17 Tips for Sparkling-Clean Appliances, From Dryers to Dishwashers

Sharon Brandwein
Written by Sharon Brandwein
Updated March 17, 2022
Man in the kitchen putting groceries in the refrigerator
Photo: Thomas Barwick / DigitalVision / Getty Images

In the world of appliances, cleanliness and performance go hand in hand

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The major appliances in your home all work together to keep your life running smoothly. Fridges keep your food preserved and safe to eat, stoves help you prepare delicious meals, and dishwashers are there to make the cleanup a little more palatable. 

While you may take them for granted, chances are you’ll be acutely aware of their importance when they break down. To keep your refrigerator, dishwasher, or washing machine in good working order, regular cleaning and maintenance is key. If you’re not sure where to start, these 17 tips for cleaning appliances will help you get your project off on the right foot. 

Refrigerator Cleaning Tips

Considering that your fridge does the heavy lifting to keep your food safe for consumption, regular cleaning and maintenance are crucial for safety’s sake. 

1. Start With a Clean Slate 

Start by removing everything in your fridge. Not only will this open things up, giving you access to the far reaches, but it’s also a good opportunity to get organized. Check dates, toss expired items, etc. Continue to prep the space by taking out removable shelves and drawers and washing them with hot soapy water. 

2. Use a Safe Cleaner 

While it may be tempting to hit the inside of your fridge with a bit of bleach or another commercial cleaner, these products tend to have a strong odor that can linger and be absorbed by your refrigerated foods. 

To clean your fridge without any adverse effects, try making your own cleaning solution by mixing two tablespoons of baking soda with 1 quart hot water. If you need something stronger to tackle stuck-on foods, grease, or grime, white vinegar should do the trick. Just mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle and you’re all set.

3. Don’t Forget the Gasket

When cleaning a refrigerator, most people tend to forget the gasket or the rubber seal around the fridge door. This is an important part of your fridge, and it should be cleaned regularly to keep it working at its peak performance. 

Using a damp cloth dipped in warm, soapy water, give the gasket a thorough wipe down. Don’t forget to clean the folds of the gasket where dirt, grime, and crumbs tend to hide. When you’re done, be sure to wipe the gaskets dry with a clean microfiber cloth.

4. Clean the Exterior 

Once you’ve cleaned the interior and the removable parts of your fridge, be sure to give the outside of your fridge a thorough wipe down before wrapping things up. Whether you have a white, black, or stainless steel appliance, a bit of mild dish soap mixed with warm water should be enough to get the job done. Don’t forget to follow up with a dry wipe using a microfiber cloth.

5. Don’t Forget the Condenser Coils

Cleaning refrigerator condenser coils not only saves you money but by making it a part of your regular maintenance schedule, you’ll also keep your fridge operating at its peak performance. To clean the condenser coils, unplug your fridge, pull it away from the wall, and gently brush around the condenser coils. You can also use a vacuum with a brush attachment to keep the mess to a minimum.  

Dishwasher Cleaning Tips

A dirty dishwasher will never get your dishes clean, and there’s nothing grosser than seeing remnants of last night’s meal on your dinner plate. The following tips will help you clean your appliance, so it works the way it’s supposed to.  

6. Clean the Filter

Closeup of a person removing dishwasher filter
Photo: pashapixel / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Before you give your dishwasher a deep clean, it’s a good idea to inspect the drain and the filter. Not only should you remove any gunk or food particles blocking the drain, but you should also remove the filter and give that a good cleaning as well. 

7. Clean the Seals and Gaskets 

When gaskets don’t seal properly on dishwashers, the results can be catastrophic, so keep your gaskets in good shape by giving them a thorough wipe down from time to time. A damp cloth with warm soapy water should be plenty, but you can always use vinegar the tackle anything that looks gunky. 

8. Don’t Forget the Spray Arm

Clean spray arms are crucial for your dishwasher to function optimally. So when you’re cleaning this appliance, be sure to take a minute or two with this important piece. Start by wiping the spray arms with a damp cloth, and use a toothpick if necessary to dislodge any bits of food or debris that’s clogging the holes. 

9. Clean Your Dishwasher With Vinegar and Baking Soda

While there are plenty of dishwasher cleaners on the market, you can get the same results using pantry staples like vinegar and baking soda. These items are quite effective, and they’re inexpensive to boot. Vinegar expertly breaks up residual bits of food, grease, and soap residue, while baking soda works to remove stains and tackle odors. 

First, fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with 1 cup of white vinegar and place it on the lower rack of your dishwasher. Then run the dishwasher on a hot water cycle. When the first cycle is done, sprinkle some baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and run it on a short cycle. 

Washing Machine Cleaning Tips

Detergent residue can build up in washing machines. Over time, this can affect their performance and their ability to clean clothes effectively. The following tips will help you keep your washing machine in excellent working order. 

10. Give Your Machine’s Self-Cleaning Feature a Boost 

While many newer washing machines come with a self-cleaning feature, you can give the cleaning cycle a little power-up by adding a bit of bleach or vinegar. Doing so is as easy as splashing some bleach or vinegar around the drum before starting the cleaning cycle. 

Safety note: Never mix bleach and vinegar; doing so will create a chlorine gas that can cause severe eye, nose, and lung irritation, and over-exposure can be lethal. If you want to give your washing machine’s self-cleaning cycle a little boost, be sure to choose only one. 

11. Use Only Hot Water Cycles DIY Cleaning

If your washing machine doesn’t have a cleaning function, you can always take the DIY approach. When doing so, make sure you’re using the hottest water setting, and be sure to add some vinegar or bleach to the drum. 

Remember that you want to break up any gunk that’s hanging around in or on the drum, and cold water just can’t do that. Hot water is far more effective for softening and loosening caked-on grime. 

12. Pay Special Attention to Front-Loaders 

Front loading washing machines may look great, but they have a dirty little secret. These appliances are notorious for mold build-up in the rubber seals. To keep odors and mold at bay, be sure to clean the gaskets regularly with a vinegar and water solution. For tough mold, you may want to use a bleach and water solution. 

13. Don’t Forget the Detergent Trays 

When you’re cleaning your washing machine, it’s easy to forget about the detergent trays. Often smeared with dribs and drabs of detergent residue, these pieces can become pretty gunky and not so pleasing to the eye. 

To clean the detergent trays, simply use a damp cloth to wipe them down. You can also take out any removable parts and wash them in a sink with warm or hot water. 

14. Give It Some Breathing Room

When you’re done running your washer’s cleaning cycle (or your wash cycles, for that matter), be sure to leave the lid open so your washer can air out and dry; this will keep mold, mildew, and musty odors from settling in.

Clothes Dryer Cleaning Tips

If you’ve noticed your clothes aren’t drying within their allotted time, that could mean it’s time to clean your dryer. Here are a few tips to ensure success.

15. Grab Your Vacuum 

While most people (hopefully) clean their lint traps after each use, regular maintenance usually stops there. But every so often, you may want to take things a step further by cleaning the pocket for the lint trap. For an easy assist in tackling this task, grab your vacuum; crevice tools are great for getting down into the far reaches.

16. Check the Lint Trap for Residue

Woman holding dryer lint filter
Photo: Grace Cary / Moment / Getty Images

If you’re a fan of dryer sheets, there’s a high probability that your lint traps are covered in residue from said dryer sheets. To clean the lint trap and protect the longevity of your dryer, be sure to clean the mesh every few months. Use a toothbrush dipped in warm soapy water, and let the lint trap air dry completely before returning it to the dryer.

17. Wipe the Drum 

Not only can residue from dryer sheets linger on the lint trap, but it can also hang around on the drum. To clean your dryer drum, start by mixing equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto the drum and wipe it down with a clean microfiber cloth.

If cleaning your appliances is something you’d rather not add to your lengthy list of DIY projects, you can always hire a house cleaner in your area to do it for you.

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