By Kathy Gambrell
No one likes household chores, but you quickly learn that they are a necessary evil to keep everything clean and in working order. There are a few little-known preventative maintenance tasks that will save you from costly repairs and replacements and keep you healthy overall.
Clean the washing machine
You may not think it’s important to clean an appliance that is designed specifically to clean, but it is. Washing machines can harbor mold and mildew, so taking the time to flush out dangerous pathogens can extend both the life of your clothing AND the life of the washer.
Consumer Reports says that front loading washers are particularly prone to mold buildup. For front loading washers, the article recommends wiping down the rubber gaskets that line the door after each wash. It also suggests that for both top-loading and front-loading washers, you should clean out the soap dispenser, which can harbor mold and mildew.
Finally, the product review experts say that sanitizing your washer every few months with bleach will kill any mold growing in hidden spaces. Read here for a step-by-step guide for getting your washing machine clean and safe to use.
Remove the lint from your clothes dryer
Once you’ve gotten your washer sparkly clean, the next place to look is the lint trap in your clothes dryer. Lint build up is the number one reason for dryer fires. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that 2,900 clothes dryer fires occur each year resulting in 100 injuries and $35 million in property loss. The leading cause, the group says, is the failure to clean them.
So, after every time you dry a load, remove the lint from the lint trap. And every few months, vacuum the lint vent. Check the manufacturer's instruction manual to learn how to access the lint vent in your specific dryer model.
Change furnace filters once a month
Whether you own or rent (landlords *should* be responsible for this but aren't always), making sure you change the furnace air filter once a month ensures better air quality and reduces the chance of an expensive breakdown. The air filter captures debris like pet dander, hair, and dust particles. Once the filter is clogged, the ability of the furnace to circulate air efficiently diminishes.
If you begin to see more dust than usual or if the people in your home start to experience cold or allergy symptoms, the culprit may be your air filter. A furnace overwhelmed with dust and particles can shut down completely, requiring an expensive repair or replacement.
Air filters cost between $10 and $50 a pack depending on the size of the furnace – a lot less than hiring an air and heating contractor to make repairs, which can run up to several hundred dollars. So, stock up and set a reminder each month to make the change. Here's a step-by-step guide for changing the furnace filter.
Flip – and Rotate – the Mattress
Whether you have an inner spring or memory foam mattress, it can experience wear and tear from laying in the same place. Inner springs can wear out and the memory foam can, eventually, lose its snap.
Mattresses are a major investment, costing a few hundred to thousands of dollars. Protecting that investment is simple with a little preventative maintenance: flip it over, so the top is now on the bottom – and rotate it, so the head is now at the foot of the bed. These two steps can more than double the life of your mattress.
Purge the Coffeemaker
What’s morning without that morning brew? But eventually that coffeemaker can get a bit nasty if you don’t clean and sanitize it periodically. You can get a buildup of coffee grounds as well as mildew in hidden spaces, thanks to the moist environment. Condensation from the heated water seeps into crevices and sits, producing mildew. So, take the time every few months to clean it --inside and out.
If you have a simple coffeemaker that uses ground coffee and filters, running a 50-50 solution of white vinegar and water though can flush out the icky, followed by running two cycles of clean hot water. Run the basket and decanter through the dishwasher or clean with a vinegar solution and flush thoroughly. If your coffeemaker has a bit more complicated innards - grinds coffee, uses steamed milk and such, consult your manufacturer’s manual on how to clean and sanitize.
Wash the Bathroom Floor – And Shut the Toilet Lid
The floor is probably the most neglected part of the bathroom. Since the bathroom floor is the catch-all for dust, hair, and other germ-packed particles, making sure it is cleaned and sanitized at least once a week with a disinfecting solution can ensure everyone in the home stays healthy.
Also, it’s important to always flush the toilet with the lid down. (Hear that, gentlemen)??? The reason, writes Charles Gerba, a microbiology professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, is that “Polluted water vapor erupts out of the flushing toilet bowl, and it can take several hours for these particles to finally settle – not to mention where...If you have your toothbrush too close to the toilet, you are brushing your teeth with what's in your toilet." The phenomena is called “toilet plume” where the swirling water shoots aerosolized urine and feces into the air...Just close the lid, okay?