Bits and pieces

  •  Shake it freely

Salt and pepper shakers tend to clog up in humid weather. To keep the moisture out of salt, add a few grains of raw rice or some crumbled salty crackers to the shaker. To keep ground black pepper from clogging, add a few black or white peppercorns.

  •  Keep brown sugar from hardening

Prevent brown sugar from turning into a brick by putting either a few dried prunes or a 2cm x 6cm-strip of orange peel in the packet. Then tape the packet closed and stores it in a sealed plastic bag — preferably in the freezer.

  •  Keep olive oil fresh

Unless you use olive oil in large quantities, try this trick to make your supply last: add a drop of sugar to the bottle and it will stay fresher longer. And keep it away from your oven or stove, where the heat will turn it rancid.

  •  Storing things within things

If you don't have much kitchen storage space, store other items in containers that you rarely use. One neglected container is a esky that is only likely to be used in the summer months. Likewise, a little-used casserole dish at the back of a cupboard could hold serviettes and other items bought in bulk.

  •  Number your containers

If you have lots of plastic containers, you know how frustrating it can be to match them to their lids. A simple solution is to label both container and lid with a number. It's much easier to match a 2 with a 2 or a 5 with a 5 than repeatedly trying lids on for size.

  •  Hang paper bags

If you're a natural-born hoarder but don't have the space to store paper bags you have collected while shopping, clamp them together with an old trouser hanger, then hang them from a hook on the pantry door.

  •  Clean that can-opener

To loosen the grime on an electric or manual can-opener, spray the blade and gears with WD-40 and let it sit for 6-8 minutes. Then brush away the grime with an old hard-bristle toothbrush. You could also tackle the blade and gears with a toothbrush dipped in hot soapy water — an anti-bacterial washing-up liquid is ideal.

  •  Storing a Thermos

Empty Thermos flasks tucked away in cup-boards can take on a sour smell, but you can guard against odours after washing and drying a just-used Thermos:

  1.  Drop a few denture-cleaning tablets into the Thermos and fill it with water. Let it sit for an hour or so, then wash, rinse and dry.

  2.  Put a teaspoon of sugar in the Thermos and screw the lid on tightly. The sugar will absorb unwanted odours.

  •  Keep your board from sliding

To keep a chopping board from slip-sliding away while you're trying to chop on it, try this simple trick: dampen a small piece of paper towel and place it between the bottom of the board and the benchtop. Press down and your board won't budge.

  •  Cleaning chopping boards

Freshen both the look and smell or a stained or greasy chopping board by sprinkling it with salt and rubbing the board with the cut side of half a lemon. If a much-used wooden chopping board really won't come clean, try sanding the entire surface with very fine-grit sandpaper, pressing lightly. When it is smooth, coat with olive oil to stop the wood from drying out and to give it an attractive sheen.

  •  Keep garlic fresh for longer

When the papery peel from garlic is left with the bulb, it releases enzymes that help to keep garlic fresh. So when you peel a clove, put the skin back in the container with the rest of the bulb.

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Cleaning china, glassware and utensils

  •  Spot-free glassware

To prevent spotting on glass jugs, candlesticks, drinking glasses and any other glassware, soak each piece for 3-4 minutes in a bath of 8 litres water and 1/2 cup (125ml) white vinegar. Shake off any remaining water droplets and then dry and polish the piece with a clean soft cloth.

  •  Protect a teapot

When you store a treasured china teapot at the back of a cupboard for a long time, chances are it will be knocked by the dishes up front at some point. To protect the spout from damage, slip a toilet paper tube over it and secure the tube with masking tape. Or sheathe the spout with the thumb from an old leather glove or thick mitten. It's also worth using one of these protective sheathes when you're packing a teapot for a move.

  •  Remove invisible film

Though drinking glasses, mugs and everyday plates and bowls might look clean after they have been washed, they may still be covered with a thin film of grease that is invisible to the naked eye. See for yourself by making a thin paste of bicarbonate of soda and water, dipping a sponge into it and rubbing the glass or china surface well. Rinse, then dry with a soft cloth and your dishes may sparkle as never before and even feel different to the touch.

  •  Tea for crystal

If residue dries inside a crystal jug or vase that won't bear hard scrubbing without becoming scratched, fill it with a mixture of 2 parts strong black tea to 1 part white vinegar. Leave over-night, discard the solution and wash the item with a soft cloth dipped in soapy water.

  •  Cleaning etched crystal

If you have some pieces of deeply etched crystal, use an old-fashioned shaving brush or large make-up brush to work soapy water into the ridges and crevices when you're cleaning them. These brushes are rigid enough to root out dirt without scratching the crystal. To rinse, hold each piece under running water.

  •  Smooth out nicks and scratches

If you notice a small nick on the edge of a drinking glass, use an emery board to smooth it out. To eliminate a scratch on a glass, rub it out with non-gel white toothpaste on a soft cloth, then rinse. The mildly abrasive toothpaste will smooth the glass just enough to make the scratch invisible.

  •  No spots on your stainless steel

If you think that vinegar and a paper towel are all you need to rub spots off stainless-steel knives, forks and spoons, you're missing a trick. The spots will come clean only if you dip the vinegar-soaked paper towel into a saucer of bicarbonate of soda. After rubbing off the spots, wash the utensils as you usually do and dry them thoroughly straight away.

  •  Whiten bone handles

In time, bone-handled knives begin to yellow. Unless you love the antiqued look, wrap a yellowed handle in a piece of flannel moistened with hydrogen peroxide. Let it sit for a day or so, and then unwrap. Rinse and dry the knife, and the handle will be as good as new.

  •  Easy waxing for wood

To keep wooden spoons and salad servers looking like new, wash and dry them, then rub them down with waxed paper. The thin coating of wax will help stop the wood from drying out.

  •  Scrub a chopping board

Keep your chopping board clean by scrubbing it well with a lightly abrasive cleansing powder and a scrubbing pad or brush, then wiping down with hot soapy water. Rinse, then dry and the board will be free from bacteria.

  •  Wrap silver in plastic

When putting away silverware, wrap each utensil in two layers of plastic wrap to shut out air. Exposure to air causes the oxidation that tarnishes silver.

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Pristine pots and pans

  •  Choice cast-iron cleaners

Both coarse salt and borax (sodium borate) are better for cast iron than washing-up and dishwasher detergents, so use either to get burned food off a treasured pan. Sprinkle the crystals into the pan and scrub with a wet sponge or paper towel. Then rinse with fresh cold water and dry immediately, because cast iron rusts easily.

  •  Oil your grill pan

Rub vegetable oil on the inside of a cast-iron ridged grill pan to keep it seasoned — do it after each wash and any time you feel it is necessary.

  •  Don’t soak a cast-iron grill pan

Soaking a cast-iron grill pan in soapy water can deplete the fat that seeps into the porous surface and seasons the pan — and an unseasoned grill pan is a recipe for frustration. Food will stick and burn and become almost impossible to clean off.

  •  Scrub away scorched milk

If you’ve let a saucepan of milk boil over, it's probably burned onto the stove and filled the air with a scorching smell. Get rid of it by wetting the bottom of the pan — and the stove —and sprinkling it with salt. Let the salt sit for about 10 minutes and then wash the pan as you usually do. The pan and stove will be clean and the odour will vanish.

  •  Boil away burned-on food

If burned food won't come off a pan, fill it with water and add a squirt of washing-up liquid and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring the water to the boil and then turn off the heat. After about 15 minutes, discard the mixture and use a scourer or scrubbing brush to remove the loosened material.

  •  Two aluminium restorers

When aluminium pots and pans become discoloured after extended use, you can revive the lustre with either cream of tartar or vinegar and then wash and dry as usual.

  1. Cream of tartar Fill the pan with hot water and add cream of tartar (2 tablespoons powder to 1 litre water). Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes.

  2. Vinegar Combine equal parts white vinegar and water in the pan and simmer for 10-12 minutes.

Note: avoid using alkaline cleaners such as bicarbonate of soda or bleach on aluminium, as they may discolour it further.

  •  Rub out rust with a potato

With regular use, metal pie tins can rust. To get rid of rust, cut a potato in half, dip the exposed flesh into scouring powder or salt and rub the rust with your spud 'sponge'.

  •  Toothpaste for stainless-steel cookware

If there are fingerprints all over your sparkling new stainless-steel cookware, dampen it with lukewarm water, apply 2cm low-abrasion toothpaste and brush away the unsightly marks. Rinse, dry and you can enjoy your new shiny cookware again.

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Cleaning gadgets and appliances

  •  De-bitter your coffee grinder with rice

When you grind your own coffee beans, it’s almost impossible to brush all of the residue out of the grinder when you have finished — and accumulated residue can make coffee taste bitter. To get rid of the residue, run a cup of raw white rice through the grinder once a month. The rice will clean the grinder and sharpen the blades at the same time.

  •  Hold the spices

If you sometimes use your coffee grinder to grind spices, which isn’t a great idea, by the way, make sure you clean all of the remnants out of the grinder before switching back to coffee beans or you’ll affect the taste of the coffee. Clean it by grinding two or three slices of cut-up, plain white bread in the machine.

  •  Grind bread, clean meat grinder

Before cleaning a meat grinder, run a piece of bread through it to clean fatty meat particles out of the feed screw. Even regularly washing the parts won’t get the feed screw truly clean.

  •  Purge coffee stains from a glass jug

Over time, caffeine will discolour the glass jug in an automatic coffeemaker, but you can easily make it look like new. Here’s how:

  1. Fill the carafe a quarter full of water.

  2. Cut a lemon into four wedges, squeeze the juice of two of them into the water and drop all four wedges into the carafe.

  3. Add 2 tablespoons salt and swirl the carafe around for 2-3 minutes.

  4. Empty the carafe and scrub the inside with soapy water. Rinse and dry and return the crystal-clear carafe to its base.

  •  Clean your toaster with a toothbrush

If your toaster is clogged with hard-to-reach crumbs, unplug it and loosen the crumbs with a small paintbrush or soft toothbrush. Avoid damaging the machine’s heating elements by brushing very lightly. Once you’ve broken the stubborn crumbs apart, turn the toaster upside down, hold it over the kitchen sink and gently shake out the debris.

  •  Clean your oven window

If the window of your oven gets caked with grime, try one of the following easy fixes:

  1.  Open the oven door and the spray the glass with a solution of 2 parts hydrogen peroxide, 2 parts white vinegar and 1 part dishwashing liquid. Let stand for half an hour.

  2.  Wipe the window with household ammonia and let stand for 20-30 minutes.

Wipe off either substance with paper towels. If any residue remains, scrape it off with a plastic (not metal) ice scraper or an old credit card. Finally, clean the oven window with a spray of vinegar or commercial glass cleaner.

  •  Melted plastic on your toaster?

If you accidentally leave a plastic bag or plastic wrapping so close to a toaster that it touches the metal surface, the plastic will melt onto it when you toast bread — and won’t come off with normal washing. To get rid of it, let the toaster cool down thoroughly and try one of the following methods:

  1.  Rub the melted plastic vigorously with a damp sponge coated with bicarbonate of soda.

  2.  Coat the plastic with petroleum jelly and then toast a slice of bread. The heated jelly will soften the plastic and make it easier to wipe off with a soft cloth. When the toaster cools, scrub the residue with bicarbonate of soda and a damp sponge.

  3.  Spray the plastic with WD-40 and let it soak in for a few minutes. Then wipe off with a damp cloth.

  •  Easy blender cleaning

Although you probably flush out your blender jug under the kitchen tap and sometimes even give it a proper wash, that isn’t enough to keep it really clean and hygienic. Pour 1 cup (250ml) water and 1/4 cup (60ml) vinegar into the jug and add a squirt of washing-up liquid. Put the lid on and blend the mixture for 1 minute. Now rinse the jug and wipe it dry and your blender will be ready to whir and free of germs.

  •  Hose out stuck food

If a bit of food has become lodged in a food processor or blender and trying to remove it is driving you mad, take the machine’s bowl or jug outside to direct a strong stream of water from the garden hose onto the clogged-up works. Take a newspaper with you and place the machine on it so that it doesn’t get soiled.

  •  Keep appliances dust-free

Sometimes it seems that dust gathers more quickly on benchtop appliances than anywhere else. If this happens to you, cover the appliances with tea towels or — if you’re always looking for still one more way to use an old pair of pantihose — a stocking leg cut to size.

  •  Brush away espresso

If you’re a fan of espresso, you’ll also be familiar with how finely ground Italy’s favourite coffee is. To keep it from clogging up the filter screen on an espresso machine, scrub the screen gently after each use with a soft toothbrush. If any bits remain, remove them with a pin.

  •  Prevent sandwich toaster fires

One of the leading causes of fire in sandwich toasters comes from the greasy, grimy racks in older-style toasters (like mini ovens) — from burned cheese or baked-on sugar, with both leading to the possibility of a spark on the heating element. The next time you clean your regular oven — if it is a self-cleaning one - remove the rack from the sandwich toaster and wipe it down with non-toxic oven cleaner. Then simply place it inside the larger oven to be cleaned at the same time.

  •  De-pulp a juicer

It’s easy to forget that electric juicers are traps for all manner of fruit (and therefore, food) particles. Keep juicers spotlessly clean to prevent bacteria buildup by cleaning thoroughly: dismantle it, wipe out the pulp and discard and fill the kitchen sink with hot, soapy water. Soak everything except the motor casing for 10 minutes, remove the pieces from the sink and scrub with a soft toothbrush. Dry well and then reassemble the juicer.

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Delightful dishes

  •  Unclog dishwasher spray arms

If your dishwasher isn’t working as well as usual, its spray arms may be clogged. Look at the top of the spray arms to see if the holes appear blocked (in most dishwashers, one three-pronged spray arm sits above the top rack and the second arm sits on the floor). Stick a wooden toothpick into one of the holes; if it shows signs of dirt when pulled out, the holes need cleaning.

Unfasten the clips or screws holding the spray arms in place and put the arms in the kitchen sink. Then unbend a paper clip and insert it into each hole, moving it around to dislodge the blockage. Then rinse the spray arms under the tap and fasten them back into place. Your dishwasher should now be doing its job properly.

  •  Get ahead of dishwasher smells

A good way to keep odours out of your dish-washer in the first place is to simply add 1/2 cup (125ml) lemon juice to the detergent receptacle each time you use the machine.

  •  Give dishes the old-fashioned scrub

The simplest way to save on your electricity bill and get super-clean dishes in the process is to fill up the sink with warm water, add a few squirts of washing-up liquid, pull on a pair of rubber gloves and have a good scrub. If your dishes are a real mess, let them soak for 10 minutes in lemon juice-infused hot water; if they’re still sticky, sprinkle them with coarse salt and a little more washing-up liquid, before rinsing them until they are squeaky clean.

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