Even appliances that clean other things for us need to be cleaned themselves. Appliances like the clothes washer and dishwasher can become breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria and viruses that can make us sick. Here’s a handy guide to cleaning your appliances.
Your clothes washer can harbor some serious nasties, such as E. coli and other intestinal bacteria, rotavirus, noroviruses and even Hepatitis A. To keep germs at bay and off your clothes, run an empty cycle on the hottest setting with a cup of bleach. If you don’t use bleach, you can also pour a cup of baking soda into the basin and then pour in a cup of white distilled vinegar. Let it fizz a moment and then start the machine on the hottest cycle. If your washer has a germicidal cycle, that will work also. If your machine is a front loader, make sure to clean down the door seals to prevent mold growth. If you run more than 5 loads of laundry per week, you’ll want to run a disinfection cycle once per week.
The same germs that can build up in your clothes washer can transfer to your clothes dryer on your laundry. You might assume that the high heat of the dryer would kill any microbes but that isn’t true. If your dryer has a germicidal cycle, that will work to get the heat high enough to kill the germs. If it doesn’t, you’ll want to disinfect your dryer with a solution of vinegar and water. Just be sure to wipe out the bin several times to ensure you remove all of the vinegar. And don’t forget those door seals!
Newer dishwashers have a setting for a germicidal or sanitizing cycle that make quick work of de-gunking this appliance. If yours doesn’t, make sure to clean down the seals with disinfectant to prevent mold growth at least weekly. Then clean out the food trap, replace the filter (if possible) and clean down the front of the machine. Inside, place a bowl containing a cup of baking soda on the top shelf and leave it overnight. This will help absorb any lingering odors trapped in the machine. In the morning, pour a cup of white distilled vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher and then run it on the hottest cycle possible.
Ideally, your refrigerator could use a good scrub down at least once per week, especially to disinfect the handles and door seals. It’s important to clean the drawers, shelves and walls of the fridge as well. Lots of items stored in your fridge such as raw veggies, raw meat, cold cuts, cheeses, eggs and hot dogs can carry and spread listeria. Even more concerning is that listeria thrives in cooler temperature environments like your fridge. Use disinfectant wipes to clean down handles and door seals. You can use hot soapy water to clean the drawers, shelves, interior walls and exterior of your refrigerator.
The worst hotbed of germs for your microwave is the handle. It gets so germy that you should use a disinfecting wipe to clean down the handle and touchpad after every use. When you see any kind of food debris inside, clean the inside of the microwave with hot soapy water or at least a few times per month. If you have stuck on grime, cut a lemon into four sections and place into four dishes and each lemon piece covered with water. Run the microwave with the four dishes of lemon and water for 4-5 minutes to steam loose the stuck-on grime. Afterward, carefully remove the hot dishes and wipe down the inside of the microwave.
When it comes to cleaning, it’s important not to forget the appliances that help do the cleaning for us. They, too, can become gunked up with germs, viruses and even mold. Keeping them clean helps them do their own cleaning jobs more effectively.