4 quick and easy appliance maintenance tasks to keep your home working at it’s best during Michigan winters

Lawrence Juntti
Lawrence Juntti
Published on December 26, 2017


Winter hibernation – that feeling that we should burrow our heads under the covers until spring — is typically fruitless.

Researchers warn us to “keep moving” to release endorphins which will help us keep “winter tiredness” at bay.  With that in mind, here are some “exercises” that offer a bonus – they’re quick, they’ll get you moving and your home will look incredible and be functioning well when you’re finished.

Attack the refrigerator

How’s your refrigerator looking after the holiday festivities?

More importantly – when was the last time you pulled it away from the wall to clean behind it?

Especially if you have pets, the coils should be cleaned at least twice a year – if you hope to prolong the it’s life.  So, unplug and move it away from the wall – to give yourself room to work.  Then, use the vacuum to clean the coils.

Depending on how much fuzz and other grime has accumulated on the coils, you may want to pre-clean them by brushing with a paintbrush.  Then, use the vacuum with the brush attachment to get the rest.

When you’re finished, sweep and mop the floor, plug the refrigerator back in and move it to its original location.

If your refrigerator’s coils are on the bottom, you can access them through the grill cover at the bottom of the front of the refrigerator.

Some appliance manufacturers are now offering refrigerators with condensers enclosed in a compressor casing, so they never need cleaning.  In fact, GE calls theirs NeverClean™ Condensers.  This also allows for more efficient airflow.

Dishwashers don’t clean themselves

It’s amazing that a contraption that can clean so many things (silicon oven mitts, tools, toys, makeup brushes, golf balls and more) doesn’t clean itself.

In fact, according to Bob Vila, to keep it running efficiently, you should clean your dishwasher once a month.

Unplug the dishwasher and remove the bottom dish rack. Locate the drain filter at the bottom of the tub.  Unscrew the center cylinder, remove it, wash it under hot water and replace it.

The spray arms can either be unscrewed or pull off – depending on the model. You may need a toothpick to get to any small pieces of food stuck inside the holes.

If your dishwasher has a vent on the inside of the door, remove the cover and attack that awful gunk that tends to accumulate there.  A stiff toothbrush dipped in vinegar and a bit of scrubbing should remove it.

Of course for more specific information, on cleaning your dishwasher, refer to the user’s manual that came with the appliance.

Clean the shower-head

If your showers aren’t what they used to be, the shower-head may be the culprit.  Scaly mineral deposits can build up and eventually clog the tiny spray holes.  Fortunately, there are several methods you can try to rid the shower-head of the deposits.

Let’s start with the easiest – it doesn’t require removal of the shower-head.

  • “Slip a rubber band over the top of the shower-head,” suggests Better Homes & Gardens.
  • Pour your preferred liquid cleaning solution (vinegar, CLR, etc.) in a plastic sandwich bag.
  • Place the bag over the shower-head and wrap the rubber band around the top of the plastic bag to secure it.
  • Allow the bag to remain for about an hour (or according to the product’s instructions).
  • Remove the bag and turn on the shower to flush the solution from the shower-head.

If the easy method fails, you’ll need to remove the shower-head and scrub it with an old toothbrush and the cleaning solution.

Plumbingsupply.com offers a handy walk-through of the removal process and how to guard against damaging the shower-head.

Use a small, sharp object, such as a pin or toothpick to dislodge stubborn particles. You may need to soak the shower head in the solution overnight.

Bob Vila recommends that since you have the shower-head dismantled, you should clean the filter as well. Use the shower-head manufacturer’s instructions about how to locate and detach the filter screen.

It is typically located “near the point where the shower head attaches to the water supply pipe, according to Vila. To clean, use the toothbrush to scrub it under running water.

Clean your computer

If you use your computer as much as I do, you’ll agree that digital maintenance is just as necessary as home maintenance.  Heavily-used machines take a beating and invariably end up with a lot more than dust to contend with.

Refer to your owner’s manual first.

Not all of them contain information on cleaning.  But if yours does, because it’s specific to your device, it’s the best advice to follow.

Work from the outside to the inside by cleaning the shell first.  Consumer Reports recommends using a small drop of liquid dish soap in a small bowl of warm water.  Dip in a sponge, wring it well and wipe down the exterior of the case and the mouse.

Keyboards are like flypaper – they attract anything that happens to float by, from dust to hair to crumbs.  Consumer Reports, recommends using a portable vacuum cleaner to get at the detritus. Lacking one of those, use a small brush to clean around the keys.

If you use a detached keyboard, give it a couple of gentle shakes and then turn it over and pat gently along the back of it. You may be surprised what falls out of it. Then, wipe the keys with a damp cloth. A cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol is ideal for cleaning the spaces between the keys.

Use a soft brush to wipe the dust from the computer’s vents and then spray condensed air to dislodge any stubborn debris. Consumer Reports recommends that you hold the compressed air can “at an angle so that you’re not blowing the debris deeper into the machine.”

Use care when cleaning the monitor.

Start by using a dry, micro-fiber cleaning cloth to remove as many of the smudges and other grime as possible.  If it requires additional cleaning, Matt Elliott with cnet.com recommends using a soft cloth, dipped in a solution of warm water and a drop of dish soap – well-wrung – to gently wipe the screen.

Use a clean, damp cloth to remove the soapy residue and the micro-fiber cloth to dry it.


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