Washers and dryers are workhorse appliances that most homeowners rely on almost daily. However, like any machine, they require regular care and maintenance to operate safely and efficiently over their lifespan. Neglecting basic upkeep makes them prone to problems ranging from mold growth to lowered cleaning performance to increased fire hazards. That’s why at Suwanee Appliance Garage, our experts are here to provide the best tips for long-term washer and dryer maintenance.
Preventing these issues is fairly straightforward with consistent cleaning and maintenance, as well as watching out for things like built up lint and grime that might fall through the cracks. Below we’ll explore the risks of neglecting appliance care, detail effective cleaning methods, provide maintenance tips for longevity, and outline the long-term cost savings of proper washer and dryer upkeep.
The Risks of Neglecting Washer and Dryer Maintenance
Reduced Cleaning Efficiency
When washers and dryers aren’t properly maintained, the first casualty is usually cleaning performance. In washers specifically, mineral deposits from hard water, soap scum residue, and accumulated dirt inside the drum can clog valves, jets, hoses, and pumps. This restricts water flow during wash cycles, leading to less effective cleaning.
Similarly, lint buildup and clogged vents in dryers lowers airflow and drying efficiency. Lint traps quickly fill with lint and fiber residues, necessitating frequent cleaning. Neglected vents accumulate even more dangerous amounts of flammable lint.
With both appliances, reduced efficiency equates to frustration for homeowners. More wash cycles may be needed to fully clean laundry, while lengthened drying times increase utility expenses.
Increased Repair Costs
The grime accumulation described above doesn’t just hinder performance – it accelerates wear and tear on crucial washer and dryer components. Pumps work harder to redistribute sudsy water through clogged valves and jets. Restricted airflow forces dryer motors and heating elements to run longer to dry clothes.
This excessive strain takes a toll over time, leading to premature breakdowns of parts like pumps, drive belts, drum seals, heating coils, and more. Repairing or replacing these components can easily run $200-500 or more – a painful surprise bill for neglectful owners.
Health Concerns with Lack of Washer and Dryer Maintenance
The warm, humid environment inside washing machines makes them prone to mold, mildew and bacteria growth. Soap scum, dirt, and standing water provide ideal conditions for these hazardous microorganisms to thrive. Mold releases spores that can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks. Bacteria can lead to unsanitary laundry conditions and foul odors.
While less severe, dryers also enable dust mites in leftover lint. Dryer vent ducts similarly accumulate lint and moisture that can foster mold development. For homeowners with respiratory issues, frequent maintenance is crucial.
As mentioned previously, dryer vents clogged with lint pose a severe fire hazard. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, fire departments responded to an estimated 2,900 clothes dryer fires in residential buildings annually from 2008 to 2010. These fires resulted in an average annual loss of 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss. Lint buildup causes increased strain on dryer components, leading to potential electrical shorts or overheated components. Homeowners often remain unaware of the danger until it is too late.
Lint buildup causes increased strain on dryer components. Electrical shorts or overheated components provide the ignition source. Vent ducting provides oxygen and ventilation to rapidly spread any flames through attics or wall voids. Homeowners are often unaware until fires breach interior living spaces.
Replacing fire-damaged drywall, insulation, roof materials and personal property is massively expensive, as is repairing fire-related water damage. Worse yet, dryer fires cause an estimated 10 deaths and 100+ injuries annually nationwide. Suffice to say, diligent lint trap and vent cleaning is a crucial fire prevention method.
Effective Washer Cleaning Methods
Given those risks, monthly washer cleaning is highly recommended. Here are step-by-step methods using common household products:
Vinegar or Citric Acid Soak
First empty the washer fully. Mix either white vinegar or citric acid powder with hot water to form a dilute acidic cleaning solution. Vinegar’s acetic acid works to dissolve soap scum, while citric acid removes mineral deposits.
Pour this solution directly into the empty washer drum. If using powdered cleaner, first dissolve it before pouring. Allow it to soak for at least 30 minutes up to a few hours for thorough scum/mineral removal.
Then run a hot water rinse cycle to flush away grime and neutralize any lingering odors. Citric acid may require an extra plain water rinse. Wipe the gaskets, drum and dispensers dry with microfiber cloths afterwards.
Bleach or Peroxide Disinfecting
For sanitization to kill mold, mildew and bacteria, use an alternate bleach or peroxide soak. Measure out 1-2 cups of regular 6% bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Pour either solution into the empty drum.
Allow a 30 minute disinfecting soak before running a hot rinse cycle. Bleach-based cleaners require an extra plain water rinse to prevent fabric damage from any residual bleach. Wipe the interior with microfiber cloths after to remove any remaining moisture.
Use Affresh or Commercial Washing Machine Cleaner
Specialty washer cleaning products like Affresh dissolving tablets offer a simpler but more expensive cleaning method. They usually contain bleach, surfactants and enzymes tailored to dissolve washer-specific soils.
Simply add an Affresh tab or liquid cleaner to an empty washing machine. Run a hot water wash cycle and allow the product to work for 30-90 minutes mid-cycle. Finish the cycle, leaving the door open after to prevent mold growth. You can readily find Affresh products on Amazon for example.
These commercial cleaners nicely integrate disinfecting abilities with grime-removal. But given higher costs, vinegar or citric acid make good regular cleaners, with occasional Affresh tablets for tougher buildup.
Effective Dryer Cleaning and Maintenance
Much like your washer, a monthly dryer cleaning routine protects efficiency, prevents hazards and reduces lifetime costs. Here are key maintenance steps:
Lint Trap Removal and Cleaning
Prior to each drying cycle, carefully remove the lint trap housing. Use tweezers or a stick lint remover brush to wipe away any visible lint clumps from the screen mesh.
Further clean the housing itself, brushing out any hidden lint around the edges and crevices. Re-insert the cleaned lint trap properly before running the dryer. Make this trap cleaning a habit before each cycle.
Vent Duct Brushing and Vacuuming
Every 6 months, fully disconnect the flexible dryer vent ductwork. Carefully extend and straighten sections to access the entire length. Use a specialized lint brush to wipe down duct interiors, loosening packed lint.
Then utilize a vacuum hose with a narrow crevice tool attached to vacuum both inside ducting and the dryer interior. Reconnect ductwork properly afterwards, ensuring adequate airflow and preventing lint leaks indoors. Consider also vacuuming the exterior dryer motor and controls to remove dust buildup.
Professional Dryer Vent Cleaning
In addition to regular DIY dryer vent cleaning, a full professional cleaning every 2-3 years is wise. HVAC companies use industrial vacuum systems to extract incredibly compacted lint deposits homemade efforts cannot. They also inspect for damage providing duct integrity.
Given the severity of dryer fire risks, consider this investment worthwhile insurance. Some vent cleaning services also provide camera scope inspections, useful for identifying breaches allowing indoor air leakage.
Cost Saving and Safety Benefits of Maintenance
Consistent washer and dryer upkeep provides homeowners long-term savings and safety in several key areas:
Utility and Water Cost Savings
Keeping washing machines free of grime translates to using less water for effective cleaning. Well-maintained dryers also avoid longer runtimes. While specific percentages vary, practices like using cold water for washing and cleaning the lint filter in the dryer contribute to more efficient operation and potentially lower utility bills according to Energy.gov. Here’s more of what they had to say:
“The dryer will run more efficiently and safely. If you use dryer sheets, scrub the filter once a month with a toothbrush to remove film buildup that can reduce air circulation.”
Fewer Repairs and Extended Lifespan
Catching minor clogs early prevents strain on pumps, heating elements and motors over time. This greatly reduces the odds of needing major component repairs. Well cared for washers and dryers easily last 12-15 years, while neglected ones average only 7-10 years before failing. Doubling operational lifespan is a major long term payoff.
Most importantly, consistent dryer vent cleaning helps prevent household fires. Lint is an abundant fuel source and electrical shorts or worn heating coils often provide ignition. Don’t underestimate how easily dryer fires can destroy homes and endanger families if vent cleaning is ignored.
Likewise, preventing mold growth helps households with allergy and asthma sufferers breathe easier. Given how ubiquitous laundry appliances are in homes, ensuring their cleanliness has far reaching health implications.
Washers and dryers are complex appliances that endure plenty of abuse with years of continual use. Don’t wait until operational problems or failures occur to pay them attention. Instead adopt regular cleaning and maintenance habits that protect efficiency, lifespan, and safety.
Consistency is key – even monthly cleaning takes only 30-60 minutes but yields considerable long term benefits. Review the cleaning methods and schedules above to choose an appropriate regimen for your home. Beyond saving money, taking proper care of these hardworking appliances helps protect your family’s health and home.
Neglect comes with simply too many risks compared to the minor time commitment needed for basic upkeep. If you want more great tips and guides like this, check out our blog for even more. We regularly publish appliance buying guides and other articles to help you make the most informed buying decisions on used appliances. Also, we provide even more used appliance maintenance tips here!