Chances are, your washing machine gets as much use – if not more – than any other appliance in your home. And chances are you probably give more thought to how you’re caring for the clothes as they’re washed in the machine than the machine itself.
However, with a few tips and tricks to improve your washing machine maintenance, it’s possible that you can keep it running long past the average lifespan of 11 years. Today even a basic washing machine costs several hundred dollars (with high-end models packed with bells and whistles topping out at over $2,000) – and the average cost of a washing machine repair nationwide is well over $200. Simply put, with a few simple adjustments to your typical laundry routine, you can save your hard-earned cash.
Check Those Pockets
Almost everyone has forgotten something in their pockets when they toss clothes in the dirty laundry pile. Before you put clothes in the washer, though, double check that all of the pockets are empty. Items like coins, pens, gum, lip balm, and more can not only damage your clothing, but they can clog the washer drain and damage the inner workings of the machine. So, take a moment and empty those pockets – and revel in the $10 you forgot you had.
Use the Right Settings
Your machine has multiple settings for a reason and using the wrong one for the type of clothing you’re washing can damage your clothes and the washer. In most cases, the normal setting is fine for your regular loads of wash and there’s no need to use the heavy-duty setting, which should be reserved for greasy or especially dirty items only.
It’s also important to use the right water temperature to keep your machine in good shape. While you may be tempted to wash all of your clothing in cold water to prevent fading and shrinkage, unless you’re using a detergent designed for cold water washing, you’re setting yourself up for problems. Regular laundry detergent is designed to dissolve in warm or hot water; when it doesn’t dissolve completely, the residue can build up in the hoses and drain leading to a clog. Using a cold-water detergent can help prevent this, as well as running occasional loads with warmer water.
Don’t Go Overboard
Just because you can stuff a week’s worth of laundry into your machine and fill the detergent dispenser to the brim doesn’t mean you should. First of all, your laundry won’t get clean – and may need extra rinses to remove all of the soap. Second, overloading the machine can cause it to become unbalanced, which disrupts the wash cycle and can damage the machine. Unbalanced loads cause the machine to shake and bang around (you know the sound) which can damage bearings and other parts inside the machine. Between that and excess soap buildup in the machine, you could be looking at an expensive repair or replacement. It’s better to do a few extra loads than it is to break the machine.
Washing machines are prime breeding ground for mold and mildew, which, while it may not hurt the machine per se, it can transfer to your clothing and make you sick. It also can create unpleasant odors.
To prevent mold and mildew buildup in your machine, remove wet laundry promptly and leave the lid or door open so the machine can dry. Regularly cleaning the machine will also help prevent this issue. Once a week, wipe down the seals around the door of a front loader, getting into the crevices, to remove any bacteria that can cause growth. It’s also a good idea to run a wash cycle every month or so with just hot water and bleach to keep the machine sparkling clean. This helps keep the tub, hoses, dispenser, and drain clear of dirt, residue, and grease that can keep your washer from working efficiently.
Check the Hoses
Finally, keep an eye on the washing machine hoses to spot signs of trouble before they start. Keep them clear and straight to ensure good water flow to the machine and inspect them regularly for cracks or brittleness. A leaking or burst hose can cause major damage, so some preventive maintenance is important.
Keeping your washer in good shape isn’t difficult, and only requires managing your normal laundry routine to prevent common problems. Best of all, if you follow these tips, your clothes will be cleaner and last longer too – a win all around.