Inside Good Housekeeping Institute's Home Appliances and Cleaning Products Lab

Knock on the door at the Good Housekeeping Institute's Home Appliances and Cleaning Products Lab, and Director Carolyn Forte can advise you on just about everything: the best washer/dryer units, vacuum cleaners, and even detergents. Forte says her lab isn't just about product testing; it's about helping Good Housekeeping's readers with tips and tricks to get through their home care chores with ease. That, she says, is the bottom line.

If you need stain solutions, Carolyn is your guru. She says there's a lot of luck and a lot of science to stain removal. You need a bit of both. This past December, the magazine issued a complete stain guide to help get out even the toughest stains.

Ballpoint ink? Carolyn recommends rubbing alcohol. For blood, use cold water and get to it really fast. Hydrogen peroxide also works well. If you have a water stain on your wood furniture, Carolyn recommends putting a towel down and going over it with a warm iron, no steam for a few seconds. That should open up the finish and release the moisture into the towel, removing the water mark from your furniture. Carolyn uses stain swatches to test for the best detergents and says Tide always comes up top in Good Housekeeping tests.

Keep your windows sparkling clean with a microfiber cloth. Carolyn says you can use it wet or dry, with or without cleaner, and it will pull both the cleaner and the streaks off the windows.

She is a big fan of robotic vacuums, especially for cleaning pet hair or straightening up when you're not home. She says the Roombas do a great job. They're easy to use, clean, and program. But, she says, you definitely still need a full-sized vacuum. In Good Housekeeping's tests, Miele vacuums have done a great job and hold the Good Housekeeping seal. Bissell vacuums also carry the Good Housekeeping seal, so they stand behind those as well.

As for washers and dryers, Carolyn says LG and Samsung have tested very well. GH also likes GE and Electrolux.

Dishwashers can be tricky, so make sure the one you buy works with your dishes. Carolyn recommends bringing any odd-shaped dishes that you wash regularly to the store to be sure they fit.

Some other great tips from Carolyn: You can save $100 to $200 buying a white washer or dryer; white appliances are typically cheaper than colors or stainless steel finishes. And, she says, if you can figure out how to get ink out of leather goods, you'll be a millionaire. She has yet to find a product that removes the stain without ruining the color of the leather.