6 Tools and Appliances You Think Are Self-Cleaning but Actually Aren’t

6 Tools and Appliances You Think Are Self-Cleaning but Actually Aren’t

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A quick warning before you dive into this post: I’m probably not going to be your favorite person after this. After all, passing along advice that puts additional items on your likely-already-very-long house cleaning list won’t exactly raise me to BFF level. I get it, and I’m cool with it!

But here’s the thing: Your home is only as clean as the tools you use to spruce it up. And if said gadgets are dirty themselves, well, you get where I’m going with this. You’d be forgiven for thinking several items around your home are self-cleaning. Items like your soap dispenser and dishwasher are literally used for cleaning… with soap… so how can they themselves get dirty? Welp, they can. 

“We’ve all learned at some point that when you take care of your things, they last longer and work better, and the same rings true for items in your home that you wouldn’t expect,” explains Jessica Haizman, who shares organizing and cleaning hacks with her 1.2 million followers on TikTok. “Your dishwasher is made to clean, so why would you have to clean it? Many people go their entire lives without ever cleaning a ‘cleaning’ item, but those are the same people that are complaining about dirty dishes, calling the repairman, or replacing their appliances frequently. If you schedule in a bit of time to stay on top of your appliances and keep them running smoothly, you’ll have fewer headaches in the long run.”

Below, we delve into six cleaning items that need their own good scrub every once in a while — plus the pro tips that will have them working as good as new. 

“This is an item that you can’t get around having to give a clean every once in a while,” says Haizman. “Hair, dust, and debris will fill up the tank, clog up the tubes, and find a way to wrap [themselves] around any moving part. For the average household, I suggest cleaning your vacuum once a month, more frequently if you have dogs (or kids), and less frequently if you seldom use your vacuum.”

Here’s the obvious part: If you have a canister vacuum, you’ll want to empty it after every use, says Becky Rapinchuk, founder of Clean Mama. Using a bag? Change it when it’s full. 

But then, no matter what type of vacuum you have, “Remove every part that can be removed and wash with hot, soapy water,” says Rapinchuk. Let it all completely dry before you reassemble the machine. You’ll also want to remove the beater bar (the part of the vacuum that spins in the head to help collect grime) if you vacuum has one and that’s an option, and cut any hair or other junk off of it using scissors or a seam ripper, Rapinchuk adds.

“Your dishwasher gets hard water and food built up in it,” says Sarah McAllister, founder of Go Clean Go and Bleach Pray Love. “We like to call this swamp water, and if you don’t clean it regularly, your dishes are not getting clean. We see so many moldy dishwashers — they stink!”

“Remove the filter (not all dishwashers are built the same, but most have a removable filter inside on the bottom under your rack), unscrew it, and rinse it well in the sink,” says McAllister. 

Haizman recommends wiping “any lining/seal that typically doesn’t get exposed to water.” She uses a multipurpose cloth and vinegar for this part. Then, “add a glass full of vinegar to the top rack of your machine, close it up, and run it on the hottest and longest cycle you can,” she says. “This will kill the bacteria and nasty smells and leave your dishwasher sparkling clean.” She adds, “If you find any type of mold, soak a white cloth in hydrogen peroxide and let that sit for 10 minutes. Remove the cloth and scrub clean.” 

Yes, soap comes out of it. But regular cleaning ensures the pump and dispenser work well and eliminates buildup and gunk, according to Rapinchuk. 

You should go ahead and wipe soap off the pump whenever you notice it. Then: “To clean the soap dispenser thoroughly, take the pump off the dispenser and run under hot water to remove any soap buildup,” Rapinchuk says.

“Your showerhead gets built up with hard water and calcium deposits, which blocks the sprayer from working properly, affecting your water pressure,” says McAllister.

“Grab a plastic bag and fill it halfway with vinegar,” says Haizman. “Tie it around the showerhead with a rubber band so that the affected area is soaking in the vinegar for at least 30 minutes (but ideally a few hours). Remove the bag and use a sponge to wipe away any remaining limescale.”

Again: Hard water buildup. (“Which is why it’s best to use distilled water in your iron to avoid this happening at all,” advises McAllister.)

“If it is yucky, you can use some Bar Keepers Friend to buff it off (if the iron is metal), and then wipe it with a warm water cloth to rinse well,” says McAllister. “Wipe more than you think so there is no residue. Vinegar will also work here — just don’t soak it!”

“Your laundry products are hard on the machines!” says Haizman. “Detergents will build up a film on the machine, filters, and your clothing, causing each wash to work less and less efficiently. Not to mention the rest of the nasty gunk that gets stuck in the crevices or the high amount of moisture that is a breeding ground for bacteria. Because of this, I highly suggest taking the time to clean your washing machine once a month.”

A top-load machine: “Start by setting your washer to the hottest temperature, highest capacity, and longest cycle,” says Rapinchuk. “Add four cups of white vinegar to the hot water, close the lid, and allow it to agitate for several minutes. Open the lid or pause/stop the machine and allow it to sit for an hour or so — this will allow the vinegar to do its job to get rid of bacteria, mold, and mildew in the hoses of the machine. [Alternatively], if your washing machine has a clean cycle, add the four cups of white vinegar and run the cycle.”

A front-load machine: “Select the hot water or clean washer setting and choose the ‘extra rinse’ option if your washer has that choice,” says Rapinchuk. “Add one cup of white vinegar to the drum and fill the washing machine. Allow the cycle to run until completed. Once it’s done, clean the dispensers, rinse, and let them dry.” 

Any machine: “After you run the appropriate cycle for your machine, wipe the seals, interior, and exterior with white vinegar on a soft cleaning cloth,” Rapinchuk adds.

One Good Thing: How To Remove Odors from Clothes with Vodka (of all things!)

One Good Thing: How To Remove Odors from Clothes with Vodka (of all things!)

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Why You Should Keep Vodka With Your Clothes | One Good Thing

Welcome back to One Good Thing, where we keep rolling! You know why? Because we’re having fun and you all seem to keep clicking on us, so that’s as good a reason as I’ve had since Covid began to keep doing anything. AND we love to be helpful.

This week I’ve got a really simple, surprising tip that came from a friend in the theater business, since they have so many opportunities to put on the same clothes and costumes but need to remove those annoying odors that get caught over time. Vodka, it turns out, is a perfect odor remover as it is odorless and colorless itself AND it has a sanitizing effect. You simply spritz your fragrant shirt, coat or pant with vodka and – as it evaporates – it removes all the ugly odors from the fabric. Poof!

Who knew vodka could be so useful?!?! Enjoy and give me your comments, tips and feedback below.

Best, M

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Maxwell Ryan

CEO

Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver. Since then he has grown ApartmentTherapy.com, added TheKitchn.com, our home cooking site, and has authored four books on design. He now lives with his daughter in a lovely apartment in Brooklyn.

Are Dishwasher and Laundry Pods Messing with Your Machines? Experts Weigh In

Are Dishwasher and Laundry Pods Messing with Your Machines? Experts Weigh In

When pods for dishwashers and laundry machines first hit the market, you may have breathed a sigh of relief: No more measuring goopy, liquid detergent — what a time to be alive!

…That is, until you found a half-released pod lodged between two spoons in the dishwasher and had to rerun the load. Or maybe you realized that your clothes weren’t coming out quite as fresh-smelling as they used to.

Turns out, there are pitfalls to pod life. The question becomes: Are self-dosing dishwasher and laundry pods actually worth all the hype? If you want to keep using pods for the convenience factor, here’s what experts say about making sure those pods work for you.

Know that all pods aren’t created equal

Are you picking your pods based on the pretty flowers on the front of the container, hoping they’re the best smelling option? Same. But there are better ways.

Lauren Bowen, director of franchise operations at Two Maids & A Mop, recommends laundry pods that say “3 in 1,” which typically mean they get rid of odors, remove stains, and protect color in your laundry machine. For the dishwasher, she suggests checking the reviews on potential pods to find a brand that people love, looking for recommendations for types that “leave dishes sparkling clean, without any leftover residue or water spots.”

Paul Berry, owner of Mr. Appliance of San Antonio and Corpus Christi, Texas, prefers Finish tablets for dishwashers. “[They] are my absolute favorite brand for dishwashers,” he says. “In my opinion, they do the best job to remove residue from the surface and prevent any type of particles from resettling during the cleaning cycle.” He also likes Cascade. For laundry, he prefers Tide Pods and Persil.

Avoid the quick wash cycle

For both machines, one reason you may find a half-used pod at the end of the cycle is that you chose the quick wash or equivalent cycle. The issue is that this cycle doesn’t allow the water time to get warm enough for the pod to fully dissolve, as pods generally dissolve in 130 degrees Fahrenheit or more. “Thus, clothes or dishes are not entirely clean, and more than likely, you’ll find the clear membrane of the pod partially intact,” Berry explains.

So instead, skip the quick wash cycle. Another way to help prevent this issue in your dishwasher if you do want to use quick wash is to run the sink faucet with hot water for 30 seconds before starting the machine to give the water heating process a head start.

For the same reason, a too-short cycle is also likely the culprit when a laundry pod “melts” on your clothes. Although it looks like a stain, it’s really just concentrated detergent meant to wash your clothes anyway. So don’t worry: Your white T-shirt won’t be blue forever. “All you need to do is rewash the ‘stained’ clothing and it will come out,” Bowen says.

Make sure you insert pods correctly

One laundry pod mistake people commonly make, according to Bowen, is placing the pod on top of a large load. “It may not dissolve properly. This can cause issues like streaks and spotting due to the small deposits of detergent,” she says. Instead, throw that pod in first, and then put the clothes on top. 

When in doubt, think about switching methods

If you’re unsuccessfully trying to troubleshoot a potential pod problem, Bowen says you should first rule out other concerns with your appliances, such as maintaining the machine properly and, in the case of a dishwasher, keeping the drain clear of food debris

If pods still aren’t working out for your laundry routine, though, consider swapping with a powder, as Berry says liquid detergents seem to have the hardest time dissolving during the cleaning cycle. For dishwashers, Bowen says gels from a bottle can be the quicker and easier option.

One Good Thing: How To Remove Odors from Clothes with Vodka (of all things!)

One Good Thing: How To Clean your Dishwasher EASILY!

Maxwell Ryan

CEO

Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver. Since then he has grown ApartmentTherapy.com, added TheKitchn.com, our home cooking site, and has authored four books on design. He now lives with his daughter in a lovely apartment in Brooklyn.