Published September 24, 2012
Even the least domestic among us can appreciate the seriousness of a damaged dishwasher or a fridge that’s more hot than cold.
Surface cleaning will keep your kitchen and utility room looking good, but you need to take the extra step of performing routine maintenance in order to prolong your appliances’ lives. Following these tips may help you avoid repair or replacement costs:
Gaskets (the flexible seals around the edges of the refrigerator door) that are ill-fitting, sticky or torn can let cool air out and warm air in — and ruin your food in the process.
Wipe down gaskets with a cloth soaked in warm water and dish detergent, and then dry them with a towel. To ensure the door seals properly, close it over a dollar bill. If you can easily pull the bill out, the latch may need to be adjusted or the gasket may need to be replaced.
Use a food-safe cleanser (or a solution of water and baking soda) to wash the drawers, racks and interior surfaces several times each year. Additionally, at least twice annually, use your vacuum cleaner attachment to clean the condenser coils beneath and behind the fridge. The dust and pet hair that collects there makes your refrigerator run less efficiently.
Range and oven
If your oven has a self-cleaning feature, use it and no other method. If your oven is not self-cleaning, use a cleanser specifically designed for ovens to ensure proper food safety. Clean your stove top regularly. Baked on food or grease is unsightly, unsanitary and can become a fire hazard.
If you cook a lot, you’ll need to clean or change your range hood exhaust filters several times per year (less frequent cooking requires less frequent cleaning). At least once each year, clean behind and under your oven with a vacuum cleaner attachment.
If you run your dishwasher often, its interior surfaces should be fairly clean. If, however, you don’t use your dishwasher at least once each week, you’ll need to wipe it down on a monthly basis. Interior surfaces can be cleaned with a paste of powdered dishwasher detergent and water or a liquid dishwasher detergent on a damp sponge or cloth.
If the plastic coating on a dish rack tine wears away, it may corrode and rust — and that rust can end up on your dishes. Recoat tines to protect them from further deterioration. Manufacturers offer vinyl repair kits for exactly this purpose.
Over time, the small holes in the spray arm or arms of your dishwasher may become clogged with bits of food, paper or toothpicks. Your dishwasher will perform better if you take a moment to clean these small holes from time to time. Check your owner’s manual for maintenance tips and to determine if your dishwasher has a filter that also needs to be cleaned.
Anything that impedes your dryer’s airflow creates a potential fire hazard and can cause your appliance to fail. Before every load, take a minute to clean the lint filter.
Every 60 days or so (perhaps remember by doing this at the start of every odd-numbered month), wash the lint filter with detergent to remove chemical residue that can restrict airflow. On this same schedule, take the time to make a visual inspection of the dryer exhaust duct line. Repair or remove any crimps or obstructions. Once each year, remove and clean the entire duct line – from the dryer to the exterior. If you have vinyl dryer exhaust ducts, consider replacing them with metal ductwork to reduce fire hazards.
Washing machine hose failures cause about $170 million in damage to homes in the United States and Canada each year. To reduce the chances that your hoses will fail, it’s a good idea to inspect your washing machine hoses every two years. If your inspection reveals that your hoses are splitting, blistered or cracked, replace them right away. Even if you can’t see damage, hoses wear out; change them every six years just to be safe.
Replacing your washing machine hoses is as simple as hooking up a hose to a water spigot. Just be sure to shut off the water supply to your washing machine. If there’s not a shutoff near your washer, close the main shutoff valve in your house. Unscrew the old hoses and hook up the new ones. Make sure you line up the threads and screw the hoses on tightly. When you’re done, turn on the water supply and check carefully for leaks. Washing machine hoses can be purchased at most home repair centers and hardware stores for about $20.
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