Suds and Duds: Laundry Room Maintenance 101

It’s one of those little ironies: The laundry room often gets next to no TLC, even though it’s where so many of our household possessions go for their regular care and cleaning.

In addition to its main function, the typical laundry area also serves as a catchall, which means that it can quickly succumb to disorganization. This disarray, coupled with benign neglect, not only hampers the space’s functionality, but also carries both aesthetic and practical consequences.

In fact, continuing to ignore dirt and disorder in the laundry room can lead to some real safety hazards. Here are some guidelines to help you ward off danger and ensure that your laundry appliances and the space itself are operating at peak performance.

Pare down and be smart

Cast your gaze over all the non-essentials that have gradually accumulated in your laundry area, choking the available space. It’s time to thin the ranks and dispose of what’s not useful.

For instance, if there’s an Everest-like pile of rags, winnow down the surplus until you’re left with only enough to fill a small grocery bag. That’s all you really need for everyday chores. Consider how you actually live, and not the special, sometime-in-the-future circumstance that exists only in your imagination.

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Source: Zillow Digs

After you’ve removed the obvious excesses, move on to cull your stash of cleaning supplies. There’s a reason household chemicals are labeled with so many warnings. Minimize the danger by retaining only what you use, and getting rid of any products that have passed their expiration date.

Organize what remains on shelving or in cabinets, being careful not to store reactive chemicals, such as ammonia and bleach, adjacent to each other. Also, be aware that flammable liquids must never be kept near a gas-fired appliance, be it a water heater, boiler or furnace.

Check up and clear out

Today’s appliances are so user-friendly that homeowners often forget that washers and dryers, like any other heavy-duty machines, need at least occasional, if not regular, maintenance.

Your efforts at upkeep will be rewarded by tip-top performance, longer product lifespans, and even peace of mind. According to the National Fire Protection Association, one out of every 22 house fires starts in the laundry room. But it doesn’t take much time or energy to stay on the safe side. Here’s what to do.

First, carefully inspect the washing machine hoses — both the hot and cold inlet hoses and the drain hose — for signs of wear. If they’re rubber, consider swapping them for more durable, braided-metal hoses.

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Cleaning the dryer’s lint trap regularly is essential to keep the appliance operating efficiently and safely.

It may also be wise to equip the drain hose with a strainer to keep debris from clogging the outflow. Meanwhile, the component most likely in need of attention is the gasket around the washer door. To form a proper seal, the rubber needs to be intact and flexible, so look for cracks or tears. Depending on the age of your appliance, you may be able to find a suitable replacement at your local hardware store or home center. If not, contact the manufacturer.

When it comes to the dryer, you already know the lint trap needs to be cleaned after each use. To remove stubborn lint, try using either a damp cloth or fabric softener sheets. Rinsing with warm water helps, too.

Next, clean the exhaust by first disconnecting the hose from behind the appliance, then vacuuming out the buildup. To do a thorough job, consider purchasing a dryer vent cleaning kit — ideally one with a rotary brush that extends up to 12 feet.

If your exhaust hose is made of either flexible plastic or foil, don’t hesitate to replace it with rigid or flexible metal ducting. Because they’re smooth on the inside, metal ducts resist the clogs that create so many problems, including fires.

Wash the washer

Believe it or not, the washing machine needs to be washed — not weekly, but every so often, particularly if you own pets. Wait for the interior drum to be completely dry, then vacuum using the brush attachment before wiping down the walls.

Also, be aware that residue from detergent and fabric softeners can accumulate over time to the point where it causes performance issues — and a foul odor. To combat this problem, periodically run the empty washer with a cup of white vinegar or liquid chlorine bleach instead of detergent.

Finally, check the filters that sit where the hot and cold water inlet hoses meet the washing machine. Here, you may discover dirt and limescale that needs to be removed.

To clean these filters, first unplug the washer and turn off its water supply. Next, disconnect the inlet hoses and, with a careful twist, remove the filters. After a soak in white vinegar, they should emerge clean and ready for action. Rinse them in cold water, put them back in place, reconnect the lines, and restore the water supply.

You should notice a performance improvement, but that won’t be the only payoff — with this little bit of regular maintenance, you can also expect your washer and dryer to last longer and cost less to run.

Now, with your laundry area decluttered and reorganized, and your washer and dryer cleaned up and humming along, resolve to show this undervalued space more respect in the future. After all, you spend plenty of time here, and you deserve a clean, safe, efficient work environment.

See organized and attractive laundry rooms for inspiration.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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