“They just don’t make them like they used to.” While that phrase is indeed used and abused, it definitely seems to ring true when talking about kitchen and household appliances.
While there are certain things out of your control when it comes to the longevity of your appliances, there are some things you can do to maximize their life and your investment.
One of the most common causes to refrigerators breaking down and needing repair is when the door doesn’t close tightly. This causes the motor to work overtime as it attempts to keep food at the optimal temperature. To test your door seal, close the door on a dollar bill: If the bill slips, you’ve got a problem that will likely require a refrigerator repairman.
Magnetic strips embedded in gaskets around refrigerator doors make doors close snugly, but they often wear out and need to be replaced or re-magnetized every few years. If you’re handy, re-magnetizing is a DIY job — just run a powerful magnet along each side of the gasket, in the same direction, about 50 times.
If messing around with the refrigerator door is not something you’re comfortable with, call a professional. Pros typically charge around $250 to repair door problems.
While it might be a fun treasure hunt for the kids to go searching for loose change in the washing machine, having those nickels and dimes banging around your washer can cause dents, chipped paint, and rust, so make sure to empty pockets before washing clothes.
Also, maintain your washing machine by regularly cleaning or replacing filters that trap water sediment before it enters your machine. Filters are usually located in the back where supply hoses attach to the machine. Remove hoses and either poke out debris with a tip of a flathead screwdriver, then remove and wash the filter, or replace it.
In addition to regularly cleaning out your dryer’s lint trap and exhaust hose (come on, that one you should know), be sure to inspect the exterior vent to ensure hot air must escape your house unimpeded.
Make sure the hinged exterior vent pops open when the dryer runs. If it doesn’t, open the cover and scrape out lint with the end of a hanger or dryer vent brush ($13). If your vent is louvered, clean slats with an old toothbrush.
Prime your dishwasher by running the hot water in your sink before you begin the cycle. This will clean your dishes with hot water from the very start of the cycle. Once a week, run your dishwasher empty except for a cup of vinegar, which will keep it shining and smelling fresh. Make sure to clean out food traps regularly. Wipe clean the seals around dishwasher doors.
Darkly toasted bread will burn out your toaster two years earlier than lightly toasted bread. So if you can live with lightly crisp rather than almost burnt, you’ll get a few more years out of your toaster.