Appliance Care Made Easy

Extend the life of your washer, dryer, fridge, dishwasher and AC

Here’s how to help extend the life of your washer, dryer, fridge, dishwasher and AC.

We all know how important it is to take care of living things — to love our children, water our plants, feed our pets. But appliances need love, too. Here are some appliance maintenance tips to help you extend the life of the machines that work so hard for you so you have time to take care of the living things around you. And you’ll likely save money and energy, to boot.

Washing Machines

As surprising as it sounds, to help your washing machine last longer, use* less* detergent, suggests Michelle Maughan, technical author specializing in laundry for Sears. “Using too much detergent can create smells and can also cause buildup inside the unit. And it can make your pump fail prematurely.”

It’s also important not to overload the machine. So stick to loads that max out at three-quarters of the basket size. Anything larger than that could weaken the cabinet and suspension over time, she says.

Another easy washing machine maintenance tip? Clean your machine. Calcium and other sediments build up in the tub and hoses over time. There are aftermarket products that can clean those out and help prolong the life of the pumps, hoses and the washer in general.

Dryers

The key to a healthy dryer is keeping it clean, starting with the lint screens. Dirty screens can decrease the airflow and cause poor performance as time goes by. If the screen remains dirty or clogged for too long, it could even cause a fire, Maughan warns. A simple dryer maintenance tip is to clean these after every use. For the vents, clean them every one to two years. Even if the lint screen is clear, there could be blockage in the external vent, which can “burn your appliance or burn your clothes inside the appliance,” she says.

But one of the most common things people do with their dryers is overload them. Overloading the dryer causes restricted airflow, and also adds additional weight and stress to machine parts. You’ll hear squeaking, and the machine may begin to shake. Stick to the three-quarters of the basket rule.

Refrigerators

These need free-flowing air around them, so avoid placing the refrigerator in a “really hot place like a garage, or crowding things around it like shopping bags,” says Gary Basham, refrigeration technical author for Sears.

In addition, make sure the door gasket — the rubber seal around the inside of the door — isn’t torn or leaking air, he advises. If it is, it may make the refrigerator work harder. A dirty condenser coil will put more stress on the fridge as well, so be sure to clean it at least once a year with a brush or vacuum.

Dishwashers

When it comes to maintaining this appliance, the most likely cause for a dishwasher drainage problem is a clog. Over time, your filters and pipes can fill up with food particles and other items that don’t always make it out of the plumbing system. To prevent clogs, properly rinse dishes before loading, and regularly wipe out and clean the inside of your dishwasher with a mild cleaning solution. You could also use a commercial cleaning tablet on an empty wash every once in a while. When you keep your dishwasher free of debris, you keep your water flowing smoothly.

Air Conditioners

Now that it’s the height of summer, AC care is critical. Don’t take your air conditioning unit for granted, says Andrew Daniels, technical author in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and water heaters for Sears.

Change the air conditioning and heating filters once a month, he suggests, and if you go on a summer vacation, keep the AC on and set your thermostat to 78°. In the winter, leave your thermostat at 68°.

Follow these care tips, and you and your appliances should live a long, happy life together.

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