July 11, 2022

Choose Your Battles: Round 1

This is kind of an odd post and I certainly didn't plan to do it, but after the day I had today, it seemed like it would be fun. It all started with my frustration while cleaning my oven. I despise cleaning the oven/stove and anything around it because the grease gets baked onto the glass (and other surfaces) and despite multiple cleaning attempts, I just assumed it was stained there permanently.

You know those dark brown grease spatters that I'm talking about? They somehow get on the oven door, even though your food isn't anywhere near it? It gets baked on so that it's nearly impossible to remove. No matter how much I scrubbed, I couldn't get it off. I probably tried every commercial cleaner on the market, and nothing loosened it up enough to scrub it away.

So, I made do with the oven's steam cleaning cycle--I would put on some degreaser, hope it worked, steam clean, scrub until my arm felt like Jello--only to see that the oven was clean, but those stubborn grease spots seemed to be a permanent stain. Today, I was ready to tackle it--I just couldn't stand looking at it anymore.

Battle #1: Oven Grease vs. Elbow Grease (and baking soda)

After Googling how to remove the grease from the oven door, all the sites were saying the same thing: a paste made of baking soda and water. You just mix water into the baking soda until it's the texture of shaving cream. Then you spread it all over the oven door, let it sit for 30 minutes or so, and wipe it off.

HAHAHA. I used every cleaner imaginable, so I thought there was no way that baking soda would work on something like that. I decided to give it a try and see what happened. This turned into a bit of an experiment with not only the oven, but a couple of other "battles" as well.

I spread the paste all over the oven door (and the countertop oven door as well). I let it sit for 30 minutes, then tried wiping it off. I could see that it was actually working! However, I thought it needed more time, so I waited another 20 minutes or so. Then I grabbed a scour pad and microfiber washcloth began to wipe off the baking soda, using a little elbow grease as well.

Well, the joke was on me! IT WORKED. I couldn't believe my eyes. All of this time... BAKING SODA?! 

It worked really well for the countertop oven, too. I totally forgot to take a before picture, but you can still see it through the baking soda:

And then afterward:

I am still shocked. I told Noah to go look in the oven, and (typical teen boy) he opened the oven door and asked, "What about it?"

I just blinked at him. Seriously? But I pulled up the before picture to show him, and his jaw dropped. He couldn't believe it, either. I'm so excited that it worked and that my oven "stains" are gone!

Battle #2: Vacuum Cleaners (Black & Decker vs. Shark)

Remember the vacuum that I said was the best $50 I ever spent? Well, I still love it! But one of the pieces of plastic recently broke off (I may have dropped it...) and sometimes it's hard to get it to work well without holding the plastic piece tight against the vacuum--it's difficult to describe. I still use it because I love how powerful it is, but Jerry wanted to get a cordless stick vacuum to use for quick clean-ups. After looking at some on Amazon, I agreed that it would be super convenient--I loved that you can detach the top and use it as a hand vacuum so easily.

The one we picked specified that it was great for picking up pet hair, which is exactly what we wanted it for. It was a mid-priced one, but it was still over $200--hard to bite the bullet when the last vacuum I bought was only $50 and it could suck your basement right through the living room floor. Unfortunately, it's discontinued and to order the part for it would cost about as much as the vacuum did. I hoped that the stick vacuum would work just as well.

It arrived a few days ago and I actually had fun vacuuming to try it out. The detachable parts are awesome and not having a cord is a luxury I didn't know I was missing. However, I wasn't sure what to think about it--it's super quiet but the suction didn't feel very powerful. Still, it managed to pick up quite a bit of pet hair, even though I'd just vacuumed the day before. I figured I'd give it some more time before deciding whether we should even keep it.

I was about to clean the cat beds with it when I had the idea to battle it out--the new vacuum versus the old one--by using the hose attachments to clean two cat beds that were loaded with cat hair. I actually let them accumulate quite a bit of hair on purpose so that I could see which one did a better job cleaning it off.

Here they are with their attachments:

Today, I set them side by side and to be fair, I decided to give each bed three minutes with the brush attachment and one minute with the crevice attachment. Then I'd compare them again to see which did the better job. First, the "before" photo--SO much hair! (Canvas like this is the WORST for accumulating pet hair. I didn't realize it when I made these beds.)

I started with the new Shark vacuum, using it as a handheld vacuum with the brush attachment. I set my timer for three minutes and got to work. After that, I set the timer for one minute and used the crevice tool to get in the--well, crevices.

Not too bad! But I wasn't super impressed. There was still quite a bit of hair stuck to it. I did the routine again with the Black & Decker vacuum (that's the $50 one): three minutes with the brush, one minute with the crevice tool.

I immediately knew it was going to be the winner. It took all of 45 seconds to look as clean as the other bed. Still, I gave it the same amount of time. In the end? The Black & Decker vacuum won, hands-down.

The one on the left was cleaned with the Black & Decker vacuum, and on the right was cleaned with the new Shark one

Some things I noted: Using the Shark as a handheld gets VERY tiresome on my arm. It's pretty heavy to hold and maneuver and my forearm was killing me after just four minutes. The Black & Decker vacuum was super light because I only had to hold the attachment--not the motor. 

The Shark vacuum didn't really suck up the hair--the hair stuck to the bristles on the brush attachment, so I had to stop frequently to pull the hair off of the bristles and let the vacuum suck it up. This was super annoying. The pet hair attachment on the Black & Decker vacuum works like a dream; however, the crevice attachment sucks doesn't work well. It's finicky.

So, this little experiment was super helpful! I'm going to return the Shark vacuum; the suction isn't great, hair kept getting stuck in the bristles and in every little nook and cranny of the canister. I had to reach in to pull stuff out into the garbage, so it was messy. (To be fair, the Black & Decker one has this problem, too, especially since I broke it the plastic piece broke off somehow. But the Shark was much worse.)

Battle #3: Vegan Mozzarella vs. Yours Truly

I wrote about my attempts at making vegan mozzarella--they were a miserable fail. I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong and it was driving me crazy. I eventually gave up on it, but I knew I wanted to try again. I found a different recipe and today I gave it a go. (The first recipe I tried was from The Vegan Blueberry)

This current recipe (found at The Hidden Veggies) didn't call for cashews, so it was quite a bit different. The main ingredient is actually full-fat coconut milk. Still, I had to do pretty much the same process--mix the ingredients, then cook on the stove, pour into molds, and cross my fingers that it would be "sliceable and shreddable", as the recipe promised. We all know how badly it turned out last time...

At that point, I'd figured it just wasn't going to happen, but I'm glad I tried again... 

BECAUSE IT WORKED! Look how beautiful this came out:

The color doesn't look quite as good, but the texture was a million times better, and it tastes really good. The texture is more like a fresh mozzarella ball than the pre-shredded stuff. There is a little garlic powder in there which I can definitely pick out (I love garlic, so this wasn't a problem).

This recipe was actually easier to make than the previous because I didn't have to blend cashews. I didn't even have to blend anything--just put the ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil, then simmer for six minutes, adding the tapioca flour with only one minute left.

I may have had the heat too low because I had to cook it longer--probably nine minutes?--but now I know what to expect. The blogger who published this recipe has been making vegan cheese for 20 years and even has a free e-book about vegan cheesemaking. It was super helpful to read about WHY each ingredient is important. (Again, you can find the recipe on The Hidden Veggies.)

I am going to make homemade pizza tomorrow and try out the mozzarella. If it melts and it still tastes good, I'll consider myself the winner of this battle ;)

The battles today were fun! I think it would be cool to do this with other things as well, especially to compare products. That's why I called this post "Round 1"--I may have a Round 2 in the future.

As for today: I beat the oven grease; I beat the vegan cheese; and, well, let's just say we have a lot less cat hair on those cat beds.


  1. Okay, I must know...what was your water to baking soda ratio? I am all ready to clean my regular oven and toaster oven.

    1. Well, I started with half a cup of baking soda and I just mixed in water until it was about the consistency of shaving cream. However, I learned that it wasn't nearly enough--I would plan to use about 2 cups of baking soda + enough water to resemble shaving cream. (It should spread easily--it'll clump up as it dries, but when you spread it on, it really is like shaving cream.)

  2. This was a fun post! If you are looking for a handheld vacuum, just to get quick pick ups - not intended to "vacuum" can I suggest the Bissel Aeroslim Handheld vaccum. It's around $40 - you can keep it on a counter and it is great when you just want to get some crumps or a quick mess.

  3. I am floored by the oven!! Mine is a disaster, I don't even like to think about it ;) I'm totally going to try this! Do you think you have an estimated of how much water and baking soda you used?

    1. I would guess I used about 2-3 cups of baking soda (total for both ovens) + enough water to make it resemble shaving cream. I didn't measure out the water, I just kept adding a little at a time and stirring it in.

  4. I have the same Shark portable vacuum and I LOVE it! I live in a two story house, but my upper floor is vinyl and tile, so I only have rugs up there. I use the portable up there to keep the dog hair and dust cleaned up and it works so good! I have all tile downstairs with some large rugs, so I have a Roomba to vacuum once or twice a week and then pull out the regular vacuum to do my rugs periodically. So yeah, I have three vacuums and a Black and Decker handheld for quick cleanups, but I spend almost no time keeping my floors and furniture clean.

  5. I love this post! My oven doors are a disaster. I am going to give this a try & let you know how it worked. I hope you decide to do more of these.

  6. You sold me on the Black and Decker vacuum! Too bad it's discontinued. I'm definitely going to be seeing what I can get off my oven with the baking soda paste!

  7. Why, why, why, do they discontinue the vacuum cleaners we love? I had the best vacuum that picked up everything! But, like you, a piece broke off. When we tried to order the piece we were informed that it was not in production anymore. We got a new vacuum, and it's just not the same. I miss my old vacuum!


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