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posted: 11/22/2013 12:07 AM

If your dishwasher's not up to par, try these easy tips

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Dishwashers are supposed to wash your dishes, right? Well, if your dishwasher requires you to wash your dishes before ever putting them into it, then it's not doing its job very well. Sometimes just changing detergents can help. But most of the time, a good cleaning is all it really needs. Here are some tricks and tips you can try to make your dishwashing experience a little better

• Clean the inside of the unit with warm vinegar and a plastic scrubber to remove all of the mineral deposits that build up over time. These mineral deposits are the same thing that cause spots on your glasses.

• Clean the arms that turn inside the washer. They should move freely. Be sure to clean out all of the little holes on these to make sure they can spray the water properly.

• If your dishwasher has a rising spray assembly, make sure it also moves freely.

• Clean the dispenser cup with warm vinegar and water, too. If these mineral deposits get into the springs and hinges, it won't operate the way it is designed to.

• Check the settings on the front to make sure they are set for the desired washing cycles.

• Usually the water used in your dishwasher comes from your kitchen sink, so if it takes a while for hot water to get to that area, you can run the water in the sink for a minute or two to get it hot before starting your dishwasher.

• The rinse agents that you can hang or add to a special cup in your dishwasher really help a lot, too. Most are added monthly, but it really depends on how often you use your dishwasher and how hard the water is in your neck of the woods.

• When you are finished washing a load, there shouldn't be any water left in the dishwasher. If there is, check for debris in the bottom of the unit that might be preventing the pump from working properly. If you don't see anything there, then you might need to have your pump cleaned or replaced.

• If the racks are starting to fall apart, check your hardware store for new rubber tips that can cover those rusty edges. These parts, and others also, are available online at places like

Cleaning dishes is a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it -- better the dishwasher than you!

On a roll

Recycling around the house is something we always try to do. Sometimes you need to get a little creative. Toilet tissue rolls can be used for super-easy fire-starters. You can fill them with twigs, scrap paper, junk mail, old candle stubs and other forms of kindling. Fold up the ends if you want to keep smaller items from falling out. Keep a bucket of them nearby and ready to use anytime. They are great for fire pits and fireplaces.

Don't get stuck

We're sure you have better things to do than try to find the end of a roll of packing tape that you need to use. Who doesn't? There's one really simple thing you can do before setting it down after using it to prevent all this drama. Just fold about a 1/4 inch of the end of the tape over onto itself. This gives you a super handle on the end of the tape that is easy to find and will start the roll off right every time. Try it with all of your tapes that aren't in a dispenser. It's so simple to do, and works great!

Super hints

• Caulk can be hard to work with on cold days. Heating it can make it flow a lot more easily, giving you a much smoother bead. Lay it on a heating pad for a few minutes before you get ready to use it. You'll see a big difference in your results.

• Flashlights are so easy to find and are very inexpensive. I found some small flashlights that are bright colors, so they are easy to spot in a blackout. I put one in each bedside table, one just inside the back door and one in our front entryway. I even put a magnetized flashlight right on the front of my electrical panel, so I can flip the right breaker if I can't see what I'm doing.

• Carpet squares have come a long way since they first came out. They work a lot better now and come in tons of colors and styles, and even with team logos. This means you can do your game or rec room to support your favorite sports team or school. And this stuff is inexpensive, too.

Reader tips

• I live in a small apartment in a very old building. The neighborhood is a lot of fun, with restaurants and shops right on the street. I still have the old-style radiators, but they work, so I don't complain. I did, however, add a piece of scrap tin behind the radiator over the wall. It seems to reflect more of the heat back into the room, which I am thankful for. The windows are old, too, so they let in a lot of cold air. The metal works so well that I'm also going to add it to the rest of the radiators. It's worth it!

• I noticed that we were getting air in under our doors -- the front, back and attic doorway. I went to the hardware store to see what it had in stock. I found some door sweeps for only about $2 apiece. They were easy to install, with just a few screws on each one, and all three doors are no longer letting in cold air. Well, that was super easy!

• I finally put lights in our yard last spring. I hadn't really noticed them until lately because it's getting dark so much earlier. I found that several of them already are burned out. I bought replacements, but couldn't remember which ones were burned out. The timer only comes on after dark, so I got a piece of black tape and put it over the sensor to make the lights come on -- at least, the ones that were working. I replaced the bad bulbs, and now they are all working. This was a great thing we did, and it was inexpensive. It also was sort of fun to do.

• We are turning our boring basement family room into a home theater. I sew, and got a great deal on a whole roll of dark, heavy drapery fabric and "papered" the walls with it. I put some plain batting behind it for extra padding. It really helps dampen the sound from the new speaker system. We're going to have movie night every Sunday from now on!

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit onlinbe at

2013, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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