published Saturday, June 9th, 2012

ConsumerWatch: Cleaning, maintenance can extend appliance life

Continuing with last week's column about making appliances last longer than their average lifespans, we begin with washer and dryers.

• Washing machines have an average span of 11 years but can be boosted up to three extra years. First, be certain the machine is level. (A huge issue is if the drum grates against the frame during the spin cycle, it then causes damage). Additionally, if you use less detergent, it prevents build-up which causes clogs or problems with the rubber seals and pumps. Schmidt suggests we use only two tablespoons for front-loaders and a quarter cupful for top-loaders.

• Clothes dryers' average lifespan of 12 years can be jumped another three if, according to Schmidt, certain practices are followed. For instance, if clothes begin to take longer to dry, the culprit is probably hitches in the venting system that blocks air flow. He recommends we unplug, move it away from the wall to detach the hose. Use a vacuum to clear it out and be very sure to not kink the hose when reattaching it. It also helps to clean the lint filter with hot water and a clean toothbrush every six months. (It's perfect when water flows through with no hindrance.)

• And let's not forget most folks' source of gratification: the television. Normally, a TV lasts 10 years and up. To add three to six years to its duration, go to the menu and lower the brightness, contrast, and backlight settings as much as possible. Be sure to maintain a clear picture. It also helps to regularly dust the TV's backside as well as the screen (not with anything damp, however).

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumer watch@timesfree

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