Quick jobs you can do to maintain your household appliances

If you don’t know where to find the coils or the filter on a machine, our first piece of advice is to consult your instruction manual. If it’s been lost to the mists of time or the cupboard fairies, search online for the make and model of your appliance and you should be able to find a manual there.

Alternatively, perform the same search on YouTube. There are loads of really helpful videos out there that’ll be specific to your appliances.

Clean the filter on your washing machine

Most washing machines have a filter behind a small door or hatch on the front of the appliance. It usually looks like a plug. If you can’t see one, it’s probably under the base board of the machine. You can use a flat screwdriver or your hands to lever off the panel. Underneath, you should see a small, round cap.

Once you’ve found the filter, put an old towel or a low-lipped tray under it. When you unscrew it, some pretty nasty water is going to trickle out. Remove the cap and filter and clean them and wipe down inside the aperture. Don’t forget to replace everything when you’ve finished.

For more advice on looking after your washing machine, read our article.

Clean the condenser coils on the back of your fridge

The condenser coils, which are located at the back of your fridge, are where the heat is removed from the refrigerant. Essentially, they keep your fridge cool. As you can imagine, if they’re covered in dust, they won’t function very well. 

First of all, unplug your fridge. This job won’t take long, so you’re not going to lose your food. Your safety is paramount.

Moving the fridge out from the wall is potentially one of the worst jobs in your home. That’s because you have to confront the result of your decision to never, ever move your fridge out from the wall and clean. You’re going to find dust, unidentifiable grime and about a bag’s worth of dried peas that have taken shelter there. That’s why you’ll need a bucket of warm water and a cloth you can throw away directly afterwards.

The warm water is NOT for the condenser coils. It is for cleaning the gag-worthy floor.

Once your fridge is unplugged, walk it forward by shifting first one side then the other, until you can get a good look at the back of the fridge.

At the bottom, you’ll see a metal panel, which is screwed in. Get a screwdriver, and remove it. You’ll see some coils. They will very probably be furry with dust. Attach the brush head to your vacuum cleaner and give them a gentle clean. When you’re done, replace the metal panel and tackle the floor. When your fridge is back in place, don’t forget to switch it on again.

If you’re worried about your fridge freezer, have a look at our guide with advice on further maintenance and signs that it needs to be replaced.

Put some dishwasher salt into your dishwasher

Dishwasher salt not only helps your machine to clean more efficiently, it protects it from limescale deposits, which can shorten its effective lifespan. This is especially important if you’re in a hard water area.

The dishwasher salt reservoir is in the bottom of your dishwasher. You’ll probably have to remove the bottom dish rack to get at it. It has a plug-like cap you can unscrew. The reservoir should be filled with water. If it isn’t, fill it to the brim with a jug of cold tap water. Then, add the salt.

Whatever you do, don’t add just any old salt. It must be purpose-made dishwasher salt. If you have a funnel, use that. Otherwise, fill a measuring jug with dishwasher salt and pour it in carefully. If you haven’t done this before, you’ll find that there’s space for a large volume of the stuff.

Fill it up as much as you can and screw the cap back on. Clean up any excess salt. While you’re at it, remove the filter in the bottom of the machine, give it a good clean and replace it. Run the dishwasher on a rinse cycle or a self-cleaning cycle if it has one.

For more maintenance advice on your dishwasher, read our guide. 

Clean your oven’s extractor fan filters

If cleaning behind the fridge is the worst-ever job, this must be the next most unpleasant. If this is the first time you’ve done this, you’re in for a wild ride. The job of these filters is to collect grease. So, guess what? Yep, they are coated in the stuff.

But obviously, the more grease they’ve collected, the less they are able to remove smoke and food particles from the air. This means that the extractor fan on your cooker is not working well at all, which is bad news for your air quality.

If you look under your cooker hood, you should be able to see mesh filters. Most have a button that you can press to slide or pop them out.

Stick them into a sink full of as-close-as-you-can-get-to-boiling water and washing up liquid. Submerge your filters and let them soak in the hot, soapy water for a few minutes.

Put on washing up gloves. Get a washing-up brush (don’t use a scourer or anything too abrasive). Sprinkle the filters with baking soda and scrub away.

There is an alternative to this misery. If your filters are not in too bad a state, you can put them straight into your dishwasher and run them on a hot wash. Don’t add extra washing-up liquid with the idea that it’ll help clean them. Dishwasher liquid lathers way too much to be used in a dishwasher and you’ll end up with a kitchen floor bubble bath.

After they’ve been washed, give them time to dry completely before you put them back in the cooker hood.

You’re a hero. Go and do something nice for yourself.

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