For many families, the cost of home appliances greatly outweighs that of furnishing a home. So once we have fully kitted out our home with all the appliances we need, we need to ensure they last as long as possible before being replaced.
Keeping everything in tip-top condition needn't be a chore. By working in a few minutes of appliance maintenance into your cleaning routines, you can ensure your expensive electrical items last way longer than their warranties!
Oven and Hobs
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If you're the type of person who waits months (or even years!) before tackling the mess of your stove top and oven, you're definitely doing it wrong. Take it from someone who learned the hard way...
Cleaning your cooker after each and every use is the only way to keep on top of maintaining this expensive (and most frequently used) appliance. It need only take a minute or two, and will save you much heartache in the long run.
For stove tops I keep a spray bottle filled with 1 part water to 1 part white vinegar to hand which I use to quickly mop up spills as soon as possible after they happen (once the burner rings are cool enough to handle).
For the oven, my solution is pretty much the same. If possible, leave the oven door ajar to allow it to cool more quickly, and wipe up spills before they have a chance to harden using either the water-vinegar solution or a chemical spray which is safe for your oven type.
If you can, use oven liners to to minimise your cleaning time. Many are washable and reusable, such as the Magic Oven Liner from Lakeland (apparently you can buy hob liners too, though I haven't tried them). I also line my grill pan with foil, making it much easier to clean as I can simply throw away the foil and replace with a clean sheet.
Once a month remove all of the rings from the hob and soak in a bowl of soapy water while you tackle any spills which may have crept underneath. Remove the shelves and grill-pan from your oven, and give them a brush down to remove crumbs or dried on dirt before wiping (or scrubbing, if required). While everything dries off, give the oven interior and stove top a quick wipe down, then put everything back.
You should also check that al elements of your cooker still operate as expected, including any hobs, grill or oven you rarely use. That way, if any elements require repair you can attend to them promptly before they become a problem.
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Once a week you'll need to clean the refrigerator interior, discarding anything past its use-by-date. Wipe the sides and shelves/racks with a soft cloth and warm water (add a couple of scoops of bicarbonate of soda to eliminate smells if you like). Never ever use chemical cleaners to clean the fridge interior - I learned that the hard way, which resulted in discoloured refrigerator walls!
Every month or two, you'll need to defrost your freezer. Depending on the type you have, it may need defrosting less (or more) often; look out for a layer of ice building up and defrost before it has the time to take over the available space and causes the freezer to work overtime.
Switch your appliance off at the mains and prop the freezer door open. To speed up the defrosting process, place a few bowls of hot water on the shelves and allow the steam to get to work. Once all the ice has melted, wipe down the insides for a quick clean and dry thoroughly before switching back on at the mains.
Twice a year you'll need to check and clean the seals. Brush out any debris, and scrub with a paste made from bicarbonate of soda and a little water using a toothbrush (again, no chemicals as this WILL damage the seals). Dry thoroughly and test the seals by placing a pound/dollar note between the seal and the fridge/freezer housing. If the seals are still fully intact, you should not be able to pull the note out easily. If the note slides out, you may need to replace the door seals to maintain the efficiency of your appliance.
This is also a good time to thoroughly vacuum any dust from the coils of your appliance using the brush adaptor. Be sure to switch off your appliance at the mains before attempting this! Dust and dirt can affect the effectiveness of your appliance, though shouldn't usually need cleaning more often than twice a year. If there is a build-up of dust, you can use a small soft-bristled brush to speed things up, but don't be tempted to use a scrubbing brush (and certainly no chemical cleaners) as this can damage the coils.
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Once a week, give your washing machine an exterior clean. If you have a front-loader, you should also clean inside the glass door where gunk can quickly build up (a squirt of neat white vinegar is perfect for this job).
Every three months or so, give your machine a service wash. Set the programme to a high temperature setting, and once the drum has filled with water add three cups of white vinegar, plus half a cup of baking soda to the detergent dispenser. This will give the drum and internal workings a deep clean which should flush away most residue left over from everyday use.
This is also a good time to give your detergent dispensers a good clean. If possible, remove the drawer and soak in a basin of hot water. Use an old toothbrush if needed to get rid of any gunky residue and rinse thoroughly before replacing.
Every six months (or less if your washing machine rattles when spinning) check the machine is level and adjust the feet if required. This is very important: if your washing machine is not level there is an increased chance of internal components breaking away due to the force of being thrown around. Finally, check the hoses and replace if blistered or worn.
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You probably already do this, but be sure to clean the lint from the filter after each and every load. Not only does this keep the appliance running smoothly, it helps prevent the risk of catching fire in the high heat. If you have a condenser dryer, you should empty the water drawer at the same time.
Once a month give the filters a deep clean. Use a vacuum attachment to suck up any stray lint from around the filter area, and rinse any removable elements under the tap to ensure they are thoroughly clean.
Twice a year (or more often if required), check your appliance is level and adjust the feet if necessary. The drum is heavy when full of wet clothes and can easily be damaged if not properly level.
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Always ensure your microwave has sufficient ventilation. It is tempting to store things on top of a free-standing microwave, but you must be sure never to cover the vents.
Try to clean up spills and splatters after cooking to prevent odours contaminating your food.
Once a month, fill a mug with water and a few slices of fresh lemon. Cook in the microwave for three minutes on full power, and leave to sit for a further 15 minutes or so. The steam from the lemon-infused water will help break down cooked on food from the walls of your microwave, and will likely only require a quick wipe down. Dry thoroughly with a clean dry cloth before using it again.
How do you maintain your major home appliances?Do you have any tips for maintaining your own home appliances? We'd love to learn new and useful ways to take care of large electrical items, so please feel free to add to the discussion in the comments section, on our Facebook page or via Twitter.
In particular, I would love to learn tips for maintaining a dishwasher effectively - we plan to purchase one soon (which feels like a major indulgence for me as I've only ever washed dishes by hand) and I really hope to make sure this lasts for a long time!
Image credit (post banner): williamskitchenbath, via Flickr.