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Easy Preventive Maintenance to Make Your Appliances Last

Save yourself the hassle and the expense of buying new kitchen and laundry equipment.

Major appliances such as dishwashers, refrigerators, washers and dryers are costly to repair and even more expensive to replace. But you can stave off those repairs and keep your appliances running longer by performing a few easy maintenance tips. You won’t need a lot of mechanical expertise to keep your appliances in tip-top shape—just some common sense and a little elbow grease.

REFRIGERATORS

The best way to maintain your refrigerator is simply to keep it clean, inside and out.

Clean under and behind your refrigerator regularly. Whirlpool Institute of Kitchen Science expert Lucinda Ottusch says it’s important to remove and clean the refrigerator’s base grill often to improve air flow to the appliance’s components. Ryan Huntley, of RepairClinic.com, says that the coils at the bottom or behind your refrigerator need regular cleaning so the coils can efficiently cool the unit.

Wash the door seals. If the seals in your refrigerator door are sticky, it’s time to clean them. Ottusch says warm, soapy water and a soft cloth will do the trick. Applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the seals will make them last longer, Huntley says. 

Don’t forget the ice dispenser. If your refrigerator has a built-in ice/water dispenser, you’ll need to clean that, too. The drip tray should be removed and cleaned at least every two to three months, Huntley says. He also recommends cleaning the ice bucket assembly once a month so your ice doesn’t pick up refrigerator odors. The dispenser’s water filter should be replaced at least every six months.

DISHWASHERS

The job of a dishwasher is to clean and dispose of the food residue you leave on your dishes. It’s a dirty job, indeed. But keeping your dishwasher clean is only part of your plan of action to keep it running at its best.

Fix the filter. Most new dishwashers use a filter system that traps food particles during the wash cycle. Ottusch says dishwashers that use a filter system are quieter and more energy efficient than older dishwashers that use a chopper system. Check and clean the filter regularly to prevent a buildup of food, pits, seeds and anything else that might get trapped there.

Rinse out mineral deposits. Hard water is tough on dishwashers as mineral deposits (as well as bits of food or other matter) can build up in the water holes in the dishwasher’s spray arm. Huntley says you can clean out the water jets in the spray arm with a toothpick. Also, the water inlet valve can begin to clog, which means your dishwasher won’t get the proper amount of hot water. You’ll need to replace a clogged water inlet valve. For general cleaning, Whirlpool’s Ottusch recommends a dishwasher cleaner such as Affresh to help remove some of the hard water deposits.

WASHING MACHINES

Top-loading washers require little if any home maintenance, according to Huntley, but front-loading washers need more care.

Leave the door open. Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science expert Tremitchell Wright says it’s a good idea to leave your washer door open after you’ve completed a load of laundry. This will allow air to circulate in the washer, rather than trapping in moisture, which can lead to mold and mildew problems. Wright also recommends using a cleaner designed for washing machines once per month, such as Affresh tablets. He also recommends checking the door’s rubber gasket (called a bellow) to make sure it’s clean and intact.

Don’t overload it. Huntley says that overloading the washer can wear out and break some of the machine’s components more quickly than with typical usage. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended maximum capacity so your washer will last longer. That goes for dryers, too.

DRYERS

Clothes dryers go hand-in-hand with washers, but dryers have different maintenance needs. You know you should empty the lint trap after every load, but there are several other things you should do to keep your dryer going strong.

Keep the exhaust vent clean. Both Wright and Huntley stress that it’s important to make sure your dryer’s exhaust vent is clean. Wright recommends cleaning it at least once per year. Be sure to check the outside air vent, too.

Make sure the dryer is level. If your dryer is tilting or hopping around while it works, then the components supporting the dryer’s drum will wear out more quickly. Additionally, your dryer will be a lot more noisier.

It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to do a little simple maintenance on your major appliances, but the payoff is big. A clean, well-maintained appliance can run well for years, which will leave more money in your pockets and you won’t be on a first-name basis with your repairman.

All appliances do eventually wear out, however, no matter how well you take care of them. When something does break, you need to know whether to repair or replace. Click that link to learn when to fix it versus when to buy a new one.

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