How to Maintain Your Dishwasher and Microwave

An important part of keeping your kitchen appliances in working order involves keeping them clean. Not everyone likes housework, but a little routine maintenance will keep you from having to replace your dishwasher and microwave — unless you just love spending money.

Maintaining your microwave

Following a few simple maintenance procedures can extend the life of your microwave and ensure that it operates safely and efficiently.

  • Check microwaves that are more than 15 years old for output efficiency and radiation leakage. For a 600- to 1,000-watt microwave, place an 8-ounce cup of water in the oven and operate the unit on high for three minutes. The water should reach a rolling boil. If it doesn't, take the microwave to a service shop for inspection.

  • Have a professional appliance repair technician test for radiation leakage. In addition, the pro can check other aspects of operation to determine whether it should be repaired or replaced.

  • Never attempt to repair an ailing microwave yourself. Repairs by anyone other than an authorized service technician almost always void the manufacturer's warranty.

  • Provide a separate electrical circuit for the microwave whenever possible. Poor heating in your microwave can result from an overworked electrical circuit.

  • Wipe up spills promptly after use. Keep the interior of the oven and the area surrounding the door clean, using a damp sponge to catch spills and splatters as they occur.

  • Remove stuck-on food particles with an all-purpose cleaning solution. Food particles left over long periods eventually turn to carbon and cause arcing (electrical sparking), which can etch interior surfaces and can even compromise the seal around the door.

Appliance repair pros say that the most common problem is a simple microwave fuse that gets metal. At that point, even a minor power surge can cause the fuse to burn out. If your microwave quits, it may just be an interior fuse that needs replacing by a pro.

Maintaining your dishwasher

The single most important aspect of dishwasher maintenance is to keep the interior clean. Check out these tips for keeping your dishwasher clean:

  • Most people use far too much soap when they run the dishwasher. Any more than 1 tablespoon is too much, leading to a residue buildup that's hard to get rid of.

  • Never wash anything other than dishes in your dishwasher. Tools, clothes, sneakers, greasy range hood filters, and so on can leave harmful grease and residue that clog the machine's works and inhibit proper operation.

  • If you see interior staining or have soap residue buildup, your pump is working too hard to move water through the system. The best way to clean the interior is with citric acid. Use pure citric acid crystals, which you can find in grocery stores and drugstores. Fill your main soap cup and then run the dishwasher through a complete cycle with the dishwasher empty. Then, once a week, add 1 teaspoon of the acid crystals to your soap for general maintenance.

    You can substitute Tang or a lemonade mix that contains vitamin C (citric acid) for the crystals. They work well, too, only with smaller amounts of citric acid per dose.

  • Run your dishwasher at least once a week to keep the seals moist and to prevent leaks and eventual failure. Periodically wipe the area around the seals to prevent soap scum buildup, which can cause leaks.

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