Home Maintenance For Dummies
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If your range top is looking less than sparkling lately but you're not quite sure how to get the grease and dirt off, you'll find some tried-and-true methods here. How you clean your range depends on whether it is gas or electric, and we have answers for both below.

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In general, when cleaning a range top, pull off the upper and lower control knobs and wash them separately in warm soapy water. Air-dry the knobs thoroughly and completely before replacing them. Use a hair dryer to remove moisture from nooks and crannies if necessary.

When food spills occur, immediately sprinkle them with table salt, which absorbs moisture and makes the spill easy to clean up later when the stovetop cools. Cut and remove filmy grease with full-strength white vinegar or lemon juice.

Electric range tops

Plug-in burners tend to collect grease and moisture down at the tips where they go into the power source receptacle. This leads to minor arcing (electrical shorting) that slowly builds and eventually ruins the burners. When you replace a burner, you must also replace the plug-in receptacle to prevent the arcing problem — not a cheap or convenient repair.

To prevent this problem, remove the plug-in burners and carefully clean the surfaces and tips with a damp rag or stiff nylon brush. You can use a soapy steel wool pad if plain water and a rag or nylon brush don't do the trick.

Never submerge plug-in burners in water. If you do, trace amounts of moisture usually remain on the plug-in tips and electric receptacles even if the metal prongs appear fully dry. The tips and receptacles contain porcelain, which is extremely porous and absorbs water. The result: You've brought water and electricity together for a potential electric shock.

Another kind of electric burner, the fixed unit, is hard-wired and generally lifts up for cleaning. The advantage of this type is that the tips never corrode or burn out from dripping grease.

Euro-style solid cast-iron burners (also called hobs) have a coating that wears off with use. To prevent rusting, manufacturers and dealers offer a special cleaner/sealer that you apply to a cold burner; it burns off when the burner heats. You can also use a light coat of mineral or cooking oil to prevent rusting, but oil smokes a bit when the burner heats. Turn on the vent fan to remove any light residual smoking or burning odor.

Round cast-iron tops that cover elements to create a neat Euro-burner look distribute heat more evenly and prevent spills from dripping down into the drip pan and receptacle below — but they often cause undue heat stress and can shorten the life of a burner. It's a question of whether you want to trade a longer lifespan for a slicker image and ease of cleaning.

For an electric range with a glass top, you can use a mix of half water and half vinegar. Wait until the surface is cool. Then, spray on the water/vinegar solution and wipe with a soft cloth so you don't scratch the glass. If you're looking for a high shine, there are cleaning products made specifically for glass-top ranges.

Gas range tops

Take out removable gas burners periodically and clean them with a stiff nylon brush, cleaning the gas jet holes with baking soda and hot water. Between the burners is a connector tube (called a flash tube) with an opening and a pilot light or electric spark igniter. This is where the gas is ignited and carried or drawn to each burner by what's called a venturi action. Cleaning is important since the flash tube can become clogged with grease.

Clean nonremovable sealed gas burners with a small brush and a solution of baking soda and water. If you have a sealed gas burner, the drip pan that surrounds each burner is anchored securely to the cooktop and can't be removed. The only components that can be removed for cleaning are the burner grate (the part that rests above the flame, where you put the pots) and the burner cap, which distributes the flame evenly. Use an all-purpose cleaner to clean these components.

Never use soap to clean burners. The chemicals in soap trigger corrosion on burner housings, which are made of aluminum. Baking soda is noncorrosive and is not harmful to aluminum.

Make sure that you wipe the burner housings thoroughly clean and remove all water from the gas jet holes — first use a soft cloth and then use a hair dryer to remove any remaining moisture.

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