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The holidays are almost here. It's the one time of year when you need peak performance from your major appliances. So be proactive. Do appliance maintenance now.
You certainly don't want to deal with the fallout right in the middle of the festivities.
Your cooking appliances will get quite the holiday workout. There are things you can do right now to ensure you don't burn the cookies or undercook the turkey. Plus, you want to avoid setting off the smoke alarm when yucky old food build-up burns off. Or embarrassment when company spots those all-too visible greasy, grimy, baked-on spills.
If your electric oven is having major heating issues, it might be the baking element. This can be replaced—often as DIY. The good news is there are replacement parts just as good as the original. Check your manual for the right part number then find the generic equivalent.
Make sure the gasket around the oven is clean, uncracked, and fits tightly. If cracked or loose, get it replaced. No point in making the kitchen hotter or wasting energy.
It's best to clean up after every use. Why? If you wipe down surfaces with a mild cleaner and a damp cloth each time, you'll avoid major scrubbing later. However, most of us don't do this. So, here are tips for the rest of us:
Remove drip pans and drip bowls and let them soak in soapy water. Or you can use a one-to-one ratio of baking soda and dishwashing detergent to make a paste, coat the bowls, and then place in a zippered plastic bag for an hour. Carefully scrub and rinse. You can also boil them 10 to 15 minutes in water that's mixed with a half cup of baking soda.
Electric coils can be carefully wiped down using a damp rag or nylon scrubber and a mild detergent. Coils on most modern stoves can easily be removed for a more thorough cleaning. Just don't wet the electrical contacts, and make sure the entire element is thoroughly dry before replacing.
On gas stoves, make sure the electronic igniter is clean. Use a toothbrush to remove crumbs and food spills. If you don't have conventional drip pans, or simply want to make future cleanup easier, you can purchase Teflon®-like flexible liners. They can be cut to fit around the gas heads. When they get grungy, just lift them out and wipe clean.
Tough grunge on cast-iron burner grates can be cleaned with vinegar and baking soda. If they are really bad, use full-strength ammonia. Just make sure you put each grate in a zippered bag before you add 1/4 cup of the liquid ammonia. Put them outside (so you don't have to deal with the fumes) for several hours or overnight. Then wipe off. Remember, whenever working with cleaning chemicals, wear rubber gloves and open up your windows to protect your skin, your eyes, and your lungs.
During the holidays, your refrigerator will be opened and closed a lot. Proper maintenance will ensure things stay cold.
Clean the interior with warm water. Add an all-purpose cleaner if needed. Wipe dry.
How cold are your refrigerator and freezer compartments? Place an appliance thermometer in the center of each. Ideally, refrigerator temperatures should range between 36°F and 39°F; the freezer at 0°F. Be aware that refrigerators can have warmer spots and extra-cold ones, so check for those too—just so you know.
If your refrigerator has a water filter, replace it before the holidays.
Clean the drip pan. Yes, your refrigerator has a drip pan on its underside. During the defrost cycle, water drains into it. Since the water must evaporate in a dark place, the drip pan is the perfect place for mold to set up shop.
Finally, make sure the refrigerator is level. This helps doors close and seal better, and maximizes refrigerant efficiency.
Here are some crucial don'ts:
Don't underfill it. It needs enough stuff in there to maintain low temperatures. If you routinely don't have much in there, store a few gallon containers of water.
If you live in an area prone to power failures, freeze water in quart-size plastic bags and put them in your refrigerator and freezer. This will help keep things cold if the power fails. Under ideal conditions (this means NOT opening the doors), the freezer can hold foods for roughly up to 48 hours; the refrigerator up to four hours.
You don't want your appliances calling in sick or taking a vacation during the holidays. Use our home appliance maintenance tips and do your appliance maintenance now. You'll minimize the chance of a major breakdown.
We can't guarantee a no-stress holiday season. But at least the appliances won't be to blame!