6 Ways You Can Reduce and Remove Allergens in Your Home

Spring’s warm breezes, blooming gardens and milder weather are welcome. The allergies that often come with them? Not so much. But don’t let the threat of seasonal sneezes cool your spring fever. Here are six ways you can use your appliances to reduce and remove allergens from the air, floor and furniture in your home:

Wash it out: Pollen doesn’t just spread by air. It also attaches to your clothing, and your clothes washer can help remove it before it becomes airborne again, this time in your home. Washing your  bed linens regularly in hot water can also kill dust mites, another common source of allergies.  Also, don’t underestimate the build-up of allergens in your hair from spending time outdoors.  Be sure that you wash your hair frequently during allergy season.

Dry your laundry indoors: You have just washed the pollen out of your clothes. Using a clothes dryer over an outdoor clothesline will help keep it off. Line-dried laundry and linens can pick up pollen or other allergens while outdoors and bring them back into your home.

Vacuum everything: Pollen and allergens can end up just about everywhere—carpets, rugs, hard surfaces, furniture, drapes, and mattresses. Vacuum all of them to remove as much of the allergens as possible.  A portable vacuum with a HEPA filter has the capability to remove more than 99 percent of allergens with particles larger than .3 microns (That includes pollen and dust mites.). If you are using a portable vacuum that requires a bag, use micro-lined, two-ply bags to stop the allergens from being kicked back into the air while vacuuming.  Central vacuums capture dirt and pollutants that are carried through a home’s exhaust system to a central container, which is in most cases installed in a garage or basement. These units don’t require a HEPA filter to remove allergens.

Clear the air: Like vacuums, many models of room air cleaners also use HEPA filters to filter allergens and other pollutants from the air.  In fact, a HEPA filter can help reduce pollutants in the air by up to 50 percent, but that depends on how the whole unit operates.  The Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR), which notes the suggested room size for an air cleaner, is the most helpful measurement to look for when comparing air cleaner performance. Visit AHAMVerifide.org for more about CADR and how to choose the proper air cleaner for your room.  Change the air cleaner’s filter regularly and position your air cleaner near the center of the room, away from walls, to maximize airflow and performance.

Cool the air: When the temperatures warm up, keep the windows closed and the AC on. Air conditioners don’t just cool the air, they contain filters that can help remove allergens.

Keep the indoor humidity in check: Dust mites aren’t seasonal, but they tend to thrive in humidity A dehumidifier may make it tougher for the mites to survive.

Remodeling? These 7 design trends are heating up kitchens

Is a new kitchen on your to-do list this year? If so, you’re probably asking yourself many questions. What appliances and features do you need to cook the way you want? What finishes will give your kitchen the appearance and feel you are seeking? What sort of design will allow you to move freely between tasks, cooking and entertaining?

Chances are, you’re looking to strike a balance between function and style. Kitchens tend to be the hub of the household, where people tend to gather to eat and socialize. Due to the costs and amount of work involved, remodeling isn’t an every-year project. It’s important to think hard about your habits, needs and lifestyle, as well as how well the kitchen will look in the years ahead.

So, what are the current kitchen remodeling trends and must-haves? We spoke with three designers – Amy Ahearn, Decorating Den Interiors of Williamsburg, Va.; Gloria Graham Sollecito, Artful Kitchens, West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Susan Serra, Susan Serra Associates, Huntington, N.Y.; –

to find out what their clients are looking for and what trends may lie ahead. Here’s what they had to say:

What’s cooking? Multi-function and healthy options: Remodelers want options when it comes to cooking. “More than one oven is practically de rigeur in the higher-end home,” Ahearn says. “You must have two ovens, if only for two holidays a year.” Dual wall ovens are popular. “Multi-purpose appliances are in demand,” Sollecito says. “For example, a double oven that also has steam or microwave cooking.” Homeowners are also looking for ranges that offer built-in sous vide capability. For some of Ahearn’s clients, it is a must-have. “The introduction of sous vide or steam into ovens is a signal that healthy methods of cooking have become a strong trend,” Serra says.

For cooktops, most are going larger, and induction cooking remains popular. “People are definitely asking about induction,” Ahearn says.

The homeowner’s choice in major cooking appliances depends on their cooking habits, Serra says. “Those who do light cooking want value and reliability first and foremost. Those who cook regularly may be more concerned with pure function or both aesthetics and function.

Amy Ahearn, Decorating Den Interiors of Williamsburg, VA

Stainless still leads, but black stainless shows life: “Stainless steel, like white kitchen cabinetry, has been a key player in kitchen design since the late eighties,” Serra says. “That’s staying power, compared to many trends in kitchen design that have come and gone.” But traditional stainless isn’t the only finish catching the eye of remodelers. Ahearn says black stainless is popular with younger clients, and Serra reports that dark gray, black and charcoal stainless finishes have come on strong in the last few years. AHAM research shows that 67% of three-door bottom mount refrigerators shipped in 2018 were traditional stainless, and 19% had black stainless finishes. For side-by-side refrigerator models, 57% were traditional stainless and 7% were black stainless. Among dishwashers shipped last year, 51% were stainless and 9% black stainless.

So what’s to come? “I think stainless steel will morph,” Sollecito says. “It may get lighter, darker or warmer, but it’s here to stay. My clients prefer it, with their only concern being fingerprints and cleanability. Manufacturers seem to be addressing that issue with smudge- and fingerprint-resistant finishes.”

Paneling: While appliance finishes are an important contributor to a kitchen’s look, many homeowners opt to conceal their appliances with paneling. “The larger trend in kitchen design is a less utilitarian look and a more connected look to surrounding rooms,” Serra says. “Appliance panels allow small kitchens to have a visual flow, which helps to make the kitchen look a little more spacious and less usually busy. I’m seeing more appliance panels, particularly refrigerator panels, that have a highly personalized design – unique materials, colors and patterns. It’s a very exciting trend.” In very high-end kitchens, Ahearn’s clients tend to opt for fully integrated refrigerators, she says. “It will be paneled, flush with the cabinetry. You won’t see hinges, because they use articulating hinges. It’s a fully custom look.”

Susan Serra, Susan Serra Associates, Huntington, NY

Zoned refrigeration: Who has time to dig through the refrigerator for that special snack or drink? Zoned refrigeration, smaller refrigerators reserved for certain types of food or drinks, has been a trend for several years and will continue to be popular. “There is definitely a preference for zoned refrigeration in larger kitchens,” Sollecito says. “That is not new. What is new is that manufacturers are catering to that need more than ever with refrigerator drawers, columns, etc. in a variety of sizes.” The trend is breaking out of the kitchen, where many homeowners prefer it to store fresh produce as well as beverages, Serra says. Some are putting refrigerators into master bedrooms and family rooms, rental suites, or spa areas. “I see baby boomers being a market for adding this convenience in their home and the high-end consumer in general,” Serra says. “The middle-to-upper-end segment is also thinking of zoned refrigeration.”

Gloria Graham Sollecito, Artful Kitchens, West Palm Beach, FL

Beverage stations: Various types of beverages are getting the royal treatment during kitchen remodels. “People are incorporating coffee stations, and they are very serious about it,” Ahearn says. How they go about it depends on their budget. Higher-end designs might be plumbed or built-in with restaurant-grade espresso machines. The trend goes beyond coffee. “Smoothie stations are the new thing in beverage centers,” Sollecito says. “They incorporate under-counter refrigeration, prep sinks and perhaps a lift-up door to conceal the juicer.” And don’t forget wine. “Wine storage is huge,” Ahearn says. “In the high-end kitchens, they want to show off their wine collections. The beverage trend isn’t limited to high-end remodels. Ahearn reports dedicated beverage refrigerators being incorporated into mid-priced remodels as well.

Connected features are slowly showing up:  The designers we spoke with reported mixed levels of interest in connected kitchens. Ahearn sees some interest among her younger clients. “They want to be able to control their appliances from their smart phone,” Ahearn says. “Their refrigerator tells them what to buy. They want to be able to turn on the oven and set it to a certain temperature and time, or tell when the oven is on and they’re not home so they can turn it off.” Sollecito sees the most interest among Millennial homeowners, particularly in voice control and touch-free options.

Portable storage: You’ll want to incorporate into your new kitchen easy access to the portable appliances you use regularly, and the popularity of portable appliances like Instant Pot, Vitamix and air fryers makes portable-friendly design elements a must.  “A shallow pantry that sits on the countertop may be ‘home’ to several small appliances,” Serra says. “A separate tall cabinet just for small appliances and equipment in lower drawers can be a featured furniture design.” Sollecito always designates a cabinet for small appliances, or storage near the kitchen. “The mixer lift accessory is great for those heavy portable appliances,” Sollecito says.

AHAM’s Top 5 Posts of 2018

Let’s take a moment to revisit our most-read posts from 2018 while the year is still fresh in everyone’s mind. We covered a wide range of topics, from pet safety to counterfeit water filters. That variety is evident in our top posts of the year.

We are grateful to our readers – thank you for taking the time to click, read and share our content last year! Without further ado, here are your favorite pieces from 2018.

Is your water filter counterfeit? Keep your family safe – learn to spot the signs of counterfeit water filters.

Looking for fall allergy relief? Your humidifier or dehumidifier could help! Air cleaning products are more popular now than ever – learn how they can help ease allergy suffering year-round.

Cool Off with a Room Air Conditioner – Readers turned to AHAM’s expertise this summer for help with choosing the right air conditioner.

Tips to improve and maximize air cleaner performance – Make sure you’re getting the most from your air cleaner with these tips.

5 questions to ask before buying a used appliance – These key questions will make you an informed buyer.

Warm up your winter with these slow cooker holiday beverages

Few things make you feel as cozy and at home as coming in from the cold to find a steaming mug of hot chocolate, already prepared, waiting to warm you from the inside out. Or, perhaps you prefer a spiced holiday drink, or a sip with a peppermint kick. Hot beverages are a wonderful way to weather the wintertime and experience the traditional aromas and flavors of the holiday season.

You could prepare your favorite holiday drink on your cooktop, but a slow cooker offers some unique advantages. You can prepare beverages (or cold-weather staples like stews and soups) in your slow cooker so they’re ready for you when you return. Slow cooking comes with the added bonus of being greeted by the drink’s sweet or spicy scents as you walk in the door. Slow cookers also give flavors extra time to permeate throughout what’s cooking, which is essential for holiday drinks that rely on spices.

Slow cookers are designed to do their job with minimal supervision, meaning they can be left unattended for extended periods while they cook what’s inside. If you’re entertaining, your slow cooker frees you up to enjoy your time with friends. Set your slow cooker up in a common area with a ladle so guests can serve themselves.

How a slow cooker works: Before we get to the holiday recipes, let’s run down how your slow cooker warms and cooks those wintertime favorites. The basic slow-cooker design includes an external shell, which usually houses the heating element, a pot for the food (often made from coated ceramic), and a lid. Slow cooker elements are low wattage because they are designed to cook slowly and evenly. Most have straightforward “low” and “high” settings, but the temperatures those heat to could vary depending on the brand. Check the slow cooker’s use and care manual for the temperature ranges.

Some of the newer slow cooker models have incorporated connected features to increase the level of convenience. Some slow cookers can now be operated remotely, so you can start a meal or beverage cooking when it suits your schedule or change the setting when necessary.

Now that you know how the slow cooker gets the job done, it is time to warm up with some holiday drinks. These hot beverage recipes are tailor-made for the slow cooker:

Mulled wine: This spicy, fruity beverage dates back to ancient Rome, but is still a popular Christmastime drink, particularly in the United Kingdom. It can be prepared in the slow-cooker in 30 to 60 minutes and should be served hot. (Credit: Well Plated)

Hot buttered rum: Combine the tropical taste of rum with the wintertime flavors of holiday spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. And get ready to bring out the slow cooker again for Hot Buttered Rum Day on January 17.

Credit: Southern Kitchen

Holiday wassail punch: Bring some brightness to the gray winter with this punch, which includes five fruit juices: apple, orange, cranberry, lemon and pineapple. Credit: Taste of Home

Slow-cooker hot chocolate: Hot chocolate is a childhood mainstay that never gets old. Serve it with a healthy side of nostalgia. Credit: Allrecipes

Boozy slow-cooker peppermint hot chocolate: Want add a bit of a kick to your hot chocolate? Candy canes add a holiday twist to this classic. Adults may also want to add a bit of peppermint schnapps. Credit: Food Fanatic

Applejack spiked hot cider: Spicy and sweet seems to be a theme among many holiday beverages. The rum is optional in this recipe. Add it as the drinks are served. Credit: Myrecipes

You will no doubt be tempted to lift the lid for an early inhalation of holiday ingredients, but lifting the lid early can lead to heat loss and slow down the process.

What is your favorite warm holiday beverage?

Trends, Technology, Transformation: Designers discuss kitchen redesign possibilities

Is it time to remodel your kitchen? If you are ready to make that significant investment of both time and money, you should think about the project as more than just choosing and installing new countertops, cabinets and appliances. You are not just remodeling. You are reshaping your kitchen into a space that reflects and is equipped for the way you cook, clean and interact with family and friends.

If you look at it from that perspective, envisioning the kitchen you need to accommodate your cooking, cleaning and social habits may seem challenging. An interior designer can help you sort through all of these questions, present you with options, introduce you to new options and trends, and guide you through the remodeling process.

We recently spoke with two designers — Molly Switzer of Molly N. Switzer Designs, LLC,  and Richard Landon of Richard Landon Design — for their take on the changing kitchen design, how you can make the best choices during the design process, and how you can get the most out of the relationship when you’re working with a designer.

Do your research

The appliances you have your heart set on in the beginning of the remodeling process may not be the best choice for your kitchen or lifestyle. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and do your homework. That could mean checking out what your family and friends have done, watching appliance demonstrations by retailers or manufacturers, or watching online videos. “A lot of consumers are doing research,” Switzer says. “They’re paying attention to their friends and family who are doing remodels. You can get a lot of feedback from them.” Switzer educates her clients on the options at the beginning of the process, but says it’s more valuable to visit a showroom and try the appliances. “That’s where everything gets solidified,” she says.

Research also includes really thinking about how you use the kitchen. Landon has observed a phenomenon he refers to it as ‘A-cubed syndrome,’ which means his clients have adapted, adjusted and accommodated certain aspects of their kitchen for so long, that they have accepted those things as normal. What you are used to may not be what is best for you, and it’s important to be aware of options, he says.

“You want to point them ahead, counter the A-cubed syndrome, and feed them YouTube videos about these on-point appliances,” he says. “I would say a good half of my clients are now switching to the 24-inch wide induction cooktop. My neighbor decided, after watching a demonstration, to go induction.” He encourages clients who are not familiar with steam cooking to go online and watch demonstration videos of steam ovens in action. “Every time they do that, they come to me and say they’re going to do steam. Virtually 100% of my clients are using steam.”

You should also consider how you clean your appliances. “When you have a gas cooktop, you understand that there are elements you have to clean. Some companies have come up with the technology to make the elements dishwasher safe, but most make you hand-wash those pieces. Do you want to take the time to make sure it’s clean or do you want to put it in the dishwasher?” Also consider whether you prefer a self-cleaning oven over one you have to clean manually, Switzer says.

Don’t forget to have a plan for your cleaning appliances, like your vacuum. Switzer says that central vacuums are becoming easier to install during a remodel. “It’s one of those things that, as a designer, you should bring up, especially if you see clients that have multiple stories or who don’t have a good place to store their vacuum.”

Space it out

During a redesign, both available space and how that space is used will play into your choice of appliances, as well as where they are installed.

For instance, is your kitchen just a place to cook, or does it double as a meeting place? For many of Landon’s clients, the kitchen is the new “living room” where everyone gathers. If the kitchen is your social space, design it to accommodate a gathering. “When people come to visit, they hang out in the kitchen with you if it’s possible,” Landon says. “Put in an island, because that is the new dining room table. Increasingly, I’m doing kitchens where you can sit 6-8 people around the island. They don’t have a dining room table at all.”

Socializing shouldn’t stop when the cooking starts, but historically, kitchens have often been designed with the range and other cooking appliances up against a wall, meaning the cook has his or her back to the others in the kitchen. Moving the cooktop to the island will allow cooks to socialize while they sauté. This is another example of moving away from the traditional, Landon says.

“A lot of it does come down to how they use their space and envision their space,” Switzer says. “As a designer, I ask them questions about how they use their kitchen and what appliances they use. How many burners do they use at a time? Are their two people cooking? Should we talk about enlarging the space?”

How you use appliances matters

How you use appliances, not just what the appliances do, should also factor into your decisions during the remodeling process. Kitchen designs aren’t limited to a single range, refrigerator and dishwasher, and appliances are being incorporated around more specific uses of the space. “As you get into larger kitchen spaces, if you entertain a lot, having two dishwashers can be awesome,” Switzer says. “People who like to make cocktails might have a beverage center—all of their coffee, their bourbons, cocktail mixes, wine. I try to put an 18-inch dishwasher in that area.”

Like beverage stations, zoned food storage is also catching on. “I’m seeing more and more people who have no ‘big box’ refrigerator,” Landon says. “Everything is zoned refrigeration. Consider the impact of distributed refrigeration, plus freezer units. The ability to distribute refrigeration and configure it to suit your lifestyle is often what consumers aren’t considering.”

Don’t forget to discuss incorporating your portable appliances into your remodel. “We make sure there’s a home for them,” Switzer says. “If you have to use your stand mixer and have a small space, there are cabinet lifters — a base cabinet with a hydraulic spring action piece. There are coffee centers where you can just hide [your coffeemaker] away.”

The portables you use regularly are one of the factors you should consider when determining your counter depth, Landon says. “As houses shrink, counter space is becoming a huge deal,” he says.

Kitchens are changing

Landon sees changes in the works for kitchens, driven by technology and a desire for personalized food. He encourages clients to think about the future when planning their remodel with a designer.

“I want people to realize that the world is rapidly changing in response to technology,” Landon says. “It has very much affected the way we approach food.” He noted that for the first time, teenagers report spending more on food than they do on clothing. “In parts of the country where there is a higher density and cost of square footage, this is going to drive you into a different way of thinking about a kitchen.” Changes in eating habits, like the rise of rapid ordering and customized meals, can drive the decisions you make about your appliances. Connected features that seem novel now, like refrigerators that order food automatically and cooking appliances that guide you through the cooking process could soon become normal parts of the kitchen, he says.

“All the ways we think about kitchens were set by ‘Leave it to Beaver,’” Landon says. “How you use the kitchen and the kind of appliance structure you need are radically changing.” 

Before you start, plan

If you are going to work with a designer, involve them early in the process. “You should have the designer involved before the process begins, because if the process is started, we’re trying to play catch-up the whole time,” Switzer says. “All the planning should happen before the redesign starts. It’s a big investment, and we need to make educated decisions about the process.”

So, if you are planning a kitchen redesign, don’t be constrained by your current concept of a kitchen. Look beyond your decisions on the physical features and work with your designer to create a space that fits your lifestyle now and into the future, as food, cooking and appliances continue to evolve.

On the Carpet: Style, Personalization and Care

There was a time when choosing carpet for your home meant picking out an unassuming, neutral tone like white, beige or gray and laying it throughout the house. Today, consumers often venture beyond the safe choices of the past and look to their carpet as an opportunity to make a statement.

“Regardless of the fiber, they want a look that is personalized,” says Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management, residential, for carpet and flooring manufacturer Shaw, Inc. And, Tran says, that’s not necessarily about whether you prefer loop pile, cut-pile Berber, or another common carpet style. While no one type of carpet stands out as a trend, Tran says, Shaw has found that consumers are looking for a full range of colors to choose from and carpet that is durable, easy to clean, and stays looking like new.

“We’re seeing a big trend in patterns, small-scale solid or something that is very bold,” Tran says. With less focus on uniform carpeting throughout the home, Tran says, homeowners are more willing to go with a bolder pattern in high-traffic areas like the bedroom and family room. That might mean a traditional pin dot, diamond, or geometric pattern with some variation, Tran says.

The preference for personalization has led carpet manufacturers to change their approach as well, Tran says. “It used to be that we would develop products on capacity, fiber types,” she says. “Today, we’re doing it differently, trying to understand what the consumer needs. The way carpet is manufactured today, I don’t think a consumer has to go for a specific style. It’s okay to take chances in patterns and visual.”

With hard surfaces trending, many consumers are also opting to put rugs in as a way to personalize their space. Most types of carpet can be customized into rugs, Tran says.

If the look of the carpet reflects your personality, the type of carpet construction and fiber you select should be based on lifestyle, foot traffic, how much you use the room and for what purpose. If you have pets or children, for example, you probably want a carpet that is stain resistant and durable. The carpet manufacturer and retailer will likely have some suggestions based on your needs. Take a look at this primer from the Carpet and Rug Institute:

  • Cut pile: Known for durability, good for high-traffic areas
  • Textured plush: Good for busy households, hides vacuum and foot marks well
  • Saxony: Ideal for interior rooms.
  • Frieze: Curly texture that minimizes footprints and vacuum marks
  • Plush: Dense and luxurious. Better for low-traffic, formal areas of the home
  • Loop pile: Loops at uniform height, common with Berber styles
  • Cut-loop pile: Combines cut and looped yarns for a varied texture, adept at hiding soil and stains

Whether you prefer a bold color, busy pattern or understated neutral tone, all carpets and rugs need regular and proper vacuuming. The style of carpet you choose will affect the way you vacuum.

A common misconception is that all carpets and all vacuum cleaners are the same, says Rob Green, senior design engineer with Dyson. Check the use and care manual or manufacturer’s recommendations for your model vacuum to see whether it is an appropriate choice for cleaning your carpet.

Here are some other factors to consider when vacuuming your carpet that will help keep it looking like the day it was installed:

Style of carpet matters more than materials: “The material the carpet fibers are made from does not affect the vacuuming techniques as much as the construction of the carpet,” Green says. Tuft and weave are important to consider when vacuuming. “The depth of the pile and length of each tuft, the construction of the backing, and the bonding between the piles and the backing should drive vacuuming technique more than material.” This means a cut pile, deep/long, twisted tuft may be more susceptible to fuzzing or fraying if it is cleaned with a rotating brush bar than a short, looped pile, regardless of the material. Consult the carpet’s use and care manual for specific recommendations.

Choose the right height: Generally, deeper carpets and longer piles require greater penetration from the vacuum’s bristles for better cleaning, Green says. However, he adds, it is important to know the recommended cleaning of the flooring to ensure the carpet is suitable for cleaning with and will not be damaged by a rotating brush bar.

Is a robot doing the work? Robotic vacuums have seen countless innovations and improvements in the more than two decades since they first hit the market. However, Green says, they still call for a different approach than conventional vacuums. Robots may be less adept at cleaning certain surfaces. “The deeper and thicker a carpet, the more resistance it will give the robot, potentially making it harder for the robot to move,” Green says. “Also, consider that the robot is working on an algorithm and will not detect delicate surfaces such as rugs that might now be suitable for cleaning with a rotating brush bar.”

Need for speed: Consider the type of carpet when you’re choosing your speed setting. When you are vacuuming thick or deep pile carpets, or carpets with rubber backing, a lack of airflow could cause the vacuum to limpet down, Green says. “At this point, it may be desirable to reduce the suction power to allow ease of use,” he says. “This will come at the cost of cleaning performance.”

What type of carpet do you prefer? Tell us in the comment section!

All Mixed Up: 6 Facts about Stand Mixers

The stand mixer is a kitchen workhorse. While stand mixers are probably most commonly associated with baking and sweet treats, they are equally useful for kneading bread dough and whipping up a batch of mashed potatoes for dinner. Stand mixers are likely to dwell in cabinets when not in use, though a range of colorful finishes can also make them into an eye-catching design element in your kitchen.

Stand mixers have a long history that goes back more than a hundred years. The first stand mixer, which held 80 quarts, was developed for bakeries in the early 1900s. A smaller model for home kitchens was developed soon after.

Today, 43% of consumers report owning a stand mixer, according to AHAM research.

Whether you look to your stand mixer for baking, dinner or everything in between, take a look at these facts about stand mixers to see how your mixing habits and mixer stack up!

Desserts, out of the box: Stand mixer owners really like their cake and muffin mixes. In fact, 82% use their stand mixer to make those mixes at least once a month. They enjoy their brownie mixes too, with 60% reporting that they mix up a batch at least once a month.

Dinner (or lunch) is right behind: Mashed potatoes ranked right behind cake, muffin and brownie mixes among the most popular uses, with 53% of stand mixer owners saying they used their mixers to make mashed potatoes at least once a month.

They are used regularly: Stand mixers are used about four and a half times per month. Four percent of owners use them every day, and 31% use them at least once a week. They’re used for an average of 19 minutes at a time.

Mixers are multi-purpose appliances: A stand mixer isn’t just a mixer. Many models come with a variety of attachments that give the mixer various capabilities. Some of the more common include mixing beaters, dough hooks, whipping beaters, and smaller-sized beaters. Less common are meat grinder, juicer, pasta making and ice cream-making attachments.

They make users feel like pros: Nearly half (48%) of stand mixer users say the appliance makes them feel like a professional baker. More than half (62%) describe their stand mixer as a professional-style unit.

What’s your favorite recipe to prepare with your stand mixer? We want to try it, so share it in the comment section or with us @AHAM_voice on Twitter!

Facts about blenders, a kitchen staple

They whip up healthy shakes and smoothies and decadent milkshakes, crush ice and puree fruit. Blenders are equally handy at every meal and if you’re craving a snack. They are among the most versatile of kitchen appliances.

If you have a kitchen, chances are you have a blender. More than 90% of households report owning at least one personal or full-size blender, according to new AHAM research. People are using them more frequently, too, with full-size blenders being used an average of 6.3 times per month, up from 4.4 times per month in 2009. Personal blenders are used an average of 8.7 times a month.

Healthier eating habits seem to be one reason behind the increase in blender use. “Eating healthier” is the top reason given by personal blender users (33%) who are using the appliance more, while 31% of full-size blender users say they’re using it more often because they’re drinking more smoothies.

Whether you prefer full-size or personal, shake or smoothie, these facts from AHAM’s recent portable appliance research features will let you see how your blender and blender habits measure up. How do you use your blender? Let us know in the comments!

What is blending?

Fruit smoothies are popular among blender users. They are made more than twice a month on average using both types of blenders. More than 25% of blender users report making smoothies in their blenders five or more times a month. Plenty of other healthy options like fruit and vegetable juices, soups and nutritional shakes also come out of blenders regularly. However, blender users like to indulge, too, and making ice cream milkshakes and frozen drinks both ranked among the top uses.

Snack time

Blenders are a part of every meal. While they may not be as commonly associated with breakfast as coffee makers and toasters, 33% of personal blender owners report using them most often breakfast, double the 16% who report using them most often at dinner. But snacks between meals edged out breakfast by a point—34%—as the most common time for putting the personal blender to work.

Snacks were also the top use for 30% of owners of full-size blenders, vs. 24% for dinner, 22% for breakfast and 12% for lunch.

The need for speed

Speed settings are one of the features that makes blenders equally adept at preparing a sauce, shake or smoothie. More than half (57%) of full-size blenders have four or more speed settings, and 85% have three or more. Among personal blenders, 22% have four or more settings, and half have three or more.

Speaking of speed, blending sessions tend to be over quickly. Most personal (72%) and full size (66%) blender owners report using it for five minutes or less per session.

Features and accessories

Ice crushing is the most popular blender feature and is found on 50% of full-size and 45% of personal blenders. Most—83% of full-size and 72% of personal—also have a pulse feature, which temporarily takes the blender to top speed at the push of a button. More than half of users use the pulse feature “every time” or “frequently.”

Blender accessories can add convenience. If you are looking to take your freshly blended drink with you, 20% of full-size blenders will accommodate that with a travel cup and lid. Other common blender attachments are food choppers and food processors. Some models also include removable ingredient caps and pre-programmed recipes.

Nice job on the cleaning

Blender users, for the most part, are doing a good job keeping the appliance clean. Nearly 90 percent of users of both full-size and personal blenders clean the blender jar after every use, and another 5% clean it “frequently.” Most of those (85% and 83%) clean the blades as well. Hand washing, either with or without disassembling the blender, is the most common cleaning method.

Age, Store, Serve: Wine refrigerators will help you pour the perfect summer glass

Ah, summer. The sound of waves crashing as you relax at your favorite vacation spot. Late-afternoon breezes chasing away the heat of the day. Beads of condensation forming on the glass of perfectly chilled, crisp white wine as you lift it to your lips, ready to let the cares of the day drift away.

Whether you go for that crisp white, a sweet rose or a fruit-laced red, temperature matters when it comes to wine. If you have aspirations of becoming a wine scholar or just want to show your wine- sophisticate friends that you know your stuff, too, it helps to know a little bit about the proper temperature at which to store and serve wine. The wine refrigerator is the appliance that will get you there.

Wine refrigerators, also known as wine chillers or wine coolers, have become standard features of high-end kitchen renovations. Unlike regular refrigerators, which store food and drinks below 40 degrees, wine refrigerators are designed to maintain temperatures ideal for wine, whether it is being stored, aged or served. They offer protection from wine’s biggest enemies: heat, lack of humidity, temperature variation, vibrations, ultraviolet light and odors. In short, wine refrigerators are your best option for storing wine this side of a royal palace cellar.

If you think you are ready to up your wine storage and serving game, there are a number of factors to consider. While wine refrigerators aren’t any more difficult to operate than a regular refrigerator, the details of wine storage matter, especially if you’re storing wine for the long haul. I spoke with Marshall Tilden III, vice president of sales at Wine Enthusiast, which sells an array of wine refrigerator models and publishes the popular Wine Enthusiast magazine, for some guidance on what wine drinkers need to think about before they make the jump from wine rack to wine refrigerator.

As with many appliances, you should start with size. Look at how much space you have available, particularly if you opt for a built-in wine refrigerator. Many built-in models mimic the size of other major kitchen appliances, like dishwashers or refrigerators. But, if you don’t have room for or don’t want a built-in model, there are many portable models available, with a range of capacities. When making your choice, consider how many bottles you currently store, and think bigger. Wine is a hobby that tends to grow like the boldness of the flavor in a perfectly aged cabernet.

“We always stress to customers to get a unit that can hold about 25-50 percent more than your current collection,” Tilden says. Once you get into the world of collecting wine, it grows quickly. It’s best to buy bigger than you need, unless you’re constrained by space.” Fortunately, you have options ranging from small units that store a few bottles to models that can hold hundreds of bottles. Wine refrigerators are available in finishes consistent with popular appliance looks, like stainless and black stainless, and are often integrated into the kitchen near refrigerators.

Along with capacity, your wine refrigerator should be able to accommodate the size and shape of the bottles of your preferred brands. “Wine bottles can come in all shapes, sizes and forms,” Tilden says. “Some models have adjustable shelves or luxury spacing, so if your collection has bigger bottles, [the wine refrigerator] has the capacity or you can adjust the shelves.” 

The next factor you should consider is how you will be using the refrigerator. Whether you’re serving, storing or aging, temperature matters. It can affect wine flavor and aroma. “White wine should be served anywhere from 44-50 degrees, whereas red wine should be served somewhere between 59 and 65 degrees,” Tilden says. “The lighter the wine, the colder you serve it.”

If you are aging wine, it must be kept around 55 degrees. “Only a fraction of the wines in the world are meant to age, evolve and improve,” Tilden says. But if you are going to put the time and effort into aging wines, you will want to keep conditions as close to perfect as possible. “If it’s too cold, it will slow the aging,” Tilden says. “If it’s too warm, the aging will speed up. If you don’t have the right temperature to age it, you might miss the optimal drinking stage.”

Single-zone wine refrigerators generally keep wine at 55 degrees, which is ideal for storing and aging, Tilden says. However, if you are storing, aging and serving, consider a dual-zone model, which allows you to keep zones of the wine refrigerator at different temperatures. That way, you can move a bottle into another zone when you’re getting ready to serve it. Where you keep your wine refrigerator can also affect the temperature inside, so make sure the one you choose can handle the ambient temperature. This is especially important if you are keeping the refrigerator someplace warmer, like in a garage.

Humidity also affects wine, and higher-end units may include humidity controls, Tilden says. This is important for longer-term aging. “If the cork dries out, air gets in, and the wine oxidizes,” Circulating fans help move the air and moisture, and some include spaces for lava stones to absorb moisture.

Aging wines are sensitive to motion, and certain models also include features that minimize vibration.

Wine can be an investment, and it’s a good idea to think about security as well. “The majority of units that hold over 36 bottles or so come with locks,” Tilden says.

Ready to relax? I hope you thought ahead—in the time it took to read this article, you could have brought a glass of red up to the perfect serving temperature. Time to pour yourself a glass.

The Hidden Dangers of Counterfeit Water Filters

Online shopping makes it easier to run errands, saving us time and often money, too. As a savvy shopper, you know that a too-good-to-be-true price on a designer purse, shoes or sunglasses probably means it’s a fake; but did you know other unsuspecting household products you use daily could be counterfeits too?

Counterfeit water filters are rampant online, disguised as certified filters with trademark violations, fraudulent and misleading labels and importantly, alluring price tags. Here’s what you need to know so a potentially harmful counterfeit filter doesn’t end up in your online shopping cart — or home.

Water may look, smell or taste fine, but human senses cannot always detect microbial and organic contaminants lurking in the water that can seriously harm our health and wellbeing. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) conducted tests to find out how counterfeits stack up to certified filters.

Using the standard that certified filters are tested against for consumer safety, three independent labs performed tests to measure counterfeit filters’ efficacy at removing lead, cysts and other contaminants from water during the stated shelf life of six months. Additional testing sought to make sure contaminants weren’t being introduced into clean water. Here’s what the tests revealed:

Lead

Labels on counterfeit filters claim to reduce lead in water to meet the NSF/ANSI 53 standard. Of the filters tested, only two out of 18 filters successfully filtered out lead for the full six-month refrigerator life of the filter. In a separate test of 14 filters, eight filters failed before half of a typical lifetime in a refrigerator. Every single counterfeit filter failed to perform at twice the typical lifetime, which is a requirement since many consumers often forget to replace their filters or don’t have a ‘replace filter’ light on their fridge, resulting in use them well beyond the suggested six-month time frame.

Cysts

NSF/ANSI 53 standards require filters to reduce the presence of cysts (cryptosporidium parvum oocysts) by 99.95 percent. To allow for a margin of error, AHAM lowered the bar to a 90 percent for its test. Even with the lower standard, seven out of eight counterfeit filters failed to removed 90 percent of cysts, despite labels claiming they would. An eighth filter was removed from testing due to clogging.

Extraction Test

Per NSF/ANSI standards 42/53 4.1, filters should not introduce new contaminants above the allowable limit. The test checked for 159 different contaminants that can be found in water, such as volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organics, other semi-volatile organics, regulated metals and nitrosamines.

After uncontaminated water sat in 46 counterfeits for three 24-hour periods, ten separate compounds were found over the total allowable concentration. In other words, the filters introduced these contaminants – elements such as arsenic, ethanol and octane — into clean sample water.  The chemicals are consistent with those leached by non-food grade plastics.

Don’t roll the dice when it comes to shopping for your family’s refrigerator filter. Only purchase filters sold by a refrigerator manufacturer that stands behind its products. For a complete list of trusted filters and more information about the report findings, visit FilterItOut.org.