Start the year off right: Give these appliances some extra attention

It might seem odd to clean the washing machine, but it's worth doing every few months.
KALLAN MacLEOD

It might seem odd to clean the washing machine, but it's worth doing every few months.

For some of us, the new year prompts a cleaning frenzy. September is often too cold and wet to really feel like 'spring cleaning' weather, so we launch into the new calendar year with the urge to get the house spick-and-span.

In addition to the areas of the home you clean regularly, such as the kitchen sink, toilets and floors, it's a good time to focus on appliances, which typically get overlooked. By not cleaning your appliances, you are not just allowing germs to thrive, but you are also affecting the machines' performance. Here are six appliances you should clean regularly, as well as advice on how to do so and how often.

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DISHWASHER

Clean your dishwasher monthly to prevent a buildup of germs and maintain the efficiency of the machine - you want to make sure your dishes are clean. There are pre-packaged dishwasher cleaners you can buy at the supermarket, or you can go for the DIY option.

A once-a-month clean will ensure your dishes come out sparkling
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A once-a-month clean will ensure your dishes come out sparkling

Pour distilled white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe container (a Pyrex measuring cup works well), and place the cup upright on an empty dishwasher's top rack. Run a full cycle, using the hot-water setting. Next, deodorize the machine by sprinkling a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the tub and running the dishwasher on a half-cycle with hot water.

Finally, leave your dishwasher open for a few hours to air it out.

DRIP COFFEE MAKER

Give your drip coffee maker a thorough cleaning once a month. Hard-water minerals can build up in its inner workings, which can not only affect the taste of your coffee but also slow down its brewing time.

The coffee maker, microwave and waste disposal all need regular cleaning to work their best.
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The coffee maker, microwave and waste disposal all need regular cleaning to work their best.

Again, distilled white vinegar does the trick. Fill the machine's reservoir with equal parts vinegar and water and place a paper filter in the machine's basket. Brew the solution halfway. Turn off the machine and let it sit for 30 minutes. Turn the machine back on and finish brewing. Pour out the solution, replace the filter and run clean water through the machine two more times.

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REFRIGERATOR

Remove everything from your refrigerator quarterly so you can wipe down the inside. This is a healthy habit, too, because it will allow you to more easily check for expired food.

Toss anything past its prime. Wipe and deodorise shelves with a solution of warm water and baking soda (1 tablespoon baking soda mixed with 1 litre warm water). If you can, pull the refrigerator away from the wall and vacuum dust and dirt that has collected.

When you go to refill your refrigerator, don't overstuff it. You need room to let cool air circulate, which will keep food at a safe temperature. Conversely, don't leave your refrigerator empty. Refrigerators need to have some items in them to maintain low temperatures. Those items will absorb the warm air that enters when you open the door.

When you restock your refrigerator, keep items such as soda, beer and pasteurised fruit juices on the top shelf. This is not the coldest place in your fridge, so you want to avoid storing items such as milk that spoil easily there.

On the middle shelf, store items that require a consistent temperature, including eggs, butter and jarred foods such as tomato sauce.

On the bottom shelf, the coldest part of your refrigerator, store items that spoil easily, such as dairy products and raw meat. Store condiments such as ketchup, jams, salad dressings, mustard and pickles on the refrigerator door. These items tend to be high in salt, sugar and vinegar, so they can withstand higher temperatures.

Along with a regular cleaning, storing foods in the right places will improve your refrigerator's performance.
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Along with a regular cleaning, storing foods in the right places will improve your refrigerator's performance.

Store vegetables in the drawer labelled "high humidity," and store fruit in the "low-humidity" drawer, sometimes called the crisper.

WASHING MACHINE

Washing machines can be breeding grounds for salmonella and other germs. When you wash items in hot water, your machine is being cleaned as well, but once a month, you should still run an empty load with hot water and about 250 mils of distilled white vinegar to sanitise the basin and wipe out any lingering germs. If you have a front-loading machine, leave the door open between washes to let the machine's interior dry.

Run an empty load with about 250 mils of white vinegar in the water to give your washing machine a good internal cleaning.
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Run an empty load with about 250 mils of white vinegar in the water to give your washing machine a good internal cleaning.

GARBAGE DISPOSAL

To clean your disposal, drop in a cut-up lemon, a couple of tablespoons of salt and a few ice cubes. The lemon deodorises, and the ice and salt clean away residue. You should do this about once a month or, if there is a strong odour emanating from your disposal, more frequently.

MICROWAVE

Fill a microwave-safe cup or bowl with water (again, a Pyrex measuring cup works well). Add several slices of lemon or several tablespoons of distilled white vinegar. Place the cup in the microwave and turn the microwave on high for about three minutes or until the water is very hot and the window is covered in steam.

Open the door and wipe down the interior with a clean cloth. Do this about once a month, more frequently if you regularly heat up soup, melt butter or warm anything that has the potential to splatter.

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