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The tenets of good homekeeping reach beyond the walls of a home, into all of our outdoor spaces. Porches require even more regular maintenance than outdoor spaces. Dirt and debris can quickly build up.
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Sweep, Dust, and Wash
Every week, sweep the floor of a porch with an outdoor push broom; dust the windowsills, door frames, and ceiling-fan blades using a counter brush.
Wash porch light-fixture covers monthly. Because insects tend to collect in them, always remove covers to clean them.
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Most new decks are made of pressure-treated lumber, wood that has been processed with chemicals to make it more resistant to moisture and insects. Sweep deck floors and thresholds with an outdoor push broom at least weekly to remove leaves and other debris. Dust railings and windowsills with a counter brush.
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Always shovel your deck after snowstorms. The weight of the snow can damage the deck, and the excess moisture can harm untreated wood.
Mastering the art of charcoal grilling is easy when you use these basic techniques.
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Caring for Your Grill
When you have an outdoor area where people like to congregate, it's wonderful to set up a grill. Whether you burn charcoal, gas, or wood, if cared for properly, your grill can serve you for as many as 15 years, or longer.
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Prepare the Grill
Oil the grate before each use of the grill to prevent food from sticking. Use oil that can withstand high temperatures, such as safflower or grapeseed oil.
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Remove cooked food and close the lid. If using gas, turn the heat to high. After 15 to 20 minutes, shut off the gas or extinguish flames. Rub the heated grate with balled foil, or brush the grates with a tight-bristled brass or stainless-steel grill brush.
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Remove Burned-On Food
To loosen burned-on food from a grate, sandwich it between wet newspapers, cover it with plastic, and leave it outdoors overnight, then scrub.
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Unblock Burner Holes
When a gas grill's burner holes are blocked with food debris, cooking temperatures may become uneven. Go over the burners with a grill brush, and clear clogged burner holes with a pipe cleaner or a sewing needle.
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Photography: Kate Mathis11 of 14
Once a year, spray a gas grill's cooking grate with a grease-cutting solution of 1 part distilled white vinegar to 1 part water. Close the lid, and let the solution work for at least an hour. Scrape the grill gently with a putty knife.
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Spot Gas Leaks
To detect a leak on a gas-hose connection, brush soapy water over hoses and hose connections. If bubbles emerge, shut off the gas valve and disconnect the tank from the grill, then find a qualified repairman.
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A 1/2-inch layer of sand in the grill bed will absorb the heat of failing embers and prolong the life of a charcoal grill's kettle. The ash pan under the kettle will catch any sand that falls through the bottom vent.
To dispose of ashes, wait at least 24 hours after cooking to be sure the ash has cooled. Even tiny embers can spark a fire if swept into a trash receptacle while they are hot.
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Must-Have Grill Gadget
A good set of tongs can be one of the most useful tools for summer grilling. Grab a pair and you can go to work on any number of tasks -- flip food on the grill, plate a meal, or toss a salad.