In the spirit of spring cleaning and daily housekeeping, I'm passing along some household tips. I love getting random bits of knowledge that will make my daily life easier or more efficient. A friend of mine forwarded an email to me, and I've taken my favorite pieces of advice from it to share with you.
- Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. It will stay fresh much longer and not mold.
- Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating. Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.
- Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef. It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking.
- Leftover snickers bars from Easter can make a delicious dessert. Simply chop them up with the food chopper. Peel, core and slice a few apples. Place them in a baking dish and sprinkle the chopped candy bars over the apples. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes! Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream. Yummy!
- Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove. Set heat to med-low and heat til warm. This keeps the crust crispy instead of soggy microwave pizza.
*That's a genius idea!
- When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount and eat less sugar and calories per serving.
*Why have I never done this!? There's never enough in that little can...
- To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.
- Use a wet cotton ball or Q-tip to pick up the small shards of glass you can't see easily.
- To keep squirrels from eating your plants, sprinkle them with cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper doesn't hurt the plant and the squirrels won't come near it.
- Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose. Place pin in seam of slacks and static is gone.
- Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don't dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and see how easily it comes right out.
- Hate foggy windshields? Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of your car When the windows fog, rub with the eraser! Works better than a cloth!
- If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include something inside,just place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. Viola! It unseals easily.
For the Dishwasher’s Sake, Go Easy on the Detergent
By Alina Tugend
Published: March 12, 2010
Most of us learned how to use a washing machine or dishwasher in our parents’ house many years ago and haven’t really changed our methods, even though most appliances have evolved radically since then. We rarely, if ever, read the manuals when we buy a new one or glance through the instructions on the box of detergent or bottle of dishwashing liquid.
But because we’re probably using these appliances incorrectly, our dishes and clothes may not be coming out as clean as they could be. And we may also be damaging the machines.
Let me start with soap. The No. 1 sin, according to repair people and appliance experts, seems to be adding too much soap to washing machines or dishwashers.
“Nobody thinks they use too much soap,” said Vernon Schmidt, who has been a repairman for almost 35 years and is the author of a self-published book, “Appliance Handbook for Women: Simple Enough Even a Man Can Understand.” But apparently most of us are in denial.
Washing machines and dishwashers are made to use far less water now than older models and, therefore, need less soap. And detergents have also become increasingly concentrated. So a little goes a long way.
“Most people use 10 to 15 times the amount of soap they need, and they’re pouring money down the drain,” Mr. Schmidt said.
Following the instructions on the soap container is a good first step. Christina Saunders, a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble, which makes Tide, Cheer, Gain and other laundry detergents, said researchers at the company did thousands of loads of laundry to determine the right amount of soap needed.
Mr. Schmidt, however, argues that depending on how hard or soft your water is, one-eighth to one-half of what is usually recommended should be adequate.
Too much detergent can make your clothes stiff and shorten the life of your machine. An excess of soap can also cause a buildup of mold and mildew, said Jill Notini, a spokeswoman for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, a trade group.
With high-efficiency machines — which includes all front-loading machines and any top loader that specifically states that it’s high efficiency — it’s a good idea to use detergents specifically made for them, she said. The detergents usually have H.E. on the front of the container. But don’t expect to see a lot of soap action.
“If people see suds, they think their clothes are getting clean, but that’s wrong — it means you’re using a lot of extra detergent,” Ms. Notini said.
Here is Mr. Schmidt’s test to determine if you’re oversoaping. Take four to six clean bath towels, put them in your front-loading washing machine (one towel for a top loader). Don’t add any detergent or fabric softener. Switch to the hot water setting and medium wash and run it for about five minutes.
Check for soap suds. If you don’t see any suds right away, turn off the machine and see if there is any soapy residue. If you see suds or residue, it is soap coming out of your clothes from the last wash.
“I’ve had customers that had to run their towels through as many as eight times to get the soap out,” Mr. Schmidt said, who lives in Indiana. He offers other handy advice on his Web site, refrigdoc.com.
Too much soap is also a problem in dishwashers and can cause dishes and glasses to look filmy. Again, check the detergent container for recommended amounts — you definitely don’t have to fill up the entire soap container in the dishwasher.
Also, if your plastic items come out still wet, that doesn’t mean your dishwasher is not doing its job. Most dishwashers today emit less heat than the older models, so plastic doesn’t dry completely.
Also, remove baked on food and large chunks, but for the most part, everyone I spoke to said prerinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher was not only unnecessary, it wasted thousands of gallons of water and could actually result in dirtier dishes.
“The soap needs something to work against to get the dishes clean,” said Lou Manganiello, who owns Household Appliance Service in Hawthorne, N.Y., and has been doing repairs for 23 years. For full disclosure, he has also ably repaired my appliances from time to time.
Now, on to dryers. I don’t happen to use those fabric softener sheets, but if you do, practice restraint, Mr. Manganiello said.
On the theory that if one is good, five must be better, people throw in a bunch of the sheets. Those liquefy when the dryer gets hot and can gum up the dyer, becoming “almost like tar and feathers,” Mr. Manganiello said.
Also, clean the lint below the removable filter. I bought an item at my local hardware store that looks like a bottle brush, but is longer, denser and has a kind of thin nose. It reaches down and removes lint you can’t get to otherwise.
And think about cleaning lint off the dryer where it vents outdoors.
Of course, the best way to extend the life of your dryer is to use it less often by hanging out your laundry on a clothesline when the sun is shining.
Katie Follow @ktgray13