Our homes have become our whole lives—our workspaces and classrooms, theaters and restaurants, gyms, and shopping malls. These products, tested by our experts, will make every room in your house safer, smarter, comfier, and more functional than ever.
Two of the best places in your house to mix work and play, the garage and backyard provide ample space to relax, whether—for you—that means wrenching on your work bench or dialing in the perfect grill temperature. Here are the best products to help you make the most of them.
Expert Advice: Sand Away the Stickiness From an Old (or Brand-New) Cast-Iron Skillet
TikTok and YouTube are packed with videos of DIYers taking angle grinders to new cast-iron skillets until they shine like a mirror. There’s no need for that sort of extreme polishing (unless you’re only after social- media likes), but there’s real value to light sanding, whether you want to refurbish old cookware or just bought a $20 pre-seasoned skillet—both of which often have lumpy and sticky surfaces. Proper reconditioning and seasoning can be done in a few hours and will make your skillet smooth enough to slide a fried egg off when you’re done.
Start with a clean, grease-free pan and use an orbit sander to make thorough passes with 80-, 100-, and then 120-grit discs until the surface is smooth and bronze in color. Wipe clean with a lint-free cloth and then season with high-heat oil like grape seed, flaxseed, or avocado. We recommend heating the skillet over a burner and then transferring to the oven for longer cooking—repeating the seasoning cycle three or four times. When you’re finished, the skillet will turn from a bronze to a dark gray, and be as slippery as any Teflon- coated cookware. Read our complete instructions at popularmechanics.com/cast-iron-seasoning.
Roy Berendsohn is a former contractor who has been creating DIY project plans and testing tools and other household goods for Popular Mechanics since 1989.
For those who enjoy using their kitchen space to the fullest and appreciate an added dose of convenience, these appliances blend functionality and practicality.
Tested by Kitchen-Appliance Experts
We partnered with our colleagues at the Good Housekeeping Institute to test several kitchen and home appliances. The Institute has been evaluating products since 1900, and its team of chemists, engineers, and subject-matter experts helped us find, test, and recommend the best home goods, including the air fryer, pizza oven, dehumidifier, and air purifier that earned Pop Mech Home Awards.
Sleep more comfortably and get through the housework faster with the aid of these vacuums, sheets, mattresses, and de/humidifiers.
Expert Advice: Find the Right Size Backup Generator
Snowstorms in Dallas, wildfires in California, power outages across the grid—there’s good reason to consider a portable backup generator. To determine how much power you need, calculate the watts of the devices you want to run. Simply multiply voltage (usually 120) by the amperage of each appliance (the numbers usually are found on a tag attached to the product). Larger backup generators connect directly to your home’s electrical circuits to keep lights (and WiFi) on when power goes out. You also can connect smaller portable generators using a transfer switch installed by an electrician. But check whether your generator has a floating neutral, or one bonded to the frame. The type of neutral determines the type of switch needed to connect your home.
Brad Ford is a Popular Mechanics home-goods and tool tester, who recently led our testing of leading portable home generators. He has worked on farms, welding, painting, and repairing equipment, and at a classic-car dealer, servicing Bentley, Rolls-Royce, and Jaguar automobiles.
After more than a year of living with the pandemic and the office closures it induced, many of us understand the importance of having a solid work setup at home, or at least one we can take with us if we find ourselves out of pocket. Do your best work with these gadgets.
As the Internet of Things continues to grow, so does the number of mundane household tasks it can help us with. If you want a more comfortable, secure living space, or just better sound and video quality for streaming, turn here.
Expert Advice: Stop Your Printer from Guzzling Ink
If it seems like your printer is running out of ink even when you’re not using it, that’s because it is likely running even when you don’t ask it to. Inkjet printers use ink for maintenance, such as to moisten the printhead. This means that intermittent printing a few times a week will use more ink than printing in larger batches; however, regular use is still key to prevent ink from drying and clogging the cartridge. To use less ink, keep your printer turned on between uses to trick it into performing less maintenance.
You can also preserve some ink by lowering the quality to print in draft mode for certain documents. Make sure to store your printer and replacement cartridges away from the sun and in places without extreme temperature changes. In the end, you can save money on ink by purchasing it in XL cartridges, or you can make the switch to a laser printer that uses toner, which won’t dry up as quickly as liquid ink.
Paige Szmodis reviews consumer tech, gadgets, and home goods for Popular Mechanics. Since 2019, she has researched dozens of printers and gone through countless pages and ink cartridges during the testing process.