Off to See the Wizard — But Tidy Up Before You Go.

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Bakhita in motion.

Good morning!  Today we’re taking Ali Does It west as we travel home to spend the holiday season with our families.  We’ll be in Ottawa for a WHOLE MONTH.  During this time, Gren will have his second birthday (hopefully he’ll be able to celebrate it with his sister, Bakhita, who also lives in Ottawa).  And Cait and I will be starting on a new category of blog posts for you: Mad Science.  Because who doesn’t love science?  I know I do.  Especially when it involves things that fizz or glow.  So stay tuned for a wide variety of madcap experiments in the coming months.

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From left to right: unnamed female puppy, Gren, Paddy (Gren’s dad), and Bakhita (Gren’s sister).

And not to fret!  I will continue to blog while I’m home with the family — in fact, I will probably make them help out, so we should have uninterrupted posts all the way into the new year!

Cleaning Microwave 2

Before we go, though, I have a quick cleaning tip for you.  I hate leaving a dirty house.  I just can’t stand coming home to a mess, dirty laundry and expired food and stale whatever.  I’m not in the mood.  So the Pie and I tend to do a whole-house clean before we go, just making sure the surfaces are clean, things are dusted, the laundry and dishes are done, and the fridge is empty of anything that might expire in our absence.  It just makes for a better homecoming, especially when the first thing we do upon our (usually late night) reentry is open our suitcases in the middle of the living room and make a big mess.

Now, there’s a lot of work to do in the days leading up to our travel — usually the Pie is writing exams and I am packing and getting Gren ready for the airplane.  So anything that saves me time and effort is number one in my books.  So here’s a handy tip for quickly and lazily cleaning your microwave — while you do something else.  And this even works on super gross, super crusty microwaves.  Trust me.  I own one of those kind.  I’m a terrible housekeeper.  And I’m freaking LAZY.

Take a small bowl and fill it with about a cup of water, maybe a cup and a half.  Whatever floats your boat.  Then add in a few tablespoons lemon juice (you don’t have to be all elitist and use fresh lemons for this — bottled lemon will do just fine).

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Pop that bad boy into the microwave in the middle and nuke it for 3 minutes.  Then leave it in there, without opening the door, for another 5 minutes.  While cool and awesome science is going on behind that door, you can work on cleaning something else.  Or check Facebook.  Or play with your dog.  That is up to you.  What is happening is the steam from the boiling water is loosening baked on goo, and the acid in the lemon is breaking up all the grease.

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Then take your handy dandy scrubby sponge and simply wipe away all that grease and grime.  That’s all it takes, is a little wipe.  I kid you not. It’s that simple.

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Even gets the stuff on the ceiling of the microwave. Easy peasy.  And even if you forget about the microwave, all that lovely condensation will have done its job, even if you come back an hour later.

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And once the lemon water in the bowl has cooled, you can dip your sponge in it and use it to sanitize your counter tops and cutting boards. BLAMO KABLAM.

Cleaning Your Dishwasher

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Before we get started, I will have you know that cleaning your dishwasher isn’t something that only germaphobes with a free hour get into.  It’s actually a really good idea.  Seriously.  I’m not crazy.

Regularly cleaning your dishwasher (say, every six months or so) can make for a more efficient dishwasher, cleaner dishes, a nicer-smelling kitchen, and money saved on repair costs.  You may think that cleaning something that constantly runs soapy water through itself seems strange, but all that food residue it takes off your cutlery and plates has to go somewhere, and it doesn’t all make it down the drain.  Which, when I took the time to clean my own dishwasher, I found out, to my continuing disgust.

Many websites offering how-to tips on cleaning your dishwasher advise against using gel detergents in your machine, as many contain bleach, which can break down your rubber seals over time and damage stainless steel interiors.  While using a powdered detergent works, keep in mind that the powders don’t always dissolve completely in the wash, which can block your drains and such.  We use a gel detergent that is made up of natural ingredients, and which contains no parabens, petroleum products, or bleach.  They’re easy to find.  Even Martha Stewart makes a decent version.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Another important thing to remember when using your dishwasher is to use the hottest water possible.  The manual on my dishwasher recommends a temperature of around 120°F (about 49°C).  Unlike clothes washing machines, most dishwashers are not designed for cold-water washing.  If you want to save energy, select the air dry setting at the end, if you have one, instead of the heated dry setting.

Now while I say it’s a good idea to clean your dishwasher every six months, I have had this dishwasher since August 2008 (it was the Pie and my “negative-first” anniversary present to each other, how romantic) and I have never cleaned it.  Until now.  We did buy the cheapest model available, so we never expected magic performance, but lately (probably the past year or two, if I’m honest), we’ve been pulling more and more “casualties” out of the dishwasher.  These casualties are the Pie’s name for any dishes with food stuck to them.  Which he then leaves on the counter for someone (usually me) to wash by hand.  Personally, I don’t really care.  I figure if the food has been in water that hot for that long, it’s probably sterilized and will only add flavour to whatever I am eating next.  But sometimes you have to take one for the team.  Plus it would be nice to have all the glasses sparkling again.

So.  Cleaning the dishwasher.  Let’s get down to it.  Using a gentle cleaner, such as dish soap, and a soft cloth (don’t use abrasives in your dishwasher), get to cleaning the outside and all the goo left on the sides of the dishwasher doors.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

These are the parts that you don’t see when the dishwasher door is closed, but which don’t get exposed to the inside of the washer when it is in operation.  Make sure to thoroughly wipe down any gaskets and seals as well.  Crusty food on seals makes for crusty seals that don’t seal properly.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

If you have a dishwasher with a stainless steel interior/exterior, you should use a mild steel cleaner.  Method makes a good one.  I used this one by Seventh Generation on my plastic interior.  It’s a good grease cutter.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Give the interior of the dishwasher a light scrub as well.  Make sure you get the spot under the dishwasher door.  It can get pretty gross down there too.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Pull out your dish racks and clean them too.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Pay close attention to the cutlery baskets, as they can trap food.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Your bottom rack will come out easily, but the top one may have some stoppers in place that you will have to remove first.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Now, that nifty propeller thing is the part that sprays hot water all over your dishes.  It also gets clogged with food.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Using a pair of needle-nosed pliers, a piece of bent wire, or a toothpick, carefully remove any debris from the holes on top without scratching the apparatus.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

I actually removed a small stick from one of the holes.  And quite a lot of my own hair.  Ew.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Now for the drain.  Depending on your dishwasher, this could be under your washing arm or at the back of the machine.  First, remove any food that is stuck on top of the drain.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Now pop that sucker out.  There might be screws holding it in place.  I wasn’t sure with mine (and didn’t want to break it by manhandling it out), so I looked up the model number (I have a Kenmore 665.17702K600 Portable Dishwasher) on the internet and found that you can just pop up the long side of it.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Then I just gave it a bit of a counter-clockwise twist and it popped right off.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

And then I had this to contend with.  Feel free to gag and shudder.  I definitely did.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

There was probably a litre of stagnant water lying in there.  I have never wanted a shop-vac as much as I did at that moment.  I tried scooping out the water in a shot glass but the glass was too wide for the wee hole.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

In the end I took the lid from a laundry-detergent bottle in the recycling.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

With a hefty knife and some swearing, I cut off the sticky-outy bit so it was narrow enough to fit through the hole.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Tada.  Gross water drained.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

I don’t want to know what this black stuff is, so please don’t tell me.  But I scrubbed at it with a dish brush.

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And a tooth brush.  And wiped up the majority of its slimy substance.  Good thing I didn’t bother to shower before doing this.

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Now you can take a deep breath because all the gross stuff is at an end.

Gren is notably relieved.  Or confused.  It’s hard to tell with him.

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Now you have to put your racks back in and run the dishwasher on two empty cycles.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

For the first, put two cups white vinegar upright in the top rack of your dishwasher.  Run the machine on the shortest setting at the hottest temperature.  When that cycle is complete, remove the cups of water and sprinkle the bottom of the dishwasher (just sprinkle, mind you, we don’t want to clog our newly cleaned drain) with baking soda, and run it again.  Now you are officially done.

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Also I bet you are thinking more about what you put in your dishwasher than you were before, right?

To see where I got my know-how, check these places out:

WikiHow

Apartment Therapy

Wisebread

House Cleaning Central