Cleaning every appliance in your home might not spark feelings of excitement, but neither does having a home appliance giving out while your in-laws are visiting.
“The hot water heater will usually expire when you need it the most, during the holiday season when everybody’s using it,” says Glenn Haege, host of the popular radio program “The Handyman Show with Glenn Haege” in Detroit, Mich.
With some regular upkeep, many of these disruptions can be avoided. “Preventative maintenance is always less expensive … than when something breaks down,” Haege says. “It usually breaks down when it’s a stress period, like extreme weather.”
Here are some items that need regular cleaning, plus a few of the unexpected materials you can use to make them shine.
- Dryer vents
Cleaning out the dryer vent is important for the machine, but it’s also a necessary safety precaution. Lint can build up and clog the dryer vent, which can cause fires. “That’s one of the largest reasons for insurance claims in the United States,” says Charlie Schloegel, general manager at Schloegel Property Solutions, Kansas City.
You can buy a brush kit and DIY, or hire a professional. Either way, sweep the line from the back of the dryer to the exterior, and then run a vacuum hose to pull out additional lint, Schloegel says.
If dishes are coming out of the dishwater streaked or filmy, it’s time for a deep cleaning.
The product for the job is surprising: Tang orange drink mix.
The citric acid breaks down excess deposits in the dishwasher, Haege says. Dump the entire jar of dry mix into the dishwasher and run it. Do this two to four times a year, he says, depending on whether or not you have a water softener.
“Obviously people should be careful [of] what goes down their pipes so that you’re not putting excessive food or grease down there,” says Julia Strzesieski, marketing coordinator at Cole Hardware, based in San Francisco.
In addition, maintain the diameter of the drains, where things like hair and soap can build up. Drain openers can be too harsh for this job, so pour one cup of a solution containing bacteria and enzymes down the drain once a month, Haege says, to keep drain walls clean.
- Driveways and walkways
If you live in a cold climate, melted snow can seep into cracks in driveways and sidewalks. If it refreezes, it can break up concrete even more.
Maintenance doesn’t end with winter weather. “Hose down your driveway and those flatwork areas to get the salt out of them so they don’t continue to break up over the summer,” Schloegel says.
Here’s a fun one. Take leftover food coloring from baking or cooking projects, Haege says. “Pour it in the back of the toilet and wait three hours.” If the color leaks from the tank into the toilet bowl, it’s time to replace the flapper ball. Maintaining this will save households a few dollars every month.
“One of the biggest culprits of failure on a refrigerator is a condenser motor,” Haege says. At least twice a year, clean the dust off of the condenser coil, which is located underneath or on the back of the refrigerator, depending on the model. Don’t forget to disconnect the power first.
In the wintertime, use a dry lubricant on car and garage door locks. This will keep moisture away and allow locks to move freely, Haege says. This is particularly useful for garage doors. “The hinges of the door need lubricity in the wintertime, or it puts a strain on the motor.”