In this report
In the kitchen
In the laundry
Around the house

In the kitchen

Last reviewed: March 2009

REFRIGERATOR/FREEZER

Clean the compressor coils every few months or so. (The coils typically are at the bottom of the appliance, though on some older models they are behind the box and on some built-ins they are behind a grille at the top of the unit.)

Keep gaskets on the refrigerator and freezer doors clean with mild detergent and water, not bleach. This will ensure a good seal and prevent wasted energy.

Check the gasket seal by closing the doors on a dollar bill; replace the gasket if the bill falls out or can be easily removed without opening the door.

Be sure the refrigerator is level; if not, the door might not close properly. Most refrigerators have adjustable feet or casters.

Before you open the door to retrieve items, decide what you want. Every time you open the door, up to 30 percent of the cooled air can escape.

To maximize the storage life of your food and use the least energy, keep the refrigerator temperature at 36º to 38º F and the freezer at no colder than 0º to 5º F.

Try to keep the refrigerator compartments full to limit temperature fluctuations.

If you have a choice of location when remodeling your kitchen, keep the refrigerator away from direct sunlight and heat sources.

To keep a stainless-steel finish on your refrigerator looking its best, follow these steps. (You can also follow this advice for other stainless-steel appliances.)

Dish detergent, water, and a sponge are all it takes to remove most stains. For tougher stains and grime, clean the area with some rubbing alcohol on a soft cloth.

Once you're done cleaning, buff the surface dry with a clean, dry cloth to prevent water-spotting.

Finish off by wiping uncoated stainless with a cleaner made for stainless steel. These leave a slightly oily coating to make fingerprints less noticeable but should not be used on clear-coated or faux-stainless finishes.

For more on refrigerators, see our Ratings (available to subscribers).

ELECTRIC OR GAS RANGE

Place heavy pots and pans gently on smoothtop models to avoid breakage.

Never cover drip pans and bowls with aluminum foil, which can short circuit the burner.

Keep reflector bowls (beneath the burners) shiny and clean, which affects how efficiently they reflect heat up to the pan or pot. Replace them when they can no longer be cleaned.

Periodically clean burner ports with a needle.

Don't poke the igniter or spray it with oven cleaner.

WALL OVEN

Check door seals for damage.

If heat is escaping from an older oven, adjust or replace the gasket.

Don't line oven racks with aluminum foil, which inhibits air circulation. Also, do not place on the bottom of the oven to catch drips because that may cause permanent damage to the interior finish of the oven.

Avoid opening the oven door frequently to check progress; each time you do, you lose 25º F or more.

For self-clean ovens, wait to initiate the procedure until you have just used the oven to bake. This helps the self-clean process use less energy. (Another way to save energy is to use glass or ceramic pans whenever possible. They typically allow you to cook at temperatures up to 25º F lower than with metal pan

For more on wall ovens, see our Ratings (available to subscribers).

MICROWAVE OVEN

Avoid turning on when empty and avoid putting metal inside.

Regularly clean food particles and spatters.

Use a surge suppressor to protect your microwave's solid-state circuitry from voltage spikes.

For more on microwaves, see our Ratings (available to subscribers).

DISHWASHER

Replace a dish rack with worn or rusted tines.

When loading, make sure silverware and dishes don't catch the spray arms to avoid damaging the arms.

Inspect the spray arms for paper, glass, or other debris, which can clog holes. Remove any obstructions. If you find glass, inspect the pump housing for glass as well as any seals that it might have punctured.

If your dishwasher has a manual-clean filter, clean the filter regularly, as per the manufacturer's instructions.

Run the dishwasher with a full load. You should scrape food from dishes but, as our tests show, you don't need to prerinse them. Doing so doesn't improve cleaning.

For more on dishwashers, see our Ratings (available to subscribers).