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10 Clever Fixes for Common Kitchen Problems

Whether it's a sensitive smoke alarm, an avalanche every time you open the freezer door, or the crumbs that seem magnetically attracted to your silverware drawer, the kitchen is full of little annoyances. Here's how to fix them.

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    • Problem: Stinky Drain

      Solution: Get rid of any lingering food and bacteria by dumping half a cup of baking soda down the drain, says Amanda Thomas, founder of Moxie Girl Household Assistants. Allow it to sit for about 15 minutes, then add 1 cup of white vinegar. Let the bubbling action do its thing, then follow with a kettle full of boiling water. If you have a garbage disposal, toss a couple of ice cubes in, and turn it on. Follow with some citrus slices, too. "The ice cubes will sharpen the blades and knock loose any stuck food gunk, and the lemon will freshen it up," Thomas says. If you don't have a disposal, do your best to keep food out of the drain, and always rinse it well.

    • Problem: Cabinet Doors Don't Close All the Way

      Solution: Check the door's hinges. "Over time the screw holding the hinge to the cabinet can become loose, or even pulled out, especially when used by little kids, who tend to pull down on cabinet doors," says Vince Christofora, Jr., engineer and owner of Woodstock Hardware in Woodstock, New York. If you spot a loose screw or two, have someone hold the cabinet door in the correct location and tighten them. If the hinge has been pulled out, you'll need either a longer, fatter screw or some epoxy wood filler, to repair the damaged hole before tightening the screw. 

       

      If this doesn't work, try leveling the doors. If you have concealed hinges, they come with an adjustment screw, Christofora says. Adjust slowly, frequently closing the cabinet door as you go to check for uniform spacing. Once the door is level and uniformly spaced, it should close properly.

       

      For older cabinets with non-adjustable hinges, you may have to remove the hinge, repair the old holes with epoxy wood filler, and reuse. Or, you could slightly move the hinge up or down and create new screw holes.

       

      If none of this works, Christofora recommends installing a simple magnetic or mechanical catch to help keep the door closed.

    • Problem: Too-Sensitive Smoke Detector

      Solution: You know this, but it bears repeating: If you have one of those alarms that blares when you even think about boiling water, it's important you find a solution instead of removing the batteries. You have a few options. 1) Simply move it to a different spot, where it's less likely to trigger so easily. 2) Consider upgrading. Paying just a little more for better technology often solves the problem. 3) The shower-cap trick. Cover it while you're cooking, and always remember to remove it when you're not. (Some people prefer a plastic bag/rubber band combo. Since it's so unsightly, you won't forget to remove it.) Is your detector hard-wired? You (or your electrician) may be able to adjust the sensitivity.

    • Problem: Sticky Drawer

      Solution: It’s one of those little things that bugs you every time you use it. Thankfully, according to Mr. Handyman President Alex Roberts, fixing it requires nothing more than a little soap and water, some spray lubricant, such as WD-40, and a few minutes. First, carefully remove the drawer. Next, clean the tracks well with a cloth dampened with soap and water. Spray them with lubricant, then replace the drawer. Ta-da! Annoyance-free opening and closing. If there’s no track, and the drawer and cabinet are both made of wood, rub the drawer and the inside of the cabinet with a wax, such as paraffin or beeswax, instead.

    • Problem: Freezer Avalanche

      Solution: Freezer storage baskets or bins that run the full depth of your freezer are a must. You can buy some made specifically for this purpose, but any container will work. Use as many as your freezer will accommodate, and designate each for a specific food category -- proteins with proteins, fruits and veggies with fruits and veggies, and so on. Labels will ensure that everyone who uses the freezer stays with the program. To help keep it organized, make the final stretch of every month Clean-Out Week. “Instead of buying groceries, commit to using up as much as you can from your freezer and pantry,” Thomas says. You’ll keep your stocks of food from getting stale or freezer burned, and save money!

    • The Best Way to Pack a Freezer

      Properly pack your food before you put it in the freezer. Use these expert tips to maximize your freezer space and conserve energy.

    • Problem: Greasy Film

      Solution: Make your own heavy-duty cleaner by combining three super grease slayers in a bucket or your sink: hot water, a cup of vinegar, and a squirt of grease-cutting dish detergent. (Skip the vinegar if you're applying it to natural stone.) Apply this mixture with a microfiber cloth and bam! The grease is gone. Another secret the pros use: Zep Commercial Heavy-Duty Citrus Degreaser, found at home and hardware stores. "It's a favorite of mine," says Derek Christian, owner of My Maid Service and co-author of The House Cleaning Technician's Manual. From here on out, prevention is key. "Wash the cabinets over the stove area frequently -- at least once a month -- and the grease buildup will not get out of hand," says Debra Johnson, Training Specialist at Merry Maids.

    • Problem: Dripping Faucet

      Solution: A dripping faucet is most likely caused by a worn washer or O-ring, each of which costs less than a dollar, says Vince Christofora, Jr., engineer and owner of Woodstock Hardware.

       

      If you've got a two-handled faucet, feel the drip to see if it's hot or cold, then focus your effort on that handle. His method: Start by shutting off the water. (There's usually a shut-off valve under the sink.) Make sure your sink drain is closed, to avoid dropping any parts down the drain. Then, remove the plastic cap on top of the handle or handles. It either screws or pops off. Next, remove the screw in the center of the knob, being extra careful not to strip it. Pull the knob straight up, and remove the faucet stem. Most likely, all you need to do is replace the washer and brass screw located at the bottom of the stem and/or any worn O-rings, which are those thin, round rubber washers. Your best bet: Take the entire, intact stem down to your local hardware or home store to make sure you get the right parts. (Note: Some plastic faucet stems do not have replaceable washers and you will need to buy a new stem, which should cost less than $20 -- you'll need to know the faucet brand name for this.)

       

      As you disassemble the stem to replace your parts, be sure to line the parts up in the order you remove them, from first to last, and to take a photos of the process, to make reassembly easy. Once you've made the replacements, apply a thin coat of plumber's grease on the new parts, then coat the stem threads with a little bit of thread seal. Reinstall all.

    • Problem: Pot-Lid Pileup

      Solution: A pot-lid organizer attached to the inner cabinet's walls or door does the trick, says Moxie Girl Household Assistants Founder and Domestic CEO podcast host Amanda Thomas. "That way, the lids are easy to find and out of the way, leaving lots of space for the pots," she says. If your cabinet can't accommodate such racks, look for something else that allows for vertical storage. All kinds of specialty products are readily available, but an old dish-drying rack works, too, says Donna Smallin Kuper, author of Cleaning Plain and Simple. Don't forget about the importance of paring down all your pots, pans, and lids to those you actually use. The less you have, the less you have to dig through to find things.

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      Problem: Food Storage-Container Overflow

      Solution: Match lids to bottoms, and recycle or donate any oddballs. Then, nest together all like containers -- square with square, round with round, and so on. Here's the key: File lids separately in their very own basket or topless container. Keep them categorized, too, if you can. Organizing expert Donna Smallin Kuper recommends storing lids in a 3M Command Adhesive organizing tray attached to the inside of your cabinet. "I use two, and they work great," she says. Maintain order by following two rules. 1) Never put away a container or lid without its match. 2) Don't stuff another food storage container here if there just isn't room. Recycle or donate instead.

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      Problem: Crumbs in Drawers

      Solution: For a quick fix, pat the crumbs with a piece of masking tape, says Debra Johnson, Training Specialist at Merry Maids. For a deeper clean, break out the vacuum. Use the crevice tool attachment for powerful suction. You can try shifting the drawer's contents as you go, though you may have to empty the drawer altogether to do a thorough job. Consider investing in mesh drawer caddies to make the job easier. "The crumbs fall through the mesh, so all you have to do is lift the caddy out, vacuum the drawer, then replace," says Donna Smallin Kuper of Unclutter.com and author of Cleaning Plain and Simple.

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      Next Slideshow 10 Easy Fixes for Annoying Bath Problems

      10 Easy Fixes for Annoying Bath Problems

      Good news! Stubborn mildew, singing faucets, and other common bathroom problems can be simple fixes. Read on for DIY details.
      Begin Slideshow »

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