Our homes are filled with appliances and fixtures that we use regularly (or even depend on daily), but don’t include in our cleaning and maintenance routine. To help keep your home running smoothly and safely, I’ve included a list of 7 areas of the home that are often forgotten about, skipped over, or moved down on the “to-do” list, along with insight into how to properly care for these areas whether by yourself or with the help of a professional.
1. Dryer Vent: In order to prevent your dryer from becoming a fire hazard, dryer vents need to be cleaned at least once a year. And while cleaning the lint trap on a regular basis is an important step, it is not enough to stop excessive debris from filling your vents. There are tutorials readily available online detailing how to go about cleaning your home’s vent, but I recommend consulting with a licensed duct/HVAC company if you do not have experience with this important home project. Learn more about dryer vent safety from The National Fire Protection Association.
2. Washing Machine: Thankfully, an unclean washing machine is not a fire hazard. But, it can result in a buildup of mold, detergent, and other grime that will in turn cause your laundry to appear dull and stained. If you have a front loading machine, follow your manufacturer’s suggested cleaning schedule (it may be around 1x a month). For top loaders, the general suggestion is twice a year, but more if your machine gets heavy use or you live in a hot, humid area. To learn how to clean your machine, I suggest either contacting your manufacturer or searching for an online tutorial (from a trusted site) for your brand/model.
3. Air Ducts: The EPA states that they have not found evidence to show that the cleaning of air ducts can prevent health problems, nor has it shown to decrease the amount of dust particles in the home. Because of this, they only recommend having your ducts cleaned if there are signs of mold or vermin, or if an excess of dust and debris can be seen being released from registers. While The National Air Duct Cleaners Association agrees with the EPA’s findings, they recommend ducts be cleaned and inspected every 3-5 years – especially in the cases of smokers in the household, excessive pet dander, water contamination, or residents with allergies or asthma. They also recommend having ducts cleaned after moving into a home or after a renovation or remodel.
4. Dishwasher: To maintain the efficiency of your dishwasher, run a cleaning cycle about once a month. Once again, I recommend following your manufacturer’s guide to cleaning (especially for the dishwasher’s filter), but in many cases a little bit of vinegar and baking soda can go a long way in regards to keeping your dishwasher sparkling clean!
5. Hot Water Heaters: Drain and flush your water heater once a year to extend the heater’s overall life. Doing so will reduce the harmful mineral buildup that can impede a water heater’s ability to heat efficiently. Tasks like this are one of the reasons I recommend finding a plumber that is reliable and trustworthy. They not only will be able to confirm if your water heater needs to be flushed (and how often it needs to be done), they can complete the project safely and at a fair price.
6. Refrigerator: Do you know how to clean your refrigerator’s coils? These coils, often located along the bottom front or back of a refrigerator, house the refrigerant that cools the inside of your fridge. If they are covered in dirt or dust, your refrigerator has to work harder to maintain the cool temperature. To extend the life of your fridge and to prevent excessive use of electricity, it is recommended to clean the coils at least once a year. For a helpful guide on how to clean the coils, visit’ the famous handyman Bob Vila’s site.
7. Fireplace/Chimney: Though this does not apply to all homeowners, my list would not be complete without including the importance of routine fireplace and chimney care. Just like dryer vents, a dirty or damaged chimney can quickly become a home safety hazard. For this reason, The National Fire Protection Association strongly recommends that chimneys/fireplaces be inspected once a year and any cleaning, repairs, or maintenance be performed as necessary.