for clean, minimalist design. 

The good news is that this style is inherently less expensive – and easier to clean – than the once-fashionable country kitchen, which called for cabinetry with elaborate moldings and applied detail. The bad news is that custom cabinets of any description cost tens of thousands of dollars. “It’s half the cost of the kitchen,” says designer-architect Laurie Haefele, recalling projects for which the cabinet bill alone ran to six figures. 

For Less: If the layout of the existing cabinets works and the units are plumb, square, and sturdy, you could refinish them with a fresh coat of paint or reface them by replacing the cabinet doors and drawers and applying veneers to the face frames and ends. Retrofitting the cabinets with pull-out drawers, lazy Susans, and retractable trash cans can improve their function.


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If your cabinets are too far gone, you can save 30% or more by choosing semi-custom units. Stock units save even more, without necessarily sacrificing style. Ikea Stock Cabinet, $330 (Photo: Consumer Reports)

“There are a plethora of showrooms where you can get the full kitchen from Italy or Germany, but we’ve been able to integrate Ikea cabinets for budget-minded clients that offer a similar look,”says Chicago architect Pam Lamaster-Millet. “The trick is finding a skilled installer who knows the tricks for making the units look built-in.” That might include applying a toe kick to base cabinets or a valance to upper cabinets to conceal the undercabinet lighting.

Whether semi-custom or stock, the features that held up best in our cabinet tests include solid-wood or plywood doors; boxes made of ½- to ¾ -inch plywood;solid-wood drawer sides with dovetail joints, full-extension glides, and a plywood bottom; and adjustable, ¾-inch plywood or medium-density fiberboard shelving.

Spending Traps to Avoid

  • Poor Planning – changing the design after the project is under way is guaranteed to break the budget. Proper planning, including showroom visits and meeting with professionals, will take a couple of months.

  • Skimping on Labor – sooner or later the cracks will show with poor construction. Invest in quality, especially for cabinet installation and tile setting, where small mistakes can lead to big disappointment.

  • Paying More for Pointless Features – smart appliances are supposed to save money by powering down when electricity rates are highest. But you’ll only reap the rewards if your home has a “smart” meter and your utility company offers time-of-use rates. Otherwise, you’ll be paying more for a technology that may be years away.

  • Expecting a Fridge to Prevent Spoilage – Food preservation features are the latest thing for marketing. But the claims are hard to measure. What you can do is find a refrigerator that delivers top temperature performance in our tests.

  • Falling for High-Priced Fixtures – stainless steel sinks top our ratings, even in less expensive thickness. Popular pullout sprays are available on entry-level faucets. As for lighting, the illumination that matters most comes from inexpensive – and hidden – undercabinet fixtures.

(Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring Designer: Clay Bernard)

Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.