Taking the time to learn a few things about your appliances will help them perform for you for years to come.

Our friends at HASSAR have some great info that will help you to get the most out of the life of the appliances in your home.

One of the very best things that you can do for your appliances is to have a whole house water softener installed. Hard water, caused by minerals in the water, is a fact of life in Arizona and will take years off of the water using appliances in your home. Evidence of hard water is seen in murky glasses, floaties in your drinking water, cloudy ice from ice makers, white clothes with a grey tinge and white crusty deposits on faucets and plumbing fixtures. Hard water will eventually cause failure for washing machine and refrigerator inlet valves and detergent dispensers for dishwashers and the need for parts to be replaced.

Here are some care tips to follow whether or not you have a water softener:

Washing Machine:

If your washer has a foul odor, it is usually caused by not cleaning your washer and or using too much detergent. Biodegradable detergent can build up in your machine and in your clothing. This creates a cycle of mold and mildew and a sour odor to your laundry. All detergents are biodegradable to some degree, some more than others. The solution is to run a washing machine cleaner through your washer once a month and cut back the amount of detergent you use. A good rule is to use:

• Half of the recommended amount for a large dirty load.

• A quarter of the recommended amount for a large load that’s not as dirty.

• An eighth of the recommended amount for a medium to small load that’s not really dirty.

• Vinegar: washing machines require both the use of less detergent (liquid detergent is preferred for washers) for odor and a half cup of distilled white vinegar directly in the basket, before you put your clothes in, for every load.

Clothes Dryer:

Clean your dryer lint filter every time you run a load! Clean the dryer vents once a year or have them professionally cleaned. Vents need to be cleared and vents checked for crimping and damage all the way from the dryer to where the vent reaches the outside of the house once a year. According to the U.S. Fire Administration , failure to clean the dryer vents is the leading cause of household fires caused by appliances. This will also improve safety, efficiency and longevity of your dryer.

Refrigerator:

Condenser coils should be cleaned once a year, either by pulling the refrigerator out and taking off the back panel or removing the front panel of the refrigerator and getting underneath to clean it. ALWAYS unplug the unit before taking off any panels. This process will help increase the efficiency of your refrigerator and help it last longer. You may want to do this twice a year if you have pets in the house. Also, it is important to keep door seals clean. Dirty seals make the door harder to open and can cause the seals to tear. A loose seal can cut down on the efficiency of your refrigerator.

Range/Cooktop:

Clean and protect glass cooktops with Weiman’s cooktop cleaner. It is similar to waxing your vehicle: just a few drops on a cloth to apply (wax on) and another cloth to smooth it out or polish it (wax off). Allowing a thin layer of the cooktop cleaner to always be present will cause it to look amazing all the time, protect it from fine scratches, and make it a lot easier to keep clean.

Oven:

Most of us know to clean the inside of the oven (that billowing smoke is usually the clue). But we don’t often remember to clean the seals of the oven door. Don’t scrub them but, rather blot them clean. Any food or grease that is left on these door seals will get baked in, making them less pliable and unable to seal the door. Leaky door seals allow heat to escape, affecting baking and roasting times. Also, self-cleaning is not thorough with leaky seals.

Microwave:

Never run an empty microwave as it can cause irreparable damage to the unit. Schedule periodic maintenance to ensure that it is not leaking dangerous microwaves. A good appliance service person will be able to detect a leak with a microwave leak detector. This is really important as there may be no other clue that something is wrong and all the while the family is exposed to harmful microwaves. But make sure you keep it clean so it can preform at its best.

Garbage Disposal:

Periodically run ice cubes in your garbage disposal to help maintain the sharpness and cleanliness of the blades, as well as running a disposal cleaner through it.

TIP: To keep odors down in the sink area, clean the underside of the rubber gasket in the sink.

Dishwasher:

Hard-water buildup in your dishwasher can affect the drying and cleaning performance of your machine. To help prevent all this hard-water buildup, HASSAR developed what we call "Hard Water 101.”

HASSAR has a list of best practices to ensure that your dishes are sanitized and clean.

• Spritz a solution of 1:1 water and vinegar on the interior and exterior surfaces of the dishwasher often.

• Detergent matters! Do not use gel or liquid dishwasher soaps. HASSAR recommends Finish 3-in-1 tabs. The cleanest dishes come when powdered detergent is used along with hot water and the sanitization settings on the dishwasher. Make sure your detergent door is in good working order to guarantee that the detergent is released at the proper time.

• Using a small amount of LemiShine in the detergent holder, with Finish, will keep dishes sparkling. As little as a ¼ to a ½ teaspoon will do the trick.

• Using a rinse aid, like JetDry, will keep water beads and resultant water spots from forming.

• Models that have a removable filter need to be cleaned on a regular basis to keep spray arms in good working order.

• In a dishwasher that is used every day, it is not necessary to rinse dishes. Simply scrape plates and load. In households where it takes a couple of days to fill a dishwasher, rinsing is a good idea.

• Note that with the regulations on high efficiency machines, the heater is less powerful and will take longer to get the job done. What used to take 45 minutes may now take up to 3 hours but use less energy and water in the process.

For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 35 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the Rosie on the House radio program from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR-FM (92.3) in Phoenix; KGVY 1080AM 100.7FM; 10 to 11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson.