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Keep laundry detergent packets out of sight and out of reach

What’s your preferred laundry detergent? Are you one of the many who choose the convenience of laundry detergent packets over the more traditional powder or liquid? If so, it’s important to store them out of the reach of children.

The danger is that children may come across the brightly colored pods or packets and mistake them for a food or toy. Detergent inside the packets is highly concentrated, and serious injury or death can result if children swallow or come into contact with the detergent inside.

The best way to prevent incidents is to store packets out of sight and out of reach. But many who use packets don’t: According to the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), which is running the Packets Up! campaign to encourage proper storage of laundry detergent packets, 43% of families with children under four report that their children can see laundry packets when laundry isn’t being done. In addition, 19% of families with children under four reported that they store liquid laundry packets on an open shelf.

Preventing accidents is a simple as keeping the laundry detergent packets out of sight and high enough so they’re out of reach of young children, ACI says. Avoid storing packets on top of the washing machine or counter, and never let children play with packets.

ACI’s research also found that 15% of the families surveyed let their children take part in putting the liquid laundry packets into the washing machine. Children should never handle or hold laundry packets. But that doesn’t mean children can’t help out with laundry. Keep their involvement to more kid-friendly chores, like sorting colors or folding and pairing clothes.

Learn more about ACI’s Packets Up! campaign, including how you can get a laundry cling to remind you to safely store detergent.

Safety, security, warranty: Why it’s important to have your appliances repaired by authorized providers

Every day, you rely on your appliances to keep yourself and your family safe, clean, fed and comfortable. It’s a disruption when one of them suddenly stops working. When a refrigerator breaks down, it can mean spoiled or unsafe food. A heater or air conditioner that malfunctions means you can be left to suffer through extreme heat or cold. Laundry appliances breaking down mean the clothes start to pile up. The scenarios are at best inconvenient, and at worst put your health or safety at risk.
Regardless of what went wrong, you probably want to have your appliance repaired as quickly as possible. You may call around to a few repair shops to compare prices, availability and expertise. Most will have staff that can repair a refrigerator, clothes washer, range or other appliances. But you also need to make sure they’ve gone through the necessary training to get the job done.

Does it really matter who fixes my appliance?

It does. Authorized service providers have been trained by the appliance manufacturer to service your appliance. This means they have access to both the knowledge and the necessary parts, technical information and, in some cases, software that’s specific to your appliance. Your choice of service providers can have major implications for your appliance’s safety, security and warranty.

Safety: Authorized service providers are required to make repairs with parts and equipment that have been tested and meet specific safety and reliability requirements. Service providers that are not authorized may use substitutes that don’t meet the same rigorous requirements. That, combined with the fact that the service provider may not have proper training on installation, can create safety risks.

Security: Manufacturers, through the development of smart and connected appliances, are bringing consumers to new levels of comfort and convenience. However, as with any connected device, they’re also requiring consumers to pay careful attention to their electronic security. Servicing smart and connected appliances requires special training and access to information that manufacturers make available to authorized providers only. Anyone servicing a smart or connected appliance could potentially have a gateway to the appliance owner’s electronic network. It’s critical that this work be left to authorized providers, who will take the measures necessary to limit exposure.

Warranty: If you still aren’t convinced of the importance of using authorized repair providers, here’s another reason: If you allow an unauthorized repair provider to work on your appliance, or if you attempt to make the repair yourself, you could void your appliance’s warranty. That means that the cost of any future repairs that might have been covered under your warranty will now be your responsibility.

Your appliance’s use and care manual or manufacturer’s website will likely provide information on how you can locate an authorized service provider. In the long run, authorized repairs will likely save you time, increase your peace of mind, and help keep your appliances in top shape.

How do you like your toast? Take our one-question personality quiz.

 

You probably have a go-to setting for your toaster, and anything lighter or darker can have a deep and lasting impact on the quality of your breakfast.

You probably haven’t given much thought to how appliance manufacturers make sure that toasters toast at the proper level. This guide—developed by AHAM and still used by appliance manufacturers as part of AHAM’s T-1 performance standard for toasters—shows just how toasted your toast should be, depending on where you set your toaster. It’s how manufacturers make sure your toast will turn out looking like “5” if you set the toaster to that level.

We bet you also didn’t realize that how you take your toast is a window into your personality. Take our one-question personality quiz to find out what your preferred level of toast says about you.

Of course, there’s no science behind these traits. But there’s plenty that goes into the development of T-1 and the numerous standards that appliance manufacturers use to develop and design all home appliances so they’re safe, efficient and functional.

Now, back to the most important question you will answer today: How do you like your toast?

Essential appliances to dry out your home after a flood

Cleaning up your home after a flood can quickly become overwhelming. In addition to property damage, flooding increases the possibility of mold and mildew and can bring other contaminants into the home. You can speed up the drying process by lowering the humidity with dehumidifiers, fans and room air conditioners.

Hurricane Harvey Impacts

Note: Only use appliances that have not been damaged by flood waters. Appliances may look normal after a flood, but using any that have been immersed in water creates the risk for electric shock and fire.

The American Red Cross offers these tips to reduce humidity in your home during flood recovery:

  • Use a dehumidifier: Dehumidifiers remove excess moisture from the air. Position it in a dry area of the house at least six inches from any wall. Make sure the dehumidifier is protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter and avoid using extension cords, as spilled water creates a shock hazard. Set the humidistat to extra dry to remove moisture from room furnishings.
  • Open the house: Open windows when weather permits, if there’s lower humidity outside than inside.
  • Turn on the AC: A room air conditioner can help reduce humidity in the home. Avoid using central air conditioning. If systems are contaminated by dirt, silt or other materials, they’ll spread it around your home.
  • Use fans: Fans will help move humid air outside your home.

Food waste disposers: A better choice for your scraps

While nobody ever wants to waste food, it’s inevitable that you’ll sometimes have a few scraps left over. So, what’s wrong with tossing them in the trash?

Think about what happens when you throw away trash. It could sit in a bag on your property and act as a tasty treat for critters. After that, it most likely gets trucked to a municipal waste area and dropped into a landfill. It still doesn’t go away. Food waste, according to the EPA, makes up more than 20 percent of trash sent to landfills and incinerators. As it breaks down in landfills, that food waste emits methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.

Instead of throwing those scraps in the trash, put them down a food waste disposer. Food ground up and shredded by a food waste disposer ends up either at a wastewater treatment facility or your home’s septic system. Treatment plants with the capability can convert the methane gas into renewable energy, and the solid waste into fertilizer.

Cities like Philadelphia, Boston, Milwaukee and Tacoma, Wash. that have tracked the results of food waste disposer use in certain neighborhoods have reported reductions in food waste anywhere from 1.4 pounds to more than 4 pounds per household, per week. That also makes neighborhoods cleaner and can cut down on problems with rodents and other pests,

Now that you know some of the benefits, here’s some advice, courtesy of leading food waste disposer manufacturer InSinkErator, on how to best use your disposer:

Hold the shells: Food waste disposers have no taste for shellfish—not their shells, anyway. Never put clam shells, oyster shells, lobster shells or crab shells down a disposer.

Skip the fat: Never pour grease or fat down a food waste disposer or drain. You’ll risk clogging the pipes.

Use cold water: Always run cold water when you use your disposer. This allows the food residue to follow easily down the drain. Leave it on for 10-15 seconds after the waste is ground to ensure the best dispersal.  

Feed it in moderation: Food waste disposers are capable of handling most food waste, even chicken bones, celery and potato peels. However, you should avoid putting large amounts of food into the disposer at one time.

Keep it clean: Cleaning a disposer is easy. Try grinding several ice cubes, which will scour the grind chamber and shredder ring, and adding a quartered lemon to cover any odors.

5 ways appliances can make your home healthier

From making healthy eating easier to cutting down on sneeze-inducing allergens, appliances can be used to drive healthy habits and create a healthier home environment. Here are five ways home appliances can be used to make your home healthier today:

1. Quick meal storage: Keep those healthy meals and snacks within reach in your refrigerator. Store sliced vegetables and fruit in sandwich bags for easy access. Use sectioned containers to help balance your meals. Store boiled eggs to save time at breakfast, and speed up dinner prep by freezing extra portions. Tip: Put the healthier foods at eye level, so you see them first.

2. Add in vegetables: Use an immersion blender to add more vegetables to your sauces and stews. Bake vegetables in your oven at a high temperature to caramelize them and make them more palatable for picky eaters. Tip: An immersion blender can help you smooth out sauces for eaters who are sensitive to texture.

3. Clean teeth: After you polish off those healthy meals, take advantage of an electric toothbrush to clean your teeth. Electric toothbrushes can be especially helpful for individuals with mobility issues, and for children who may lack the dexterity for effective brushing. Tip: Spend 30 seconds brushing each quadrant of your teeth for a full two minutes.

4. Cleaner air: A room air cleaner can reduce the amount of common allergens like tobacco smoke, dust and pollen in your home. Room air cleaners certified through AHAM’s certification program are tested for their ability to remove all three of those. Look for the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) on the label—the higher the number, the faster the air cleaner filters the air. Tip: Choose an air cleaner that’s appropriate for the size of the room in which it will be used.

5. Take the might out of mites: The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says dust mites “may be the most common trigger of year-round allergies and asthma,” causing symptoms like sneezing, stuffy nose, itchy eyes and a cough. Washing linens and rugs in hot water can kill mites, a dehumidifier can reduce the humidity that helps them thrive, and a vacuum with a HEPA filter can help remove them from your home’s hard surfaces. Tip: Have someone who doesn’t suffer from allergies do the vacuuming.

Sous vide cooking raises its profile

Over the past few years, appliance manufacturers have made sous vide cooking, once the exclusive domain of high-end restaurants, available to anyone who wants to add the unique technique to their cooking repertoire. Sous vide involves sealing food in a plastic bag and cooking it in heated water. This allows the food to be cooked at a constant, precise temperature.

While sous vide is beloved among steak aficionados for its ability to produce precisely cooked cuts, it can be used on all types of foods, including other meats, vegetables, seafood, eggs and desserts.

We caught up with Derek Gaughan, who runs the product-review and recipe website Sous Vide Guy, for a talk on the growth in sous vide cooking, its benefits and how home cooks can get started.

“The process has been around for quite a long time, but for the longest time it was expensive to create and use,” Gaughan said. “Since about 2012, competition has been increasing, with more manufacturers coming out with products, prices going down, and features increasing.”

These days, sous vide cooking at home is most likely to involve one of two appliances: an immersion circulator that keeps water at a precise temperature, or an all-in-one sous vide machine that holds both the water and the food.

“The all-in-one machines take up a little more space, but you have everything you need,” Gaughan said. “The immersion circulators can fit right in a drawer.” However, you’ll also need a container for the water if you opt to use an immersion circulator. Gaughan recommends polycarbonate containers. When choosing a container, keep the size of the meals you’ll be preparing in mind.

Food is cooked in a sealed plastic bag, which allows it to hold on to its natural juices and flavor. While many opt to add a vacuum sealer to their sous vide toolbox, Gaughan says a heavy-duty sealable freezer bag will do the trick.

So what’s a good food to start with for those looking to dive into the sous vide pool? “You have to start with steak,” Gaughan said. “When you cut into the steak, it’s the same color throughout. My particular favorite is tri-tip. It’s usually cheaper per pound because it’s a tougher cut, but sous vide makes it more tender.”

The rise in popularity of sous vide has given way to new appliance features, including Bluetooth connectivity. “You can start cooking, turn on the device and monitor the temperature from your phone, look up recipes, or instantly set the temperature according to the recipe,” Gaughan said. “Some people fill their water bath full of ice in the morning, then turn their device on through WiFi when they’re about to leave work.” Other sous vide devices are now integrating voice controls, Gaughan said.

What’s the best way to get started? “Grab a cookbook,” Gaughan said. “When you first get a sous vide device, it’s odd, because you’ve never cooked something by just placing it in water. Read up on it before you do it. Read about the pasteurization temperatures. It’s a lot easier than you think.”

The Sous Vide Guy’s recipe for corned beef is a great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Have you tried sous vide cooking? Let us know your favorite dishes to prepare.

Counterfeit water filters: Your health and property on the line

Not all replacement refrigerator water filters are created equal, even those that may appear from the outside to be exactly alike. Unfortunately, many counterfeit and deceptively labeled water filters manage to find their way into the U.S. It’s a stretch at best to call these knock-offs “filters,” and the tests show it. If you’re wondering what’s inside the phony filters, it varies. Some contain no more than shredded newspaper.

 

As part of AHAM’s Filter It Out campaign, experts conducted tests of legitimate replacement water filters versus a counterfeit. This photo hows the results of the testing, which was performed by NSF International.

Why it matters: The blue dye present in the water after it was run through the counterfeit filter represents the contaminants that would have made it into your body had the counterfeit been installed in your refrigerator. Those could have included lead, mercury, herbicides, pesticides, asbestos and pharmaceuticals. As if the risks to your health weren’t enough to worry about, the filter, since it wasn’t designed to fit your refrigerator, could also cause leaks, which can lead to serious and expensive property damage.

The good news is that since many of the counterfeits are sold online by independent sellers, you can reduce the likelihood a counterfeit water filter will end up in your refrigerator by purchasing your replacements from reputable sources. And remember to replace your filter every six months with a model from a manufacturer who will stand behind its products.

A spring cleaning appliance checklist

It’s tough to imagine tackling the various spring cleaning projects around your home without essential cleaning appliances like vacuums, washers and dryers. In fact, some of your appliances are so essential to keeping your home clean that it’s easy to forget that cleaning your appliances should also be part of the annual springtime ritual of scrubbing, polishing and purging. These regular maintenance steps are also essential for keeping your appliances in top shape. Here’s a quick checklist of spring cleaning tasks that will keep your home sparkling and your appliances in top shape:

  • Refrigerator coils: The dust, dirt and debris that builds up on your refrigerator coils can make the appliance use more energy to keep what’s inside cool. A coil brush and vacuum will help you with the coil cleaning and removing other dirt that has accumulated behind or under your refrigerator.
  • Clothes dryer: Your interior venting system, or the material that leads from your dryer to your dryer vent, should be cleaned once a year by a qualified service technician. Blockages can lead to longer drying times. Also, check behind your dryer and remove any trapped lint and debris, and remove lint from in and around the drum.
  • Oven and range: Spills and built-up residue can hinder your oven’s performance and affect the flavor of the foods you cook. Refer to your oven’s use and care manual for specific cleaning instructions, but warm soap and water or vinegar and water are unlikely to damage any finish.
  • Vacuum: Replace bags and filters and check your vacuum’s use and care manual for guidance on belt replacement.
  • Water filter: Replace your refrigerator water filter every six months, or on the schedule recommended by your refrigerator’s use and care manual. It’s extremely important to purchase replacements only from reputable sources to reduce the chances you’ll end up with a counterfeit model.
  • Indoor air: April showers may bring May flowers, but with those flowers, buds and blossoms come less welcome allergies. The EPA estimates that indoor air may contain double to five times as many pollutants as the air outside. Room air cleaners, vacuums and washing bedding in hot water can help you fight the main indoor allergens: pollen, mold and mildew, animal dander and tobacco smoke.

Rise of the Robots: Robotic Vacuums Now a Floor Care Fixture

Traditional vacuum cleaner with a hose, nozzle and brush versus a modern circular automated low profile unit, high angle view on a shaggy white carpet
Do robots live among your appliances? There’s a growing chance at least one type does. Sales of robotic vacuums and cleaning robots are expected to grow from $981 million in 2013 to $2.6 billion by 2020. And the innovations keep coming. New features like cameras, voice controls and improved navigation have taken robotic vacuums from a novelty to a fixture in floor care.

So what does one need to know before turning over vacuuming duties to a robotic partner? Robots have come a long way in floor care, but they’re still widely considered a supplement to, not a replacement for traditional vacuums. They can’t yet climb stairs, but they can sometimes reach areas that are hard to get to with traditional vacuums, like deep beneath furniture. They’ll take longer to clean a room—about 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the robot and the size of the room—but they can also do it on their own, whether or not you’re there to supervise.

Red robotic vacuum cleaner and smartphone. Smart appliances concept. 3D rendering image.
The hundreds of robotic vacuum models on the market offer different features. They use different methods to find their way around a room, using laser, cameras or infrared sensors. They may have different work capacities or perform better on certain surfaces. Some models use lithium ion batteries, others use nickel metal batteries.

Are you ready to welcome a robot into your home? Follow these tips to create a more hospitable habitat for your new cleaning companion:

Break down barriers: Take a look around the area you’re going to vacuum, and remove any potential obstacles. Even a sock or something smaller on the ground can interrupt cleaning, particularly if the robot tries to vacuum it. Remove any items that could get stuck in your robot’s rollers and cause an error.

Remove the cords: Just as you would with traditional vacuums, make sure the area being cleaned is free of plugs and power cords that the robot may try to vacuum.

Keep it confined: A robotic vacuum goes where you allow it to go. Close doors that might lead it to another area that does not need to be vacuumed, or use the technology features to keep it within a certain range.

Welcome it home: Many robotic vacuums will automatically make their way back to their charging station when their power starts to drop. Put the charging station in an area that’s easy for the robot to access.

Keep the robot clean: Keep your robot’s sensors and other navigation tools free of debris, as it can interfere with navigation. Empty the robot’s dustbin after every use. Make sure filters are clean and replace as necessary.

The next robotic revolution

Robots are slowly making their way beyond vacuuming into areas like mopping and air purification. Automation is becoming part of appliances, with many new models incorporating voice controls and the ability to adapt to our habits. Are there any tasks you would be happy to hand off to a robot? Let us know in the comments!