cleaning the filter

What’s a MERV Rating?

MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, meaning this rating evaluates the effectiveness of air filters. Understanding these ratings will help you pick the best filter for you.

The scale ranges from 1-20, meaning the higher the number, the smaller the number of particles that can pass through it. MERV Ratings are set to measure a filter’s performance in a worst-case scenario. But a higher number does not necessarily mean the filter is better for you.

Most residential homes use a filter with a rating between 8 and 13. These filters are designed to capture hair, fibers, plant spores, molds, dust, some forms of smoke and smog, and (according to Wikipedia) pudding mix. These are many of the primary concerns of homeowners (no one likes air-born pudding mix).  Higher rated filters, from 14-20, are primarily used in hospital and healthcare settings where filtering out microscopic particles and bacteria is crucial. While these higher-rated filters technically do a better job, they are much more expensive and must be changed more often than other filters. They can also restrict airflow and often won’t fit in residential HVAC systems. Because of this, a filter with a MERV rating between 8-13 is more cost-effective and practical for residential homes.

If a filter advertises itself as “hypoallergenic” this typically means it has a MERV rating between 10-13. For people where allergies are a main concern, looking for this rating on your filter will ensure it performs at the level required for comfortable living. Pleated media filters are the most common residential type of filter available, and can have a MERV rating of up to 16 in higher efficiency models. Knowing your air quality needs will help you decide what MERV rating is needed for your home.

laundry room with a washing machine

How to Best Load Your Dryer

 These tips will help you get the best use out of your dryer.

  1. Read the Manual

While using a dryer may seem simple, the manual can have important information about how to best use your dryer. If you’ve tossed or lost your manual, most manufacturers have manuals available for download on their website which you can search for and find with your dryer’s model number.

  1. Vary Heat Levels for Different Fabrics

Hot is not always best. It may seem like the fastest, best way to ensure dry clothes, but high heat on certain fabrics can cause shrinkage and damage.

  1. Separate Loads by Fabrics

If different fabrics have been washed together, like heavy cotton towels and lightweight shirts, they should be dried separately. The friction between these fabrics of different types during drying can damage the more delicate clothes.

  1. Never Overload

The drum should never be loaded more than ¾ full. This ensures the clothes have enough room to move and air can circulate. This also helps to prevent wrinkles.

  1. Hang Clothes ASAP

Getting clothing out of the dryer as soon as it’s done will help prevent wrinkles. For best results, flatten and hang clothing while still damp to have wrinkle free garments.


Got any advice to add? Tell us in the comments below! Or, add your own helpful tips.

Woman Loading Plates Into Dishwasher

How to Get the Best Use Out Of your Dishwasher

Before trying other tricks, first read your appliance’s manual. If you’ve lost or tossed it, most manufacturers have them available for download online.

  1. Pre-Rinse, is it necessary?

Unless you run your dishwasher immediately after you use and load dishes, you should always pre-rinse. Any dish that has sat in the sink or in the dishwasher for several hours will need extra help removing dried food. If you know you won’t be able to load dishes immediately, a soak in soapy water can prevent food from becoming stuck.

  1. Load the Bottom Rack Strategically

Plates and bowels in the bottom rack should face the center towards the spray arm. They should angle dirty-side downward to ensure full contact of water and soap. Flat pans and cutting boards should sit along the back of the rack, also angled downwards. Don’t place them towards the door, it will prevent the soap from reaching the dishes. Moving the flatware basket to the center of the rack may give extra space for pans and casserole dishes along the side, so experimenting with moving the basket may help.

  1. Top Rack is for Small Items

Cups, bowels, and other small items benefit from being on the top rack. Place all items between the times - never on top. The prongs can prevent even cleaning and leave water spots. Angle cups as much as possible to avoid water pooling on top. Laying some long utensils flat on the top rack can keep them from blocking the spray arm on the lower rack.

  1. Only Use Fresh Detergent

Some people may want to save extra money and buy dish detergent in bulk, but the soap will only do its job if it’s fresh. In this case, stocking up does more harm than good, as you may end up rewashing dishes. Buy only what you can use in two months. Store detergent in a cool, dry spot. Storing it under the sink where it is too damp causes it to deteriorate and clump.

Be Aware Which Dishes Should Be Hand-washed

Cookware with special coatings often need to be hand-washed. Any cookware made with wood should also be washed by hand, as detergent can cause wood to become brittle and crack. Make sure to check all your cookware for markers indicating whether they are dishwasher safe or hand-wash only.

Little girl loading washing machine

How to Best Load your Washing Machine

Properly loading your clothes can ensure you are getting the best results from your washing machine

For Top Load Washers:

  1. Always add your detergent first.

This helps it spread more evenly and prevents excess sudsing. Whether you use liquid, powder, or single does pacs, the soap goes in first. This also lowers the risk of fabric becoming damaged by excess detergent sitting on it for too long. Some high efficiency top load washers come with a dispenser drawer; using this will allow the machine to use the detergent at specific times through the cycle.

  1. Never load clothes above the center agitator.

Instead, make sure all clothes are evenly dispersed around the sides. This ensures all clothes will be spread evenly enough to be washed. Overloading can also prevent water and detergent from thoroughly washing clothes that are too tightly packed together. This also helps prevent wrinkles and is easier on your washer.

For Front Load Washers:

  1. Use the detergent dispenser tray.

Most front load washers come equipped with a tray for detergent, using this will allow the machine to distribute the detergent at the appropriate times during the cycle. If you use single dose pacs, make sure they are put directly in the drum before the clothes to ensure they have enough contact with water to dissolve properly.

  1. Don’t load too close to the door.

Pile clothes high in the machine, but leave space between the load and the edge of the drum. This ensures clothes have enough room to move and will get full contact with the water and detergent. Clothing that is up against the washer door are extending past the drum and may not get full contact with the water.

Always Avoid Overloading

We all want to get laundry done in one load, but overloading your washer prevents clothing from being thoroughly clean. Water and detergent won’t be able to get to fabrics that are too tightly packed together. Overloading also causes fabric damage as it creates too much friction that can cause fabrics to pill. This can also cause washers to “walk” and shift out of position. Separating clothing into more exact loads is the best way to get the most out of your washer and prevent damage to your favorite fabrics.