How to maintain your clothes washer and dryer


Clothes washers and dryers – which are covered under the TotalProtect® Appliance Plan – are two of the many miracles of modern convenience that make our life easier. Unfortunately, when improperly maintained, their lifetimes are significantly shorter, and they are costly to replace. Even worse, in 2010, washers and dryers caused 16,800 fires, 51 deaths, and $236 million in property damage in the United States, according to The National Fire Protection Association, meaning that it is very important that you spend the little bit of time necessary to make sure that yours are working smoothly.

Clean your lint filter
A surprising number of people neglect to change the lint filter in their clothes dryer between each load. This not only reduces the efficiency of your dryer, shortening its lifespan, but it also poses a significant risk of fire. Clothes lint is extremely flammable – some people even choose to use it as "poor man's kindling" to start fires in their fireplace by stuffing lint into used toilet paper rolls. Your dryer pumps hot air through the filter when it's drying your clothes, meaning that a fire can easily start in the lint filter before spreading to your clothes and possibly even to other parts of your home. Always clean the lint filter before you put in a new load of wet clothes to avoid this risk.

Inspect your exhaust vent
HouseLogic recommends that you check your clothes dryer's exhaust vent every month for crimps, obstructions and unnecessary bends. The same hot air that passes through your dryer's filter exits your home through the exhaust vent, which can also accumulate dryer lint that the filter misses over time. Anything that impedes the flow of air through your exhaust vent will reduce your dryer's efficiency and can lead to a buildup of hot air that can cause a fire. If you see anything that might be slowing air down, make sure that you remedy the problem as soon as possible – preferably before you do your next load of laundry.

If you have an old vinyl dryer exhaust vent, it may be a good idea to replace it with metal ductwork, according to This Old House. Metal ducts can be slightly more expensive, but they are worth it for the peace of mind they can bring you. Metal dryer ducts pose a significantly lower risk of fire when they are properly installed.

Clean the vent
Still on the topic of exhaust vents, it's important to clean out your dryer's vent about once every year, depending on the amount of use that the dryer sees. If you use your dryer a lot – if, for example, there are multiple families using the same dryer – you will need to clean out the vent more frequently.

Lint builds up more slowly in the exhaust vent than in your filter, assuming that you are cleaning your filter regularly, so once a year is enough as long as nothing is blocking the flow of air, but if you neglect to clean your vent there is a risk of fire. When you clean the exhaust vent, make sure that you do so thoroughly – from the dryer all the way to the outside.

Check your hoses
At least once a month, you should check the hoses that lead into and out of your washing machine to ensure that they aren't degrading. Plastic hoses will fall apart over time, so if you see any cracks, bulges or leaks, it's time to get a new hose. The main concern with a degrading hose is the risk of flooding – should a hose spring a significant leak when you're not around, you could be looking at a costly bill for water damage. While you're at it, check to make sure that your hoses are fit tightly to the washing machine and the water intake and drainage. If the fitting is loose, tighten it with a pair of grooved-joint adjustable pliers.

Especially if you have old or damaged hoses, consider replacing them with braided metal hoses. These hoses should only cost you about $8 per hose, according to HouseLogic, and they are more reliable than rubber models.

Clean your washer's filter screen
Every so often, you should check the filters in your washing machine's water intake and drainage. Sediment builds up over time in these screens and can slow the flow of water, reducing your washing machine's efficiency. This happens faster if you have "hard" – or mineral rich – water coming to your home. These screens can be checked by placing a towel down to catch any dripping water and unscrewing your hoses with pliers. If there is any buildup, wipe it away with a bristle brush before replacing your hoses.

Consider a home warranty
If you are worried about the high potential cost of repairing or replacing your clothes washer and dryer, consider a home warranty. A TotalProtect® Appliance Plan will replace your liability with a low monthly payment, possibly improving your confidence as a homeowner.

The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.