More on Appliances

You probably replace your refrigerator about as often as you replace your car. And while you’re likely taking your car in for regular oil changes and maintenance, are you giving your appliances the same TLC? If not, you should be because replacing your major appliances doesn’t come cheap. Once you make the investment in a washer, dryer, refrigerator, range, or dishwasher you want to make sure it goes the distance, just like your car.

Keeping an appliance in good running order doesn’t require a lot of effort if you take the time to clean it periodically. Once it gets really dirty—refrigerator coils covered in dust, an oven caked with burned-on food—then it not only takes longer to clean but degrades the performance of the appliance itself. That means it may not last as long as it could when given regular attention. Here are some simple maintenance tips from the experts at Consumer Reports.

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Don’t pack it too full—so that air can circulate freely and the compressor doesn’t have to work overtime. Clean the compressor coils every few months. Check your owner’s manual for the coils’ location, then vacuum them with a soft-bristle brush attachment. Wipe door gaskets with mild detergent and water, not bleach. Maintain a stainless finish by using dish detergent, water, and a sponge, or use a stainless cleaner recommended by the manufacturer.

Check CR's buying guide and ratings of refrigerators.


When loading, make sure the silverware and dishes are placed so that they don’t catch the spray arms and damage them. If your dishwasher has a manual-clean filter, clean it regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid food buildup. Wipe down the door gasket from time to time to avoid food buildup and odors.

Check CR's buying guide and ratings of dishwashers.


On a smoothtop, place heavy pots and pans gently and never drag them from one element to another. For gas cooktop burners, clean food particles from between the slots in the burner head to ensure an even flame, and use a needle or straight pin to carefully clean a clogged burner ignition port. Keep the oven free of food buildup by periodically using the self-cleaning feature or cleaning manually, per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Check CR's buying guide and ratings of ranges.


Change the vacuum bag and clean the filters as needed. Avoid vacuuming up sharp or large objects, which can clog or damage a vac’s components, and running over the cord, which can fray and pose an electric-shock hazard. Whether you have a bagged or bagless vacuum, don’t let the bag or bin get filled to the brim, which makes the motor work harder. A motorized brush tangled with hair also adds stress to the motor, so keep it clean.

Check CR's buying guide and ratings of vacuums.

Washing Machines

At least once a year, remove grit from the screens where the hoses attach to the washer. Don’t stuff the washer beyond its manufacturer-recommended capacity. Make sure the machine sits on a level and well-supported subfloor to prevent excessive vibration. And to keep the washer from working harder than it has to, heed the manufacturer’s instructions about how much detergent to use.

Check CR's buying guide and ratings of washing machines.


Clean the lint filter after each use to keep air flowing freely. Check the exhaust duct periodically, especially if you find that the dryer isn’t sufficiently heating up or takes longer than usual to dry a load. Clean the duct once a year to keep it from clogging with lint, which is a fire hazard. And if you use dryer sheets, clean the moisture sensor strips inside the dryer with a little rubbing alcohol to remove film buildup, which hurts performance.

Check CR's buying guide and ratings of dryers.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the February 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

How to Make Appliances Last

Want to keep your household appliances in tip-top shape? On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports expert Eric Hagerman explains the most important thing you can do to keep these machines working properly.