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This Is What You’re Forgetting to Do While Cleaning Your Appliances

kitchen with sage green cabinets and large stove

Designed by Emily Henderson Design; Photo by Sara Tramp


We get it: You’re exhausted from all the scrubbing, dusting, mopping, and vacuuming. But there’s a chance—a very good chance—that you’re overlooking a few critical moves when it comes to cleaning your appliances. Since each appliance requires specific care, we decided to talk to cleaning experts Melissa Homer, Melissa Maker, Jessica Petrino, and Jan Dougherty for their input.

Below, read on for the best appliance cleaning tips to keep yours clean, functional, and safe for use (without forgetting any important steps).

01 of 12


clean refrigerator

Cathie Hong Interiors

What you’re not cleaning: The space below the crisper drawers.

Why it’s important: As the lowest point of gravity, this is where drips and spills in your fridge land. “If your fridge smells, some goo rotting under the drawers is likely to blame!” says Melissa Homer, a chief cleaning officer at MaidPro.

How to clean: Pull out the drawers. Spray the exposed area with a disinfecting all-purpose cleaner, then scrub with a kitchen sponge until all debris is dislodged. Wipe it with a microfiber towel, then rinse out the inside of the drawers.

Runner-up: The coils in the back of the refrigerator. Dust builds up over time, which slows airflow and makes your fridge operate less efficiently. “Unplug the fridge and pull it out from the wall,” says Melissa Maker, host of the CleanMySpace YouTube channel. “Vacuum the back where you see coils. [It] should take less than five minutes, and will extend the life of your refrigerator.”

Most refrigerator shelves and crisper bins are dishwasher safe.

02 of 12


clean oven

Cathie Hong Interiors

What you’re not cleaning: The oven rack.

Why it’s important: Racks can’t be cleaned in the self-clean cycle, as it can damage their finish and make it harder to pull them out of the oven. “Bubbly messes and spills over time leave carbonized grease and old food clinging on, contributing to a burning smell,” says Maker.

How to clean: Fill a bathtub with hot water and add a cup of laundry detergent. Place your oven racks on an old bath towel in the tub to prevent the racks from scratching the finish. Soak overnight, then wipe them down.

Runner-up: Control buttons and knobs. Your hands get dirty while cooking, and food residue can leave bacteria on the knobs. “Most buttons and handles can be cleaned with a disinfecting wipe or household kitchen cleaner,” says Jessica Petrino, appliance specialist with AJ Madison.

03 of 12


clean dishwasher

Calimia Home

What you’re not cleaning: The filter.

Why it’s important: Food can get caught in the filter and lead to odor-causing bacteria and mold.

How to clean: Pull out the lower rack, then remove the filter to clean your dishwasher. Look into the cavity for debris, then rinse the filter or soak it in soapy water for 20 minutes. “Remove any sticky buildup using an old toothbrush,” suggests Maker. Check your filter every two to four weeks.

Runner-up: The outside edges of the dishwasher door. “Dirt, food, and splashes can settle there,” says Jan Dougherty, author of The Lost Art of House Cleaning. Use a damp cloth with vinegar and water to wipe the corners, under the gasket, and below the door.

04 of 12

Washing Machine

clean washer

Whittney Parkinson

What you’re not cleaning: The gasket.

Why it’s important: If you use a front-loading washer, you’ll notice a rubber gasket, also known as the bellow, around the door. It can be a collecting place for water, soap residue, and sometimes mold.

How to clean: “Leave the washer door ajar between cycles so excess moisture can escape. (If you have young children, use your best judgment as an open door can be a safety hazard.) Wipe the gasket after each cycle to prevent water from pooling. “Do your part by using less high-efficiency soap to prevent soapy build-up in your machine,” adds Petrino.

Runner up: The soap dispenser tray. “If you use fabric softener, residue can build up and encourage mold growth,” says Homer. Remove the tray and wash it with warm, soapy water. Wipe away any debris in the cavity in which the tray sits.

Some newer front-loaders bring in air from the outside to dry out the drum and gasket. They’ll also prompt you to run a self-cleaning cycle as needed to reduce build-up over time.

05 of 12


clean dryer

Whittney Parkinson

What you’re not cleaning: The exhaust vent.

Why it’s important: Dryer lint is very flammable. A clogged exhaust pipe can cause the dryer to overheat, increasing the risk of fire.

How to clean: “Attach a dryer vent brush to your cordless drill. Go outside, run the long brush into the vent, and using a back and forth motion, slowly scrub and pull the lint out towards you, until the brush and lint emerge. Repeat if it’s heavily clogged,” says Homer. It’s also important to clean any build-up in the ductwork behind the dryer. “Use a flexible vacuum hose to access any blockage,” says Petrino. If you have trouble removing the blockage, remove the hose from the dryer to reach it.

Runner-up: The lint trap slot. “Even if you clean out your lint trap regularly, lint can get stuck in the slot and build up over time,” says Homer. “Remove the lint trap and use the crevice tool on your vacuum to clean inside the slot.”

06 of 12


clean stove

Cathie Hong Interiors

What you’re not cleaning: The space between your stove and the counters.

Why it’s important: “Drips and splatter that run down the sides of the stove create a receptacle for rotting food bits, generating odors and attracting pests,” says Homer. 

How to clean: Use a flashlight to inspect the floor on each side, then dampen a microfiber towel with a disinfectant all-purpose cleaner. Open the towel flat and run it through the cracks, or attach the towel using rubber bands to a flattened wire hanger to reach challenging spots.

Runner-up: The knobs. They’re frequently touched and can form a greasy buildup over time. Gently pull the dial toward you until it pops off. “Wash it with equal parts dish soap and baking soda using a non-scratch scrub sponge, then give the peg and the space the knob covered a wipe. Rinse, dry, and replace,” says Maker.

07 of 12

Toaster Oven

clean toaster oven

Ann Living

What you’re not cleaning: The crumb tray.

Why it’s important: This reservoir catches fallen pieces from toasted items, and not cleaning it can create a fire hazard,” says Homer.

How to clean: Find the edge at the bottom of your toaster oven and pull out the tray. Shake it out over a trash can and wipe away any stubborn bits with dish soap, water, and a sponge. Dry thoroughly before returning it.

Runner-up: The glass door. “Wipe the glass with a terrycloth rag and a degreasing agent, like Krud Kutter,” says Dougherty. “You may need to do this more than once and follow up with white vinegar. If you need to scrape something off, gently use a single-edged razor.”

08 of 12

Vacuum Cleaner

vacuum cleaner

Getty Images / Natdanai Pankong / EyeEm

What you’re not cleaning: The brush roll.

Why it’s important: The brush roll is designed to extract dirt and debris from carpets, but long hair and other string-like substances can get caught inside over time.

How to clean: “Locate the brush roll in the head of the vacuum. If you find hair and debris has wrapped around the roll, the easiest way to remove it all is with a scissor,” notes Petrino. “Be careful not to cut the vacuum brush bristles. Get under the blockage, make your cuts, and pull off any debris from the brush roll. If the brush roll is removable, you can wash it according to the product manual’s instructions.”

Runner-up: Vacuum tools. For non-motorized tools, fill a bucket with hot, soapy water and let them soak for an hour. If they have any brushes or bristles, you can clean them with a toothbrush. Rinse well and allow to dry completely before use.

09 of 12


clean grill

Getty Images / Tim Ambramowitz

What you’re not cleaning: The basin.

Why it’s important: “Leaving the gunk inside your basin to burn and bake on is a recipe for flareups, burnt-smelling food, clogged heating elements, and a miserable end-of-season cleaning job,” says Homer.

How to clean: Remove the grates and all of the reflectors. Spray the inside of the basin with a degreaser and scrub with a brush. Rinse and wipe with a wet rag until everything is clean, then air dry before closing the lid.

Runner-up: The grease trap. “It sits underneath the bottom of the grill to catch excess grease, and needs to be cleaned to prevent grease overflow and pests,” says Maker. Some are disposable and can be thrown away and replaced, while others are permanent. “In the case of the latter, remove a cooled-down trap and dispose of any grease safely before wiping it down with a paper towel and scrubbing it in hot, soapy water.”

10 of 12

Coffee Maker

clean coffee maker

Cathie Hong Interiors

What you’re not cleaning: The reservoir.

Why it’s important: Boiling water can leave behind mineral deposits, which can clog up the system.  

How to clean: Fill the coffee maker reservoir with white vinegar and run it through the machine once a month. “If you notice a slight vinegar flavor, run a pot of clean water to rinse out any residual taste,” says Dougherty.

Runner-up: The spray head. Located directly above coffee grinds, the spray head jets water into the grinds. Heat and pressure can make splatter and oils build up on the spray head, causing it to become clogged. “Between uses, once the machine has cooled down, remove the spray head if it can be removed. Wipe the area with a microfiber cloth. If the area is very grimy, use a toothbrush to give it a gentle scrub, then wipe again,” says Maker.

11 of 12

Microwave Oven

clean microwave

Cathie Hong Interiors

What you’re not cleaning: The air intake filter.

Why it’s important: The filter collects grease and prevents it from covering your kitchen. “If it’s clogged with grease, it will strain your motor and slow the flow of air—so your kitchen stinks after cooking, and your microwave burns out years early,” says Homer. “Cleaning your filter quarterly keeps the system running smoothly (and your kitchen smelling clean).”

How to clean: Look under your microwave and remove the filter. Fill your sink with hot, soapy water and soak the filter, gently scrubbing it. If you've neglected the filter for a while, spray it with a degreaser and sit for 10 minutes before scrubbing. Rinse the filter and air dry before returning it. 

Runner-up: The exhaust grille on the front or top of your microwave. “Spray a cloth with all-purpose cleaner, wrap it over a butter knife, and wipe between the slats,” says Homer. “If you've waited too long to complete this task, you can increase your firepower with a degreaser—just be sure to select one that’s safe on plastics and wipe it down with a dampened rag to avoid dulling the plastic.”

12 of 12

Air Conditioner

clean air conditioning unit in kitchen

Getty Images / Cavan Images

What you’re not cleaning: The air filter.

Why it’s important: Dirty filters can lead to strained motors, increased energy costs, a shortened air conditioner life, and dirtier air.

How to clean: Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions. Some permanent filters can be rinsed under the faucet; others are disposable and need to be replaced. “The filter should be easy to find on a portable unit,” says Petrino. “It’s usually a pull-out on the side or front of the machine. With some models, you might need to remove the front face of the AC to access the filter. With a central AC unit, you’ll need to remove the filter from the air return vent, then replace or clean it. For best results, vacuum the filter housing with a vacuum nozzle before inserting a newly cleaned filter."

Runner-up: Vent covers. Circulating air can pick up dust, germs, and bacteria, blowing them throughout the room. “Use a vacuum attachment to remove any grime, then wipe down the vent with a damp rag,” says Homer.