When it comes to household appliances, a little preventive maintenance can go a long way. In order to get the most mileage out of your appliances, here are some cleaning and repair tips to help keep everything running smoothly.
Refrigerator- A refrigerator is one of those appliances we never really think about until they stop working. While the average lifespan of a refrigerator is 13 years, they can break down long before that without proper care.
What Should I Do? Once every 3 months, set a recurring reminder on your smartphone or computer to clean the fridge coils. Use a long-handled refrigerator coil brush ($8.98, Amazon.com) to clean around the condenser coils located underneath the fridge. You can also use the crevice tool of your vacuum cleaner if you prefer. This will remove the buildup of dust, crumbs and pet hair that accumulates. Make sure to wipe down the door seals and gaskets that keep the fridge door securely shut at this time; even small amounts of gunk can cut down on the fridge’s effectiveness to keep the cold air inside.
If your fridge model produces filtered water from a dispenser, it is recommended that you replace the filter once every 12 months. This will keep water tasting fresh.
Range- While a range typically has a 13-year lifespan, taking good care of it can boost its performance and cut down on costly repairs, giving it a longer life.
What Should I Do? For gas ranges or electric ranges with burner plates, soak the burner caps and rings in soapy water to remove residue, and use a thin sewing needle or paper clip to poke through the little holes where the gas comes through the burner to clear them of any debris.
If you have a smoothtop range, make sure to wipe down the glass cooktop regularly, using a damp rag or, in the case of dried-on food, a non-abrasive cleanser specially formulated for glass cooktops. Smoothtop ranges generally require less maintenance than their gas counterparts, but leaving spills behind can cause pitting or damage to the surface if not cleaned regularly.
Dishwasher- A dishwasher has an average lifespan of 9 years, but many dishwashers find themselves in need of repair or replacement long before that if they are not cared for properly.
What Should I Do? A thorough wipe-down of the dishwasher door gaskets, doorframe and hinge will keep the seal nice and tight, avoiding common problems like water leaks during wash cycles. Also, if your model has a removable filter, it is a good idea to rinse it out regularly to avoid nasty buildup which can affect performance, not to mention make your dishwasher stink.
Microwave Oven- With an average 9-year lifespan, the microwave is an appliance that doesn’t seem to need much maintenance at first glance, but can definitely benefit from a few performance-boosting, life-extending tips.
What Should I Do? Cleaning the interior of the microwave regularly with a damp cloth can help prevent buildup of food particles, keeping the microwave in good working order. If you have an over-the-range type microwave, make sure to clean the grease filters from the vent hood once a month by removing them, soaking them in soapy water, rinsing and drying before replacing. Some vent hoods have charcoal filters, which need to be replaced every 6-12 months.
Garbage Disposal- Though we typically don’t think of our garbage disposals when we think of our household appliances, they are definitely a very important part of our kitchen, and can be quite costly to repair. The average lifespan of a garbage disposal is 12 years.
What Should I Do? To keep the blades sharp and free of buildup, grind up a couple of ice cubes periodically. To reduce odors, throw lemon or orange peels in there and grind them up at least once a month. Never put large quantities of rice, noodles or grease down your disposal, and always use cold water when running the disposal, and for a couple minutes afterward, so fat and grease deposits get washed away.
Washing Machine- With an average lifespan of 10 years, your washing machine can last you a long time if you pay attention to it and take good care of it.
What Should I Do? Make sure your washing machine is hooked up to stainless steel mesh drain hoses, which last much longer than rubber ones. Also, wipe out the detergent dispenser drawer regularly to ensure that the detergent flows out as intended without any clogging or buildup. If your machine is a front-loader, wipe the door gasket seal dry after each use, which will prevent odor-causing mold and mildew from forming.
Dryer- Your clothes dryer is made to last 13 years on average, and the importance of keeping it clean is essential for not only extending the life of the appliance, but for basic safety as well.
What Should I Do? Clean out the dryer lint filter before or after every single load without exception. Once a year, use the same long-handled brush you use to clean your refrigerator coils to clean out your dryer vent, or use the crevice tool on your vacuum cleaner. If you are unable or unwilling to clean out the dryer vent yourself, you can hire a pro to take care of it, but beware- prices generally start around $200. Not only does lint buildup reduce the efficiency of your dryer, but it can also cause the dryer to overheat and catch on fire.
Vacuum Cleaner- On a personal note, this is the appliance that breaks down most often for me. The average lifespan of a vacuum varies based on the model, but I find myself having to buy a new vacuum once every 1-2 years. That can’t be right!
What Should I Do? Not many models have vacuum bags anymore, but if you are in possession of a bag model, the bag should be changed once a month, more frequently if you have a pet. You should clean or replace your filters once every 6 months (many models can be rinsed clean), and every 8 weeks the HEPA filter should be cleaned out as well. This will improve the airflow for maximum performance. Once a year, or sooner if the brush roll is making a vibrating noise, belts should be replaced. If your belts are too loose, they can make the brush roll turn too slowly, causing less dirt to be captured. Too-tight belts can cause excessive wear on the motor, though, so make sure they fit just right!