Is it possible that, without knowing it, you’re making damaging or dangerous mistakes with your household appliances?
These days, household appliances just aren’t made to last for decades the way refrigerators, ranges and other household appliances did back in our grandparents’ day. “Eight to ten years,” is what the salesman told us to expect from our new refrigerator. He went on, “This machine is designed to stand up to years of use and ordinary wear and tear — assuming you don’t abuse it.”
Let’s dig in to uncover the most common forms of appliance abuse.
Washing items with labels. It seems logical to remove paper labels glued to jars and bottles by running them through the dishwasher. But the paper and glue will totally clog the filter and the pump. This can lead to very costly repairs and a shortened life.
Filthy filter. Dishwashers have filters that catch bits of solid debris to keep them from recirculating onto plates, pans and silverware after the water and detergent have washed them away. A dishwasher that does not have a self-cleaning filter (read the manual) must be cleaned at least once a month.
Gel-type automatic dishwasher detergents are notorious for creating a buildup of gooey slime on the filter, which can lead to all kinds of expensive trouble. Clean the filter monthly, without fail, and you’ll head off trouble down the line.
Keeping it too full. Cramming too much food in the fridge cuts down on air circulation, which makes it impossible for the appliance to keep food cool enough. That creates a perfect environment for mold to build up. And it makes the motor work overtime, which can lead to excessive wear and tear and an untimely fail. Like when you’re on vacation or during a holiday weekend.
Not cleaning condenser. The condenser coils of your refrigerator probably aren’t the first spot in your house you think to clean regularly, but they need to be. Failure to do so is just asking for trouble. Clean the condenser about every six months.
Dirtbag too full. It’s a pain to stop and dump out the vacuum cleaner bag before, after or during your vacuuming, but you should. Let the bag or dust cup get too full, and your vacuum will strain to pick up debris. All that strain will certainly damage the machine and shorten its usable life.
Leaving toaster plugged in. This is one kitchen appliance you should always unplug when not in use. Sometimes, according to ConsumerAffairs, toasters can catch fire with no warning. So don’t leave it alone while it’s in use, and always unplug your toaster when you’re not using it. If your toaster ever does flare up, unplug it immediately.
Never descaling a coffee maker. Limescale is a hard, white substance consisting of calcium carbonate and deposited by water on the inside of pipes. When allowed to build up over time, it can cause a machine to fail long before it might have if that limescale had been removed. Read your machine’s manual, and follow the routine descaling protocol.
Putting the wrong stuff down the garbage disposal. Garbage disposals are designed to take a lot of abuse, but nowhere near what some people put them through. As magical as they seem, garbage disposals do have their limits. If used improperly, you can do a lot of expensive damage to your plumbing.
For sure, never put any nonfood items into a garbage disposal — no glass, metal or even paper. Peel off stickers and labels from produce or new kitchen gadgets, and throw them in the garbage.
Stringy or tough stuff — fruit pits, bones, raw meat, fruit or nutshells — simply will not break down well enough to allow the disposal to do its job. No eggshells or coffee grounds, either. No large quantities of grease or oil.
Anything that swells and absorbs water — rice, pasta, grains, potato peels and flour — is far too risky to place in a disposal. These materials can blow up like balloons in the drain and pipes, causing one major-league appliance abuse — if not a failure.
Mary Hunt writes this column for Creators Syndicate. She is the founder of www.EverydayCheapskte.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of “Debt-Proof Living. Submit comments or tips or address questions on her website. She will answer questions of general interest via this column, but letters cannot be answered individually.