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May/June 2018

Under-Appliance Dusters

The spaces under your kitchen appliances can harbor all sorts of errant food and dust. Can these tools clean them up?

How We Tested

In many home kitchens, the area under the stove or refrigerator is a desolate wasteland, a place that frozen peas and dust bunnies roll into and never emerge from again. Fortunately, there now exist several products that promise to clean the tight spaces under appliances, sweeping up dust and extricating those errant bits of food. We wanted to know if any of these products were worth owning, so we bought four models priced from $7.77 to $15.51 and put them to the test.

First, to get a clear picture of how well these tools worked, we built a mock refrigerator bottom according to standard specifications, using plexiglass propped up on blocks. We scattered dust, flour, dried chickpeas, and uncooked rice underneath and used the dusters to remove them; the transparent plexiglass provided good visibility so we could better track performance. To get a sense of how the dusters worked in a real-life situation, we also used them to clean under a number of appliances in our test kitchen.

Slim Pickings

A fundamental problem emerged when we went to conduct our first test: The heads of most of the dusters were simply too thick and bulky to squeeze under a standard appliance. After surveying 40 test kitchen staffers, we learned that the average height of the gap under conventional home appliances is about 1 inch. Just one of the dusters we tested was thin enough to meet that very essential requirement, rendering the others useless for most homes.

To see if any of the dusters worked in bigger gaps, we raised the height of our mock appliance bottom to 1.5 inches and tested them afresh. Though all the products could now maneuver into the space, their dimensions still proved problematic for kitchen cleanup. Most ovens and refrigerators are between 21 and 24 inches deep, but only one of the dusters—the thin model that succeeded in our first test—had a head long enough to plumb those depths. While another model had a telescoping handle attachment that made the whole unit long enough to reach back to the corners, its head was still on the short side, and it was thus less efficient at removing debris than our favorite cleaner. The other two shorter models could only jab in vain at any dust, flour, rice, or chickpeas that sat farther away from our mock appliance opening; their handles, which were too thick for the 1.5-inch opening, did nothing to extend their reach.

The Best Cleaner for Under Kitchen Appliances

With these basic failings in mind, other features that might have contributed to the dusters’ functionality, including material, duster shape, and handle comfort, became distant afterthoughts. We can fully recommend just one product: The OXO Good Grips Under Appliance Duster ($15.51) is the only model thin enough to fit under most standard home appliances, and it’s one of just two long enough to reach into the far corners. Its big, broad microfiber head excelled at picking up dust and flour and at fishing out stray rice and chickpeas, leaving very little behind. Although it is not intended to be used wet, it also did a serviceable job of wiping up greasy flour (a test we ran to simulate the sticky conditions that develop under a stove over time). Finally, the microfiber head can be machine-washed; we did so and found no loss of quality or performance.

Methodology

We tested four relatively flat dusters featuring under‑appliance cleaning as a use and priced from $7.77 to $15.51. We used them to remove dust, flour, dried chickpeas, and uncooked rice from underneath a mock appliance bottom and to excavate under several appliances in the test kitchen. We then evaluated their performance. All models were purchased online and appear in order of preference.

Performance: We evaluated how well the dusters fit under and reached to the backs of standard appliances and how thoroughly they cleaned under those appliances.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.