How to clean a dishwasher

Every so often, like twice a year or so, I like to clean my dishwasher.  Not only does this help make the machine last longer, but it also helps to clean the dishes better.  This is my simple, non-toxic method for how to clean a dishwasher with products you probably already have at home right now.

How to clean your dishwasher with two items you have at home right now.

  1. Empty all dishes, silverware, and pots and pans from the dishwasher/

  2. Remove the filter at the bottom and rinse out any material inside.

  3. Fill a container with 2 cups white distilled vinegar and put into dishwasher on top shelf.

  4. Run a regular cycle – no soap – only the bowl full of vinegar.

  5. Optional – after the vinggar cycle ends – sprinkle about 1 cup of baking soda in bottom of dishwasher and run again.

  6. Clean the outside with a damp cloth to remove any stains or finger marks while the machine is running.

Time needed: 5 Minutes


Category: Kitchen

Frequency: Quarterly or whenever inside looks dirty

Follow the 6 steps above to make the inside of your dishwasher sparkle like new.   Using the gentle cleaners like vinegar and baking soda, won’t hurt your seals or deteriorate the inner machinery of the Dishwasher.   Plus they are more natural and better for the environment.

Cleaning the Outside of your dishwasher is also easy.  There are two different ways to clean it, depending on it’s surface.  Generally I just wipe it down with a damp cloth.  If there is a tough stain, like some dried on food or dirt, I spray some Mrs. Myers cleaner on the surface, and let it sit for 30 seconds, then wipe it with the damp washcloth.

However, lots of newer appliances are made out of Stainless Steel.  In that case I use some Weiman stainless steel cleaner and wipe with a clean, dry towel to get a like new shine.

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How to Inspect Washing Machine Hoses

How to inspect washing machine hoses

As a DIYer, and handy-person,  I hear all kinds of stories about problems with houses.  One of the worst is when I hear that a washing machine hose has burst, and flooded the entire house.  I didn’t realize that washing machine hoses are under high pressure – pretty much the same pressure as the hoses outside your house that you use to water your garden.  That much!

If they burst – you home can pretty much immediately flood, and the water won’t stop until you turn it off.  That could be a real disaster!

Checking your hoses for your washer takes about 30 seconds.

How to inspect your washing machine hoses.

Look at the hoses – you should easily see the side that connects to the wall, but you may have to move the machine to see the other ends.

Inspect the hoses for bubbles, cracks, cuts, corrosion, and worn places.

Make sure there is about 6 inches between your machine and the back wall so the hoses won’t rub anywhere.

Replace immediately if you see any signs of deterioration.

Bubble on a washing machine hose
This hose is about to fail! There is a large bubble that could burst at any moment. They are likely to be at the ends, but always check the entire length of the hose.
Stainless hose washing machine failure
Even stainless washing machine hoses can fail. This hose was smashed between the washer and the wall and kept getting rubbed on until it failed.

How long do washer hoses last?

Typically Washing machine hoses last about 5 years.  I know mine are much older than that.

Which are the Washer hot and cold valves?

Look at the wall for your washer hot and cold hookups.  Typically the Hot is on the left, and is red, and cold is on the right, and is blue.  Frequently there is a 3rd connection, that is the drain line.  The hot and cold hoses screw onto the machine, and also into the bibs on the wall.  the drain is simply placed

Help! My  washing machine hose connection is leaking slowly.  If this is the case, determine where the leak is.  Completely dry off the area, and look for the leak.  Is it on the hose?  Then shut off the water and replace the hose.  If the leak is at the valve, call a plumber and get it taken care of quickly so it doesn’t become a bigger problem.  I wouldn’t use my washer until it was fixed.

My Garbage Disposal Smells – at least it used to

How to clean a garbage disposal

How to Clean your Garbage Disposal

Time needed: 2 minutes
Category: Kitchen
Frequency: Quarterly – or whenever your garbage disposal smells

Materials needed:

  • Baking Soda
  • Fresh Lemon
  • Ice Cubes​

The last words I want to hear right before Thanksgiving dinner is “My Garbage Disposal Stinks”  There could be lots of reasons for a smell to come from your disposal, but I have an easy and simple trick that keeps your in-sink-erator smelling clean and fresh.  This simple 3-step trick is sure to eliminate any odors coming from the bottom of your sink, and creates a fresh pleasing scent.

How to clean your garbage disposal

  1. Start by sprinkling baking soda directly into the disposal opening.  Use anywhere from 1/4 to 1 cup.

  2. Turn on the COLD water and allow it to run for about a minute.

  3. Cut a fresh lemon into quarters or wedges and toss into running disposal

  4. After the lemon is ground up, add 2-3 ice cubes, while the disposal is still running.

Do these 4 simple steps and your garbage disposal will be deodorized, and ready for use.  As always, never put your hand or anything into the disposal.  Safety First!

How to clean a garbage disposal 001205
Sprinkle baking soda in your sink to deodorize, and put in disposal. Toss a cut up lemon in to make it smell incredible!

What NOT to put in your Garbage Disposal:

I don’t like putting any chemicals into my garbage disposal.  This includes bleach or ammonia.  Even though most garbage disposal units are sealed, I never want to risk ruining any of the rubber seals or gaskets down there, as that can cause a leak, and be an expensive repair

Why does my sink smell bad?

There are lots of reasons your sink smells bad.  The most common reason is because food particles are stuck down there, not fully ground up, and they begin to decay and stink.

How to Clean a Cutting Board

Cleaning a Wooden Cutting Board

Cleaning a Cutting Board

Time needed: 5 Minutes


Category: Kitchen

Frequency: Quarterly

I don’t know about you, but I do a lot of meal prep.  Sometimes, on Sundays I prepare enough for the entire week and put it into storage containers. If I’m not organized that week then I find myself standing over my Boos Cutting board every breakfast, lunch and dinner chopping and cutting veggies and prepping food for the next meal.

I choose to use a wooden cutting board for everything, partly because I’m a life-long vegetarian, and also because everything I’ve ever read, and all the professional chef’s I’ve talked to prefer a wooden board to keep their knives razor sharp.  I understand a plastic cutting board isn’t as porous, and prevents cross-contamination better, but since I don’t worry about bacteria from meat, I feel comfortable with my single maple cutting block.

Even so, after I chop up an especially pungent onion, or finely chop some fresh garlic, or grate a little ginger for a stir fry, the board can retain some of the flavor and smells from the previous activity.  That’s when I take a few minutes to completely clean the cutting board, and get it ready for the next item.

How to clean a cutting board

  1. Use a clean, damp towel and wipe it down
  2. Sprinkle baking soda all over the surface.  You can’t really use too much or too little.
  3. Cut a fresh lemon in half and using the cut end down, press into the baking soda and cutting board.  The lemon juice will react with the baking soda and fizz a little bit.  This is how you know it’s working.
  4. Rub all over the cutting board with the lemon.  For my size board, one of the larger ones, I need to use 4 halves or 2 whole lemons.  I use a combo of circular motions and longer side to side rubs.
  5. Clean off the lemon juice and baking soda with a slightly damp kitchen towel.  Depending on how big your board is, and how much baking soda you used, you may have to rinse the towel a few times to get it 100% clean.

Then I drop the lemon sections into the garbage disposal.  This freshens the garbage disposal, and makes the kitchen smell fresh and lemon-ey!

After cleaning, I immediately follow up with sealing my cutting board with a fresh coat of Mineral Oil to seal and protect the cutting board.  This step helps to make sure it will last a lifetime!

Note – because I have a solid wood cutting board, I NEVER submerge it in water, or put it in the dishwasher.  This would totally destroy it.  I only wipe it down with clean towels, and use this method to clean it.  It’s the way my grandma did, and her board lasted her entire lifetime!

Cleaning a Wooden Cutting Board 000801

Clean your cutting board with Lemons

Cut the lemons in half

Sprinkle baking soda or salt on board

Scrub board with lemon and baking soda

How to Oil a Cutting Board

How to Oil a Cutting Board

Oil Cutting Board

Time needed: 5 Minutes


Category: Kitchen

Frequency: Quarterly

After my kitchen knives, my cutting board is the most used item in my kitchen. I use a large 1.5 inch thick Maple Endgrain Cutting Block for all of my prep. It is heavy enough to not move around, and I really appreciate the extra height as I’m over 6-feet tall. With smaller cutting boards they feel too low, and I feel like I’m bent over sometimes.

  1. Make sure your cutting board is clean and dry.
  2. I use a natural, food-safe mineral oil and pour it directly on the board
  3. Use a soft clean cloth to rub it in, and all over every surface.
  4. Wipe off excess, and let dry (usually overnight).

I prefer to use a non-toxic mineral oil over more expensive oils and waxes. Also, I avoid specialty oils, like Tung Oil, which may contain tree nuts  and can be a source of allergens to some.  These FDA guidelines have all the details for food safe oils.

The oil seals and penetrates the wood of the cutting board, preventing bacterial and food particles from getting in there.  The mineral oil is pretty much tasteless and odorless, and doesn’t rot or turn rancid like some other oils and products can.

For new wooden cutting boards, I like to oil them about 3 times, front and back and sides, before I use them in the kitchen.  Then I just oil them every quarter or so to keep them in tip top shape.

Mineral Oil on a cutting board

Does anyone make a wallpaper removal game for the Wii?

Two weeks ago was perhaps the most stressful nail-bitting, stomach turning week of my life.  I lost sleep, couldn’t eat (which is never a problem for me), and chewed off most of my nails.  I had heard so many horror stories about loans falling through at the last minute, and was convinced that it was going to happen to me.  It didn’t matter that my credit score qualifies me for a Black Amex Centurion Card (but my income does not), I knew I’d get a call at the last minute saying that there was a small problem and the bank wouldn’t be able to finance me.

But then, two days before closing I got an e-mail while in Ikea.  Jen and I were picking out a new worktable for my office that will be used to lay out album spreads and prepare print orders for clients.  We were fully approved, and the financing was in place.  Whew.  I shed a tear of joy right there in the office section of Ikea.

Not only was I a new homeowner, I was given the given the ultimate stress relieving puzzle in the world.  If only I had the ability to pull wallpaper last week!  I would have been so much nicer to be around!

Wallpaper removal is a never ending puzzle of paper, paste, and horrible 1970’s patterns.  There are multiple levels to navigate through – from finding a corner to start pulling at, to sorting out the right diluent that effectively transfers through the top layer and penetrates into the paper backing and dissolves the glue underneath.  When you do figure out the proper combination, sometimes you are rewarded with a full sheet of paper peeling off in your hands, and other times you only get a tattered one inch fragment of sticky wallpaper.  

There are multiple levels to wallpaper removal, too.  Like an archaeologist digging in ancient Rome, you may peel away the first layer to discover another hideous sub-level (and these sub levels have more secret levels underneath).  And just when you think you have finished the room, you walk down the hall to another room full of puzzles.

It took me a week, but I have finally mastered the wallpaper puzzle.  There are no more levels to combat.  I am done.

There clearly is a direct one to one correlation between the amount of stress one goes through when buying a home, and the quantity and quality of wallpaper inside that same house, don’t you think?

The best wallpaper removal solutions

Our very first project in our house was to remove wallpaper.  We simply can’t stand the 1970’s flowery patterns that grace the walls in the Living Room, Kitchen, both Bathrooms, and on the border of our soon to be bedroom.  You see, the goal is to have a perfectly flat, smooth, museum quality wall.  No texture – very modern and sheik.

Years of helping my Dad, my FIL, and watching Tom Silva and Norm Abrams have taught me the proper way to do things.  The number one lesson is that the better prep work is done before a paint job, the better the results are going to be.  I’ve also found this out the hard way.

While the goal is the same, Jen and I have drastically different ways of removing the wallpaper.  She meticulously scrapes and peels using a 1″ putty knife, and the tip of a utility knife, turning to a squirt bottle only as a last resort to remove the final bits of glue and wallpaper backing.

My method relies on chemistry.  Go figure.

I start by drenching the wall with 1 capful of Downey inside a squirt bottle, and then fill it up with hot water.  I spray the entire wall, and then wait 20 minutes. Strangely enough both methods work equally well and fast.

Last night we started on a wall in the Dining Room, and today at noon, with my technique perfected, It was done. 

So I was off to tackle the breakfast room wall.  I filled my squirt bottle, and pointed it at the wall.  This paper was different, and resisted the solution – In fact all I did was clean the years of dirt off the paper.

So tomorrow, I’m off to pick up some different wallpaper removal solutions.

  • Vinegar and Dish soap (I think I’ll try Dawn)
  • TSP in water
  • Simple Green diluted 1:1

One of these will work, and for some reason I think the TSP will do the trick the best to get off the top layer of the wallpaper, and my regular fabric softener method will take care of the glue.

This was a fun project – be sure to check out my super popular how to remove a popcorn ceiling post.