Making the most of your home appliances, cleaning tasks

Washington Post
Thursday, March 08, 2018

Carolyn Forte, Good Housekeeping’s director of home appliances and cleaning products, joined staff writer Jura Koncius on the Washington Post’s Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.

I’ve tried almost everything to get the old grease and gunk off our chair arms and nothing has worked. Any suggestions?

I know what you mean! That kind of stain builds up slowly and then suddenly looks terrible. Try a product designed to clean greasy wood kitchen cabinets. The one I like is Parker & Bailey Kitchen Cabinet Cream. I used it in my kitchen and it quickly dissolved the grease on the wood covering the vent hood and left the wood smooth and shiny. I think it’s worth a try on your chair, too. Look for it on the Parker & Bailey website or at Bed Bath and Beyond.

How do you clean off that hardened, greasy goo that collects on stove vents and surfaces?

That is a tough stain! A new category of cleaner we’ve recently seen are kitchen degreasers. They are more powerful than all-purpose cleaners and are specifically formulated to handle tough kitchen grease. We’ve had good luck with Krud Kutter Kitchen Degreaser.

I have a stubborn rust stain in a white sink. I’ve tried the lemon/salt remedy, and it certainly made it better, but it’s still noticeable. Any other ideas?

This one is an easy fix. As you found with the lemon, acid helps remove rust. The quickest way to remove that stain is with a product formulated to remove rust, like Whink Rust Remover. Whink makes formulas for hard surfaces like yours and even for rust stains on fabrics. It contains oxalic acid, so follow directions carefully and wear rubber gloves.

I have a front-loading washing machine, and the rubber gasket between the door and the drum is moldy or has mildew. I wipe it down, but it persists. What would help fix it?

This is a big problem, one our readers and visitors to our Good Housekeeping Institute ask me all the time! You are doing the right thing by wiping it out. Next time try cleaning it with a cloth dipped in a mild bleach solution to kill the mold. Keeping it clean and dry is important. It’s also a good idea to leave the washer door open after doing the laundry so it dries out. New from Whirlpool are Affresh Washing Machine Wipes, which make cleaning this hard-to-reach area much easier.

I have an older recliner with rust-colored, leather-looking vinyl that is slightly tacky and dull. I’ve tried using dish detergent and water to clean it but it looks even more dull and grayish after it dries. Is there some way to clean and restore slight shine and condition to these areas?

It sounds as if you were able to clean the vinyl, but the dish soap may have dried it out. A leather conditioner may be all you need. Weiman, a brand that carries our Good Housekeeping Seal, makes a line of leather cleaners and conditioners that we have found work well. They are widely distributed and should be easy to find in supermarkets and online.

For a DIY leather cleaner, we recommend a mix of warm water and a mild soap like Neutrogena – just be sure not to get the leather too wet. Dip a cloth into the mixture and wring it well before wiping the leather. Then blot it dry with another clean cloth.

My under-the-counter Kenmore microwave stopped working. The microwave is 10 years old and lightly used. Is there a fuse or a switch somewhere in the microwave other than my wall I can reset?

I’m sure there is but this sounds like a question best answered by Kenmore or an authorized repair person. I recommend calling Sears’ toll-free number or checking the website and ask for their recommendation. Perhaps a simple service call is all you need.

I have a small, 4-by-20-foot pressure-treated lumber covered porch. It is 100 square feet including steps. It needs to be cleaned and resealed, and is surrounded by holly and lilac bushes. I could cover them with a tarp, but there is bare ground under the porch. I am concerned about cleaning products that would harm the plants by dripping into the soil and traveling to the roots. What would be the best way to clean it in preparation for resealing, yet protect the plants? I don’t have a pressure washer.

Scotts Miracle-Gro has a line of outdoor cleaners for decks and patios that not only clean and remove stains but are safe for your surrounding plants and grass too. There are sprays and even wipes for patio furniture. Give them a try!

I’m worried about using the automatic oven-clean setting. I bought my oven new last year. Can you reassure me it is safe to use? And if so, how often should I use it?

Your self-cleaning oven, especially a new one, is safe to use. Because every oven is different, I recommend reading the manual carefully. If your oven offers multiple settings for the cycle, choose the shortest cycle the first time you use it.