A modern kitchen with stainless steel appliances

9 Ways You May Be Abusing Your Appliances

Is it possible that without knowing it, you’re making damaging even dangerous mistakes with your household appliances? As I have been researching how to take care of our new kitchen appliances so they will last longer, I’m learning about the most common appliance abuse that can lead to expensive repairs and even a shortened lifespan.


A modern kitchen with stainless steel appliances

It’s true that these days household appliances just aren’t made to last for decades the way refrigerators, ranges, and other household appliances lasted back in our grandparents’ day. “Eight to ten years,” is what the salesman told us is what we could expect from our new refrigerator. He went on, “This machine is designed to stand up to years of use and ordinary wear and tear—assuming you don’t abuse it.”

Let’s dig in to uncover the most common appliance abuse.


Washing items with labels

It seems logical to remove paper labels glued to jars and bottles by running them through the dishwasher. But the paper and glue will totally clog the filter and the pump. This can lead to very costly repairs and a shortened life.

Filthy filter

Dishwashers have filters that catch bits of solid debris to keep them from recirculating onto plates, pans, silverware after the water and detergent have washed them away. A dishwasher that does not have a self-cleaning filter (read the manual) must be cleaned at least once a month. Gel type automatic dishwasher detergents are notorious for creating a build-up of gooey slime on the filter, which can lead to all kinds of expensive trouble. Clean the filter monthly without fail, and you’ll head off trouble down the line.


Keeping fridge too full

Cramming too much food in the fridge cuts down on air circulation, which makes it impossible for the appliance to keep food cool enough. That creates a perfect environment for mold to build up. And it makes the motor work overtime which can lead to excessive wear and tear and an untimely fail. Like when you’re on vacation or holiday weekend.

Not cleaning condenser

The condenser coils of your refrigerator probably aren’t the first spot in your house you think to clean regularly, but they need to be. Failure to do so is just asking for trouble. If the condenser gets clogged, it will have to work harder, using more electricity and wearing on the appliance. Clean the condenser about every six months.

Vacuum Cleaner

Dirtbag too full

It’s a pain to stop and dump out the vacuum cleaner bag before, after, or during your vacuuming, but you should. Let the bag or dust cup get too full, and your vacuum will strain to pick up debris. All that strain will certainly damage the machine and shorten its usable life. Always clean out the bag after every use and keep an eye on its level while using it to avoid appliance abuse.

Lamps, lights

Wrong size lightbulbs

Need more light? Just put in a higher watt lightbulb, right? Wrong! Lamps or light sockets have a wattage limit that tells you the size bulb you can use and still be operating safely. If you use a light bulb with a wattage that’s too high, it will use more power and get hotter, potentially overheating or causing a fire. Before screwing in a light bulb, be sure to check for the correct wattage.

Small appliances

Leaving toaster plugged in

This is one kitchen appliance you should always unplug when not in use. Sometimes, according to ConsumerAffairs, toasters can catch fire with no warning. So don’t leave it alone while it’s in use and always unplug your toaster when you’re not using it. If your toaster ever does flare up, unplug it immediately.

Never descaling a coffee maker

Limescale is a hard white substance consisting of calcium carbonate, deposited by water on the inside of pipes. It’s a hard substance that when allowed to build up over time, can cause a machine to fail long before it might have if that limescale had been removed. Read your machine’s manual then follow the routine de-scaling protocol.

Garbage disposal

The wrong stuff

Garbage disposals are designed to take a lot of abuse, but nowhere near what some people put them through. As magical as they seem, garbage disposals do have their limits. If used improperly, you can do a lot of expensive damage to your plumbing. All of us know that certain things don’t belong in a garbage disposal, but it’s surprisingly hard to get a straight answer about what exactly those things are.

For sure, never put any non-food items into a garbage disposal—not glass, metal, or even paper. Peel off stickers and labels from produce or new kitchen gadgets and throw them in the garbage. Never stringy or tough stuff— fruit pits, bones, raw meat, and fruit or nutshells simply will not break down well enough to allow the disposal to do its job. No large quantities of grease or oil.

According to our friends over at This Old House, just because your disposal can grind something doesn’t mean it should. Eggshells are a great example of this: most disposals will eventually break them down, but they pose more danger to your pipes than to the disposal itself. The shards don’t dissolve in water, so they’re prone to building up over time and even clogging your pipes.

The same holds true for coffee grounds. While coffee grounds do not cause any damage to the disposal—actually, they are a good material to grind to sharpen and clean the grinding components—they can cause really bad clogs in the pipeline, which is why coffee grounds are should not be thrown down a disposal. They can collect on the floor of pipes, eventually stopping the flow of water altogether.

Anything that swells and absorbs water—rice, pasta, grains, potato peels, and flour—is far too risky to place in a disposal. These materials can blow up like a balloon in the drain and pipes, causing one major-league appliance abuse if not a failure.


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8 replies
  1. Lillian Last says:

    could you tell me how can I find out what the correct wattage is for the lightbulbs to use. Where in the house do I locate this information?
    I bought a new home and I have been hearing a very strange buzzing sound. I realize it is coming from the light bulbs. The builders installed some strange energy efficient ones, and every time I turn on the lights I hear the buzzing. And it is hurting my ears!!! I need to switch them out! It is driving me bonkers! My ears hurt and I am beginning to have headaches!

  2. Emily Booth says:

    Our previous mayor actually said that the garbage disposal was the worst thing for pipes! I rarely use mine.

    The mother board of my refrigerator broke down. Instead of generating cold, the refrigerator was generating heat. Everything had to be thrown out. The refrigerator was 12 years old. I should’ve called my heating guy. I wasn’t thinking and went to the internet. The cost for repairs wasn’t worth it. I bought a new fridge.

    Last, the dishwasher. Water began to puddle in front of it. There were lemon seeds in the corners of the gasket. Removing them helped but it continued to leak. It took some online research & a couple of cleanings using a dishwasher cleaner but this worked. Soap built up along the gaskets.

    The shorter life span of appliances, like the refrigerator and washing machine, means setting aside $$ for replacement. The dishwasher seems to have a long life span.

  3. Maggie says:

    I think a garbage disposal is a waste of money and space. I last owned a garbage disposal about 30 years ago. I knew about the coffee grounds, fibrous matter, etc. But I put a very small amount of carrot peelings through mine and clogged it. I asked my plumber about it, and he ran off the expanded list of all the things a garbage disposal won’t dispose. I said, “What CAN I put down my disposal?” He grinned and said, “Well, ice cubes are OK.” I got rid of it soon after and never looked back. I compost most food waste now. One mystery to me: my parents had a garbage disposal, and they put EVERYTHING through it: coffee grounds every single day, banana peels, celery stubs, watermelon rinds. I think that disposal could have ground up a chair! It never caused a bit of trouble. What changed?

  4. Elle says:

    I currently live in a house without a garbage disposal but am considering moving. With all the things that SHOULDN’T be put down the garbsge disposal, I’m not sure including one in a new house is worth it. What are they actually good for if used correctly? Just wondering.


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