A. There are many things that a homeowner can do to keep their appliances in good repair. Regular maintenance can lessen the number of professional visits you need for that appliance. The first thing you can do sounds basic, but it’s an important item. Keep your home clean and as dust-free as possible. When dust gets into the working parts of an appliance, it can wreak havoc with the machinery.
Next, make sure that you put safety first when attempting to perform any maintenance. The first rule is to unplug any appliance before opening or cleaning it. You should wear protective gloves and safety glasses as well. Only then will you be ready to start your maintenance project.
Q. What can I do to keep my fridge running smoothly?
A. First, keep the top of the refrigerator clear, and make sure you have at least ½ inch clearance on all sides. Then, make sure it’s level so that the door closes completely. Once a month, you should clean the door gasket with warm water in which you have dissolved 1 teaspoon of baking soda. This will not only clean the gasket, but it will also keep it soft and pliable. Twice a year, you should clean the coils with a condenser coil brush that costs $6 at your local appliance dealer. REMEMBER TO UNPLUG THE APPLIANCE FIRST! Twice a year, you should check the door gasket as well. Close the door on a dollar bill at various places and pull tightly. If the bill doesn’t budge, replace the gasket. Peel it back enough to loosen the retainer strip screws and slip a new one in place. Once a year, slide the refrigerator out from its place and vacuum around and beneath it. If you don’t do this, the dirt will end up on the coils, causing them to work harder for the same result, and shortening the life of the appliance.
Q. What about my dishwasher?
A. There are several things to do every time you run your dishwasher. Always run the hot water in the sink before starting it, so the water is preheated to a minimum of 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Inspect and promptly repair the chipped plastic coating on racks to prevent rust. Remove the rust with steel wool and cap the damaged tines with rubber tips. You can buy a rack or tine repair kit from the manufacturer of the appliance for a nominal amount (less than $10). Never use any soap but dishwasher detergent and only in the recommended amounts. You don’t want your whole kitchen filled with soap suds! Twice a year, you can lift out the strainer of the washer and wash it with warm soapy water and a plastic scrub pad. Remove the spray arm and clean it by poking a piece of stiff wire through the holes, then scrubbing any mineral deposits off it with hot distilled white vinegar. Then, place a small cup of distilled white vinegar in the upper rack and another in the lower one. The vinegar will be dispersed during the wash cycle, dissolving mineral accumulation and soap residue throughout the dishwasher.
Q. My clothes dryer seems to take longer now to dry the same amount of clothes than it did when new. Why is this?
A. You need to make sure that the lint filter is cleaned after every dryer load. Check to make sure that the door seal is not loose, worn, damaged, or hardened. If so, replace it right away so the warm dryer air won’t escape, making the unit work harder. You can hold a tissue near the door while the drying is running. If the tissue is sucked toward the door, the seal needs replacing. You can order both the seal and its adhesive from the manufacturer or an appliance store. You should clean the lint filter with soap and water twice a year to remove built-up soap and fabric softener. Also, twice a year, you should disconnect the exhaust duct from the dryer and remove any lint that has accumulated there.