Home appliances are typically pretty big purchases, which means you expect them to last a long time. Believe it or not, you are a deciding factor when it comes to appliances running smoothly for years on end or going kaput earlier than expected. Below are some tips on what to do and what not to do to extend the life of some major household appliances.

First and foremost, you should always read the owner’s manual that comes with your appliance. While they’re not exactly thrilling reading, owner’s manuals are a wealth of information about how to use, clean, maintain, and repair your appliances.

Refrigerator and Freezer

Your refrigerator is arguably the hardest worker of all the appliances in your home. It runs twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and when it’s not doing its best work, it can prove to be pretty inconvenient. Help your refrigerator stay healthy by doing things like keeping it clean and changing filters as recommended. One of the easiest ways to extend your fridge’s life is to make sure the condenser coils are clean. Condenser coils may be mounted on the back or the bottom of your fridge. Their job is to help the refrigerator stay cool by releasing heat from the sealed system. Simply use a vacuum cleaner or coil brush at least twice a year to get rid of dirt, pet hair, food particles, and other debris that might build up over time. You should also clean the rubber seal on your doors, known as the gasket, periodically to ensure a good seal when the doors are closed. If your fridge is on the old side and the gaskets aren’t sealing the door shut very well, you can replace them fairly easily.

Dishwasher

Even though some dishwasher are advertised as amazing marvels that clean the gunkiest, grossest stuck-on food, you should always give dishes a thorough rinsing before loading them into the dishwasher. Food particles can get stuck in the machine parts and small spaces and cause damage. Be smart about how you load the dishwasher to ensure a good clean and prevent the need to run dishes through again. You should also clean the dishwasher every three to six months. Just run the empty dishwasher with a cup of vinegar or a dishwasher cleaner to remove calcium deposits. Even if you don’t use the dishwasher much, you should still run it every now and then to stave off dry rot, mold, and mildew.

Washing Machine

Many people tend to let laundry pile up and stuff the washer full on laundry day. This is a major no-no if you want the washing machine to last as long as possible. Overloading your washer can damage the machine thanks to the extra weight of wet clothing. It throws things off balance and can cause premature wear to the drum and bearings. Keep wash loads on the smaller side, never filling the washer more than two-thirds full. Additionally, you should never use more laundry detergent than what is recommended. It might sound like more soap would equate to a better clean, but it can actually do the opposite. Too much detergent can cause a buildup of residue that omits an odor and causes machine parts to fail.

Dryer

Dryers can be a huge fire hazard in a home when they aren’t properly maintained. Clean out the dryer’s lint trap after every use. This helps prevent dust, fuzz, and pet hair from getting into the dryer vent. A lint trap that hasn’t been cleared in a while also causes clothes to dry slower, which means the dryer will have to work harder. You should also clean the dryer vent—located on the back of the dryer and connected to the outside by a hose—at least once a year. Do this by unplugging the dryer and using a vent brush to clean the venting system.

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