Why you should stop pre-rinsing your dishes today

Sustainability as a holiday tradition has taken its place alongside twinkling lights, celebrations with families and friends and presents under the tree. A 2021 Accenture survey found that steps toward sustainability – making homemade gifts, secondhand shopping and not using traditional wrapping paper – had emerged as serious holiday season trend in the U.S. In Canada, people are working to reduce food waste on food waste, seeking ways to use less energy at home, and looking for information about more sustainable shopping choices this holiday season.

It’s clear that many are looking to make less of an environmental impact with their holiday celebrations. If you are among them, one easy way to use less water is to stop pre-rinsing dishes before you load them into your dishwasher.

If you consider the number of dishes and utensils that go into an average-sized dishwasher load, those quick rinses can add up to serious water savings.

But habits can be hard to break, and a few questions might be running through the minds of habitual pre-rinsers right now, like…

Is my dish too dirty for the dishwasher?

Scrape the excess food off your dishes, ideally into a food waste disposer. A dish is rarely “too dirty” for a dishwasher. When dishwashers are tested under AHAM’s test procedure, testers apply a mixture of egg yolk, creamed corn, oatmeal, instant mashed potatoes, ground beef, coffee, raspberry preserves, peanut butter and tomato juice. That’s almost certainly a bigger mess than anything served at your holiday party. Trust that your dishwasher to do the job for which it was designed.

Doesn’t hand-washing save water?

In the vast majority of cases, no. Washing a full load of dishes in the sink can use 10 or more gallons of water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A kitchen faucet runs at a rate of about 2.2 gallons a minute. Compare that to newer ENERGY STAR dishwashers, which use a maximum of only 3.5 gallons of water per cycle. Even newer non-ENERGY STAR models max out at 5 gallons of water per cycle.

Should I still run my dishwasher if it isn’t full?

Yes. Some models include “half-rack” or “half-load” settings for smaller loads of dishes. The dishwasher will still save water, even if it isn’t full.

Do I have to hand-wash pots and pans?

No. Place them face down on the bottom rack, where they are close to the full force of the water. Just make sure they are not blocking the spray arms.

I have four dishes left over and my dishwasher is full. Should I try to cram them in?

Put them aside until your next load of dishes. Overloading your dishwasher can interfere with the cleaning cycle. Remember, any water you use by hand-washing dishes will be in addition to the water used during the dishwasher cycle. Save yourself the water and the work.

I heard you can cook in a dishwasher. Since I’m saving water, should I try that to save energy?

No. It’s unsafe and is a bad idea for a number of reasons. Save your holiday cooking for your range, oven and other cooking appliances.

Thanksgiving Laundry: How to Remove Wine and Gravy Stains from Cloth Napkins and Tablecloths

Are you hosting a  holiday feast this year? If you have cloth napkins and tablecloths, chances are you’ll bring them out to use when you’re hosting guests, and chances are, they will be quite dirty at the end of the meal!  Cloth napkins are often considered a more sustainable option than paper since they rarely have to be replaced, and creative folding can make for fun presentation. However, cloth napkins and tablecloths also require proper laundering to last.

Many cloth napkins are made of linen, which is a more delicate fabric. That’s going to call for using your clothes washer’s gentle cycle. Washing cloth napkins may also take a little more thought and planning. With the variety of foods served during a typical Thanksgiving dinner, a single napkin could contain several different types of stains that need to be addressed in different ways.

We asked the experts at the American Cleaning Institute for advice on attacking food stains on cloth napkins and tablecloths. In general, linen and cloth napkins should be washed in the gentle cycle, in cold or lukewarm water.

Here are some tips on how to launder your cloth napkins and tablecloths so they’re clean and ready for the next big feast:

Oil-based stains: Thanksgiving favorites like turkey, gravy, butter and salad dressing could fall into this category. Pretreat them with a prewash stain remover before washing.

Fruit-based stains: Move quickly to treat stains from treats like cranberry sauce, apple cider and pumpkin pie. Run it under cold water to remove anything excess and treat the stains promptly. Wash in lukewarm water.

Beverage stains: Drinks like wine, coffee, tea and soft drinks are a big part of the Thanksgiving feast, but also bring opportunities for splashes and spills. Soak or sponge the stain in cool water and pretreat with a liquid laundry detergent or prewash stain remover.

Food-coloring stains: Are you bringing out a colorful cake or dessert to put an exclamation point on your Thanksgiving feast? Sponge any stains left afterward promptly with cool water. If that doesn’t remove the satin, soak it in cool water for at least 30 minutes, then pretreat with detergent or a prewash stain remover.

Wax stains: Dinner by candlelight can also lead to wax on the tablecloth. Scrape the excess wax off with a dull knife. You’ll need your iron for the next step. Place the napkin or tablecloth on the ironing board with the stained section between paper towels. Press your warm iron to the paper towel, which will absorb the wax. Once the wax has been transferred, put the stain on a clean paper towel and sponge with a prewash stain remover. Let it dry before washing.

Laundering tips

A detergent that contains enzymes can be a big help when you’re trying to remove food stains, ACI says. According to ACI, an enzyme is a catalyst that can speed up biological processes, including the breaking down of protein, fat or starch stains. Pretreat the stains with a stain remover. Detergents with enzymes must be used at lower temperatures.

It can also be helpful to let cloth napkins and tablecloths air dry after washing, ACI says. This is because the heat from the dryer can set a stain and it can be difficult to see grease or oil stains when the fabric is wet. If you still see the stain, repeat the stain treatment and washing. Only store it once the stain is gone and it has fully dried.

Add an Air Cleaner to Your Back to School List This Year

Did you know the average person spends 90% of their time indoors? While that number may have been a little lower when summer vacation was in full swing, it’s time to head back to the classroom, and all those germs.

Your classroom necessities have probably changed a lot over the past several years as we’ve weathered the pandemic. As we approach a new school year that’s on track to be the most “normal” in several years, teachers and administrators alike are looking forward to a full slate of in-person classes, closer interactions with students and a return to extracurricular activities. Even with all these positive changes, air quality remains a top priority both at home and in the classroom. While pre-pandemic most people would cite air conditioning and heat as their must-haves for indoor comfort, air cleaners are now almost as ubiquitous.

Happy teacher helping her students in using computers on a class at elementary school. Focus is on happy girl.

Even though air cleaners rose to prominence during the pandemic, they’ve been around a lot longer, doing a lot more great things for the air we breathe indoors. They help filter allergens, which are found indoors at up to five times the level outdoors. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommend air cleaners to help alleviate symptoms of asthma, the leading cause of absenteeism for students. While air cleaners are not currently tested for an ability to remove bacteria, the EPA considers them an important part in reducing bacterial transmission.

This brings us to the big question: Do air cleaners remove COVID-19? Until recently, there was no universally-accepted way to measure an air cleaner’s virus removal rate. But now, with the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers’ (AHAM) latest standard, we can test the effectiveness of portable room air cleaners’ ability to remove microbiological pollutants including viruses, bacteria and mold. This standard was developed over a period of 18 months by a committee of public health professionals, academic researchers and leading appliance manufacturers.

This standard will soon be added to AHAM Verifide®’s Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR).  CADR currently measures how fast an air cleaner filters three commonly sized particulates: dust, pollen and smoke. These numbers are listed on the AHAM Verifide® seal, which can be found on the packaging of all AHAM Verifide® air cleaners. The higher the number on the label, the faster the air cleaner filters the air.

So when you’re looking for a new air cleaner for your classroom, make sure you’re looking for the AHAM Verifide® seal. Protect yourself and your students with clean indoor air.

Cleaning Your Appliances, Inside and Out

The benefits of keeping a clean home are well-documented, from reduced stress to fewer potentially illness-causing germs and even improved allergy symptoms.

Like a lot of household activities, cleaning saw its profile increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey of consumers conducted by the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) in 2021 found that the use of cleaning products like disinfectant wipes and spray disinfectant increased. Ensuring health and safety became a driving force for increased cleaning, and 85% of those surveyed said they are likely to continue the cleaning practices and protocols they began during the pandemic.

Appliances, from dishwashers to clothes washers and dryers to vacuums, are firmly entrenched as valuable tools that make the cleaning process easier. But any cleaning routine should also involve cleaning your appliances, even those that do some of the cleaning for you. Cleaning your appliances can improve both their performance, appearance and energy efficiency. Finally, many appliances are considered “high-touch” surfaces. Think about how many times the handle on your refrigerator is touched every day. Each touch brings the potential to leave germs like viruses or bacteria, on the surface. These can be picked up by the next person who touches it.

Let’s take a look around the home and walk through some ways you can keep your appliances performing at and looking their best:

Refrigerator: Plan to clean your refrigerator when it isn’t as full, like just before you go grocery shopping, ACI recommends. Use warm, soapy water to wipe down the drawers (inside and out) and a multi-purpose spray to clean the walls, shelves and exterior. Twice a year, or following the recommendations in your refrigerator’s use-and-care manual, unplug the refrigerator and use a coil brush and vacuum to remove dust from the coils. Disinfect the refrigerator handle once a week, or more often if someone in the house is ill.

Oven and range: Cleaning your oven and range after every use will save you from a larger cleaning job later. Warm soap and water or white vinegar are generally safe choices for the range surface, though your manufacturer may recommend specific cleaning products. Don’t use cleaners with abrasive properties. Many ovens have self-cleaning features. Once the oven cools after the self-cleaning cycle, ashes and residue may be easily wiped away. ACI cautions against using oven cleaner on a self-cleaning or continuous cleaning oven, as the cleaner may damage the surface.

Dishwasher: Cleaning the dishwasher filter, which traps food debris rinsed away during wash cycles, is the most important aspect of keeping a dishwasher clean. Most filters are removable. For dishwasher exteriors, a soft cloth with diluted soap and water will usually do the trick. ACI recommends drying the finish with a separate towel afterward. Glass cleaner can be used to remove fingerprints from stainless steel.

Air conditioner: Dirt that is allowed to build up can affect the air conditioner’s performance. Use a plastic scrub brush to clean coils and vents periodically. Use the brush attachment on your vacuum to remove any leftover dirt. Also, be sure to wash or replace air filters in accordance with the air conditioner’s use-and-care manual.

Clothes washer: For a number of reasons, clothes washers can be fertile grounds for mold, mildew and odors. If your unit’s use-and-care manual does not offer specific instructions, run an empty hot water cycle containing one cup of chlorine bleach once a month to help prevent odor, mold and mildew.

Clothes dryer: According to the National Fire Protection Association, failure to clean a dryer is the leading cause of dryer-related fires. Clean the lint filter after every use, have the interior venting system cleaned once a year by a qualified service technician. Regularly clean any lint that builds up behind the dryer and any lint that is collected in and around the drum.

Portable appliance finishes: ACI recommends cleaning portable appliances with a nonabrasive, all-purpose cleaner and drying the surface afterward with a clean, soft cloth.

Vacuum: Check the brush roll periodically to make sure it isn’t blocked and nothing is wrapped around it. Change and clean the air filter, change bags and empty canisters as needed. Make sure the product is turned off and de-energized when cleaning.

Dorm Room Checklist: How to Buy an Air Cleaner for College Students

Millions of college students are headed back to campus and to smaller living quarters. Before the pandemic, any thought about the air in a dorm might have been limited to where to set the air conditioning or heat. As COVID-19 continues to affect our lives, students and their parents are looking ways to improve their dorm room’s indoor air quality. The right model of room air cleaner can help them get there.

While air cleaners are not tested for their ability to remove bacteria and viruses, the U.S. EPA has said that a room air cleaner can be part of the plan to reduce transmission. That’s especially important in college dorms, which had the reputation as fertile grounds for the spread of more run-of-the-mill illnesses like the common cold and flu long before COVID-19 came onto the scene.

Clean air is about a lot more than COVID. Allergy sufferers and those sensitive to air quality have long relied on air cleaners to remove triggers. According to the U.S. EPA, indoor air may carry two to five times the level of pollutants as outdoor air. Taking steps toward cleaner air is even more important in a small, shared space like a dorm.

If you are shopping for an air cleaner for a college dorm room or apartment, first understand that not every air cleaner is appropriate for every situation. Buy the wrong model and you might end up with an air cleaner that can’t handle the room size or is too loud for the space.  Fortunately, there is an easy way to compare models to find one that meets your needs.

Start by knowing the size of the room where the air cleaner will be used.  Once you know the size of the room in square feet (for example, a 10 ft. x 12 ft. room = 120 sq. ft.), search the AHAM Verifide® directory for models that have been independently tested for the reduction of airborne pollutants.  The AHAM Verifide® program uses a trusted test method called CADR or Clean Air Delivery Rate to measure the unit’s performance. More than 50 brands have undergone testing through AHAM Verifide®, so you are sure to find a product whose performance has been tested to AHAM’s standards.  So, call ahead to find out the size of your student’s dorm room, or bring a tape measure to move-in day to learn the square footage. That will help you narrow your choice. Compare air cleaner models here.

Aside from the CADR, consider the sound the air cleaner will make when it is in use. Noise can be an issue between roommates. Some air cleaner models will include a maximum noise level, indicating the number of decibels it puts out at its highest noise level.

CADR is evolving. In light of AHAM’s development of two new air cleaner standards, AC-4 (chemicals) and AC-5 (microbiologicals), consumers will eventually be able to use the m-CADR to compare AHAM-certified air cleaners’ ability to remove viruses, bacteria, mold, and the c-CADR to compare their ability to remove chemicals.

Tips to Keep the Clean Air Flowing

While space in a dorm room often comes at a premium, the air cleaner should be put closer to the center of the room rather than in a corner or against a wall. This will allow the air to flow more freely through the air cleaner.

Air cleaners don’t need much maintenance. Filters should be changed and cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Clean the outside of the air cleaner periodically to remove any accumulated dust and other pollutants.

The Evolution of Air Cleaners and CADR

For decades, allergy sufferers, pet owners and others have relied on room air cleaners for better indoor air quality and to help reduce symptoms. Air cleaners have a well-earned reputation as a must-have appliance for households that want to cut down on particulate pollutants like tobacco smoke, dust and pollen.

Over the past two years, however, the expectations for an air cleaner’s performance have grown. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, air cleaners have gained prominence as an important tool for reducing airborne viruses and bacteria. An AHAM survey of consumers in late 2020 found that 42% reported using their air cleaners more than they did prior to the pandemic, and almost half said they were taking steps to improve the air quality in their homes.

Even beyond the pandemic, awareness has grown about how certain chemicals affect indoor air. AHAM’s survey found that, in addition to viruses, smoke, dust and pollen, consumers were concerned about the effects of mold, chemicals and PM 2.5 (particulate matter). People who live in areas affected by wildfires also rely on air cleaners to mitigate the effects of smoke on indoor air quality.

The Clean Air Delivery Rate, or CADR—the rating given to air cleaners that have been tested under AHAM’s Air Cleaner test methods.   The AHAM Verifide® Program is the only program testing air cleaners in an independent laboratory, and providing confidence to consumers that an air cleaner meets performance claims. However, until now, consumers who were interested in using an air cleaner to address pollutants beyond smoke, dust and pollen did not have a consistent way to compare models. That is about to change.

It’s a new era for clean indoor air, and AHAM, industry experts and manufacturers are responding with new air cleaner test methods that will give consumers additional ways to compare performance for more clean air concerns, including an air cleaner’s ability to remove viruses, bacteria, mold and chemicals.

Microbiological pollutants

On the advice of indoor air experts and the recommendation of the U.S. EPA and the CDC, millions have enlisted air cleaners to help reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission. While air cleaners don’t offer complete protection, the EPA did recommend them as part of a plan to protect against COVID-19. However, without a uniform industry standard for testing air cleaners’ ability to remove viruses, bacteria and mold, consumers had no objective way to determine which model would best serve their needs for removing microbiological pollutants.

In response to this new indoor air quality concern, a team of manufacturers, public health professionals and academic researchers, organized by AHAM, came together to develop AHAM AC-5-2022, the first air cleaner performance standard to measure removal of microbiological pollutants. Eventually, microbiological pollutants will be added to AHAM’s Air Cleaner Certification Program, and models tested under the standard will be assigned an m-CADR, which will inform consumers of that model’s capability to remove microbiological pollutants in a given room size.

Chemicals

Chemicals are present in every home. They’re often undetectable, but many can give off odors. Common sources include cooking, cleaning products, furniture, flooring and building materials. In addition, thousands of chemicals generated either indoors or outdoors can make their way into the home through the ventilation system or when people enter or exit. The vast majority are harmless, but some in high concentrations can cause health issues in people with sensitivities.

Air cleaners are made to remove many of these chemicals. But as with viruses, bacteria and mold, there was no uniform standard by which to test air cleaners’ removal of chemicals. Consumers who bought air cleaners to reduce chemical odors had to rely on manufacturers’ claims, and each manufacturer had different ways of testing. Consumers will soon have a way to easily compare models, as after three years of research and development, AHAM has published AHAM AC-4-2022, which will serve as an industry-wide standard to test air cleaners for chemical removal. Soon, air cleaners that complete chemical testing through AHAM’s Air Cleaner Certification Program will be assigned a numerical rating, c-CADR, for their ability to reduce chemicals in a given room size.

From pollutants you can see, like pollen and dust, to those invisible to the naked eye, air cleaners have evolved into the centerpiece appliance for anyone who wants cleaner indoor air where they live, work or learn.

Indoor Air Quality is an Essential Part of a Healthy Home

Pollen. Dust. Animal dander. Viruses and bacteria. The pollutants that affect indoor air quality are often too small to see, but the effects they can have on your health and wellness can quickly become too big to ignore. Spring and the pollen it brings is enough to make allergy sufferers think more about the air they’re breathing. But there are plenty of indoor air pollutants that should concern you even if you don’t have seasonal allergies. Those include wildfire smoke, PM 2.5 and microbiological pollutants like viruses, bacteria and mold.

Air cleaners have long been a trusted way for households to reduce pollutants like smoke, pollen and dust. Their potential role in filtering viruses from the air has been a hot topic of discussion since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said air cleaners could be part of a plan to reduce the risk of viral transmission indoors. And AHAM, after a year and a half of work by leading air cleaner manufacturers, public health professionals and academic researchers, has published the first official industry standard that allows manufacturers to test air cleaners’ ability to remove microbiological pollutants, including viruses, bacteria and mold.

Improving indoor air quality is part of keeping a healthier home environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates indoor air may contain two to five times the amount of pollutants as outdoor air. No room air cleaner will remove all pollutants, but they can help you reduce indoor contaminants and allergens and make your home environment more comfortable in a time when many are placing new emphasis on staying healthy.

The right choice for cleaner indoor air

Many air cleaners can be purchased online. A little research in advance can help you learn what you need so you can avoid inconvenient online returns and unnecessary trips to the store. Take a measurement of the room where the air cleaner will primarily be used, and look for models rated for that room size. Enter the square footage into the AHAM Verifide® Air Cleaner Directory for a list of models appropriate for that room size. Each listing will also carry the manufacturer’s name, along with the air cleaner’s CADR – Clean Air Delivery Rate – showing its ability to filter tobacco smoke, dust and pollen.

Why you should trust CADR: Air cleaner models are assigned their CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate) based on the results of rigorous testing conducted by independent laboratories. During testing, the air cleaners are exposed to specific quantities of tobacco smoke, dust and pollen. After the air cleaner is run for a certain duration, the amount of each pollutant in the air is measured. The higher the CADR, the greater its ability to remove that specific pollutant.

Stay within models tested for the size of the room or rooms in which the air cleaner will be used. Choosing one rated for a larger room may use unnecessary energy and generate excess noise.

Staying healthy

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many health-related conversations focus on avoiding the virus. It is important to understand that air cleaners are not tested in the AHAM program for the ability to filter and remove viruses. However, in regards to indoor air quality, approximately 20 percent of people suffer from allergy symptoms, and air cleaners can contribute to your overall health by helping you manage those symptoms.

Some allergists regularly recommend that their patients use air cleaners to reduce their allergy symptoms, based on their ability to remove common household pollutants like dust, smoke and pollen and outside pollution particles, known as PM 2.5. Dust, smoke, and pollen can trigger symptoms like cough, wheezing and asthma. PM 2.5 is a significant enough issue for those with breathing difficulties that it is tracked in air quality reports and monitored by the EPA. PM 2.5 is a serious concern in areas affected by wildfire smoke. People living in those areas often rely on air cleaners to mitigate the effects of smoke on indoor air during wildfire season.

Other tips for healthy indoor air

Once you have an air cleaner, run it continuously to maximize its effectiveness. If it is in the bedroom, place it at the height of the bed. Position the air cleaner near the center of the room so air circulation isn’t blocked by a wall.

Other appliances can also help improve indoor air quality. Vacuum carpets and rugs regularly to remove pollutants that may have settled there. Keep your windows closed, wash your hands and turn your ventilation hood on when you cook.

Using an Air Cleaner to Manage Wildfire Smoke

During wildfire season, many people in areas affected by smoke use air cleaners (sometimes called air purifiers) to improve the air quality in their homes.

How an air cleaner is maintained and operated can affect its performance. If you are using an air cleaner to manage wildfire smoke, 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 to change your air cleaner’s filter. These recommendations are based on the manufacturer’s testing, but can vary depending on how often you use the filter and the level of pollutants in the air. An air cleaner that is used frequently in an area affected by wildfire smoke may require more frequent filter changes. If the filter is changing color or if the level of air coming out of the air cleaner drops, it could mean the filter should be changed. Keep extra filters on hand, especially during wildfire season.

Some air cleaners do not require filters, relying instead on an electrostatic precipitator (ESP), which charges particles and attracts them to a plate. Clean the plates 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. An air cleaner that is dirty on the outside is likely dirty on the inside, so make this part of the process when you are replacing or cleaning the filter.

Vacuum regularly: Air cleaners are only part of the equation if you are seeking cleaner indoor air. Do a thorough cleaning of the area and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to remove particles that have settled 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 will restrict airflow and reduce performance. Move the air cleaner toward the center of the room and operate it on high in an area free of obstructions. The more air that goes through the air cleaner, the more pollutants it will remove.

An air cleaner with a HEPA filter and activated carbon filter can also  help reduce the smell of smoke in your home. Run your air cleaner until the smell subsides and change the filter as recommended. This post from University of Colorado Boulder researchers offers more tips on how to reduce smoke odors.

Are you shopping for an air cleaner? Here is 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 of the room in which it will be used. Look for the AHAM Verifide® Mark and the air cleaner’s Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) 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 and meets CARB ozone limits.  The suggested room size for the air cleaner will be noted prominently on the label.  Under normal circumstances, you could choose an air cleaner with a smoke CADR two-thirds the size of the room in which you will use the air cleaner. However, those in areas heavily affected by wildfire smoke should select an air cleaner with a smoke CADR that matches the room size. For example, an air cleaner with a smoke CADR of 200 would be appropriate for a 200 square-foot room in an area affected by smoke.

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

Heart-Shaped Breakfast on Valentine’s Day

If you’re a romantic type who lives for chocolates, roses, candy hearts and everything that goes along with Valentine’s Day, we’ve got you covered! If the way to your Valentine’s heart is through their stomach, your appliances can help you create the perfect romantic breakfast.

Whether you opt for a sit-down meal or breakfast and bed, hearts are a must. It’s easy to make hearts the center of the meal, no matter what is on the menu. We’ve collected recipes for heart-shaped breakfast favorites from around the web (including some low carb and keto options if your Valentine is on a health kick) so you can make a breakfast that sets hearts aflutter.

French toast: With a lengthy history dating to Rome in the fifth century B.C., this comforting breakfast staple has stood the test of time. Since Valentine’s Day is a special occasion, we’re going to spice it up with this recipe from Veggie Desserts for cinnamon french toast hearts. You’ll need your range, your choice of bread, milk, eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon and some butter for cooking. Consider drizzling the finished with chocolate sauce.

A plate with two heart-shaped cinnamon french toast with chocolate sauce and berries
From veggiedesserts.com

Bacon and eggs: Is bacon your sweetheart’s second love? Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to indulge. All you need to make this heart-shaped bacon-and-egg combo from Clean Food Crush is four slices of thin-sliced bacon, two large eggs, olive or avocado oil, and salt and pepper. You’ll cook the bacon in your oven instead of the pan.

From cleanfoodcrush.com

Omelets: Put two large eggs, shredded cheddar, sliced mushrooms, diced onion and one cup of love into this heart-shaped omelet from Feels Like Home. Pour the mix into a large metal heart-shaped cookie cutter or pancake mold to give it its Valentine’s Day flair.

Egg being poured into a heart cookie cutter

Waffles: Are waffles the ultimate breakfast comfort food? You can put your waffle iron to work on any number of variations when the craving strikes. We suggest Norwegian waffles for Valentine’s Day if you have a waffle maker designed for the task. Try this recipe from The Stay-at-Home Chef, which is also a winner for Galentine’s Day.

Heart shaped Norwegian waffles on a plate with blueberries, strawberries, crème fraîche, raspberry jam
From The-Stay-at-Home-Chef

Pancakes: You could use a mold or cookie-cutter to make heart-shaped pancakes, but you can also draw the design yourself. This technique from One Creative Mommy uses an empty squeeze bottle to draw the heart outline, and another to fill in the center. Once it solidifies, fill in the center with batter from the other bottle. Add fruit, chocolate or your favorite toppings.

And that’s just breakfast! There are many options for heart-shaped lunch, dinner or dessert if you’d rather sleep in.

Your Guide to Appliance Repair During COVID-19

Over the course of the nearly two-year COVID-19 pandemic, people have relied on their appliances more than ever. And that is true for all appliances, from the refrigerator to the clothes washer to the stand mixer.

It is rarely convenient when an appliance requires service. But COVID-19 has added another layer to the usual routine of appliance repair. In addition to finding a servicer and arranging a convenient time for repair, you also have to consider what steps the appliance repair provider is taking to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 exposure. That’s especially true as positivity rates around the U.S. reach all-time highs.

“People who normally cook once or twice a year are now using their ovens every day,” says A.J. James, owner of Pegasus Appliance Repair in Dallas, winner of the 2019 Most Professional Servicer Award from the Appliance Service Training Institute. “People are using every appliance more. They’re running dishwashers at the highest sanitization setting. Their fridges are stocked to the gills with all the stuff they’ve been buying. We have been getting more calls for chest freezers.”

Some questions you should ask the appliance repair provider in in advance to find out about their COVID safety measures are:

  • Will the technician be wearing gloves, disposable booties and a mask?
  • How will payment be handled?
  • What are the company’s rules on handwashing and sanitization of equipment?
  • Is the technician willing to maintain a certain distance from the customer during the visit?
  • Is the technician an authorized service provider for your appliance brand? Authorized technicians are trained by the appliance manufacturer and have access to the parts, technical information, and, in some cases, software specific to your appliance type.

James has implemented strict protocols, ranging from mandatory handwashing to keeping 10 feet — further than the recommended six — between customers and technicians for the duration of the visit. Handshakes are out.

“It all goes back to the guidelines set forth by the CDC,” James says. “Social distancing is a key factor. We’re asking customers to stay in another room. Any coughing, an accidental sneeze, is kept in that other room.” So far, customers have been understanding. “It’s the new norm, and people get it. We aren’t going to put anyone in a situation where they put themselves or others at risk. I need to make sure we’re not taking something from house to house. We have been able to keep a happy medium while getting appliances fixed and keeping any sickness at bay with our team.”

Customers can prepare for the visit by providing a readily accessible place for handwashing. “It should be done immediately when the technician gets in the house,” James says. “We ask that they provide the technician a place to wash their hands with hot soapy water and disposable towels. At minimum, it is done before and after the repair. Some will wash their hands several times. Customers have been very good at making sure they have that available for us.” Technicians wear masks, gloves and booties and carry disinfectant, but rely on handwashing as their primary defense.

A bad flu season helped prepare technicians to take precautions against spreading coronavirus, says Alex Hallmark, an instructor at the Ohio-based Fred’s Appliance Academy. Fred’s Appliance provides repair and maintenance in the area and training for appliance technicians in the U.S. and globally. Their in-person training sessions have been put on hold.

“We were already doing handwashing, because that’s the only way to stop flu,” Hallmark says. “Our techs were trained on that from the get-go.” They are relying on customers to establish their comfort level. “If the customer insists, do it three times. There’s nothing wrong with peace of mind. If a customer is uncomfortable in any way, the best advice we have is not to get service until the stay-at-home orders are lifted.”

Customers should set the ground rules before the technician arrives.

“Some will say ‘Stay six feet away from me, let me know when you’re ready for payment,” Hallmark says. “We’ll make a note. Make sure you’re comfortable. We’re not all addressing this the same way.” If anyone in the home is experiencing symptoms, reschedule the appointment.

Customers and technicians should feel comfortable breaking off a visit if they become uneasy with the precautions being taken. “Now is not the time to be nice,” James says. “If the customer won’t stay 10 feet away, grab your tools and parts, exit the house. We’ll call the customer.”

When demand for service is high, essential repair jobs like a refrigerator not cooling may be prioritized over something that doesn’t directly affect the appliance’s function (like a dent or broken refrigerator handle). Customers should be clear about why the repair needs to be made. For example, a wine refrigerator might not normally be considered a priority, but that could change if it is being used to store medications.