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For Father’s Day, Here’s the Buzz on Electric Hair Clippers

It was time for a haircut. But, with Father’s Day approaching, this 42-year-old dad of three decided it was time for an upgrade. After years—a lifetime, really—of $12-$22 trims, I decided to venture into the higher end of hair care with a cut at The Grooming Lounge, a men’s salon with locations in Washington, DC and Northern Virginia that markets itself on providing customers with an extra level of comfort and personal attention. That includes hot towels and head massages.

The real reason I visited The Grooming Lounge was to meet Rich Conant, a 25-year veteran of the hair cutting and styling business, who generously agreed to show me his collection of professional-grade clippers and share some advice on how to handle clippers like a pro.

If you have an electric hair clipper in your home, the odds are good that Dad is using it regularly. AHAM’s Portable Appliance Research found that 56% of households own an electric hair clipper. In 88% of those households, an adult male is the primary user. Clippers are used an average of four times a month.

As Rich worked his magic on my graying, middle-aged hair, I peppered him with questions on the finer points of clippers and technique.

Let’s start with the clippers themselves. Clippers aren’t a one-size-fits-all appliance. You have probably noticed that your barber has an assortment of clipper attachments. If you buy a clipper, it will also come with a variety of attachments, or guards. Those determine how much hair you’re taking off. They’re numbered, generally from 1-8, and the lower the number, the closer the cut. The numbers refer to eighths of an inch. So, a #0 will cut very close to the skin, a #1 will leave 1/8 of an inch, a #2 will leave you with a quarter of an inch, a #3 3/8 of an inch, and so on. If you’re using clippers at home and have recently switched models, Rich cautioned that guards may not be measured exactly the same from model to model. The rule of thumb, if you aren’t sure about the length, is to start longer than you need. You can always take more hair off, but growing it back will take longer.

When changing or attaching the guard, Rich strongly recommends double-checking that it is securely attached. This will prevent it from slipping off during the trim, which could result in a hairstyling disaster—a bald spot. Your barber’s commercial grade clippers likely have a locking mechanism to prevent slippage. If you’re doing the job yourself, make sure the guard you choose is for humans, not dogs. Some clippers come with dog-grooming attachments, which should be clearly labeled.

Rich talked me through the art of hair clipping, pointing out the importance of constant visual assessment, measuring and balancing. A large mirror is your best friend, and a comb will help guide your work and help create a natural transition between the clipped hair and scissor-cut hair. “Use the comb as a guide to keep it even,” Rich says. “As you move the clippers up, move the comb down to meet where you want to cut to.” Use a texturing shear to improve the transition between clipped and cut hair.

When you’re going around the edges, you’ll likely get better results with a trimmer, not a clipper. They look similar, but a trimmer is smaller and is designed to help you get at smaller areas.

“You could use clippers as trimmers, but it’s hard to get around the ears or do detail work,” Rich says.

The clipper or trimmer are valuable tools for keeping sideburns to the preferred length. Whether you prefer a straight-across, no-sideburn look or full-on Elvis sideburns, balance is critical. “Make sure the sideburns are even,” Rich says. “Face the mirror and put your fingers at the bottom of each sideburn.” If your fingers are in line, your sideburns are balanced.

If you have more exotic hair aspirations, like carving lightning bolts, your sweetheart’s initials or a Batman logo into your hair, clippers are the tool that can get you there. However, you’re probably better off leaving the job to a professional. When I raised the issue of elaborate designs with Rich, he mentioned that the road crew of a prominent 1990s alternative metal band had once been regular clients of his in California. He claims a Ferrari design among his clipper art masterpieces. Designs require very short hair and extreme precision. Rich sometimes would outline the design in felt pen before going in with the clippers. “Once you cut with the clippers, it’s permanent,” he says.

Once the clipping is done, it’s time for cleanup. Fortunately, clippers need minimal care and maintenance. AHAM member Wahl recommends using the brush that came with the clippers after every use, oiling them regularly, and not using water to clean them. The use and care manual will offer specific guidance. AHAM’s research found that 72% of clipper owners clean it after every use or “frequently.” Most—78%—use the brush that came with the clippers.

If you’re shopping for an electric hair clipper this Father’s Day, two important factors to consider are size and weight. The majority of clippers—83%—are purchased in a store. Shopping in person will let you test the size and weight, and the packaging will contain information about the specific attachments that are included, as well as other characteristics, like corded vs. cordless. AHAM research found that ease of use and price were the top factors for consumers when buying clippers.

Thanks to Rich’s knowledge and skill, I’m heading into Father’s Day with a sharper-looking head of hair and knowing more about clippers than I ever thought possible. Whether you’re spending the day at the barber, by the lake, in the yard or at the game, happy Father’s Day!

Straight from the Chefs: July 4th and Summer Cooking Advice

Whether you’re cooking indoors or outdoors this July 4th, there are plenty of principles that apply to both that can help you knock the ball out of the culinary park this summer. To help you up your summer cooking game, we have compiled the best advice professional chefs have given us on holiday cooking, covering everything from planning your holiday meal, to keeping an organized kitchen, to cleaning up afterward.

Great cooking and great parties start with great planning. If you’re hosting this July 4th, the groundwork for a lot of your kitchen success will be set before you even pull out the first cooking appliance. That means not waiting until the last minute. A few simple steps can help you get ahead.

  • Decide what appliances you’ll need and put them within easy reach.
  • Prep what foods you can in advance, like chopped vegetables, and think about what kitchen tasks you can delegate.
  • Take inventory of the cooking tools you have at your disposal. Pro chefs recommend a good set of knives and quality cookware.

You can plan just about everything but the weather, but bad weather doesn’t mean your party is a wash. You might even discover a new flavor or reunite with an old classic like the dirty water dog. You can still cook most of your summer favorites—chicken, pulled pork, hot dogs, burgers, shrimp, vegetables and desserts—with your indoor appliances. That includes chicken, pulled pork, hot dogs, burgers, shrimp, vegetables and desserts. Your slow cooker, broiler and range will get the job done. Tradition is great, but be willing to venture outside the traditional. Think about how you might incorporate some of your local or family culture into the menu. That could mean something as simple as a nontraditional spice, or planning a full menu based on foods that reflect the regional culture. Talk to farmers at the local farmers’ market for inspiration and unique ingredients. Sometimes, they’re cooks, too, and will share recipes and cooking tips.

Food safety should be a priority all times of the year. Keep any meat in your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below until you’re ready to cook. A good digital thermometer will make it easy to check whether your meats are done. They should be a minimum of 165 degrees in the center of their thickest point.

Finally, is the party over? Hopefully, you haven’t put off all of the cleaning to the end. Do whatever cleaning you can as you go. Are you done with that hand mixer or immersion blender? Will you need it again? If not, clean it and put it away. That goes for any tools or appliances you’ll use. You will enjoy the party more if you know there isn’t a pile of cleaning-related tasks waiting for you after the fun is over.

Don’t forget to have a plan for your leftovers. Most can be stored safely for 3-4 days in the refrigerator, according to the Food Safety Inspection Service. Refrigerate hot foods within two hours of cooking.

Do you have a great July 4th or summertime party cooking, planning or cleanup tip? Let us know in the comments. We’ll have more later this month on July 4th parties, summer get-togethers and how your appliances can help you make memories this summer.

Essential vacuum maintenance tips for high-level floor care

Vacuums are like the magician of home appliances. You pass them over the top of some dirt and—presto—it disappears! There’s nothing magic about it, though. Whether you use a canister, stick, upright, central or robotic vacuum, the cleaning power it provides is the result of precision engineering and many parts working together to help you get the upper hand on dirt, dust and allergens.

Vacuums tend to live in closets or under beds, kept out of sight until we need them. Like many appliances, it is easy to take vacuums for granted until you need them and they don’t work. A few simple steps can help ensure that your vacuum continues to make magic!

Change and clean the filter: Failing to clean or change the filter might be the most common reason for low vacuum performance. It’s also one of the easiest to address. Your vacuum’s use and care manual will offer guidance on specific filter replacement, care and cleaning, but make a habit to check the filters on your vacuum regularly for dirt. If you are cleaning a filter, allow it to dry completely before returning it to the vacuum. Keep in mind that your vacuum may have more than one filter, so make sure you are caring for all of them properly.

Empty the bag and canister: Some models include indicators to signal when it is time to change the bag or empty the canister. If yours doesn’t have an indicator, don’t wait until the bag or canister is overflowing. Change the bag or empty the canister when it’s one-half to two-thirds full.

Clean the brush roll: A functioning brush roll is essential to dislodge dirt and allow it to be picked up by the vacuum. Check it periodically to make sure it hasn’t been wrapped up in hair or blocked by debris, which can put stress on the belt and reduce the vacuum’s performance.

Replace the belt as needed: The belts on vacuums wear over time. As they do, performance diminishes. Plan to have your belt changed every two years. Check your vacuum’s use and care manual for instructions on how to change the belt, or visit an authorized service provider.

A deeper dive into floor care

New puppies are adorable, but they also come with a guaranteed supply of new messes. If you are a proud new puppy owner, you probably already have a good vacuum on hand. That’s good—you’ll need it, regardless of whether your dog sheds seasonally or all year. Since you have added a new pet to your household, it is time to think about bringing in another floor care appliance—the deep cleaner.

You might have memories of tagging along with your mother to the store to pick up a rented deep cleaner in an annual or semi-annual ritual that culminated in a freshly cleaned, new looking carpet that you were banned from walking on for a few hours post-cleaning. Rentals are how most people still handle their carpet cleaning, though businesses and others with heavier carpet-cleaning needs may want to consider purchasing one. They are not just for carpets, either. Some models can be used in your car or on furniture, where stains can also sap some of your home’s shine.

Deep Cleaners vs. Vacuums

You already have a vacuum—maybe even more than one. So why would you need to deep clean your carpets? Vacuums do an effective job of removing loose dirt, dust, debris and allergens, but some dirt and stains are beyond their capabilities. Think stains from a pet, that clumsy neighbor who spills a glass of wine in the center of your brand-new carpet, or that high-traffic area of your home that never quite seems to shine because the dirt is ground in and out of a vacuum’s reach. Deep cleaners can attack all of those.

How often you deep clean will depend on your needs. For some, once a year may be sufficient. You might need to deep clean more frequently if you have pets or a lot of foot traffic in your home. Check with your carpet retailer or manufacturer for specific recommendations on deep cleaning.

Deep Cleaning in Action 

Unlike vacuums, which use suction and sweeping mechanisms to remove dirt, deep cleaners add warm or hot water, plus special cleaning solutions, to get the job done. They use a high-pressure spray or brush to dislodge dirt and break up stains. Different models might offer variable flow rates and multiple attachments for carpets or other surfaces.

It’s important to use a cleaning solution that is made specifically for use in a deep cleaner. The deep cleaner’s use and care manual will offer recommendations for the type and amount of cleaner to use. Follow the manual’s recommendations for use. During the cleaning, you likely will have to move more slowly than you would when vacuuming. Make sure the front edge is touching the ground and that the carpet is making contact with the unit’s brushes. Wait for the carpet to dry before setting foot on it again.

Now you are ready for that new puppy or kitten! However, you may want to leave your clumsy neighbor off the guest list next time.

Buying an appliance for Mom this Mother’s Day? Think smart, colorful and cool!

Gifting the Mom in your life a kitchen appliance for Mother’s Day may seem fraught with hidden (unwanted) implications, but hear us out! We’re past the days of kitchen appliances evoking only thoughts of ovens or dishwashers – think smart coffee makers, colorful and cool stand mixers and the omnipresent Instant Pot. The perfect Mother’s Day gift should make her life easier, and make her feel more comfortable and loved. Today’s kitchen appliances also hit the balance we always strive for when gift giving: they can be used often and still brighten up the kitchen counter.

With this in mind, we visited a few local retailers to see what gifts people are picking up as Mother’s Day approaches. Appliances that perform more than one function, like multi-cookers and stand mixers, seem to be the standouts this year. High-performance blenders and various types of coffeemakers are also popular choices.

“They’re looking for something different, something that would make life easier,” said Carlos Barillo, department specialist at Crate & Barrel in Arlington, Va.

Does Mom already have all the kitchen appliances she needs? Consider upgrading her to the latest version and score some points by providing her with new features on an old favorite.

If Mom is looking for convenience…

With everyone looking for more time, multi-function cooking appliances are drawing a lot of attention. Their popularity has remained strong since the holiday season. Many people want their appliances to perform more than one function, which saves on storage space while giving them more capabilities in the kitchen.

If Mom likes to cook…

If you’re buying for a mother who dreams of a second oven in the kitchen without an expensive remodel, a countertop oven might be the way to go. Countertop ovens can quickly become an indispensable part of your cooking toolbox. For some, they might even get more use than a traditional oven. Have it set up on Sunday morning and prepare a meal for Mom, so she gets some time to relax and a new oven!

If Mom likes a splash of color

For portable appliances that will be stored on your countertop, appearance matters. Crate & Barrel had that in mind when displaying stand mixers, highlighting colorful finishes like blue and pistachio. “The colors are evolving, depending on the trend,” Barillo said. “It’s a mid-century look. A lot of men come in because their wives want to replace the one they have.” Customers who have recently remodeled their kitchens are paying close attention to the appearance of their portable appliances, he said. Set it up on the countertop and top it with a bow.

If Mom likes her coffee…

You have plenty of options for moms who like to wake up to their perfect cup of coffee. Coffeemakers are another appliance where appearance matters, because they generally are stored in full view in the kitchen. You will have plenty of options across price points, regardless of whether Mom is a fan of traditional or specialty coffee. Have it ready the night before, and give Mom the honor of the first cup.

Still not sure what to get? Asking a few simple questions will help increase the chances that you’ll make Mom happy and perhaps help you avoid returns.

The Best of AHAM’s Air Conditioning Advice

Did you hear that noise? It was summer knocking at the door. After a winter that had most of the U.S. dealing with record-breaking cold spells, I am ready to welcome the summer warmth.
And, it’s not too early to think about pulling out the portable or room air conditioner to help cope with the summer heat when temperatures go from warm to hot.

Maximizing your air conditioner’s cooling potential is not just a matter of flipping a switch. Proper use and care matters for your AC just as it does for all of your appliances. How you use and maintain your air conditioner can affect your energy use and determine whether your AC is ready to go when you need it most.

Even something as simple as where you place your portable air conditioner can make a big difference. We have compiled the best of AHAM’s air conditioning tips to help you get the most out of your air conditioner this summer:

Buying an AC

Once you’ve chosen between a portable air conditioner and a room air conditioner, buying an air conditioner comes down to three major factors: size, capacity and features. Measure the room where the AC will be used. The packaging of many AC units will include a chart of appropriate room sizes, but you can also do the calculation yourself. More power is not necessarily better. You may end up using more energy than you need. That also goes for too small of a unit, as it will have to work harder to cool the space and may not be able to reach the desired temperature for the room. Use this calculator from ENERGY STAR® to find out how much power you need.

AC operating tips

Hot weather can make you cranky and lead you to make bad decisions. One of those is immediately turning your air conditioner to the highest level. This is tempting, but inefficient. Pick a comfortable temperature and set your air conditioner there. Save energy by setting it to a higher temperature if you won’t be in the room for a while. Pull your curtains or shades to block out the sun to make it easier for your portable air conditioner to cool off the room, and make sure your room air conditioner is not in direct sunlight. Consider turning the AC down at night when temperatures outside tend to drop.

If you are using a portable air conditioning unit, keep the exhaust hose as straight as possible. Any kinks can reduce the unit’s efficiency.

AC care tips

Your air conditioner’s use and care manual will include instructions for how often you should clean or replace the unit’s filter. The coils and vents of both window and portable units need to be cleaned periodically. A plastic scrub brush can be used to remove dirt from a room air conditioner. For portable air conditioners, the use and care manual may have specific suggestions, but they may include using a mixture of water and vinegar or other mildly acidic solution to clean a portable air conditioner coil. Finally, break out your vacuum brush attachment to pull out any dirt not picked up during the initial cleaning.

FUR-ther into safety: How to keep your pets safe around appliances

To some members of your household, a dryer looks like a good place for a hideout or a nap. They might think the cord from your mixer is a good toy, and the dishwasher or laundry detergent a good target for their teeth or claws.

Of course, we are talking about your pets. Just about everything that could put your pets at risk can be prevented with a few extra precautions. Many of the steps you should take to keep your pets safe are good safety practices even if you don’t share your home with a dog, cat or other furry companion.

We spoke with Dr. Lori Bierbrier, medical director of the ASPCA’s Community Medicine Department, for her advice on how to keep pets safe around appliances.

Keep laundry appliance doors shut, and do a quick safety check: Pets could climb inside a washer or dryer if the door is left open. Keep the doors on your laundry appliances shut, and check inside before you use them, Bierbrier says.

Secure your detergents: Bierbrier recommends storing your laundry detergents out of pets’ reach, such as in a cupboard. “If that is not possible, the product should be stored in a bite-proof container,” Bierbrier says. “This is especially true of detergent pods, which contain highly concentrated detergent and can be easily bitten into.” That goes for both laundry and dishwasher detergents.

Put the cords out of reach: Keep the cords of your portable appliances out of the reach of pets. If a pet chews on or bites through a cord, they could be burned or electrocuted, Bierbrier says.

Look for heaters with covered elements: To reduce the risk of burns to your pets, look for a portable heater with an enclosed element, Bierbrier says. “As well, look for a space heater that has safety features like automatic turn-off for overheating or if it is tipped over.”

Keep a safe kitchen: Pets should be kept away from hot stoves and ovens, Bierbrier says. “The main risk is for pets to get accidentally burned by touching a previously heated element.” When you’re not cooking, make sure you store any foods that are toxic to pets, like chocolate and onions, where your pet can’t reach them. “If the pet is particularly crafty, owners may consider using locks to keep them out of cupboards,” Bierbrier says.

Vacuum with care: Pets bring companionship, but also additional vacuuming needs. Consider keeping your pet in another room while vacuuming if the noise startles them, Bierbrier says. “If that is not possible, positive reinforcement with treats and distractions may be useful.”

Tips to improve and maximize air cleaner performance

Millions of people around the world rely on room air cleaners (sometimes referred to as air purifiers) to improve indoor air quality and reduce the presence of allergens. They are a valuable tool that can help ease your allergy symptoms and keep homes cleaner.

Like most appliances, how you operate and care for your air cleaner will affect its performance. Take these steps to ensure that your air cleaner continues to operate at a high level:

Change the filter regularly: Your air cleaner’s use and care manual will recommend how often you should change your air cleaner’s filter. Keep in mind that these recommendations are based on the manufacturer’s testing. How often you should change the filter also depends on how much you’re using the air cleaner and the level of pollutants in the air. If you have your windows open frequently, for example, you may need to change the filter more often. Check your filter regularly. If the filter is changing color or if you notice that a drop in the level of air coming out of the air cleaner, it’s probably time for a new filter.

No filter? Some air cleaners don’t require filters, relying instead on an electrostatic precipitator (ESP), which charges particles and attracts them to a plate. Clean those regularly. Check your use and care manual for specific cleaning instructions.

Clean the outside: Some manufacturers recommend using a vacuum to remove dust from the outside of the air cleaner. Vacuum or gently clean the dust from the outside of the air cleaner when you notice a buildup.

Take care of the rest of the room: Air cleaners are only part of the equation if you are seeking cleaner indoor air. Do a thorough cleaning of the area and vacuum regularly to remove particles so they are not kicked back into the air you breathe.

Change your furnace filter: If you change your furnace filter regularly, you might not have to change the filter in your air cleaner as often. However, a furnace filter is not a substitute for an air cleaner because it is designed to trap large particles. In addition, it is common for particles to miss the furnace filter and end up inside the home.

Give your air cleaner room to breathe: It might be more convenient to place an air cleaner against a wall and in a corner, but that sort of placement will restrict airflow and reduce performance. Move it toward the center of the room and operate it in an area free of obstructions. The more air that goes through the air cleaner, the more pollutants it will remove.

Shopping for an air cleaner? Here’s how to make the right choice

If you are shopping for an air cleaner, you will likely come across models that use different types of technologies to clear the air. More important than the method the air cleaner uses is whether the air cleaner is appropriate for the size room in which it will be used. Look for the AHAM Verifide® mark on the air cleaner packaging. The mark means the air cleaner has been independently tested for its ability to remove tobacco smoke, pollen and dust. The suggested room size for the air cleaner will be noted prominently on the label.

Tell us your top concerns with your indoor air quality.  We’d like to hear from you.

Watch for These Retail Trends in 2018 and Beyond

In case you haven’t heard, retail is changing. You have probably heard the stories of classic brands closing stores and shoppers migrating to online sales. But it might surprise you to hear that construction spending on retail establishments has actually increased—up by more than 10% in 2016, and that store openings are also on the rise.

In fact, 9 of the top 10 leading online retailers also have brick-and-mortar locations. So while the evolution is undeniable, it hasn’t done away with the time-honored tradition of heading out on a weekend afternoon, family in tow, to shop for new appliances.

What will retail look like this year? The challenge for appliance retailers is to make themselves stand out, says Melissa Williams, director of global retail services and business strategy for UL. You might notice some changes as big box retailers, who typically sell many of the same appliances, seek to compete among themselves and online retailers in areas beyond just price.

If you watch closely during your shopping trips, you might notice signs of these three trends in retail in 2018 and beyond:

Appliance “training”: With the emergence of connected and smart features, appliances are also evolving. As retailers offer appliances that incorporate the new features, they’re also going to have to show some customers how to incorporate the features into their routine. “I could see stores having training modules in how to use all this new technology,” Williams says. That might mean a “connected home” section within the store, she says, showing how features like voice-controlled appliances work. “Right now, most users don’t even know how to use that technology. You’ll see more education on connected technologies in retail stores.

Private labeling: As retail brands look to compete with each other on more than just price, we could see more of them launch private-label brands. That could spread to appliances. “Now, you aren’t in a price war,” Williams says. “The consumer will have more choice and not be forced into the cheapest price. Retailers don’t want to sell the same refrigerator anymore. They want a differentiator. It’s a huge opportunity for manufacturers.”

More interest in product roots: Both Millennials and Generation Z believe in the importance of good corporate citizenship, Williams says. This means they’ll look at products beyond typical considerations like price and brand, Williams says. “Customers—Millennials and Generation Z—are very interested in seeing the full scale of the products,” she says. “They want to know where it was made, in what facility, how it will ship.” Customers are showing a stronger interest in political and societal issues, and they will expect retailers and brands to offer information about where, how and with what materials a product was made. They are likely to pass on purchases that don’t align with their values. Both customers and retailers are also going to want more information about the true cost of manufacturing a product, Williams says.

CES 2018 Preview: Six questions on home appliance innovations

CES always provides its share of flashy headlines and jaw-dropping media clips. Appliance manufacturers, including many AHAM members, will be displaying their appliance lines and looking to stand out with the latest innovations, features and designs.

So what will be the top appliance themes at CES 2018? There are too many innovations to list here, but it’s safe to say lifestyle, connectivity and convenience will be in the spotlight. And we expect to find many ways to answer these six questions:

Will voice control continue to grow? Voice control was indisputably the hot appliance feature at CES 2017, with appliances incorporating Amazon Alexa and other tools to allow users to adjust oven temperatures, washing cycles and access other features. We could get a better idea of the role voice control will play in appliances as the technology develops and consumers incorporate it into more aspects of their lives.

Will we see more connectivity in personal care appliances? In addition to simplifying tasks, connected and smart features can help consumers keep a closer eye on their health. Connected personal care products, like toothbrushes that monitor how well you’re cleaning, are one path for that. We’ll be on the lookout for more health-related features as we comb through the appliances on display at CES 2018.

What other roles will cooking appliances take on? Several newer appliance models are incorporating easy access to recipes into their features, with some even automatically adjusting their temperature based on a recipe or a scan of a frozen meal. Other features are sure to emerge as manufacturers look to take more of the time and labor out of cooking.

What’s next for connected refrigerators? As a regular “meeting place” inside the home for many families, refrigerators have become the host for many new connected features for both entertainment and household tasks like preparing grocery lists and recommending recipes based on what’s inside. It will be exciting to see how their role evolves as manufacturers incorporate more elements of connectivity.

What design elements will stand out? While CES is all about technology, many manufacturers also take the opportunity to show off their newest designs, like black stainless and smudge-free finishes. Will any new design or colors take the stage at CES 2018?

What’s the future of floor care? While robotic vacuums have been around for a number of years, manufacturers continue to innovate with features like mapping, voice control, fall prevention and advanced navigation. We’ll see what other floor care innovations, robotic and otherwise, are underfoot at CES 2018.

AHAM will be at CES 2018 to report on the latest innovations in major, portable and floor care appliances. Follow us on Twitter @AHAM_voice for live updates.