Things go wrong all the time. Your freezer breaks and the food thaws out. Your AC’s filter clogs and leaves you high and dry in a heatwave. Your washer floods the laundry room. If you manage your own household, you’ve probably had a few emergencies from neglected appliances.
And the more appliances you have, the more often you’re fixing or replacing them. What if you could prolong the life of your microwave and save a hundred dollars for another day? What if you could add a couple more years to the life of your dishwasher, buying you time to save money for when it will ultimately need a replacement?
We’ve asked the experts about simple tips for cleaning your major appliances. With this advice, you can help your appliances last longer. Many of these tips will only cost you a few minutes of your day, but they could save you hundreds of dollars in the long run.
|Washing machine||Clothes dryer|
|Refrigerator and freezer||Stove and oven|
You might assume that your dishwasher is clean. Water and soap are constantly moving through it, so would the interior even need maintenance?
Dishwashers need TLC like any other appliance. Food particles and soap scum can build up, and it can make your dishwasher germy and less effective. And if you have hard water, mineral build ups can decrease water flow. Here’s what you can do to keep your dishwasher clean and fresh.
Use the dishwasher frequently and air it out
If you assumed the dishwasher cleans itself, you’re partially right. “To keep dishwater working in good condition, the tip is using it as often as possible,” says Norma Capin, Operations Manager at Dallas Maids. But you also need to air it out: “Leave it open for some minutes after using it.”
A dishwasher that isn’t used frequently can trap food and grease. And a dark and moist place with leftover food can build up mold — that’s the last thing you want scrubbing your plates and silverware.
Run a cleaning cycle — or make your own cleaning cycle
Some dishwashers have a cleaning feature, making your job a little easier. “Run the ‘clean dishwasher’ cycle once a month,” suggests Ahmed Ali, outreach consultant for Centriq. “This cycle will thoroughly clean all the parts and remove any mineral buildup to ensure the appliance will last longer.”
If your dishwasher doesn’t have this feature, there’s the DIY option to clear your dishwasher out and keep it smelling fresh: “Deodorize it by placing a bowl of synthetic vinegar on the top rack and running it empty for a full cycle.”
Clean your spray arms
Some parts of your dishwasher need personalized fine-tuning. For spray arms, you’ll probably have to get your hands dirty. The experts at Molly Maid reached out to us with some tips on cleaning a spray arm: “To clean them, simply remove the arms, hold them over the kitchen sink one at a time, and dislodge food particles with a toothpick. Run water through the holes to make sure they’re clear, and reinstall the arms in the dishwasher.”
Watch how you arrange your dishes
When it’s time to clean your dishes, it’s tempting to throw all your items in your dishwasher and hope it cleans every surface area. But if you aren’t careful, you can damage your appliance.
“Do not to put sharp items in the dishwasher racks,” cautions Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance. “They are made of metal covered with plastic and sharp items can cause nicks or cuts to the plastic covering, which later turns into rust and breaks down the machine.”
The microwave is a gorey battlefield of food preparation, featuring everything from overflowing soup to exploding rice and beans. You might have a few sauce stains hidden away in your microwave right now.
Did you know that neglecting your microwave can make it rusty and unsafe? We didn’t, until Harriet Jones, a cleaning expert and supervisor for Go Cleaners London, clued us in: “Once rust eats its way through the interior cavity, it takes no more than a couple of years to fully destroy the microwave oven, not to mention the unsanitary conditions for food preparation that rust establishes.” It’s worth cleaning your microwave to prevent this.
Give your microwave a steam treatment
To deep-clean a microwave, Jones suggests you start by finding a microwave-safe bowl and filling it with equal parts white vinegar and water. If you don’t want the bowl to overflow, put a piece of wood in, like a toothpick.
Then you let the microwave do its work: “Tuck the bowl in the microwave and nuke it for 10 minutes. The steam, produced by the heat and the homemade cleaner, will loosen the grime, making it effortless to take any leftovers off from the kitchen appliance.” That’s easier than scrubbing away at dried pieces of leftover food.
Jones says that once you do that, you can wipe your microwave down with a sponge or cloth.
The washing machine is another damp, dark place where germs love to hide out. A washing machine can’t do much for your clothes when it’s dirty and moldy; in fact, it can potentially ruin them.
Washing machines can also stop draining if you don’t keep them gunk free. Maintain a clean washing machine to maintain clean clothes.
Establish a monthly routine
A cleaning routine will help your washing machine last longer. Afoma Umesi, chief editor of Oh So Spotless, recommends cleaning your machine once a month.
Companies sell washing machine cleaning powder, and you might consider buying a packet, dumping it in, and running a cycle if you have a particularly nasty machine.
However, you can also maintain your appliance with household items you likely have on hand. “Use a damp cloth to clean behind the rubber gaskets and run a hot water cycle with a cup of vinegar to clean out the drum,” suggests Umesi. Vinegar’s acidity can wash away soap scum and mineral buildups, so it should help to keep your washing machine drum cleaner.
Clear out the detergent drawer
Fabric softener and laundry detergent can build up and ruin your washing machine’s ability to clean. “Don't forget to clean the detergent drawer,” reminds Umesi, “as all the excess detergent can clog your drain in time.”
There are a lot of different ways you can do this, but many experts recommend removing the drawer and cleaning it with bleach or soapy water.
Replace your washing machine’s hoses
Shimek of Mr. Appliance has another pro tip: “Replace the brittle plastic hoses that come with the machine with steel, flexible ones that are made for long-term use.” It’s not hard to tell why a flexible hose would be beneficial.
Many manufacturers make no-burst water hoses that are going to save you from expensive flooding mishaps. Other manufacturers make auto-shutoff hoses that can sense when a hose has burst and stop water flow.
Don’t overload the machine
When you’re cleaning your clothes, you might want to maximize how much you can fit into one load. But take into account that you should set a limit. “Don't overload the machine with clothes,” Shimek advises. “This puts a strain on the motor, which will cause it to wear out faster.”
Your washing machine and dryer are the fire and ice of your laundry room — or at least, the fire and water. While you have to worry about a washing machine draining improperly, molding, or flooding your room, you have to worry about too much heat with your dryer. Mold can still be an issue in the nooks and crannies of a clothes dryer, but a buildup of lint and dust in your vents can cause a fire.
Clear out the lint drawer
It’s simple advice, but many people ignore this easy tip that can take only minutes of your time.
Afoma Umesi agrees: “The best way to maintain your dryer is to do the one thing you're often too lazy to do: clean out the lint drawer. When your lint drawer is blocked, your dryer works longer, which, of course, wears it out faster.”
Wash off the lint trap
If you have a removable lint trap, you can do a little extra work to keep your lint drawer unblocked.
Ron Shimek suggests that you scrub it off: “Take the lint trap and scrub it with soap and water over the kitchen sink. Some dryers have a lint filter on the bottom or back of the machine, so check yours, and make sure you are cleaning the lint from that on a regular basis.”
Pack lighter to avoid wearing the motor down
Just like the washing machine, Shimek reminded us that the dryer shouldn’t be packed too full. If a dryer is struggling to tumble a larger load, this could damage the motor.
Your fridge and freezer see a lot of incoming and outbound traffic, so it’s a place that’s likely to get hectic. It only takes a couple seconds to spill leftovers while you’re taking them out of the fridge, but it will take several minutes to clean it up. Naturally, we sometimes do our damage control half-heartedly.
But you shouldn’t neglect a routine cleaning of your fridge, and not just the interior, but the exterior as well.
Remove dust from the outside
Don’t let your fridge sit and gather dust. Matthias Alleckna, an energy analyst for EnergyRates.ca, notes that “Dust is . . . a really good insulator, which means that it makes it harder for large appliances like your fridge to resist heat, making it more inefficient. At least once every six months, vacuum off the dust off your refrigerator coils behind the fridge.”
Clean behind the fridge
When was the last time you looked behind your fridge? It’s probably not pretty. But since our last point mentions that you need to get back there to dust, you might also have time to clean up a little more.
"Dirty coils can strain the compressor, which can result in a shorter refrigerator’s lifespan,” mentions Ahmed Ali from Centriq. In addition to dusting off your coils, he suggests that you mop behind your fridge, because this “will put less stress on the fridge’s motor and prolong the lifespan.”
Clean the grille up front
You can also vacuum off the grille at the bottom of the front side of your fridge. The experts at Molly Maid suggest this, and they explain why: “This improves airflow to the condenser to boost refrigerator efficiency by about 3 to 5 percent.”
Clear out the inside
It can be exasperating how quickly your food spoils. One day, your shredded cheese is perfect. The next day, it’s hosting a ball of green mold.
That’s why you need to be cycling through your fridge and throwing out what’s no longer good. If you let food accumulate, Ali warns that it can damage your fridge: “Don’t overfill your fridge as it puts a load on the compressor and blocks airflow. Clean it from the inside once a month.”
The experts from Molly Maid have a quick guide to cleaning your fridge to avoid overflow, mold, and smelly leftovers:
- “You can wait several months between deep-cleanings if you take a few simple steps to maintain a passable fridge for that long.
- Immediately — Rinse off dirty jars and bottles such as jam, salsa, and ketchup. Also, make an effort to catch spills right away to avoid the hassle of sticky spots in your fridge.
- Once a week — Throw out any rotting food and expired juices/milk/yogurt.
- Every 2 months — Leave an open box of baking soda in the fridge. This is an effective, affordable method for absorbing odors. The odor-absorbing capabilities of baking soda diminish after about two months, so that’s how often you should replace it.
- Every 3–4 months — Time to deep-clean!
- Purge anything old/things you never use
- Take the crisper and meat drawers out
- Wipe down interior with a cloth soaked in warm, soapy water
- Dry all washed surfaces
- Set a fresh baking soda box in a corner
- Clean exterior door with a cloth soaked in warm, soapy water — if you have stainless steel, remove grime with a store-bought stainless steel spray.”
Defrosting your freezer is like a quick juice detox — except it actually helps you out in the long-term.
Alleckna explained that ice built up around your vents signifies that it might be time for a freezer defrost. “You can remove the food from it and unplug it for roughly 30 minutes until the ice melts,” he explains.
Many ovens have a self-cleaning feature; it’s pretty straightforward. But there are a couple other quick cleaning tips that can keep your stove and oven fresh.
Use lime to reduce odors
Once a self-clean of the oven is complete, you can usually scrape out the charred remains of leftover food. But if you’re still concerned about grease and other stains, try steaming your oven.
Norma Capin describes the process: “After baking or cooking in the oven, don't turn it off. Put half a cup of lime juice in it for 15 mins. [This] will help you get rid of the smells right after. It also has antibacterial properties, and after doing it you just have to wipe the oven since it will loosen grease from the walls.”
Clean your burners
Don’t forget the work that needs to be done on your stovetop. “Many stoves have removable burners, and cleaning these can save you from the fees that come with having to replace them,” advises Bailey Carson, head of cleaning at Handy. “Before cleaning, make sure your stove is completely cool from the last time it was turned on. Then, remove the burners and scrub them with soap and the rough side of a sponge or steel wool to remove any cooked on food remnants.” Carson reminds cleaners to be careful about working near anything flammable.
And if you have an electric stove, Carson suggests that you spray it with a multipurpose cleaner and wipe it down with a rag.
You might have a long to-do list of chores now, but as you incorporate these simple cleaning tips into your life, you'll find many of them to be quick tasks that have a big payoff. Long-lasting appliances can save you heaps of money, so get to work deep cleaning your fridge and save your pennies for another day.