Living Smart: 10 tips to extend the life of home appliances

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Show your workhorse appliances a little TLC, and they may stick around a bit longer.

Replacing a refrigerator or oven range can take a bite out of your budget, as can buying a new washer or dryer. To make sure your appliances stand the test of time and continue to perform, follow these pointers:

Keep your fridge and freezer clean

In general, appliances operate best when spick-and-span. Besides regularly cleaning up leftovers in the fridge, keep condenser coils clean, says Bud Eader, manager at Bettar Appliance in Kensington, Md. Do so by using a condenser coil brush.

To clean the freezer, unplug it, remove all food, wipe it down with a baking-soda solution, use water to rinse it, and then dry the freezer with a towel before plugging it back in.

Defrost your freezer

Many freezers today are frost-free. However, if you have a manual defrost freezer, plan to defrost it at least once every year, before frost gets to about a half-inch thick. Use a plastic or wooden scrape ó no knives or other sharp instruments ó to remove the frost layer.

Scrub your oven and range, too

Clean inside your oven often and never let food debris stick around on burners, even if it requires a bit of elbow grease to remove.

Donít spray cleaning fluid directly on control panels though, which could cause them to short circuit. Instead, apply a little onto a rag to clean that surface.

Donít foil your oven

Experts debate whether you should use the self-cleaning feature if your oven comes with one, but they agree you shouldnít use aluminum foil under the baking element.

Replace filters

Whether itís a charcoal filter in an oven, a filter in some dishwashers or refrigerators or the one in your furnace, follow manufacturer guidelines to clean and/or replace them as directed.

Donít use dish soap in the dishwasher

This can hamper the machineís performance by creating gunky buildup. Use only dish detergent.

Scrape off plates

Food debris can clog dishwasher pumps. "Itís going to stop up the spray arms and, in the case of emptying the water out, itís possibly going to make the pump Ö fail prematurely," Eader says.

Donít overload your clothes washing machine

Doing so adds strain on the motor, tub bearings and other parts, besides not getting your clothes clean if water and detergent canít swish between them. "You shorten the life of the machine," Eader says.

Instead, follow the owner manual instructions on how much to load. Hint: If your machine is banging around under the weight of all of your laundry, youíve gone overboard.

Improve your dryerís circulation

Often forgotten, the lint screen needs to be cleaned regularly. Failing to do or allowing your dryer vent to become clogged will force your dryer to work overtime (read: retire sooner) and can present a serious fire hazard. Plan to have your dryerís exhaust system cleaned annually.

Watch where you apply stain removers

Spraying it on top of washers or dryers can corrode painted or plastic parts.