Before coming to write for Jemma, I pursued a life-long dream: to become a pastry chef. I worked in some of the finest restaurants in America producing desserts and pastries…and cleaning. If I took one thing away from that experience (aside from lots of great memories and recipes), it was the cleanliness of a high-functioning restaurant kitchen.
This wasn’t just “surface-level” clean. Yes, the stainless steel was spotless and the floors were perfect by the end of the night after closing time, but every little detail and every part of every fridge, stove, and oven was cleaned, sanitized, and treated with care. This is an ideal environment for serving food, and the kitchen appliances that received more use in a week than most home appliances see in one year provided peak performance day after day.
Treating your kitchen appliances with the same care and attention as a chef allows them to remain in great working order for years—and can save you hundreds on repair bills. So what should you do? This easy list will help you get the most out of all the appliances in your home:
- Your Stove and Oven
For stoves and ovens, it’s best to start from the top of the appliance and work your way down. Start by removing your stove hood or vent and giving it a good soak in hot, soapy water, followed by a thorough cleaning. This will help to keep smoke and greasy fumes out of your living space when you’re cooking.
For your stovetop, don’t let spills sit. Spills can make gas stoves have ignition problems when they leak into the starter—and glass-top stoves can be permanently damaged by set-in stains. If you have a glass-top stove, make sure you use a special glass-top cleaner to remove messes without scratching the glass.
Most ovens come with a self-clean feature that will address small spills, but if your oven has seen better days, cleaning is an important way to ensure that your oven continues to work well. You can use a simple baking soda paste to help with greasy stains.
To use the baking soda method, make a paste of baking soda and water and place it on the area you wish to clean. Leave it to set overnight and then wipe it away with hot water and a rag. You can finish cleaning by wiping the inside with white vinegar and then turning your oven on low for two hours.
- Your Fridge
We all love a clean and organized fridge, and chefs are the best at organizing and labeling ingredients. But the outside parts of your fridge are really where you can make a big difference in your fridge’s performance. Regardless of the style and size of your fridge, there are two things you should be doing to help boost its longevity: cleaning the refrigerator coils and cleaning the door gaskets.
Coils: The condenser coils for your fridge are usually located in the back of the appliance. Take the time to dust these off every three months to ensure that dust isn’t causing your fridge to work overtime to keep your food cool.
Gaskets: The gaskets—the rubber barrier that seals your fridge and freezer doors—are a prime area for dirt and mold. Once a month, take a mild hot water and bleach solution (you can use white vinegar if you don’t like to use heavy chemicals in your home) and run the cloth through the folds of your gaskets. You will probably be horrified by the amount of build-up, but cleaning your gaskets will help extend their life and keep the cold air in your fridge.
- Your Microwave
Have a little splatter from an errant microwave mishap? Don’t wait to clean it up. Allowing foods to cake onto the walls of your microwave will lead to a yucky environment for heating the rest of your microwaveable foods and impact your microwave’s performance over time.
Clean up spills as they happen with hot, soapy water and a cloth. Every two weeks, steam your microwave clean by squeezing the juice of one lemon into two cups of water and putting it in a microwave-safe bowl for 5-6 minutes. You can then wipe the inside walls clean and your microwave will be lemony fresh.
- Your Dishwasher
As dishwashers age, there are two concerns about their performance: slow leaks and unpleasant odors. To check for and prevent leaks, make sure you’re checking your dishwasher’s hoses for any small holes or tears. Not sure where to find the hoses? They’re usually located at the bottom of the machine behind the kick plate. And, just like your fridge, make sure to clean your dishwasher’s gaskets to keep the seal tight and the water inside.
If your dishwasher is a little stinky, run 1 cup of vinegar through a regular wash cycle to eliminate internal odors and keep the machine clean.
- Your Air Conditioner or Heating System
Many of us only deal with our home heating and cooling systems when they break and we’re left with a temperature emergency. Keeping your heating system or air conditioner clean will go a long way to ensuring peak performance over a long period of time.
Regularly change the air filters on your heating system or air conditioning unit. If you don’t own pets, changing your filters every three months is a good idea. If you own pets, however, you should be changing your filters every two months. This will keep your system in good working order and reduce the amount of energy it needs for air intake.
If you can’t remember the last time you had your system checked, call a professional for a thorough checkup and inspection on your heating and air conditioning units, especially if you hear strange noises or it sounds like it’s working very hard to produce even a small amount of heat or cool air. Look for coupons before summer and throughout winter as many companies offer discounts for unit checkups.
- Your Clothes Washer
A good clothes washer should last at least 15 years if it’s well cared for. If your washer isn’t working as it should, check hoses for leaks or breaks and address any issues. Every machine can benefit from a quick cleaning, so run two cups of white vinegar through a very hot wash cycle to remove build-up. Need something stronger? You can also run two cups of bleach through the system (but don’t mix it with vinegar—it’s not safe!).
- Your Clothes Dryer
Clothes dryers intake a lot of air to make your clothes fluffy and snuggle-soft. If there is a blockage in the system, this will make your clothes dryer work much harder to produce the same results. If you’re noticing that it’s taking longer and longer to dry the same loads of clothing, it’s time for a full dryer check-up. Make sure the lint trap is clean and any filters are cleaned and rinsed. If it’s been a long time since you’ve cleaned your dryer, it might be a good idea to call in a company to professionally clean out the dryer vent and ducts. Trapped dryer lint combined with high heat can start a fire, so it’s best to be safe.
More than one of my chefs joked that the Cuisinart stand mixer was their best employee: It did its work, never complained, and never called in sick. To make sure your home appliances don’t suffer a “sick day” that can wind up costing you lots of money, take the time to care for them. Doing so will extend their life and make sure that they continue to serve you to the best of their ability.