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Maintaining Fixtures and Counters in Your Kitchen and Bath

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It’s not surprising that the most expensive rooms in our homes—the kitchen and bath—are also the hardest to keep clean and in good repair. These rooms get a real workout from the entire family! When selecting fixtures and finishes, it’s vitally important to keep in mind how they will get used, how they will hold up to wear and tear, and how easily can they be kept cleaned and in good repair. If you’re in the position to be redecorating or renovating these spaces, it’s a good idea to take into account how many people are using them (kids, spouses, houseguests, pets) and their ages as well as your tolerance for fingerprints, smudges, and scratches. 



In the kitchen, stainless steel appliances are all the rage. But, they do require some simple upkeep for looking great all the time. First, you have to know yourself—can you live with the fingerprints that invariably come from regular use? Or will you find yourself wiping down the appliances all the time? If you feel you will be bothered by the prints, then stainless appliances may not be for you. Any highly polished surface will show prints and scratches easily, so that’s something to consider for countertops and table tops as well. However, you do have to be willing to regularly clean these surfaces as acids from foods, such as lemon or standard grease and oils, will build up and corrode the stainless surface. You can, however, lessen the potential for scratches by using thicker gauge steel, such as Moen’s sixteen-gauge under mount sink from the Lancelot collection.


All of Moen’s stainless faucets offer their LifeShine® finish, which means you will never scrub or wear off the finish; it’s durable and guaranteed not to tarnish or flake off.
 


Tips to keep stainless appliances and fixtures in good repair:
• Read the manufacturer’s instructions. Often, there is a lacquer finish that requires specific maintenance. 


• Specify heavy gauge steel where possible. 


• Do not use abrasives like steel wool or corrosive cleaners. Natural products such as vinegar and baking soda work well. Use only nylon scrubbers to remove stubborn foods and stains. 


• Wipe down appliances on a daily basis to remove food and oil residues. 




Along with the trend of stainless appliances and fixtures comes the popularity of granite and other stone countertops. But, are they really the best surface for every kitchen and owner? As with anything, it really depends on how it will be used. Granite is impervious to heat, bacteria, and chipping (assuming you’re not dropping a ton of bricks on it!) but it does stain. Wine- and tomato-based stains must be wiped up quickly. Oils can also stain granite so something as innocuous as peanut butter on a knife can leave its mark. The selection of the type of granite and the pattern will help mitigate how obvious a stain is. A light, clear, relatively smooth pattern in the stone will show stains more and a “busy” pattern with lots of color variation will be more likely to hide the stains. Granite must be “sealed” regularly in order to protect against staining. While sealing is very easy for the homeowner, it’s often a neglected step. Other popular stones include marble (has a low acid resistance); limestone (requires regular sealing, cannot be highly polished and has low acid resistance); soapstone (dense, can be highly polished and is highly resistant to stains. It scratches easily, but scratches can be buffed out with an abrasive pad. No sealing is required); quartzite (stain and scratch resistant and only needs sealing every few years); slate (surprisingly highly durable and requires no sealing. Scratches can be buffed out and mineral oil can be used to create a shine.) 



Wood block counters have a unique appeal and depending on the hardness of the wood, can be a great option. Maple is a particularly good countertop surface due to its hardness and fine grain. Cherry is popular for its warm color and is strongest when cut against the grain (facing up). Bamboo is a sustainable wood source and works best as butcher block when oriented with the end grain showing. Wood is a great surface material as it can be sanded and refinished several times over its lifetime. 


Laminate countertops are the tried and true material for many homes across the country. They are easy to install, clean, and are the most budget conscious. In general, they do require commonsense basic care – no hot pans, no using as a cutting surface, and spills must be wiped immediately. 



Tips for keeping countertops clean and in good repair:

• Under mount sinks make wipe downs a cinch. No need to clean around the edges of sink basin. 


• Seal stone surfaces regularly, as per manufacturer’s instructions. Highly polished stones are more resistant than honed (matte) surfaces. 


• Water marks will come off by soaking with vinegar over night, then rubbing with a nylon cloth. 


Resources:
www.housekeepingchannel.com
www.naturalhandyman.com/iip/infcountertop/infcleaningformica.html

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