The majority of Brits don’t regularly clean their home appliances, with washing machines, ovens and dishwashers likely to be the least-cleaned, a new survey by AppliancesDirect.co.uk has revealed. Many of us seem to be lacking in hygiene when it comes to cleaning these products. Some 71% of the 1,015 UK adults surveyed admitted they don’t regularly clean their home appliances, with washing machines only cleaned once a year on average.
Worryingly, the survey also reveals that nearly a quarter of Brits have replaced their appliances more frequently as a result of lack of cleaning. On the lookout for a new appliance? Go to our Best Buy washing machines.
The least-cleaned appliances in the home
After washing machines, the survey indicates that ovens and dishwashers are the least-cleaned appliances, with the average person cleaning them just two and three times per year respectively.
Fridges and microwaves tend to be cleaned slightly more often, with the average Brit cleaning them eight and 21 times per year respectively. The survey reveals some questionable cleaning habits, but the thought of cleaning your appliances needn’t be something that fills you with fear – as our tips below show.
Clean your washing machine in four simple steps
Don’t put up with a putrid pong coming from your washing machine – follow these four easy steps:
- Run a regular service wash – Washing at 40?C or less is a great way to save money on energy bills and is better for the environment. But the lower temperatures mean mould and bacteria can build up, especially if you use liquid detergents, rather than washing powder.
A service wash is a hot wash run when the machine is empty, ideally performed once a month. This will help kill the build-up of bacteria and should help to stop smells.
- Clean the rubber seal – Festering mould and bacteria in the rubber seal around the door hole can also be a source of smells, so cleaning it regularly can help prevent this.
- Wash the detergent draw and lint filter – Watch our handy videos on cleaning the detergent drawer and strange noises in your washing machine to help you with this bit.
- Leave the door open and drawer open – A simple, but effective way to let air in after your wash and help combat mouldy smells.
If you shy away from cleaning your oven, it may be worth buying an oven that cleans itself. Ovens with self-cleaning catalytic liners are increasingly common.
These are rough surfaces inside the oven that are designed to catch, absorb and break down food spills. When the oven is used at 200?C or higher, the food spills simply get burned away. However, some ovens only have liners at the back or on the roof of the oven and the liners don’t clean the shelves for you, so you’ll still need to use some elbow grease.
If you really hate cleaning your oven, you may want to invest in an oven with a pyrolytic cleaning function. This is a superhot cycle designed to reduce any baked-on cooking grime to ash that you can then simply wipe away. These ovens tend to be on the pricier side, but we’ve tested Best Buys ovens with this technology that cost as little as GBP380.
How to clean your dishwasher
A dishwasher cleans your dishes for you, so why would you need to clean it? Well, trapped food debris, blocked spray arms and unpleasant odours – the third most common dishwasher problem reported in our own annual dishwasher reliability survey – are unfortunately all too common. But more often than not, they’re easily fixable with a minimum of effort.
The more often you clean the filter the less unpleasant it is, and running the dishwasher empty and hot every six months is an easy way to help keep your machine running smoothly.
- ^ Best Buy washing machines (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ cleaning the detergent drawer (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ strange noises in your washing machine (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ how to clean a smelly washing machine (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ Best Buys ovens (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ Find out more about self-cleaning ovens (www.which.co.uk)
- ^ how to clean a dishwasher (www.which.co.uk)
Don’t rush into buying a new fridge, freezer or fridge freezer this winter, even if your current model breaks before Christmas or you spot a bargain in the January sales. As well as consulting freezer, fridge freezer or fridge reviews to find the best brand and model, you need to think carefully about the back of the appliance. That’s because our tests reveal that certain refrigerator backing materials can cause an existing fire to rapidly spread.
Watch what happens in just 30 seconds of fire in our video below:
Inadequate refrigeration safety standards
Despite posing a potential fire risk, inadequate safety standards mean that manufacturers can currently sell refrigerators with non-flame-retardant backing. Read more about fridge, freezer and fridge freezer safety. The current British Standard requires refrigerators to pass a ‘glow wire’ test to assess fire resistance.
This test involves putting a hot wire through a sample of the appliance’s backing material and seeing if it catches alight. All fridges, freezers and fridge freezers that you can currently buy pass this test. But you can see in our video above what happened when, instead of the glow wire, we put a naked flame up to the backing material.
Which? refrigeration fire tests
The more stringent fire tests we used for our video form part of a proposed new refrigeration safety standard that’s currently more than 12 months away from being implemented.
We’re calling on manufacturers to implement tougher testing immediately and voluntarily. As our video shows, two separate samples of non-flame-retardant plastic backing set alight after just 10 seconds. To pass the tougher testing, they should be able to withstand an open flame for at least 30 seconds.
We also tested refrigeration backings made of metal and aluminium laminate. Not only did they not catch fire after the 30-second test, but they didn’t ignite after being subjected to an open flame for a full five minutes. We’re currently conducting more fire tests across all refrigeration brands – look out for the results of our investigation next year.
Fridge and freezer safety advice
At Which? we aim to recommend the best products for you to buy.
With this in mind, we continually monitor and vary the assessments that underpin our reviews to take account of changing standards and areas of concern. We’ve already raised concerns about the safety of more than 250 fridges, freezers and fridge freezers currently on sale in the UK. These models have non-flame-retardant plastic backing, which could create a fire risk in people’s homes due to its potential to accelerate the spread of fire.
We no longer recommend you buy a refrigerator with this type of backing. And no product with this backing is eligible for our Which? Best Buy recommendation.
Alex Neill, managing director of Which? home and product services, said: ‘Manufacturers must put consumer safety first and immediately stop making fridges, freezers and fridge freezers to a standard that they know is clearly deficient and could potentially be putting people’s lives at risk.’
What about the fridge freezer, fridge or freezer I already own?
If you already own one of these models and are not planning to buy a new one, it’s worth bearing in mind that refrigerator fires are rare. Our July 2015 research into government fire data found that only 7% of fires caused by faulty appliances were caused by fridge freezers, fridges or freezers. And the material used in the backing allows an existing fire to spread – it isn’t the cause of fire itself.
Broken product safety system
As well as petitioning manufacturers over refrigeration safety, we’re calling on the government to urgently set up a new national product safety regulator to take responsibility for ensuring manufacturers keep households safe and get dangerous products out of people’s homes quickly before there’s further tragedy or loss of life.
Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which? said: ‘The product safety system isn’t fit for purpose, and its over-reliance on a local approach to a national problem poses grave risks to consumers.
‘The government must now take urgent action and create a new national body that has all of the tools it needs to get unsafe products out of people’s homes.’
Roughly 4.4m tonnes of the food wasted in the UK annually is avoidable, and 2m tonnes of this is as a result of food not being used in time. A third of this is because of confusion around the existing date labels, according to new research by sustainability organisation WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme). Many people are unsure about the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ labels and how to best store their food, which can lead to food being unnecessarily thrown away.
According to WRAP, its recommended changes to labels could help cut around 350,000 tonnes of food waste a year by 2025. It could also save shoppers around GBP1bn a year. Your fridge is also an important factor in keeping your food fresh – if it’s slow to chill, or doesn’t keep a constant temperature, your food won’t keep as long.
‘Use by’, ‘best before’ and ‘display until’ labels explained
Generally, a ‘use by’ date is about safety. It’s found on food that could be harmful if eaten beyond this date, such as fresh meat, fresh fish and packed salads. ‘Best before’ dates, on the other hand, are about quality.
They’re found on longer-life food, such as cereals, bread and canned foods. While the food may not be at its best quality after this date, it’s not unsafe to eat. However, there have been some cases where a ‘use by’ date has been used, such as on hard cheeses and pasteurised juices, even though eating the food beyond the date is safe.
Under new guidance set out by WRAP, these products, as well as others where there is no safety issue, will now carry a ‘best before’ date instead. While ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates are required by law, ‘display until’ labels are not. They are often used by shops to help staff know when to keep food on the shelves until, and to rotate stock, so that food with imminent dates are stacked to the front.
New food labelling
To help clear up confusion, WRAP has recommended that manufacturers and retailers simplify date labels by getting rid of the ‘display until’ date.
In addition, it’s suggesting that people are given more time to consume a product once it has been opened. It’s also encouraging the use of the ‘snowflake’ symbol (above), to highlight which products can be frozen, alongside instructions on when to freeze. Lastly, a new ‘little blue fridge’ logo has been introduced to signpost which foods should be chilled, or when storing in the fridge is beneficial to prolonging a item’s life.
Food storage: what to do
Another major cause of food waste is food not being stored correctly. Storing food in the fridge can add an average of three days to its life and save households money by cutting waste. As well as following the correct advice on your food, it’s important that you keep your:
- fridge temperature between 0?C and 5?C
- your freezer between -18?C and -20?C.
Food should also be stored on the correct shelves.
For example, higher shelves in your fridge and shelves in the door will be a higher temperature than lower shelves. Therefore, it’s better to store:
- fresh meat and fish on the lower shelf;
- condiments on the top shelf;
- dairy, leftovers and ready-to-eat foods in the middle.
As part of our thorough fridge freezer testing, we scrutinise the time each appliance takes to chill and freeze, as well as whether the thermostats are accurate. We’ve found that some appliances chill faster than others and are therefore better at keeping your food fresh and retaining nutrients, and others which do a poor job at cooling your food.