Are your kitchen workhorses -- toaster, microwave and coffeemaker -- screaming for a cleaning?
You can spiff them up fast with these tips from the Good Housekeeping Research Institute. For easy tips to remove stains from any surface, go to goodhousekeeping.com/stain.
FASTEST FIX: Unplug it and remove the crumb tray, rack and any soiled pans, and spray them with an all-purpose cleaner. Use a non-abrasive scrubbing sponge to get off gunk. Rinse and let air-dry.
As for the oven, spritz a plain sponge (for non-stick interiors) or a scrubber sponge (for regular interiors) with more cleaner. Never spray appliances directly. Steer clear of the heating elements inside.
Wipe down the inside surfaces, including the glass door; now hit the exterior. Thoroughly rinse and wring the sponge (to avoid streaking); go over the same areas. Be sure the oven's dry -- about five minutes -- before plugging it in.
MAKE IT EASIER NEXT TIME: Clean the toaster oven's drip tray regularly to keep spills from baking on. Though lining it with foil is tempting, don't -- it can cause overheating and even a fire.
FASTEST FIX: The easiest way to clean cooked-on bits of food is to heat a cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl on high for five minutes. The steam should make any mess wipe right off with a sponge. Remove the bowl and microwave turntable; wipe down the latter, plus the inside surfaces of the oven, with an extra pass around the frame to ensure a tight seal when the door is closed.
For the exterior and the control panel, spray a cloth with all-purpose cleaner and wipe. Rinse.
MAKE IT EASIER NEXT TIME: Keep a paper plate near the microwave oven to cover foods and prevent splatters. And pierce foods with skins, such as potatoes, to keep them from bursting during cooking.
FASTEST FIX: If your coffeemaker's taking longer to drip these days, it may be clogged with hard-water minerals. To flush them out, follow the owner's manual, or try the following tested trick.
Fill the chamber with equal parts white vinegar and water. Insert a paper filter into the empty basket, and put the empty carafe in place. Allow it to brew halfway; turn off the coffeemaker. Let it sit for 30 minutes. Turn it back on, finish the brewing and dump the vinegar water. Rinse the machine by putting in a new paper filter and brewing a full pot of water; repeat.
To clean a dingy glass carafe, fill it with warm, sudsy water and add some rice as a light abrasive. Swirl the mixture inside the pot. Empty the pot and use your scrubber sponge to remove the loosened gunk.
MAKE IT EASIER NEXT TIME: Wash the coffeemaker well once a week. To cut down on cleaning, consider a coffeemaker with a built-in filter that captures clog-causing minerals, such as the one made by Cuisinart.
On another matter: Detergents in dishwashing liquid are great for degreasing pots, but they also can strip hands of natural oils. New Dawn Plus Hand Renewal ($3) claims to leave hands looking and feeling better after only five uses because of an exfoliating enzyme. In tests Good Housekeeping volunteers measured moisture levels on their hands before and after cleaning sessions. Not only did Dawn Plus Hand Renewal leave dishes squeaky-clean, it did not dry out washers' hands.