What is a Dishwasher Air Gap and What Should You Do About It?

What is a Dishwasher Air Gap and What Should You Do About It?

Whether you are a brand new homeowner, or you’ve lived in your own house for 40 years, there are always new things to learn about how to take care of your home. An important part of your kitchen’s sanitation and plumbing is the dishwasher air gap. This small piece of equipment can mean the difference between sparkling clean dishes and a stinky mess. Read on to learn what an air gap for dishwasher is, why you need one, and what to be aware of as far as maintenance and repair.

What Is a Dishwasher Air Gap?

Most people have no idea what a dishwasher air gap is. Is it a space between your dishwasher and counter? Is it an air pocket inside that helps move the soap around? It’s actually an essential part of your kitchen’s plumbing. A dishwasher air gap is usually a small metal cylinder near your sink faucet with a few holes in it. When your dishwasher pumps out the dirty, grimy water, it travels through a drain line into the air gap. Just like there is a gap between your sink’s faucet and the top of the sink so that no dirty water can flow into the faucet and contaminate the clean water, the air gap acts in more or less the same way.

What Is a Dishwasher Air Gap’s Purpose?

The dishwasher air gap purpose is to protect you and your family from contaminated water. The plumbing in your home, and specifically in your kitchen, is a delicate balance of pipes and hoses ushering out used water, and piping in clean water. If the two mix, it leads to contamination, harmful bacteria and general nastiness.

If you’re looking around your kitchen and are worried that you don’t see one, fret not. Not every home has an air gap. Instead of the actual cylinder on the counter, some states only require a high loop under the sink that connects through your garbage disposal. Both the dishwasher air gap and the high loop serve the same purpose: they both use gravity to get the dirty water out and keep the clean water uncontaminated. The drain line that goes from your dishwasher travels to the air gap or through the high loop under your sink and through the garbage disposal. The drain hose is lower than the hose connecting the clean incoming water, guaranteeing that the two will not mix.

Just like if your sink clogs, the air gap ensures that if there is a clog in the plumbing somewhere, the dirty water will drain out from the air gap and won’t contaminate the clean incoming water. It is also a protection for standing water in your dishwasher. If your drain hose is somehow clogged, the air gap will ensure that the dirty water doesn’t stay stuck in the dishwasher but actually empties into your sink.

What Should You Do About It?

Now that you understand the importance of an air gap for dishwashers and how they work, it’s important to make sure that the air gap continues to work at peak performance. Most states do have a plumbing code requirement for an air gap that would have been checked and installed before moving into your home. However, codes change, people move, and appliances are updated. While a certified plumber would be very aware of your state’s codes, the dishwasher installer may not be. Whether you have a high loop under your sink or an air gap on your counter, it’s best to have a professional plumber take a look if you suspect there is something wrong.

With that being said, air gap maintenance is fairly straightforward. If your dishwasher begins draining slowly, is leaving behind grime, or starts to smell, you’ve most likely got a simple clog in your air gap. The first place to look for a clog is in the hose that connects the air gap to your sink or garbage disposal. Remove the hose and clean it out with a snake, hanger, or dowel.

You can also check where the hose connects to the garbage disposal to see if there is a “knock-out” plug still intact. This would only be for brand new garbage disposals, so it’s unlikely but worth a look.

If neither of those options have worked, you may have a leak in the drain hose. To check for a leak, reconnect the hose to the air gap but leave the other end removed and point it into the sink. Run your dishwasher and jump to the rinse cycle. Watch the hose to see if there are any obvious leaks that need repairing. You can replace the entire hose if necessary or use epoxy for a DIY solution. If none of these quick fixes have helped your dishwasher run better, it may be time to consult a professional.

Check Your Dishwasher Air Gap Frequently to Keep Your Dishwasher Running Smoothly

Dishwasher air gaps and their brothers, high loops, are essential aspects to your kitchen’s sanitation and smooth operation. If you are replacing appliances, updating your kitchen sink, or having any trouble with your dishwasher, make sure that your dishwasher air gap is set up properly. The more you know, the more confidently you can let you dishwasher do all the hard work.

How to Make Your Own Homemade Carpet Stain Remover

How to Make Your Own Homemade Carpet Stain Remover

The fact is inevitable. If your home has carpet, it’s going to get messy. Try as hard as you might, accidents happen. Even without kids or pets, wine will spill, mud will get tracked in, and despite your firmest grip, you will drop your fork. But all is not lost. Even the whitest of carpets can be salvaged from the reddest of stains. And the best news of all is that you don’t need a shelf full of harmful chemicals or expensive stain removers. All you need for a homemade carpet stain remover is a few items you already have lying around. Take a look at these common household products to see how you can mix and match to make a DIY natural carpet stain remover quickly and cost-efficiently.

Vinegar Homemade Carpet Stain Remover

A little white vinegar, mixed with some other common household items, creates a homemade carpet stain remover that can clean almost anything.

Vinegar + Salt: For most stains, a simple combination of ½ cup of vinegar with 2 tablespoons of salt dissolved in it will suffice. Pour the mixture onto a towel or clean rag, then blot the stain gently. Let the mixture sit on the stain and dry before vacuuming it (and the stain) away.

Vinegar + Salt + Borax: If the stain is dark or stubborn, try adding borax to your solution. Two tablespoons dissolved in the vinegar along with the salt is a stronger combination that should tackle even those tough stains. Let it dry, then vacuum it up.

Vinegar + Water: diluted vinegar works well on coffee and tea carpet stains. Never pour it directly onto the carpet, but use a towel or sponge to lightly blot the stain

Vinegar + Cornstarch: For mud, dirt, and ground-in stains, a 1:1 solution of vinegar and cornstarch is an easy and natural carpet stain remover. For those really tough stains, keep the solution on for two days before vacuuming.

Vinegar + Laundry Detergent + Water: If your carpet stains are from a new paint job, try dissolving 1½ teaspoons of vinegar and 1½ teaspoons of laundry detergent in two cups of warm water. Use a sponge to blot out the paint before it dries, then rinse the carpet with cold water. This same mixture is great for fruit and fruit juice stains as well.

Baking Soda Homemade Carpet Stain Remover

Baking soda, like vinegar, is almost a catch-all when it comes to how to get stains out of carpet, and it does a lot more for the smell than vinegar can.

Baking Soda: On stains left by pets or others who can’t control their bodily functions, baking soda alone is your best bet. Clean up any solids that you can, then cover the remaining stain with baking soda and pat gently with a paper towel or rag. Let it sit until it is dry (it may take a few hours), then vacuum it up. Don’t be afraid to repeat the process a couple times for the best results.

Baking Soda + Salt: If you need to know how to get stains out of carpet caused by grease, look no further. Equal parts baking soda and salt scrubbed into the carpet and left for five hours will vacuum right up.

Baking Soda + Dish Soap + Vinegar + Warm Water: For a great all-purpose natural carpet stain remover, combine these four common ingredients together in a spray bottle. Almost any stain will disappear after a spritzing, a drying, and a vigorous vacuuming.

Ammonia Homemade Carpet Stain Remover

Ammonia may not be the first thing you grab at the store, but if you happen to have some in the back of your cleaning closet, it can become a great homemade carpet stain remover.

Ammonia + Water: One tablespoon of ammonia mixed with a half cup of warm water creates a great solution for removing tough stains. You can sponge this mixture onto the stain or spray it and blot with a towel or sponge.

Hydrogen Peroxide Homemade Carpet Stain Remover

Hydrogen Peroxide is tough on stains but still safe for your carpet. Try mixing it with a couple common products for a great DIY carpet cleaner.

Hydrogen Peroxide + Cream of Tartar: A teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide and a pinch of cream of tartar will create a paste that is sure to get out dark and stubborn stains. Dab the paste right onto the stain with a cloth, then rinse it off.

Hydrogen Peroxide + Non-Gel Toothpaste: Adding just a half teaspoon or so of toothpaste to a teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide will have the same effect as the cream of tartar and may leave your carpet smelling minty fresh.

Don’t Panic: DIY Stain Removers Can Help

There’s no need to worry about how to get stains out of carpets, or about bringing harmful chemicals into your house. These simple DIY homemade carpet stain removers are safe, natural, and will help you get tough stains out of your carpet.

Everything you Need to Know About Plumbing Vents

Everything you Need to Know About Plumbing Vents

Plumbing vents are an important part of your home’s plumbing system. They ensure the integrity of your pipes, help to clear out debris, and rid your house of sewer gases and other toxins. But what are plumbing vents exactly, how do they work, and what can you do if something goes wrong? Read on to learn everything you need to know about taking care of your home’s plumbing vent.

What are Plumbing Vents?

Plumbing vents might sound strange at first. Plumbing is for liquids and vents are for air. But neither can function without the other. A plumbing vent has two major functions. The first is the regulation of air pressure within your plumbing system. Your house is constantly washing liquids and other waste out through plumbing in toilets, sinks, and showers. Without proper air pressure, though, that waste would easily be backed up or clogged. Just like pouring milk or juice out of a jug, air has to find its way in to fill the void left by the emptying liquid. A plumbing vent pipe allows air to fill the space vacated by the waste of the plumbing. With this equalized pressure, water is able to flow freely through the pipes and out of the home without interruption or fear of backsplash.

The second major function of a plumbing vent pipe is to ventilate the sewer gases emitted from your home’s sewage. To put it delicately, your plumbing can harbor harmful and toxic sewer gases that need to be released. To put it realistically, sewage stinks and you don’t want your house to stink as well. That’s where your plumbing vent stack comes into play. As part of your home’s plumbing system, a plumbing vent pipe is connected to your sewage pipes, and then connects to the vent stack which runs up and out through your roof. This allows the sewer gases to escape your home without affecting the area where you actually live. The gases dissipate and the smell is never an issue.

How to maintain and repair a plumbing vent

As you can see, having a fully functioning plumbing vent is paramount. Without it, plumbing issues could lead to water damage, burst pipes, and other smelly dilemmas. To make sure that all of your plumbing is working at peak performance, there are a few things you can do regularly and some fixes to try if you suspect your plumbing vent has been compromised.

1. Take Care of Your Plumbing

First and foremost, take care of your plumbing. It may go without saying, but taking care of your entire plumbing system is important to keep all of your pipes and vents in good shape. Never flush anything down the toilet besides toilet paper, make sure that your sinks have stoppers, and run your garbage disposal regularly. It’s also wise to read your owner’s manual regarding your garbage disposal. Not everything that falls in the sink should go through your garbage disposal. Certain organic foods like eggshells and banana peels can damage more than just your disposal if they get through to the pipes. Flushing anything down drains that doesn’t belong means you run the risk of causing a block in your pipes, leading to further damage.

2. Correctly Diagnose the Issue

If you have a clog in a sink or other drain, it may be unclear whether the problem is with the plumbing vent pipe or more directly related to the drain where the problem is. Some signs you can look for are clogs or slow draining water from multiple sites in your home. If the problem isn’t localized, that could point to a plumbing vent clog. If you hear a lot of gurgling when you run water down a drain, that might also signal a problem with the main plumbing vent. Or, if you’re able to clear clogs but they keep returning, your problem most likely lies further down the line with the plumbing vent. Sometimes vigorous plunging from the problem site is enough to clear the clog, but more often than not, the obstruction needs to be dealt with directly.

3. Seek Professional Help

If the plumbing vent becomes completely blocked, you will no longer hear gurgling, you will get standing water, and the smell of sewage will begin to permeate your home. In these cases, it’s best to enlist professional assistance as soon as possible. Not only will a complete blockage disrupt your entire plumbing system, but the smell can become unbearable. It’s always best to fix these problems as soon as you notice them to prevent any future damage or setbacks.

Plumbing vent pipe installation is an important part of any home’s plumbing system and should be done by professionals. Building codes dictate that drain pipes need to always point down to let gravity pull the waste, and If you believe there is a major problem or that the plumbing vent pipe installation was not done properly, make sure to contact a plumber.

Stay Proactive and Prevent Plumbing Vent Issues

Plumbing vents are an important part of your home that keep the good in and ensure that the bad stays out. Always take care of all your plumbing. Keep bathroom fixtures free of unflushable materials, deal with clogs quickly, and don’t be afraid to enlist the help of a certified plumber. Taking a little care of your home now can save you much more costly repairs in the future. And for help keeping your home protected from costly repairs, a home warranty may help.

How Do You Clean Self-cleaning Ovens?

How Do You Clean Self-cleaning Ovens?

Just like every other room in your home, a kitchen gets dirty and needs to be cleaned. But unlike every other room, the kitchen gets its mess from food, not just dust. The kitchen is full of appliances that are difficult to clean but unfortunately are often the dirtiest. Food spills, grease, and burnt goo in your oven can cause problems while preparing dinner. Not only can they cause smells and smoke, but they can actually interfere with the food that’s supposed to be cooking in there.

Thankfully, there’s a solution, particularly when it comes to oven cleaning. Most modern kitchens have self-cleaning oven options that may sound too good to be true. While it’s not quite completely hands-off, using your self-cleaning oven to do most of the hard labor for you does take away a lot of the dirty work. They can also keep you safe from dangerous fumes found in traditional oven cleaners. If you’re not sure how to use a self-cleaning oven, how they work, or why we use them, read on to learn everything you need to know about self-cleaning ovens.

How Does a Self-cleaning Oven Work?

So how does a self-cleaning oven work? It’s usually one of two ways. The first is the most common and traditional: high temperature. This process burns the mess away. What makes ovens so difficult to clean is that the mess and grime are literally baked onto the surface of the oven. It’s usually not as simple as a quick wipe or even a thorough scrub. With a traditional self-cleaning oven, the temperature is raised to almost 1000 degrees for anywhere from one to four hours. This will burn away the mess and turn it into ash. Then the clean up is as simple as a quick wipe to get the remnants out.

The second method is through steam. This method is much faster than the traditional pyrolytic ovens and doesn’t leave your house smelling of a campfire or radiating with heat. Instead of burning off the grime, water is placed in the bottom of the oven and the high temperatures create enough steam to loosen the mess. Unfortunately, however, steam won’t work on every spill. For those tough to get messes, the longer pyrolytic method is still preferable.

Many modern ovens offer both self-cleaning options. If you need a quick clean, steam is your best bet. For those thorough cleanings or tough messes, you may need to set aside time to do the full, high-temperature self-clean.

How to Clean a Self-cleaning Oven with the Pyrolytic Option

Now that you know your cleaning options, it’s time to get to work on cleaning the oven. The first thing you should know about how to clean a self-cleaning oven is to always read your owner’s manual instructions. Ovens can be dangerous and the self-cleaning settings use a lot of power that could mess with your home’s electrical set up. A quick readthrough of your owner’s manual will help you handle it in the safest way possible.

1. Empty the Oven

No matter which method you use, the first thing to do is to empty the oven. Remove all the oven racks and any dishware you might have in there. Make sure everything is removed from above or below the oven as well. Temperatures will get so high that items close by may melt or burn. You’ll also need to remove any big food particles. Anything that a quick wipe with a wet rag will pick up should be removed from the oven first.

2. Set Aside Time and Monitor

Even with the steam option, a self-cleaning cycle is lengthy. Make sure that you clean your oven at a time when you can be home but don’t need to be in the kitchen. In case there is smoke, you need to be there to aerate the room. Make sure that your oven vent is working, open a window, or turn on a fan to get the smoke out of the house.

3. Protect Pets and Children

The burning of food particles into ash may release a lot of carbon monoxide and other dangerous fumes. Those fumes can be harmful to pets and humans alike. Make sure that you move any living creatures to another room of the house where there is plenty of ventilation. Birds are especially susceptible to these dangerous fumes so take extra care of your feathered friends before cleaning your oven.

4. Start the Self-cleaning Process

Once your oven is emptied and your loved ones cleared out, it’s time to clean. Select your cleaning cycle and let her rip. Many ovens will let you select the time range anywhere from one to four hours. Once you’ve selected your time and hit go, let the cleaning cycle run its full course. Lock the oven door if possible or at least make sure that anyone else in your home knows not to open the oven. While the cleaning cycle won’t be disrupted, the extremely high temperatures could blast the opener and cause serious damage.

5. Let the Oven Cool Before Wiping Away Ash

After the full cycle, allow your oven time to cool completely. After it has completely cooled, use a wet rag to wipe away the ashes left on the oven floor. Never use any chemicals with a self-cleaning oven, the fumes from these products are dangerous. There are a few modern products that are self-cleaning oven safe, but they shouldn’t be necessary if you’ve read your owner’s manual and followed the steps above.

How to Clean a Self-cleaning Oven with the Steam Option

If you choose the steam option, the process is very similar: clear out your oven, clean out any large food particles, and remove any items close by. Pour the correct amount of water into the bottom of the oven (your owner’s manual will tell you how much), and turn it on. The cleaning cycle will be much shorter, but you still need to be at home for the entire process and wait for it to cool down completely before wiping clean.

Scrub your oven racks with warm soap and water and let them towel dry. Leave the oven door open while the oven dries as well.  Once everything is cooled and dry, you can reassemble your oven and bask in the cleanliness.

Follow the Directions and Enjoy the Magic of a Self-cleaning Oven

If you are not sure how to use a self-cleaning oven or if your oven has a self-cleaning option, always consult your owner’s manual for instructions. Cleaning your kitchen can be a breeze when you use your self-cleaning oven to do all the heavy lifting.

What You Should Know about Water Heater Maintenance

What You Should Know about Water Heater Maintenance

An average water heater should last at least 10 years before needing serious repairs or replacement. This is good news since a brand new water heater can be a significant expense. The better news is that with a little bit of care and some DIY heater maintenance, you can extend the life of your water heater by years and save yourself significant money.

Basic Water Heater Maintenance

Just like your car or computer, a water heater needs a tune-up every now and then to make sure it’s running properly and to prevent any future catastrophes. As part of your annual spring cleaning, here are a few maintenance tips to make sure your water heater is clean, safe, and working at peak performance.

1. Test the TPR Valve

The TPR valve, or temperature-pressure-release valve, is your water heater’s safety mechanism. If the water pressure or temperature rises above safe levels, it will release water to prevent a dangerous malfunction. It’s very important that this piece of equipment is working perfectly. To check it, turn off the power and the water supply valve to the water heater. Put a basin or bucket underneath the pipe connected to it. Once everything is in place, slowly lift the tab on the valve to let a little water out. Once a little water comes out, let go. It should immediately stop the flow of water. If it doesn’t and water continues to flow, the TPR needs to be replaced with a new one.

2. Check the Anode Rod

Making sure that your anode rod is still good is the easiest and most effective regular water heater maintenance you can perform. The anode rod’s sole purpose is to make sure your water heater doesn’t rust. It’s screwed into the top of the heater and is often the first thing to go bad. Empty the tank a few gallons before unscrewing it. You’ll be able to tell right away if the anode rod is good or if it has rusted and needs to be replaced.

3. Clean Out the Tank

Along with regular maintenance checks, your water heater deserves a little cleaning itself. At least annually, you can drain all the water from your heater by first turning off the power and then attaching a hose to the tank’s drain cock. Once it’s empty, mix up the sediment remaining in the tank. The best way to do this is by opening the cold-water supply valve for just a few seconds and then draining that water. You’ll need to perform this several times until the water drains out clean. Then you simply close the drain cock and fill the tank back up.


How to Keep Your Water Heater Running Longer and More Efficiently

Aside from regular water heater maintenance, there are a few one-time things you can do to make your water heater work even more efficiently.

1. Insulate the Pipes

The purpose of the water heater is to heat the water, but if heat is escaping through pipes, you’re either getting lukewarm water, or you’re using more power than you need to heat the water. You can wrap the pipes around your water heater with pipe foam insulation. Measure your piping and go to any hardware or home improvement store to find the right sized foam. Slip it around the pipe, squeeze it closed, and tape it tightly. Even cold pipes can benefit from good insulation.

2. Insulate the Tank

While the pipes are releasing heat, the hot water stored in the tank is also letting heat escape. Just like your pipes, you can perform some hot water tank maintenance by insulating your entire tank and keeping your storage of hot water protected and ready to go. An insulating blanket looks like bubble wrap on aluminium and can be purchased online or at any home improvement store. Surround the tank but make sure that the pipes, TPR valve, and temperature controls are unencumbered and open. For oil or gas water heater maintenance, do not cover the top. For electric, you can place a circular insulation cutout on top and tape it to the blanket with foil tape.

3. Adjust the Temperature

The easiest thing that you can do to make your water heater the most efficient is to adjust the temperature. If your water is scalding hot, it’s probably turned up too high and is using too much energy. If you turn your shower on and wait forever for it to heat up, your temperature might be too low and you’re wasting water, which is wasting energy. Locate the temperature control and adjust accordingly. Remember that just a tap of the dial can make a big difference so be very careful when adjusting the heat. And make sure that your water heater is set at 120 degrees or lower for the safety of you and your family.

With these tools and maintenance tips, your water heater’s ten-year life expectancy could improve greatly while saving you money on your energy and water bills. Always take care while servicing your water heater and do not hesitate to contact a professional if you are concerned about the integrity of your water heater or its parts. And if you’d like coverage for your water heater, a home warranty can help.