The laundry room may not be the most exciting feature in a modern home, but you can’t get through the week without it. And like any other room, it takes periodic maintenance to keep it clean, safe and energy-efficient.
If it’s been a while since you’ve given your laundry room some love, make a little time to tidy up and maintain your washer and dryer. Once you clear out the cobwebs, keeping your laundry room clean and functional is fairly light work.
Get to Know Your Washing Machine
Inspect your washing machine hoses and their connections. If you see any signs of cracking, damage or moisture, you should replace the hoses. If your hoses are in good condition but are made entirely of rubber, you may want to consider upgrading to hoses with braided metal sheaths, which last longer and provide superior protection against leaks.
Aside from a dryer catching fire (which we’ll get to later), one of the worst laundry room disasters is a major plumbing leak. The weakest links in many laundry rooms are the flexible hoses that carry water in and out of the washing machine, because they’re under frequent pressure and aren’t made to last forever.
If you recently moved or purchased a new washing machine, make sure you read the instruction manual and familiarize yourself with your model’s features. Some machines make maintenance easier with self-cleaning modes and lights that remind you of maintenance schedules. Others may have special maintenance tasks, like changing built-in filters.
How to Prepare for Leaks
Should the day arrive when you do experience a water leak in your laundry room, you should know what to do. Locate the shut off valves for the washing machine’s water supply lines; there are usually two, one for hot water and one for cold. Make sure these valves aren’t rusted open and can be turned by hand. If you ever get a leak in your supply lines or the washing machine itself, close these valves to stop the flow of water.
You should also locate the main water supply valve for your home and be sure that it closes smoothly, too. If you spring a leak in your laundry room pipes or in any other area of your home, rushing to close this valve can save you thousands of dollars in water damage.
Laundry Equipment Maintenance: Keep Your Washer and Dryer Working Safely
The upkeep of your laundry room includes some simple tasks you should complete with every load, along with bigger jobs you’ll need to do less frequently. Stick to this schedule to make quick work of your laundry room’s dirty work.
- Clean the dryer lint trap. The U.S. Fire Administration estimates 2,900 dryer fires are reported each year, and the leading cause is failure to keep the dryer clean. Removing all lint from the lint trap after every load is the most important dryer maintenance task and it must be completed after every load.
- Leave the lid open on top-loading washers. Allowing air to circulate throughout the machine helps prevent the development of mold, mildew and musty odors.
- Scrub the dryer lint filter with warm, soapy water and a nylon bristle brush. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets can leave behind an invisible film that clogs the openings on fine mesh lint filters. Rinse and dry the filter completely before reinstalling it.
- Clean the dryer lint trap area with a vacuum hose attachment.
- Clean the washing machine fabric softener dispenser with a damp paper towel.
- Dust the laundry room’s HVAC vents, which need frequent cleaning due to airborne lint particles.
- Vacuum the laundry room floor.
- Clean your washing machine with white vinegar. In a top-loading machine, run a full load with hot water and add at least four cups of white vinegar to the water. After letting the machine agitate for a few minutes, open the lid to stop the cycle and allow it to sit for several hours or overnight, then finish the cycle. In a front-loading machine, you can add white vinegar to the bleach dispenser and run an empty load. Any lingering vinegar smell will dissipate in a few hours.
- Clean the inside of the dryer drum and the outside of both machines with paper towels and household spray cleaner.
- Vacuum the dryer exhaust hose. Move your dryer a few inches if necessary, and disconnect the exhaust hose from the vent leading to the outdoors. Use a vacuum hose attachment to remove lint from both inside the hose and around the vent opening in the wall. Make sure the hose is secure when you reconnect it.
- Check the outdoor dryer vent flap. Remove any lint buildup and make sure the flap is able to move freely.
- Clean your iron. To clean the ironing surface, mix a half cup of water, a half cup of white vinegar and a half cup of baking soda in a medium-sized bowl (the vinegar and baking soda will foam and expand). Scrub the ironing plate with this solution, then wipe clean with a damp cloth. To clean the reservoir and steam holes, fill the reservoir with a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar. Let the iron fully heat up, then hold the steam button for about 30 seconds. Repeat several times as needed until steam is flowing freely through all of the holes, then let the iron cool and drain the remaining vinegar mixture.
Twice Per Year:
- Move the washer and dryer and clean behind and beneath each machine. Use a vacuum hose attachment and/or a long, flexible brush to make sure you thoroughly clean for lint and dust that has accumulated over the months. Clean the back of each machine well, especially any vents on the dryer.
- Clean the rubber gaskets around your washer and dryer doors with household cleaning spray or diluted white vinegar. For a thorough cleaning, use cotton swabs to reach into the folds in the gaskets.
- Use a bubble level on your washer and dryer and adjust the legs as necessary to make both machines level. Most machines have legs that can be shortened or lengthened by turning them.
- Pour water into your floor drain if your laundry room has one. On rarely-used drains, this will refill the trap seal, which prevents sewer odors from wafting into your home.
Plan Ahead for Big Purchases
No matter how well you take care of your washer and dryer, they’ll eventually start to show signs of wear. This can lead to energy efficiency losses, frequent breakdowns and safety issues. Washers and dryers usually reach the end of their useful lives between 10 and 15 years of age, which gives you time to make a plan for replacement.
It may be tempting to use your machines until they completely break down, but by purchasing new machines proactively, you can stake out good sale prices and control the timing of the upgrade. This will also give you time to search for rebates and tax breaks that may be available in your area to incentivize the purchase of high-efficiency machines.
In the meantime, make laundry room maintenance easier by making it routine, and don’t forget to clean the dryer filter!