Most of us buy new appliances when we move into a new house or when the old machine finally dies. So by the time the new appliance is installed, we usually don’t take time to read the owner’s manual. Or we assume the new one works pretty much like the old one.
But modern appliances are more technologically sophisticated than their predecessors. You could inadvertently lessen an appliance’s performance or even cause permanent damage by jumping right in without reading the manual.
Here’s a cheat sheet of common features and cautions to entice you to read the manual — and to impart a smidge of wisdom to those who won’t.
If your new refrigerator has a water dispenser, after installation, press the dispenser tab for at least 2 minutes to remove trapped air from the water line and fill the water system.
New, high-efficiency refrigerators run longer than their energy-sucking older relatives. In a room at 70 degrees F, expect your new refrigerator to run 40 to 70 percent of the time — longer in a warmer room.
It takes about a day for the temperature to adjust after you add a lot of food, so don’t be alarmed that the refrigerator runs more after a big grocery shopping trip.
You’d think the spare refrigerator in your garage would have less work to do on super-cold winter days. Truth is, it’s hard for it to operate when the temperature approaches 0 degrees F. So if you find it isn’t keeping food cold, turn the temperature control to a colder setting. By the way, putting a refrigerator in conditions that aren’t recommended voids the warranty.
Pull the refrigerator away from the wall every few months. Use the vacuum cleaner’s brush attachment to remove the dust from the condenser coils on the back (all those black tubes and wires). While you’re back there, vacuum the long-lost Cheerios off the floor.
If the door is hard to reopen right after you open it, it could be that the pressure has to equalize — give it about 5 minutes. If the door never opens well, wash off the sticky gunk built up on the door seal using a mild soap solution.
When the weather is humid, it’s normal for condensation to form on the outside of the refrigerator. Simply dry the refrigerator with a non-abrasive cloth.
Before using your oven for the first time, peel the protective plastic sheet from the oven door. Otherwise, it can melt permanently onto the door. Then, to burn off odors, run the oven empty at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes.
Old ovens lose their temperature calibration over time, so you might find your new, well-calibrated oven undercooks or overcooks your recipes. Adjust your cooking times or recalibrate the oven.
It’s normal for the window in the door to have a rainbow effect from some angles — that’s the heat barrier coating. That window is breakable, so treat it as gently as you would any window.
On some models, the oven won’t work if the clock isn’t set. Warped pans cook unevenly. To check if a pan is warped, set a ruler against the bottom.
A sugary spill can pit an electric radiant cooktop. To remove the spill, turn on the surface elements for a minute to soften them, then turn them off. Wearing oven mitts, use a metal spatula to scrape off the spill. Let the cooktop cool.
If gas burners don’t light or light just halfway around, clean the burner ports with a needle.
On some models, you can turn off the beep that sounds each time you press a button on your control panel — just press and hold the START TIME button for 7 seconds.
Don’t microwave an egg in its shell. Ka-BOOM! The same applies to foods with unbroken skins, such as potatoes and hot dogs — poke them with a fork first.
Don’t use the following when microwaving: margarine tubs and plastic dishes not rated for microwave use; mental pans or dishes with metallic trim; paper bags or plastic food bags; twist ties; untempered glass; recycled paper products.
When using the metal cooking rack, manually set the cooking time and power. When not using the microwave, store the rack outside the microwave.
All those buttons do things you’d never suspect. For example, on some models, you can change the unit of measure to metric and the display language to Spanish. Check your manual.
Clean the grease filters on an over-the-range microwave once a month. They’re under the microwave.
New dishwashers have longer run cycles than older ones but still clean better and use less energy.
You can’t wash everything in the dishwasher. Most items on the do-not-wash list are old or delicate: anodized aluminum; cast iron; antique or hand-painted china; antique or delicate crystal; gold plated flatware; disposable plastic dishes; silverware (either sterling or silver plated) with a commercially darkened finish; wooden items.
Only use dishwasher detergent, not detergent for washing dishes by hand or (saints preserve us!) laundry soap or hand soap.
The garbage disposer must be clear of waste before you run the dishwasher.
You don’t have to rinse most dishes before loading. Still, scrape them — especially if they bear tomato-based food, salt, or anything acidic such as mustard or mayonnaise. Rinsing tomato-y foods from plastic dishes helps prevent staining, as it does not use the heat-dry option.
Don’t place glasses over the tines.
During loading, make sure no dishes block the detergent dispenser. You can remove the upper rack to make room for big dishes.
For best cleaning, the water reaching the dishwasher should be 120 degrees F.
Regularly using a high-heat setting can permanently cloud glasses — so can pre-washing. Instead, use a rinse aid, which improves cleaning and drying at normal temperatures, so you don’t have to use a high-heat setting.
Judge how full the machine is when the laundry is dry — that extra space magically appears when the clothing is wet doesn’t mean you can add more garments.
Not only does a cold water rinse save energy, but it also prevents wrinkles. The wash temperatures in Energy Star washers are cooler than other washers.
If you have a high-efficiency washer, you must use a specially formulated laundry detergent labeled in the logo. This prevents over-sudsing and discourages mold and mildew from growing in hidden parts of the machine.
Dispensing balls for fabric softeners don’t operate correctly in all types of washers.
Detergent doesn’t completely dissolve in water colder than 60 degrees F. Use liquid bleach. Most machines aren’t designed for powdered bleach.
Most extension cords cannot carry the current required to run all the cycles. If you must use an extension cord, use a heavy-duty one and ensure there’s no risk of water entering any plug.
You know to clean lint from the lint screen after each load, but you should also wash the screen every 6 months or so to keep the washing machine running efficiently. You know it’s time when lint falls right off the screen. Scrub the screen with hot water and liquid detergent.
Adding fabric softener sheets to a partially dry load can stain clothing. Clothing with unstable dyes, such as blue jeans, can discolor the dryer drum. The discoloration is harmless, but you can prevent it by turning the garments inside out.
If you’ve not used your dryer in a while, it might make a thumping noise for the first few minutes you run it. If it’s thumping and you have used it recently, where’s your cell phone?
Lint builds up in the exhaust pipe over time, which can increase drying time and is a fire hazard. If you don’t feel air coming from the outside exhaust hood when the dryer is running, it’s time to clean it out.
Never use flexible plastic or metal foil exhaust tubes — they retain lint and are considered a fire hazard.
The dryers must be in a room warmer than 45 degrees F. The door must have slats for ventilation if it’s in a closet.
If all your regular loads come out a little damp, it could be that the moisture sensor needs tweaking. Your owner’s manual has instructions for changing the pre-set dryness level.