Experts say homeowners often miss these 10 home maintenance tasks, which can have serious consequences. Maintaining your home is a whole lot easier — and a lot less expensive — than dealing with big repairs.
Most refrigerators have condenser coils across the bottom or at the back of the unit that cool and condense the refrigerant. These coils can collect dust and pet hair and get clogged, forcing your refrigerator to work harder to stay cold. Hunter Macfarlane, Lowe’s project expert, recommends homeowners clean their refrigerator’s condenser coil once a year — twice if they have a pet that sheds. You can do this yourself by unplugging the refrigerator, removing the grill protecting the coils, and gently using the hose from a vacuum cleaner to suck out dust particles and debris. Make sure to wear a dust mask.
Replace your refrigerator’s water filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions. “Without properly cleaning and replacing filters, we can be creating other issues from mineral buildup, dust and other debris,” says Rob Morelli, co-founder and chief executive at HomeKeepr, a referral network for home service professionals. This can eventually lead to mold and can contaminate the ice.
In addition, clean your ice maker’s collection bin annually. An even mixture of white vinegar and warm water will do the trick, Morelli says.
Bathroom exhaust fans help eliminate odors and remove moisture that would otherwise land on surfaces and turn into mold; however, a fan can’t operate properly if its cover is dirty, warns Mark Clement, co-founder at MyFixitUpLife.com, a resource for DIY home remodeling. Give bathroom vent covers a thorough cleaning with soapy water twice a year.
Most homeowners know it’s important to clean their dryer’s lint screen in between loads to prevent fires, but many people don’t check for lint buildup in and around the dryer duct and vent filter, says Dan DiClerico, home expert at HomeAdvisor. In fact, failure to clean the dryer is the leading cause of clothes dryer fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Dryer vents should be cleaned at least once a year, DiClerico says. “For best results, invest in a dryer vent cleaning kit, which makes it easy to access the vent filter through the dryer’s ductwork,” he suggests.
Your home's water system will perform better and last longer if you flush the tank once a year to remove sediment, says DiClerico, because magnesium and calcium build up over time, which can reduce a water heater's efficiency. "This goes for both gas and electric systems," he says. According to HomeAdvisor, plumbers will include flushing in their annual tuneup for about $200.
Smoke can leave behind ash and carbon deposits called creosote, “residue that needs to be removed periodically because it can lead to chimney fires and carbon monoxide leaks,” DiClerico says. The National Fire Protection Association recommends a chimney inspection at least once a year.
Your dishwasher won’t last as long, or perform as well, if you don’t clean it a few times a year. “A good trick for deodorizing the dishwasher is to place a bowl full of vinegar in the middle of the bottom rack and then run a normal wash cycle,” DiClerico says.
Vinegar also will remove some of the stains and discolorations that can build up over time in a dishwasher’s interior. For more stubborn stains, homeowners can try a store-brought dishwasher cleaner.
Don’t want mold to fester and grow in your clothes washer? Run a cup of white vinegar through the washing machine, using a cleaning cycle (available on some washers) or a normal cycle with hot water, once a month, says Mitchell of GrayWolf Residential Services. Also, keep your washing machine’s lid or door open in between cycles to allow the basket to dry out.
“Natural minerals in our water build up over time and clog the holes in a shower head, which can create a breeding ground for potentially harmful bacteria and mildews,” says Bailey Carson, head of cleaning at Handy, a website and mobile app that connects consumers with home service providers.
To remove calcium deposits and other gunk, fill a small bag with one cup equal parts water and distilled white vinegar and attach it to the shower head’s nozzle with a twist tie, and let it soak for 20 minutes, Carson says. Make sure to flush the shower head with hot water before using it. Clean once every three months.