How to Keep Your Top 5 Appliances Happy and Healthy

A hand opening a refrigerator door.

Appliance issues are one of the most expensive things a homeowner has to deal with. Keeping them running at their best through regular maintenance is definitely a must-do for anyone who wants to not have to constantly be replacing them.

For most appliances, keeping them clean, inspected, and maintained helps to ensure that they'll last for several years, some even a decade or more. We've compiled a list of tips that will do just that, keeping your top 5 appliances happy and healthy for years to come.

1. Refrigerator

A thermometer next to an apple in a refrigerator.

At the top of our list for appliances and care is the refrigerator. We list it first because it's one of the most important appliances to keep happy since it does have to run 24 hours a day with no time off for good behavior. It can also be the cause of foodborne illness when not properly maintained.

Most fridges last 10-15 years, and if you want yours to live that long you'll need to do some of the following routine maintenance.

Door gasket: The door gasket is very important to keeping your refrigerator running well for a long time to come. It's also important for your health as it can grow mold and mildew easily and cause the fridge to not cool well enough if it's not sealing properly.

When you inspect it, make sure that it has no gaps, that it seals completely, and that it stays clean. Use a toothbrush and some baking soda to clean the gasket at least two to three times a year. If the gasket is completely worn out and won't seal tight, it will put more stress on your refrigerator's motor and should be replaced immediately.

Condenser coils: Every three-six months you should vacuum the coils on your refrigerator. Dust and pet hair will cause the refrigerator to work harder, which will waste energy and shorten its life. Your coils will be either on the back or bottom front of the fridge, and may be covered by a grill or vent. Unplug the refrigerator before you clean them and use the brush attachment for your vacuum.

Clean the drain pan: The drain hole and drip pan will vary as to location on your fridge, so check your manual for its location. Basically, once you find it you just need to clear away any food and debris from the drain and make sure the pan is clean.

Deodorize: Keeping baking soda in your refrigerator and freezer will help keep odors from accumulating and keep bacteria growth down.

Temperature: If you are able to set the temperature, keep your fridge between 37-40 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer at 0 degrees. This will keep food at the proper temps.

Note: Some refrigerators, especially newer ones, will have specific cleaning methods listed in their manual that you should follow.

2. Range and Oven

An oven with a self-cleaning handle.

Keeping your oven or range running properly and problem-free is fairly easy to do with the newer models as they have a self-cleaning setting. However, even older ranges are not that difficult to maintain because it's mostly about keeping them clean.

There's a few other tips that will help it last a long time, especially the burners, but cleaning it through the self-cleaning cycle or a good old scrubbing is what will maximize its life cycle.

Use the right pot for the right burner: Using the right size pot for the right size burner is one way that will help extend the life of your stove. Using a small pot on a large burner is wasteful for the burning element.

Gas: If you have a gas stove and oven, use a small pin or needle to poke into the hole in the burner where the gas comes out. This will help keep it unclogged and stall replacement in the future.

Glasstop: Use a glass top cleaner specified for glass top stoves to keep it working its best and most efficient.

Gaskets: Like most kitchen appliances, your oven also will have a gasket. Keep it cleaned regularly as debris easily falls into this gasket and will corrode it over time. Having a good seal will help keep the oven running efficiently.

Cleaning: As said before, cleaning is the single best thing you can do for your stove and oven. Run the self-cleaning function (as the manual suggests) and / or use elbow grease to get it cleaned. The entire inside and out should be wiped down at least once a month.

3. Dishwasher

A hand opening a dishwasher drawer.

Like your refrigerator and other appliances, you'll want to keep your dishwasher running in tip-top shape for years to come, and that means you'll need to keep it clean.

Gaskets: Make sure the gaskets are tight and clean. Replace if worn.

Cleaning: Clean your dishwasher with vinegar at least once a month to help keep odors and bacteria from building up. You can wipe it down with vinegar and water, but then also run a cup of vinegar through the rinse cycle to help clean the filters and other internal areas as well.

Filters: Every six months (or sooner if you use it a lot) you should pull out all of the filters and sprayers (that detach) and clean them. Use your faucet to blast food particles out of it. Keeping your filters and sprayers clean and clog-free helps your dishwasher work less and clean better.

4. Microwave

A microwave with a hand cleaning the inside with a cloth.

One of the easier things to clean and maintain in your kitchen is your microwave. Surprised? It's indeed easy if you know a few secrets to cleaning it.

Cleaning: One of the best things you can do to keep your microwave working well is to keep it clean. All you need to do is place a coffee mug mixed with half water and half vinegar into the microwave and set it for about three minutes. You can also try lemon juice or baking soda if you don't have vinegar on hand. Once it steams up the microwave, you can wipe away all the built-up food with a wet wash cloth.

Vents: Along with cleaning the inside, you'll want to clean the outside too, especially the vents. These are usually on the back or side of the microwave. If it's over the stove, there will be a grease filter on the bottom. Remove this and soak in hot, soapy water.

Gaskets / Seals: Check the gaskets, clean them, and make sure they seal properly. As with all appliances, a tight seal is needed for it to run its best.

5. Washers and Dryers

A hand holding up a dryer vent full of lint.

Your washing machine and dryer saves you a lot of work, but to keep it that way you have to show them a little love back. There's not a lot you have to do maintenance-wise, but there is a lot you can do preventive-wise that will help them stay running well.

Check pockets: Clean out your pockets before washing your clothes. Items you tossed in your pants pockets can do a lot of damage to the inner part of your washer and dryer.

Don't overload: Overloading the washer and dryer will cause them to wear out faster as it puts more of a load on the motor, especially if it gets thrown off balance.

Cleaning: You should do a cleaning of both of them once a month. Just take a minute to check out any seals and gaskets, and wipe everything down. If you see an issue, such as a gasket beginning to fail, repair it as soon as possible. Leave the door open on your washer to help allow moisture evaporate.

For your dryer, keep the lint trap and vent clean. Built-up lint in the trap or vent are the biggest issue when it comes to early failure of the appliance, but it's also the biggest cause of a fire.

A few final tips that apply to all of these appliances include making sure they're leveled and that if they're stainless steel you use a special stainless steel cleaner to wipe them down with. Both of these tips are as important as the others if you want your appliances to be around for a long time, so be sure to include them both when you're giving them their monthly, bi-monthly, or yearly checkup!