The definitive guide to taking care of all your big and small household appliances—so you (almost) never have to replace them.
Condenser coils—the large, radiator-like element at the back of or under the appliance—remove heat from your refrigerator and freezer. When dust and dirt stick to the coils, the machine can’t shed heat as efficiently, which can mean higher utility bills and costly repairs. Check the owner’s manual to see how often to clean the coils; use your vacuum’s brush attachment.
If your refrigerator sounds like it’s straining, make sure the condenser coils are clean, that there’s at least one inch between the fridge and the wall for adequate air flow, and that the gasket (door seal) is not dry or cracking.
Adhesives from jars of jelly or pasta sauce can clog the filter and hose. So can the oils and dirt from things like gardening and painting tools. And it may sound obvious, but don’t put non dishwasher-safe items in the dishwasher—you could damage the item, yes, but you may also harm the machine.
Use a dishwasher cleaner, like Affresh ($9; amazon.com), every 30 uses or so. The tablet’s ingredients break down mineral deposits and help dislodge food residue.
Keep a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch spills. If food splatters, scrape it off with a spatula after the oven cools. Coat big spills with salt while the mess is hot. The next morning, you’ll be able to scoop up the salt pile without breaking a sweat.
Moisture buildup on the inside of the oven’s glass panel means the seal has been compromised. Check the owner’s manual to figure out what kind of replacement gasket to buy. The fix should take just minutes.
Clean up spills as soon as they happen. Grime, grease, and food particles can gunk up the machine and shorten its life span. Once a week, wipe down the door seal, frame, and control panel using a cloth dampened with all-purpose cleaner. Or try this easy cleaning method.
If your microwave is acting up, visit repairclinic.com to help diagnose the problem. Enter your model number in the Repair Help section of the site and look at the list of symptoms (buttons don’t work, turntable doesn’t rotate) to learn the most likely cause of the issue and how to fix it.
Keep the door open between cycles to help it fully dry and to avoid mold growth.
If your machine is rocking or vibrating, make sure it's level. The legs on most models are adjustable, but at least two people are needed to adjust them safely.
Overloading the dryer is one of the quickest ways to shorten its life span, so follow the manual's guidelines on load capacity.
If clothes take longer than 60 minutes to dry, lint is likely clogging the venting system. Remove stubborn residue from the lint filter with a bristle brush, and replace the filter if you see any rips or holes. Use the hose attachment on your vacuum to clean out the lint screen housing. Once a year, remove the aluminum vent pipe from the dryer's rear and clean out lint or foreign objects with a 20-foot-long dryer vent cleaning brush (Cleaning Brush 18001034, $41; repairclinic.com). While you're at it, unplug the machine, remove the lower front or back panel, and vacuum out the dryer cabinet.
Refresh Your Filters
Pod Coffee Maker: Filters usually need to be changed about every two months; check the owner's manual to be sure.
Vacuum: If you vacuum weekly, wash the filter in soapy water once a month and let air-dry. The filter should be replaced annually.
Stove Hood: Aluminum grease filters should be cleaned every three months with soap and warm water. Charcoal filters need to be replaced every 6 to 12 months.
Humidifier Panel: Replace the filter once each heating season.
Furnace: In general, if you have one- or two-inch filters, change them every month or two. Thicker filters should be swapped out every three to six months. If you have pets, lean toward more frequent replacements.
Bathroom Fan: Clean it twice a year. If the fan cover can be removed, wipe down the blades and other nonelectric parts with a cloth sprayed with all-purpose solution.
Refrigerator Water Filter: These typically need to be replaced twice a year, but follow the guidelines in the owner's manual.