Doggy Crumb Sweeper

December 27, 2010  |  All, Cleaning, Home, Kids  |  23 comments

dog crumb sweeperI have a regular crumber that I use to clean up after a busy cooking session, but the Pico Bello Crumb Sweeper from Koziol is a nice playful take on the standard waiter’s tool.

I think this crumb sweeper would be a fun clean-up tool for the kids, especially if your child likes dogs. So whether it is table crumb duty or sweeping up a spill on the floor, this product might be worth a try to motivate cleaning.

With that said, it is rather expensive at nearly $23, so I would make sure there is a good chance your child would use it before buying it. Also, I have used a crumb sweeper in the past, and the brush tends to get pretty yucky. I would try to avoid sweeping up oil, honey and other sticky substances that might gunk up the brush. Once that happens, the brush will simply spread the oil and stickiness around.

You can purchase this item at Amazon among other places on the web.

Bunny & Carrot Roll Holder

December 16, 2010  |  All, Cleaning, Decor & Design  |  No Comments

Bunny and carrot roll holderEven though Alessi products can be on the expensive side, I love their whimsical items. Most of their kitchen products aren’t necessarily made for kids, but the colors and design often appeal to them. One item in particular is this Bunny & Carrot Roll Holder for paper towels.

A paper towel holder is a rather mundane object in the kitchen, but the playfulness of this product really sets it apart. The designer, Stefano Giovannoni, with his ‘zoomorphic’ design style regularly incorporates animals and primary colors into common objects.

If you want to brighten up your kitchen with a playful paper towel holder, this would be a good option. The only drawback might be that your child will want to play with it instead.

You can purchase the Bunny & Carrot, Kitchen Roll Holder for $60 from Alessi. There are several different color combinations, but of course the carrot is always orange.

Boon (Grass) Drying Rack

October 21, 2010  |  All, Baby Feeding, Cleaning, Decor & Design  |  No Comments

Boon drying rackI love the look of this drying rack from Boon. The square of faux grass is elegant, yet whimsical and the good design comes without sacrificing functionality.

The rack is a good size for drying bottles but not too big that it can’t be stored after use. Also, the bottom tray is enclosed, meaning it’s portable. Dish racks that drain have to sit next to a sink, but this one can be moved around because the water won’t leak out.

But what I like most about this product is that the blades of grass allow any size of bottle and all the tiny bottle pieces to be dried in an upright position. Ordinary drying racks usually don’t have prongs to let bottles dry vertically, and smaller items tend to fall through the cracks. This drying rack eliminates a lot of these annoyances.

Lastly, this product is easy to clean. The grass part comes out easily and can conveniently be put into the dishwasher to disinfect it when necessary. That’s a nice feature.

The Boon Grass Countertop Drying Rack costs around $16 on Amazon where it gets very good reviews.

Charcoal Deodorizer

May 29, 2010  |  All, Cleaning, Green, Home  |  No Comments

chikuno cube3My pantry has a lot of smells in it: spices, oil, garlic, and a lot of others to include even dog food. But now I have decided to get a deodorizer to neutralize the air a bit, and after some research I am going to purchase some activated charcoal.

The Chikuno Cube of bamboo charcoal to the right has a honeycomb structure to give it more surface area to collect all of those unwanted odors. The cube supposedly lasts for a year and can be recharged by leaving it out in the sun for six hours.

The second option is a similar charcoal cube made from Korean oak called the Kuro Cube. It doesn’t have the micro-hive structure, but it basically does the same thing and can also be recharged outside. This product supposedly lasts for ‘years,’ though I am not exactly sure how long that is in product life.

Both cubes are billed as being green products as they can be crushed up and put in the garden once they are finished. They can also be used for a year or more so you will avoid buying all those other products to freshen your house.

Some people comment on the price being too high, but at $25+ I think it is a bargain considering how long these products last. As for using baking soda, that odor solution is over-hyped. Yes, it does absorb some odors, but it is not nearly as effective as claimed and doesn’t last as long. Food Network’s Ted Allen did a test a while back and found that baking soda does work but activated charcoal works better.

With that said, there are many different charcoal deodorizers on the market. One cheaper option is Fridge-It. The colorful cubes cost about $4 and are definitely worth a try. I might purchase all three products in this post to see which I like best.

You can order the Chikuno Cube from for $28.50 and the Kuro Cube can be purchased at DWR for $25. The Fridge-It can be purchased from Amazon for $3.99.

Designer Dishrack

February 20, 2010  |  All, Cleaning, Decor & Design  |  No Comments

Screen shot 2010-02-20 at 1.32.55 PMThis High & Dry dishrack by Black+Blum has a great design, sleek look, and comes in lime, sage and white.

I hand wash my dishes, so I am usually skeptical about design dishracks, but this one intrigues me. I like how the rack folds down to reduce its profile for storage, which is definitely a nice feature. Check out the company’s website to see how it packs up.

With that said, I wonder how sturdy the prongs are when extended, and it also seems as if the rack is better suited for plates and glasses and less for bowls and odd-shaped dishes. This is a common problem with many designer dishracks.

For small amounts of dishes, however, this looks like a good option. It also has a small/removable utensil holder, and there is a spout for draining that you can open whenever you want. This means you can put the dishrack anywhere in your kitchen and drain it later — a nice feature if your kitchen is not set up for drying dishes right next to the sink.

You can purchase the dishrack for $59 at Emmo Home.

Zip & Dry Apron

January 22, 2010  |  All, Cleaning, Textiles  |  No Comments

zip & dryIn the December issue of Food & Wine, the Zip & Dry Apron by Just Perfect, Inc. was featured in the ‘Staff Favorites’ gift section.

I think this is a great idea. Not only does it offer the convenience of always having a towel around while cooking, the zip-off feature also makes cleaning easier. You can just throw the portion of the apron that tends to get the dirtiest into the wash after a particularly messy cooking session. I also like it in that it helps segregate towels. It is always good to keep hand-drying towels and dish-drying towels separate to prevent accidental food contamination. With this apron, that job is just a little bit easier.

The one thing I wish they would offer though is an additional towel portion with each apron, or at least the option of buying additional zip-off towels. Maybe in the future this will be possible, but for now it isn’t an option. Regardless, the apron is still a great idea for the home cook.

You can purchase it for $25 from the Just Perfect shop, and if you order two or more items, the shipping is free.

The Non-Traditional Dish Rack

January 9, 2010  |  All, Cleaning, Decor & Design  |  No Comments

asker dish drainerA lot of people don’t like how dish racks look on the counter and find ways to store or hide them away somehow. These dish racks, however, don’t really look like drying racks. They may not be for the serious hand dishwasher, but if you primarily use an electric dishwasher and just need some sort of drying tool, then these racks may be an option.

This Asker dish drainer from IKEA is stainless steel and folds up so that it is out of the way when not in use. It sells for $30.

The Dish Doctor designed by Marc Newson comes in four different colors. It is nothing too fancy but succeeds in looking great. The nice thing about this rack is that it drains into itself so you can place it on any counter surface regardless of where the sink is. You just dump the drained water out afterwards. This rack can be purchased from Hive Modern for $70. It is rather expensive, but it is undeniably a hip option for drying dishes.

dish doctor

This bamboo dish rack sold by sells for $40. It has a sleek modern design and is good for small places. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about this rack that I like. Maybe it is because it looks good enough that you can leave out.

bamboo drainer

This Guzzini dish drainer from their Latina line is unique and stylish. It is designed by Karim Rashid, and you can buy it from Cuisine Gourmet for about $35. It also comes in different colors, but you may need to search for it a bit online. There is also another version on Rashid’s website, but I haven’t been able to find it on the internet. It is a bright green and seems to be an update on the white version shown below.

guzzini plate drainer

Lastly, there is the cheap Umbra in-sink dish rack sold for $8. It is simple and hidden within your sink. Of course, you have to have a double sink to use this drying rack, but if you just want to rinse things off or do a small batch of dishes, this drying pad may be a good option. The pad also comes in black.


Cleaning with E-cloth

December 31, 2009  |  All, Cleaning, Recommended  |  No Comments

kitchen-e-clothAbout a month ago, I purchased from a kitchen store in Minneapolis a package of E-cloth cleaning rags. The saleslady swore by them enthusiastically, and I was intrigued but also a bit suspicious at the same time.

The cloth is the product of a British designer, Korean scientists, and Swedish innovation. Originally used in Swedish hospitals to clean with only water, these eco-cloths (E-cloths) are now produced in a wide range of specialized formats for home and kitchen use.

Essentially, E-cloths are microfiber rags specialized for cleaning kitchen countertops, stainless steel, glass and other surfaces in the home. I had been using microfiber rags for over a year for my kitchen cleaning and found it a big improvement over regular cotton cloths and sponges, but I was skeptical of the E-cloth especially considering the price tag. One cloth will run you about $10, and a package of two will cost $18. This was a sharp increase over my regular Target microfiber rags, and I couldn’t imagine how they would be that much better than comparable products.

So what has been my experience with the E-cloth? Well, the first thing I noticed when cleaning my granite countertops was that the cloth (the green one above) really gripped the surface much better than other microfiber. It almost felt abrasive, but it wasn’t. It also cleaned away dried, stuck-on food much quicker and better than my regular microfiber cloths. My first impression was very good, and three weeks on I am probably more sold on them.

Less impressive was the water spray bottle sold by E-cloth for $10. It billed itself as a water atomizer, but in the end it was just a good spray bottle. You could probably save your money and use a regular plant mister to achieve the same result. It is also rather small, so it is necessary to refill it frequently. With that said, having a dedicated spray bottle did help bring the experience of cleaning with just water together better, and I found that by having it was more likely to use the E-cloth rags as they should be — with water.

So to test this cloth out I continued to use it for a few weeks a couple times a day without washing it. I just rinsed it really well in very hot water between uses. My other microfibers would normally give out after 4-8 days and leave a very cloudy film on the granite countertop. Granted, this cloth was new, but it is still going strong after thee plus weeks with just rinsing.

I normally wouldn’t recommend this (lack of a) cleaning regime, but I did want to test real-world conditions. A lot of people use rags longer than they should and don’t fully follow care instructions. For instance, you shouldn’t use fabric softeners or bleach with the E-cloth, and they should also be washed at a high temperature or boiled in a saucepan. But let’s face it, in most cases the E-cloth will just be thrown in with the regular laundry with no concern for these recommendations. I imagine dryer sheets aren’t good for them either.

With these cloths, however, I am considering following the cleaning instructions and probably putting them in the dishwasher to clean. They really do grip the surface better, and after a few weeks, they still clean much better than regular microfiber rags. Even when the general purpose cloth left a slight film on the counter, I simply used the polishing cloth (blue one above) to eliminate it. They also work really well for computer screens.

Picture 1So why do the E-cloths perform better than regular microfiber? Well, according to the E-cloth website, microfiber is just a general term for fine fibers that is not regulated. This product’s fibers are much smaller in diameter than run-of-the-mill microfiber and split to maximize cleaning. You can see from the picture what the difference is.

For instance, to quote their website, “Rated in denier (the unit for measuring fineness of fabric) a strand of cotton has a rating of 200. A human hair has a denier of 20 and a strand of silk has a denier of 8. The average microfiber has a denier of 1.0.  E-cloth fiber has a denier of 0.26.”

I am still going to test these rags out after a couple of cleanings with some new Target microfiber rags, but E-cloth does have my attention and I now use them every day. So far it has performed better than any other cleaning cloth I have used, and this doesn’t even take into consideration that I am spending less on specialized cleaning products. I am sure that over the life of the cloth I will easily recapture its cost with lower expenditures on cleaning products, and of course, it is good for the environment too.

You can buy E-cloth products at Amazon.

Not So Useful Dish Rack

November 25, 2009  |  All, Cleaning, Home, Tools & Gadgets  |  No Comments

aurea dish rackMost times I am for good design, but if design starts to trump function too much, I have to give a product a thumbs down. In my opinion, this dish rack is one of those items. Though I can appreciate the sleek space-saving design, I can’t imagine it would be useful to most people, and even for those who might find it handy, I highly doubt they would pay $110 for it.

I wash all my dishes by hand, so I love it when new products come out that assist in that process, but here are just a few of my concerns with this product.

  • It doesn’t hold many dishes. Even a two-person family would push this to the limit.
  • Odd-sized dishes that aren’t cups or plates won’t fit well. Even utensils don’t have much of a place.
  • Eventually someone will tip it over and break a whole rack of dishes.
  • There is no draining mat or drip tray to go underneath. At that price I think one should be supplied.
  • Again, the price at $110 is pretty ridiculous.

Now with that said, the designer is Spanish, and I could see this being used in small European kitchens or an efficiency apartment in New York City, especially if there is limited counter space and no dishwasher. The rack also saves space by folding up and will have a smaller ‘footprint’ on your counter when in use, but I would also be concerned that it might not fit under cabinets well. Lastly, I will admit that European sinks often have a built in metal draining rack, so the draining pad/tray may not be an issue if you have a European-style sink.

Despite these redeeming traits and scenarios, I still think this product is not very functional, especially if you have a family of more than one person. If you live in an average-sized home, you will have enough space for a dish rack that is much more useful, yet costs a lot less. Yes, the product does look great, and it is clever how it folds up, but no matter how useful it might be for tight spaces, there is still the $110 price tag to consider too.

Despite my humble opinion, many design blogs and several magazines (including Dwell) have featured this product, so there are people who like the concept. If you are one of those people, you can find the Aurea dish rack designed by Ernest Perera at the Conran Shop. Other shops will also sell it online, but it is usually more expensive.

Designer Dustpan

November 25, 2009  |  All, Cleaning, Decor & Design, Home  |  No Comments

OrangeDustpan_largeThis design-oriented dustpan from Alice Supply Co. will add some color to the otherwise mundane and dirty task of sweeping up in the kitchen. I am glad that designers are finally remaking some of these less glamorous tools of the home. And the Alice Supply Co. is doing just that with hoses, brushes, plungers, pails, brooms and toolboxes through their hip housewares line.

Former fashion industry executives Maria Barnes and Raili Clasen were south of the border one time and noticed brightly colored pails and brooms in an old hardware store. From there it only took some margaritas to come up with the concept of the Alice Supply Co. Of course, some may object to the somewhat stereotypical woman printed on the pan, but the logo and company name is a nod to Alice on The Brady Bunch. I still wouldn’t recommend husbands to give this as a gift to their spouse though.

I couldn’t find the orange dustpan sold online, but you can shop directly through the Alice Supply Co. and buy a lime green dustpan along with some other designs. The cost is $18.