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

published Oct 24, 2021
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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. 

Your Vacuum

Why You Should Clean It

“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.”

How to Clean It

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.

Credit: Kitchn Video

Your Dishwasher

Why You Should Clean It

“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!”

How to Clean It

“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.” 

Credit: Jessica Rapp

Your Soap Dispenser

Why You Should Clean It

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

How to Clean It

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

Why You Should Clean It

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

How to Clean It

“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.”

Your Iron

Why You Should Clean It

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.)

How to Clean It

“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 Washing Machine

Why You Should Clean 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.”

How to Clean It

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.