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  Appliance Care & Cleaning

Many issues and problems that people have with appliances, especially washing machines and dishwashers, can often be solved just by simply taking care your kitchen appliances and carrying out regular maintenance and cleaning.

Here we explain the best ways to do that and how to avoid problems like bad smells, odours, dirt, mould, residues and a host of useful information and tips to keep your appliances in tip top condition and save yourself loads of time and money.

Many problems that you can easily resolve yourself without an engineer's help.


 

Things You Shouldn’t Put In Your Fridge

It really common to open someone’s fridge and see a raft of things that, really shouldn’t be in there. This all the more so on large fridges and American style side by side fridge freezers.

Thing is, a lot of people could get a lot more space freed up in their fridges if they didn’t put things in there that should not be there. Now for us, it’s more space for beer and so on but how you use the space is completely up to you.

Here’s the top items often found in fridges that really shouldn’t be in there and, why not.

Bread

Refrigerating bread does absolutely nothing to extend the life of it at all.

In fact the opposite is true as it tend to get dried out and turn stale faster than it would kept in a bread bin or bread bag.

Also bread should be stored in a cool dry place. That is not your fridge!

Melons

If you have a fresh whole melon it should not be kept in the fridge.

After you cut it up it should then be wiped in cling film and stored in the fridge, normally used within 24 hours or so to get it at its best.

Bananas

Nope, while they are not ripe they also should not be stored in your fridge either.

After they ripen (no green bits) then they can be stored in your fridge but not before that as they can turn black and go mushy inside if you do.

Avocados are the same deal although they won’t go much as such, they won’t ripen if you put them in your fridge.

Fresh Tomatoes

Once more these should not be stored in the fridge as they tend to keep longer outside it and the flavour is better.

The science behind it says that the cooling actually causes the membranes and stuff to break down inside the fruit and does more harm than good.

Potatoes

Okay hands up, a number of us in the office were guilty of this one!

Apparently keeping potatoes in the fridge isn’t just bad, it’s potentially harmful to us. We didn’t know that and now, we don’t keep the potatoes in the fridge any longer.

The Food Standards Agencys says that, "When these are stored in the fridge, the starch in the potato is converted to sugar. When baked or fried, these sugars combine with the amino acid asparagine and produce the chemical acrylamide, which is thought to be harmful."

So, don’t do it is the advice basically.

All that is needed to store potatoes is a cool dry place, so a dark cupboard that’s cool is all you need.

Cakes

Fresh cream in it, okay, put it in the fridge.

No fresh cream, don’t.

That’s the simple advice but so long as a cake is in a tin or covered decently like that it won’t last any linger if you put it in your fridge. And, any icing will go brick hard making eating it not so pleasant.

Coffee

We didn’t get this one at all as, nobody in the office did this but apparently many people do keep their coffee in their fridges.

All you need to do is stick in an airtight container, you don’t and shouldn’t refrigerate it.

Moreover the beans will soak up other smells around them so, you really don’t want all the food smells in your fridge to be in your morning cup of coffee. Not nice.

Onions

Like potatoes, cool dark place is all that’s required.

The fridge is not the place for them as they can taint other foods with their odour.

Often we will see onions chucked in with a load of other veg in a storage drawer and, that’s obviously not good.

Garlic

As with onions, they shouldn’t be in the fridge and, garlic will transfer it’s odour to other things.

Honey

Lasts forever, doesn’t need refrigerated.

Pickles

These are preserves, an ancient way of storing food that would ordinarily not keep long for ages. This method came about long before mankind worked out how to refrigerate stuff in the modern manner so, they were designed for a long shelf life.

You don’t need to keep them in your fridge.

Jam

You don’t need to refrigerate it as, it is a preserve after all so the clue’s in the billing.

Peanut Butter

Nope, get it our of your fridge, it’s got no business being in there, ever!

Cleaning Electric Hobs

  Electric Hob Cleaning

Cleaning your hob the right way so it looks better for longer and lasts

Cooker heating element rust

When we refer to “electric hobs” what we mean is the more traditional type of hob on a cooker, built in hob or range cooker but one that is not a ceramic glass type hob top.

This will leave only two types, the older radiant ring type that was generally only seen on older cookers in the UK and rarely on built in hobs and of course the newer sealed version of those that are commonly referred to as as hotplates or sealed hob heating elements.

Hopefully the tips here will prevent you from having to change the heating elements sooner than you really should need to or ending up with an unsightly hob like the one on the image which is beyond saving if you ask us.

Following the simple tips here may save you expense and hassle.

  Radiant Rings

The older radiant ring types have been on the decline for many years as they aren’t really pretty and not exactly energy efficient so, in the modern era of “going green” they’ve largely been phased out here in the UK and the rest of Europe but do seem to have an enduring popularity in some other regions, notably the USA.

In essence these are the same idea as the newer sealed heating elements but they are more open.

The good thing in is that they will usually be very easy to keep clean, most things on them are very obvious and often the hob to will lift up making access and replacement of these heating elements pretty easy for most people.

Older elements can be treated with Collo cleaner to bring them back to looking “black” and hiding minor imperfections, some minor rust pitting and so on.

If you clean these every few uses just with a cloth or sponge they are usually fine and normally don’t really need a lot of maintenance.

Sealed Heating Elements

Sealed plates look prettier to most people but they do require a bit more in the way of maintenance.

These tips whilst not essential will extend the life of your hotplates and quite probably the hop top by a fair way, you can get a lot more years of use with only a modicum of care and maintenance.

Show your hob a little love and you will get more from it.

  Seasoning Plates

The first thing to know is that you will need to “season” the every so often to prevent them from pitting or rusting on the top cooking surface.

Doing this is much the same as you would season a wok or a pan that doesn’t have a non-stick coating.

All you need to do is put the hob zone on at the lowest setting, very lightly cover with olive oil (we find olive oil works best) using a cloth or a bit of paper kitchen towel and then after the whole surface is shiny turn the heat up a bit and leave it for a few minutes.

Turn the hob off and allow it to cool down.

This is real simple but stops water getting to the metal as the oils forms a barrier that will protect it, at least from the worst and doing this can immeasurably extend the life of these heating elements. Correctly maintained doing this will get you many time the life so, it’s well worth dong on a regular basis.

How often is hard to call as mileage will vary depending on your use but, as a rough guide for most people, once a month or every second month is usually okay.

Don’t worry if some of the oil goes over the chrome trim and onto the hob, it will wipe off and probably seal the gaps there and this is nothing to be concerned about, so long as you keep up with the maintenance.

  The Chrome Trim

Which brings us to the chrome trim that we’ve mentioned before in several places on the site.

They are a pain the proverbial!

They all discolour, often after only a single or a few uses you will see an iridescent (rainbow effect) type pattern form on them and many people think this is wrong, it’s not, it’s just the way they are.

If these get damaged or start to rust, which we will point out is always a result of poor maintenance, spillage or both, there’s no coming back from it. There’s nothing you can do other than replace the whole element to clean that up.

  Restoration

Collo hob plate heating element cleanerYou can restore the plate surface, the black bit. However, there are limits.

We see adverts online where you see pictures of these types of plates being magically transformed from old and scrappy looking, covered in rust and pitting, to looking like brand new using some “wonderful” product or cleaner.

The first thing we’re going to tell you is, that’s complete manure. It ain’t going to happen.

We recommend Collo cleaner, it’s German, works, has been about for decades and it’s the same or similar to most of the types of cleaner we’re talking about here but we think this is the best one. So much so we don’t bother with the clones of it as, far as we know, Collo is the original and still the best.

What it does as they all do, is to go on a little bit like boot polish that melts onto a warm (not hot) plate and re-blackens the plate masking any pitting, rust and so on as well as putting a protective coating on the plate itself.

It’s really good stuff and can make the plates look a million times better but, it’s not a miracle thing that will give you shiny new plates. It will cover up and hide most minor issues and make the plates look a lot cleaner but if you’ve got major pitting or any holes it won’t solve that.

And importantly, no cleaner will.

The ads we often see for this sort of cleaner are annoying as they can give what we feel is a false impression, we’d rather tell people the truth as we usually do.

Our opinion is that Collo is the best of the bunch but if the plates are really bad, the only choice is to replace them.

If you need any advice on whether to give Collo a shot or replace, just email us a picture of the zones and we will try to advise as best we can on wether you will get away with using a restorer like Collo or the better option is to replace the plates.

But products like Collo cleaner are like seasoning, if you do it reasonably regularly then your hob heating elements will last longer, no doubt about that at all. So it's best to look at this as a thing to use on a regualr basis, not just in crisis.

  The Enamel Hob Top

Dirt build up on enamel hobFor all types, radiant ring or solid heating element, there will be an enamel top around the heating zones.

If moisture from spillage gets under the enamel it’s game over. It will rust and once that takes hold the hob top will just gradually deteriorate over time and this will often happen quickly.

It is really important to clean up especially major spills as quickly as you can.

Given that this can only be caused by spills and often a lack of care most manufacturers don’t cover this (or anything else in this article) even in warranty. Some extended warranty companies will cover it but that varies depending on the policy of the company and the level of cover.

When we spoke earlier about the oil from seasoning the plates getting into the gaps between the plates and the hob this can actually help with this problem. Th oil can form a barrier that helps prevent moisture from getting underneath the hob and starting it to rust.

It won’t save you from major spills or from constant poor care but, it’s no bad thing for most people.

When you clean the enamelled surface of the hob, don’t use abrasive cleaners, you’ll wreck it!

Try to clean spillage as soon as possible, the longer it sits on the hob the more it can become a problem and some stuff you cook can “eat” into even the best enamel coating.

Even stuff you can’t see there, when the hob is used again and gets hot can start to burn leaving unsightly residues or coatings, especially so around the heating elements where they start to rise out the hob or meet it.

Washing Machine Quick Use Guide

  Washing Machine Use Guide

Checklist of do's and don't with your washing machine

 

Getting the best from your washing machine

This is a quick explanation of use with links to more in-depth explanations if you need them. 

You will find us advising you to avoid some of the features that washing machines are often sold with to "save time" or "make your life easier" etc as, they are all too often not all they're cracked up to be. Many are actually complete nonsense.

Following these golden rules you'll save money, your washing machine will probably last longer, your laundry will last longer and your clothes will be cleaner. Plus, you can avoid most of the common problems that people have when using a washing machine.

Best of all, it's all free, common sense and easy.

  Do Not Overload The Machine

This can damage your machine and your laundry badly and quickly.

Don’t do it.

It causes damage to your washing machine, the laundry and means things don't get washed properly.

Follow our guidance on loading here.

  You Need To Separate White/Lights From Darks/Coloured

You need to do this as both need different detergents to keep your clothes and your washing machine healthy and for them to last as long as possible.

It stops colurs bleeding dye from one item to another and means they stay brighter, better for longer when washed correctly.

There's a lot more information about detergents and their use here.

  You Need Two Detergents

You need to use a colour detergent for dark and coloured washes.

You need a detergent with bleach in it for whites and lights, this cannot be a liquid.

If you wash woolens, silks or any other natural delicate fibres then you need a third detergent specifically for them. Using normal powders or liquids can damage them irreversably and in one wash.

  Avoid Fast Wash Programs

They do not wash properly or fully, they are intended for things that are "worn once, not next to skin". In other words, not much at all.

A lot more information on fast washes can be found here but our advice is, avoid them wherever possible.

  Do Not Continually Use Low Temperature Washes

Many items need to be washed at higher temperatures, especially towelling, bedding and the like to kill bacteria both in the laundry and in your washing machine.

Using low temperature and more so with liquid detergents is just asking for problems with a smelly washing machine, mildew in your washing machine and other issues.

    Don’t Use Fast Spin For Light/Delicate Items

Turn the speed down as it’s often not required and the wrong cycle can damage items but using the fastest spin you can is a more common cause of holes in clothes and other damage.

You might things feel more dry when spun st ridiculously high spin speeds but, the reality is that this is probably a minor gain.

  You Don’t Need To Use Softener

Many people think you have to use softener, you don’t. It’s not required and all it does is cost you more money, make stuff smell a bit nicer, maybe.

On towels especially it’s a bad thing and should be avoided.

  Leave The Door Ajar After Use

This allows air into the machine, helps it to dry out and cuts down on the formation of bacteria in the machine.

  Clean Your Machine Regularly

Clean outside and the soap drawer as well as around the door seal on a regular basis.

Your machine will last longer and probably perform better.

Clean the inside using regular maintenance washes or using the like of Affresh to get that clean.

If you follow the guidance on detergent and wash temperature above then the need for this swill be reduced.

Tumble Dryer Safety Tips

  Tumble Dryer Safety

How to stay safe using a dryer and prevent fire risks

 

Pull the filter out and clean it, takes seconds and can save you money as well as prevent fire risk

In light of the recent events surrounding the safety of tumble dryer we thought we’d get together a simple guide to make sure you stay safe when using your dryer.

We are deliberately keeping this brief with the main points and a short explanation, if you need more details on each there are other articles on the site that can explain each of these points more in depth.

  Keep Filters Clear

Before every single use, every second at the very most clean out the filters!

Not doing this reduces efficiency, costs you money on extra electricity and is a danger as it can allow lint/fluff into the dryer.

We cannot stress enough how important that this is for general running but also for safety, it is imperative that this is done.

We even found a video (below) from Canada, where unsurprisingly the same problems are seen that demonstrates just how much of a problem that this can become.

Keep in mind that the slightest spark can make lint go up in flames, within minutes you can have a major problem.

  Keep Condenser Units Clear

For exactly the same reasons as above.

  Do Not Overload Your Tumble Dryer

You restrict airflow, making the dryer less efficient and it will use masses more electricity, it will not save anything.

You also strain the belt, motor and prevent correct arflow over the thermostats and heater, this is a potential safety hazard, do not do it!

(More on tumble dryer overloading and correct loading)

  Only Dry Suitable Items

Check that the times you tumble dry can be tumble dried, look for the symbols that let you know it’s okay to tumble dry an item. See below for the tumble dry symbols.

If there isn’t one, don’t chance it.

Never try to dry plastic backed mats or any other items such as this as these can cause fire if the plastic melts and gets to the heater.

(More on common fire risks accociated with tumble dryers)

  Never Open The Door Till Finished

If you open the door before the cycle is complete, you cut airflow immediately and the best is that you may only have a thermostat fail.

Let your tumble dryer get to the end of the cycle or, if you need to switch it off sooner, turn it to a cool down or no heat setting to let it cool.

(More about tumble dryer thermostat failure)

  Do Not Run Consecutive Programs

Running dry cycles back to back, one after the other is strongly advised against.

Allow the dryer at least 30 minutes to cool down between uses.

  Only Use At Room Temperature

Most modern dryers are unsuitable for use in outbuildings, garages and so on especially when they are unheated.

Modern tumble dryers will often not perform well, efficiently and can suffer failures in low and very high temperature environments. They are not designed to cope with this.

(More about tumble dryer installation requirements)

 

  Tumble Dry Symbols

If an item can be dried in your tumble dryer it should have one of the following symbols on the care label. If it doesn't, or it has the "Do Not Tumble Dry" one on it then do not tumble dry it as if this is the cae, the best you can hope for is a ruined garment.

If an item of clothing etc can be tumble dried then it should have one of these symbols on the care label

How To Save Money On Soap Powder

  Save Cash On Detergents

Most people waste lots of money on dtergents, here's how to be smart and save big

 

There are two main schools of thought on detergent use, both seem completely contradictory to each other, one from detergent manufacturers and the other from washing machine manufacturers and we want to explain both to people. You can make your own mind up on what to believe from what the motives are for both and, what we see in the field.

After you understand that we'll show you how you can save more on detergent than you could ever hope to save on electricity.

  Washing Machine Manufacturers

Since the early 1990’s the focus for washing machine manufacturers has been to increase capacities and to decrease energy use.

As a by-product of this, wash times have been extended and water level reduced. You can find out all about that in other articles but, in essence, it means that the washing machine that you buy today will not operate in exactly the same way as your old one did as the technologies advance.

As a result, users are forced to change their habits given that governments and markets demand that the technologies move forward and that less resources are used.

In an effort to get an AAA rating, A class energy use, A class wash results and A class spin results certain sacrifices have had to be made. But beyond this we are now at A++++ energy use meaning that even more has changed as the lowest possible energy use is chased and, people want that.

Given that a number of manufacturers seem to work out the energy efficiency based on the energy use per kilo of wash load it is in their interest, to get a lower rating and therefore higher sales by being the most efficient, to get the energy down and capacity up. Even if it isn't always the whole truth.

Less water however, you would think logically, means that less detergent or soap powder is needed but, the detergent manufacturers will tell you that this isn’t the case. 

Meanwhile, many washing machine manufacturers will tell that this is indeed the case, you need to use less detergent. 

The motivation to do so, if you were cynical, would be to enhance the “green credentials” but, beyond that there is little to be gained by a washing machine manufacturer in telling you to use less detergent as they don’t make it and, don’t profit by the sale of it.

  Laundry Detergent Manufacturers

As we said, almost all laundry detergent manufacturers will tell you to continue to use the same amount of detergent or soap powder that you always have done. In fact, on large capacity washing machines (7kg and above) they recommend that more detergent is used.

If we were to again take a cynical view you would have to say, well they would say that wouldn't they as they make money from selling you detergent, if they sell you more than you actually need they only stand to gain by that.

But, is that really true?

In part it probably is but it also is not. As with many things in life, the answer is often more complicated than a sound bite allows.

  Supermarkets

Soap powder shelf in a supermarketMost detergents and conditioners are sold in supermarkets in the UK or through their online stores.

They make money when they sell detergents and conditioners. Same when they sell you a whole bunch of add ons that you really don't need, which is why we have conditioner.

Do you really think that these retailers who's job it is to sell you stuff to make money want you to use less?

  One Detergent Cannot Do It All

When using detergents you have to consider the volume of clothing being washed, the type of clothing you are washing and how dirty it is before you begin.

Then you have to work around the performance of your particular washing machine as, whilst they all work with the same basic principles, they do so in slightly different ways.

It is of note though that whilst a washing machine maker only has to consider the appliance and how it performs in isolation in test conditions with scant regard for much else, the detergent manufacturer has to make a product that works in all machines spanning back decades. In other words, from the most poorly performing energy and water guzzling machines right up to the newest and most efficient ones.

And, that's not even thinking about special programs, different water loads, different drum capacities and a myriad of other factors.

It would be reasonable to logically conclude then that, this isn't possible. One size cannot fit all.

The only way around that would be to produce a specific detergent for each washing machine type or, person's needs. That wouldn't be financially viable and likely not possible.

Although, detergent manufacturers have looked at personalised solutions, probably due to the problems around this stuff that people have.

When people get problems around detergent use they seem to simply switch brands or, blame their washing machine for doing it wrong. Neither address the actual issues.

  Zero Communication

Would it come as a shock to learn that all too often that the manufacturers of washing machines, the detergent manufacturers and supermarkets have virtually zero communication with each other?

You see the odd deal done where a manufacturer will endorse a certain detergent, Reckitt are good at this with dishwashers using Finish and it earns a good bit of money for some brands but, in the main, they never talk.

Supermarkets. Well, they don't even give any advice to people on this at all, they just sell the detergent and conditioner, what do they care? They don't even display all the stuff in a sensible way normally which only adds to the confusion.

As for garment manufacturers, forget it. There's no benefit to them in recommending either.

Now you know where the vested interests lie to some degree and that users are left to their own devices to work it all out.

  Instructions For Soap Powder

If you look on the packs and, even on the websites that you can find you will normally find very generic instructions for using detergent, powders and conditioner from the makers. If you find any at all as many of the cheaper brands have virtually no instructions.

Washing machine soap powderThen you have your washing machine where the instructions on using detergents and conditioners are, well, not very good at best normally.

The reason for this is fairly simple after you know what's above.

The washing machine manufacturer hasn't a clue what detergents or conditioners you're going to use, how much, washing what and on which program. Because, lots of people do different things and we don't all buy the same stuff that's put in the machine therefore, you cannot determine what will be required.

The best you can do is give generic guidelines on use and assume that the people that buy your washing machines are smart enough and apply common sense to work it out. So all you get is a scoop or measuiring bowl and a few notes, that's it.

The detergent manufacturer has the same problem but, still more, their products are being used in untold numbers of different brands, models, capacities as well as all the user stuff.

Neither can give decent instructions given the huge number of variables.

  How You Can Save Money

With all of that knowledge imparted you can now get onto the serious business of saving your valuable cash as, we're quite sure that you have no burning desire to give the supermarkets and detergent makers any more money than you absolutely have to right?

You get now that these guys want you to use more than you have to because, that's how they make their money.

You get that, really, the washing machine makers have no vested interest in you using more than you have to and it suits them if you don't as their machines are then seen, by you, as being more efficient and cheaper to run.

By dosing smart, for a four person household, you can save nearly £100 a year in some cases on detergent alone, never mind conditioner. That is way, way more than you can hope to save on electricity over the same period even with almost any hugely efficient washing machine.

Detergent and conditioners are the most expensive part of the wash process and, the one that's ripe for making savings on.

So here's a chart (it's the easiest way to show you) how much you can save on reduced doses of detergent alone.

  Savings

  1 Person  2 Person  3 Person  4 Person 
Average No. Washes  117  234 351  468 
         
Average Annual Cost   £33.14  £66.27  £99.41  £132.54 
         
Savings Using 50% Dose  £16.57 £33.14  £49.70  £66.27 
         
Savings Using 25% Dose   £24.85 £49.70  £74.56  £99.41 

 

Although a simplified version, this chart is based on the average cost of detergent across the leading brands taking into account liquids and powders to give a mean cost per wash then we do some maths and get to the level of saving that you get by reducing the dose.

The average washing machine use is as shown equating to 117 washes per year, per person and the average cost per load for detergent circa mid-2013 is 28 pence.

Whilst we would probably spend the savings on beer, because we're like that and we like beer, we're sure that you can find better things to spend the savings on than soap powder.

  Experimentation Is Key

Most detergent packing has a recommended dose on it for soft, medium and hard water and, just as they say, you have to adjust the dose depending on your water hardness.

Here in Central Scotland, we have very soft water and we can easily live with a 25% dose and sometimes even less for clothing that isn't truly dirty. We found that using more caused issues with excessive foaming when we were testing on a Beko machine and an ISE 1606 and W256. The W256 used less, about 20% dose because it was still more efficient than the other two.

For heavily soiled or hot cotton washes for towels and bedding we increased the dose to a little under 50% and the results were absolutely fine. We think we could have gotten away with less but felt it better to get improved wash results given the higher wash temperature and that the laundry would be more dirty.

Importantly however, we didn't test on quick washes as they are not real washes!

A map showing the water hardness across the UKIn some areas, notably some parts around Manchester, where the water is incredibly soft many users have found that they have to use about 10% of the recommended dose or they can have issues with overfoaming.

In high water hardness areas like London the reverse is true and the saving that you can make is lessened as you need the component in the detergent called builders in greater quantity to combat the chalk in the water that causes limescale and to still retain the cleaning performance.

The dose that you need to use will vary depending on the hardness of the water in your area, the type of laundry that you are cleaning and the level of soiling in them. So, you need to experiment to get the balance right just for you. Refer to the map for a rough guide but even within these broad strokes water hardness can alter, it is only a guide.

On most modern high efficiency washing machines though, the stock advice from the engineers is to dial back the dose to at least 50% of recommendation and take it from there on a trial and error basis.

Try it and see what you get as a result, the worst that can happen is that you need to rewash the load but it could save you a considerable amount of cash. Can you afford to ignore the possibility?

  Problems We See

As field engineers we see loads of problems that are user generated and, we do mean loads.

Sure we could come out and charge you to give you advice and tell you this but, really, that's not our way of doing things. We repair problems with the machines themselves and we can repair faults with no problem normally. Something breaks, we fix it.

What we cannot repair are use issues, all we can do is advise people as best we can. Whether people want to believe us or not is not our call.

Overfoaming in washing machines are two that we see on a fairly regular basis and can cause a myriad of issues from leaks to direct damage to your washing machine. 

We would rather see our customers not wasting money where there is no need to do so and, that includes paying us to come to your home and tell you this stuff. We would much prefer to be repairing broken machines.

There is loads of advice on this site about how to get the best from your washing machine and detergents, you just need to take a little time to learn a bit about them. 

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