Laundry & Cleaning

4 ways to keep your appliances running like new

Keep your appliances looking and operating better, for longer

4 things to keep your appliances running like new Credit: Getty Images / sturti

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A new appliance is an investment. While major appliances, like a fridge, dishwasher, oven, or washer/dryer can be quite expensive, the up-front price is offset by their lifespan: Each should last at least 10 years.

Often, repairs can cost hundreds of dollars, falling into territory where it's unclear if it might just be a better investment to just buy a new appliance. To avoid that, here are four ways to keep your appliance running smoothly.

1. Keep your dryer's air flow clear

lint trap
Credit: Reviewed / Kyle Hamilton

Keeping your dryer's lint trap and ductwork clear of obstructions can keep your dryer work from overheating and reduce the risk of a fire hazard.

A dryer is one of the simpler appliances in your home. It rotates and gets hot, allowing you to quickly transform a soggy pile of wet clothes into fluffy, dry laundry. If you notice your laundry finishes a cycle feeling a bit damp and not as warm as it used to, it might be a sign that something is wrong.

It's important to pay attention to your dryer because, given the nature of the device, if something goes wrong it can become a fire hazard. At minimum, leaving a problem like this unresolved will cause your dryer to work harder, which can lead to a prematurely burned-out motor.

Fortunately, dryer maintenance is relatively simple. The most common cause of a dryer cooling down is a blockage of some kind, either from a clogged lint trap or an obstruction somewhere along its exhaust duct. Make sure to clean out the lint trap every time you use the dryer, and verify the duct is clean and clear at least twice a year. This simple, regular maintenance will avoid the most common problems associated with dryers, keeping your laundry dryer and your home safer.

2. Vacuuming can keep your refrigerator from losing its cool

fridge coils
Credit: Getty Images / eyjafjallajokull

While the back of every fridge will likely look different, it's important to prevent dust build-up, which can hinder your fridge's ability to maintain cold temperatures.

One of the most common problems with refrigerators? They start to lose their ability to maintain low temperatures. This can be a real problem, especially if you don't notice it right away. A fridge that's not quite maintaining temperatures under 40°F means your food will spoil faster and potentially cause illness, or at the very least that your energy bills will increase as it works harder to stay cold.

Why does this happen? Well, similar to the first tip on dryers, refrigerators depend on reaching and maintaining specific temperatures—and external buildup can sometimes create unwanted insulation, preventing the appliance from correctly regulating its temperature.

In the case of your refrigerator, this problem can crop up when the coils in back of your fridge get coated in dust and grime over time. These coils are how the fridge gets rid of heat, so if they're partially insulated by dust, they won't be working as effectively. This can cause your fridge to kick into overdrive to attempt to cool itself down more frequently, and generally results in the fridge overworking itself. Over time, this decreases its overall lifespan.

Fortunately, the way to avoid this cascading failure is fairly easy: Just make sure to vacuum the back of your fridge a few times each year. That should keep the coils free of insulating particles, which will allow the fridge to expel heat more easily, reducing the frequency of cooling cycles and extending its lifespan. It might be a good idea to pair this upkeep with checking your dryer's duct into a twice-annual appliance maintenance day.

3. Clean your dishwasher's filter to avoid pooling water

dishwasher filter
Credit: Reviewed / Kyle Hamilton

Your dishwasher's filter likely needs to be emptied more often than you might expect—you can often find it on the bottom of your dishwasher's interior.

Your appliances that use water in their normal operations often have more potential hazards to avoid, since pooling water is a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. If you didn't know what actually happens inside your dishwasher, it uses moving spray arms to blast your dishes with jets of water. Contrary to popular belief, It doesn't completely fill up with water and it should drain completely after each cycle.

If you notice a pool of water remaining at the bottom of your dishwasher after a cycle is complete, or you notice your dishes seem to have more redeposit on them than you're used to, that could point to a failure in the water pump, which will likely require some form of repair.

Like other issues outlined above, the likely cause of a water pump failure is unchecked buildup that gradually over-taxes affected parts, leading them to prematurely wear down. In this instance, the buildup will most likely be found in the dishwasher's filter. While you might be used to the idea that a dryer needs to have its lint emptied after each dry cycle, it might not be as intuitive that your dishwasher needs to have its filter emptied with regularity as well.

Older dishwashers didn't require this maintenance as much, as many were outfitted with a built-in macerator that functioned just like the garbage disposal in your sink, allowing solid food waste to be broken up into particles small enough to be washed away. Many modern dishwashers don't have a macerator, possibly due to energy requirements or noise complaints.

Regardless, while your dishwasher's filter might be a lot more gross than your dryer's lint trap, it needs to be emptied all the same. We'd recommend cleaning it every three or six months, depending on how frequently you use it. Check how much buildup has accrued since the last cleaning—if it's next to nothing, you probably won't have to clean it out as often.

4. Wash your washing machine to avoid buildups

WashingMachine
Credit: Kasia Janas/Getty Images

You want your clothes to get wet...but not THAT wet.

Like dishwashers, washing machines can also have issues with draining, which is also likely caused by some kind of buildup over time. Washers often leverage their spin cycles to get as much water as possible out of your clothes, which is a good thing: It's a lot more energy-efficient to spin out water than to evaporate it in your dryer later.

If your washer starts ending cycles with soggier laundry than you're used to or, worse, leaves standing water at the bottom of its drum, then chances are a call to the repairman might be in order.

Again, regular maintenance can help to avoid these problems before they really begin to affect your washer's functionality. While there are a few ways to wash your washer, the main method for preventing unwanted backups is to run an empty load every so often—just add some baking soda, vinegar, and water to the drum before starting the cycle.

The bottom line: Prevention is cheaper than repair or replacement

In most cases, problems with appliances are caused by small problems that grow larger over time. Make sure to be mindful of how your appliances are acting, because the difference between routine maintenance and repair is often hundreds of dollars. In the worst case, it could mean your investment doesn't last nearly as long as you were hoping.

If you notice one of the telltale signs that your appliances isn't functioning correctly, acting fast can often save you a headache—and keep your appliance healthier for longer.

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