In the UK, we expect to replace our washing machine every seven years, our fridge freezer every eight years, and our vacuum cleaner every five and a half years, according to data from Wrap.
But the cost of replacing our appliances this often soon adds up. In our most GHI recent tests, even our budget buy washing machine cost £300, while our top budget vacuum cleaner cost £140 and our budget-friendly fridge freezer cost £240. So it stands to reason that we could make our money go much further by making our appliances last longer.
Kind to your wallet, kind to the environment
What we may be less aware of, though, is that the longer our appliances last, the more we can also reduce the hidden environmental impact of our white goods and household electricals. This includes the resources and energy used, as well as the pollution and greenhouse gases produced, in their manufacture and distribution, plus the processing required to salvage recyclable parts and materials when they do finally give up the ghost.
‘The more resources and energy that are needed to produce a product, the longer it should be used,’ a spokesperson from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) explains. ‘Even taking into account the improvements in the efficiency of new products coming on to the market, our research shows that we’d have to use products for longer than we are, if we want to compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions linked to their manufacture and use.’
Here are four ways you can make your appliances last longer to save yourself some cash and do your bit for the environment at the same time.
1. Read the instruction manual
It may sound boring, but it’s true! The user manual will help you make sure you’re using your appliance correctly and will also give pointers on maintaining it. Sticking to this maintenance guidance can help make appliances last longer. If you’ve lost the manual, check the manufacturer’s website for a replacement, or search the espares manual catalogue.
2. Empty filters regularly
The filter of your washing machine should be cleaned once every six months to remove gunk, stray pennies and other bits and bobs that have escaped over time from unemptied pockets. The filter is usually tucked away behind a panel at the base of your washing machine.
The filter of your tumble dryer, on the other hand, should be emptied after every use. This helps ensure the dryer isn’t working harder than it needs to and using more power as a result.
3. Allow enough space for ventilation
For freestanding fridges and fridge freezers, leave at least 2cm of extra space above and behind the appliance. This allows for better ventilation, which means it’s easier for the appliance to do its job and use energy efficiently.
‘Ensuring dust, lint and any other obstructions are removed from behind your fridge and freezer will ensure that ventilation openings remain unblocked and air can circulate freely,’ explains Stephen Curtler, Product Safety Manager at the Electrical Safety First. This can also help prevent electrical fires.
4. Keep your appliances sparkling
‘Keep them clean!’ urges Sian Lewis from the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances.‘Washing machines, dryers, dishwashers and fridges all work better and last longer when limescale, lint and food residues are cleared.’
Running your washing machine on a 60C cycle (or hotter) once a month with no laundry or detergent will help keep mould and bacteria at bay. Using a washing machine cleaner such as Dr Beckman Service-It Deep Clean will also help.
But to rid your machine of limescale you’ll need to run it empty on a normal wash cycle using a large cup of distilled white vinegar or lemon juice in place of laundry detergent. These thrifty limescale-busters will also descale your dishwasher – just add a cup of either one to the floor of the machine before running it empty on a normal cycle. Distilled white vinegar will also work wonders on a limescale-coated kettle – leave a solution of half water, half vinegar to do its magic, empty, then boil and discard a kettle-full of fresh water.