Easy Maintenance Tips: Washer & Dryer Care

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Washing machines and dryers are considered one of a household's largest appliance investments. The cost of the device, plus water, electricity and heating can add up quickly, making your investment seem burdensome. But in reality, your washing machine and dryer should be the most convenient things you own, so make them last! Don't fall victim to flooding or fire, two common mishaps with uncared-for washers and dryers. With a few easy tips and maintenance guidelines, you'll be on your way to not only keeping your machines safe, but also making them run better, saving you time, money and worry.

Washer

Before beginning any maintenance on your washer and dryer, unplug them both. Then carefully pull them a few feet away from the wall, leaving room for you to work and see easily. Next, turn off the hot and cold water valves, and remove the drain hose from the drain. If it cracks, then replace it with the same type of hose. Put a towel under the supply hoses to catch any water; then remove the hoses with a pair of grooved-joint adjustable pliers.

Clean. Debris and sediment in your filter screens with slow the flow of water to your machine. Check the filters, and clean out any buildup you see with a bristle brush.

Install new, braided hoses: With your fingers, screw the hose fittings onto the machine's threaded nipples; then tighten them gently with pliers. Make sure the hose is long enough to allow you to move the machine if necessary, typically around 60 inches.

Add a drip pan: A drip pan under your washer will catch any leaks. In fact, drip pans are required in second-floor laundry rooms for this very reason. The best drip pans will have a drain, so that any water that collects can be diverted to a floor drain. Have a friend or a dolly ready to help you carefully lift your washer into place on the pan, avoiding cracks or other damage. Whenever you run a load in the future, check afterward to make sure that no water leaked out.

Hook up the water supply: Connect the other ends of the braided hoses to the water-supply bibs, as you applied them to the machine. Make sure they match the hot hose with the hot-water supply and the cold with the cold supply. Open the valves and check for leaks. Reconnect the drain hose to the drain.

Do a maintenance wash. Run your washing machine on its hottest setting for a typical load length. Just toss basic detergent in it, and if you'd like a little extra sparkle and good smell, then add some vinegar or colored ammonia. Both offer a simple and cheap clean. Never put clothes in your maintenance wash. You want to lightly run the machine to get it clean and running after its maintenance. Also, this lessens the risk of intense flooding if something goes wrong.

Dryer

Clean the lint trap. Pull out your dryer's lint screen and push a snorkel brush straight down into the trap. Twirl the brush in circles to fish out any lint trapped at the bottom. Afterward, check with a flashlight to make sure it's clean. A long crevice tool on a vacuum cleaner may also help pick up remaining lint. Removing all lint is a safety precaution, as any excess can catch fire from the intense heat of your dryer.

Clean the duct work. Disconnect the ductwork from the dryer exhaust and from the exterior vent. If the duct is made of plastic or ribbed metal, then throw it away. If the duct is smooth-wall metal, then take it outside and clean all the parts with a round dyer-vent brush.

Clean the outside vent. Working from inside, spin the vent brush a few inches into the duct that leads outside. Then pull it back and clean off the bristles. Repeat this process until the bristles reach the exhaust hood on the outside wall and still come out clean. Be careful not to shove the lint out with the brush, as you may create a clog. Then go outside and make sure the vent hood isn't plugged. If necessary, remove the hood, clean it out and put it back.

Reattach the duct. Reassemble the metal ductwork and seal the joints with aluminum tape. Avoid using screws to connect the sections, as they can snag lint and cause buildup. The ends of the ductwork should fit snugly onto the dryer's exhaust and vent hood without any tape or hose clamps.

Once done with everything, put your machines back in place. Get in the habit of checking your hoses and cleaning ducts every six months. All hoses should be replaced every five years, and it's easier to remember this if you tag them with their installation date once they're put in. By taking care of your machines with these basic maintenance instructions, your appliances will last longer, run better and use less energy, saving you money and time. And, really, isn't that why you bought them in the first place?

Last Updated: February 9, 2011
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