We're always on the lookout for safe, easy cleaning tips that preferably use natural ingredients. You may have noticed how much we love to recommend vinegar as a cleanser, for example. That got us thinking about the weird stuff that needs cleaning from time to time. From the back of the refrigerator to the inside of the dryer, here are eight things to regularly clean or clear on many of your most frequently used appliances:
Air Conditioner: Clear the condensate drain line
Gunk, algae, and sometimes mold, can build up over time and clog a condenser unit’s drain line, causing condensation to back up into the drain pan and overflow. To avoid the damaging water leaks that could follow, check and clear the line at least once per year, up to once per month during the heavy-use season. First, turn off the thermostat and flip the circuit breaker for the unit to Off. To clear the drain line you can either suction out clogs using a wet/dry vacuum at the line’s exit point outside or apply a vinegar solution. To use vinegar, locate and remove the drain line cover and use a funnel to pour a quarter cup of distilled white vinegar into the line. Allow it to sit in the line for a half-hour, then flush the line with water. You may need to repeat the process, particularly if you have never previously cleared the line.
Dishwasher: Clean the door gasket and the inside
Use a damp towel to clean accumulated gunk and soap residue from the rubber gasket on the door to help keep your door seal tight. Next, run your empty dishwasher through a cycle with one cup of distilled vinegar to clean out old bits of food and keep it running fresh. Repeat this process every few months. Most dishwashers also have a Cancel or Drain button: push it after every load completes and this will clear all the water from the drain hose. This is a good habit to do as it removes any sitting water in the hose. It also allows you to test the relay and pump on a dishwasher. If you can hear your dishwasher drain, those components are working correctly.
Garbage disposal: Sanitize the drain
Two different methods both work well for cleaning your garbage disposal. For the first method, add a half cup of baking soda into the disposal drain. Then add one cup of white vinegar. Let the mixture fizz for a few minutes, then pour boiling water down the drain. The second method is to add ice until the drain is nearly filled up, then add a cup of salt. Turn on the cold water and let water flow into the disposal, then turn it on and run it until it breaks up all the ice.
Dryer: Clear the lint from everywhere
It is important to clean the lint from more than just the lint trap. Over time, lint builds up in the vent hose leading from the back of the dryer, the exhaust hose leading to the outside, and from the internals of the dryer. Unplug the dryer, gently pull it out from the wall, and disconnect it from the exhaust vent. Use a screwdriver to remove the back panel and use your vacuum wand attachment to clear lint from around the drum and other internal areas. Replace the panel and remove any lint caught in the vent hose using a dryer vent duct brush. Next, plug the dryer back in and turn it on. Go outside to where the exhaust hose exits and clear any remaining obstructions.
Refrigerator: Clean the coils and the backside
When dust builds up on the coils, it can cause your refrigerator to run inefficiently. At least once per year, pull out your fridge, unplug it, and vacuum the coils with a brush attachment. Sometimes the coils are housed behind a grille so have a screwdriver handy to remove that. While the fridge is out from the wall, use a solution of equal parts vinegar and water to clean the back side, which will help cut down on dirty surfaces where dust likes to accumulate. (Just as you clean your dishwasher door gasket, you can also use a damp towel to wipe down your refrigerator door gasket, which helps the fridge door seal work better.)
Oven/Range hood: Degrease the exterior and clean the filter
Gross, but necessary, as the hood for your oven or range will build up grease from cooling oils very quickly. Don’t let it build up past the point where a solution of dish soap and your own elbow grease won’t take care of this sticky problem. Once you tackle the outside, remove the filter under the hood and soak it in a tub of hot water and dish soap for at least 20 minutes, then use a sponge to remove any remaining debris, and rinse thoroughly. When the filter is dry, insert it back into place.
Trash Compactor: Disinfect the interior
Bacteria from food and garbage can quickly find a nice home for growing inside a trash compactor. Unplug your compactor and use a solution of warm water and dish soap to clean the inside, then thoroughly wipe dry. To control other odors, be sure to replace the charcoal air filter at least once per year.
Clothes Washer: Clean the hard water stains
Fill up your machine on the hot water cycle. Before it starts, add a solution of two cups of distilled vinegar and one cup of baking soda and let the treated water sit for at least a half-hour. Turn the machine back on and let it run through a cycle. When the washer finishes cycling, use a rag soaked in a vinegar solution to easily wash off any remaining hard water stains and any soap residue from inside the washer. You may want to run one more clear water cycle before adding a load of laundry. Before you attempt any of these DIY cleaning tasks, remember to unplug electrical devices and turn off the water at the source. And always refer to your owner’s manual for each appliance before you begin.