When you purchase a kitchen appliance, you are investing in an important aspect of your home. You are hoping, of course, that the investment will be worth it – you want to have a stylish, efficient, working appliance for many years to come. Learning how to clean and maintain your appliance properly will help ensure that you won't be disappointed.

All kitchen appliances come with user manuals, and although your first impulse might be to stuff the manual in a drawer or to deposit it in the recycle bin, it's a good idea to take the time to read it. At least review the essential points about cleaning and maintaining your new item. Every appliance, manufacturer and material has different requirements, and the more versed you are in proper care and maintenance, the more likely it is you will be satisfied with the longevity and operation of your appliance.

The following steps cover the basics of kitchen appliance maintenance, regardless of brand or special features:

Refrigerator: Your refrigerator was a major purchase, and you'll want to be sure that it lasts and works properly. Taking the right steps to maintain your refrigerator will not only keep it clean and eliminate odors, it will increase its energy efficiency as well. Be sure to do the following on a regular basis:

  • Clean the condenser coils, which are usually located at the bottom of, or behind, the refrigerator. Dust on the condenser coils force your refrigerator to work harder, and decrease its efficiency. Use a vacuum or broom to remove dust from the coils at least every three months (it's a good idea to do this monthly if you have pets). If you're unsure where to find the coils on your appliance and you've misplaced the user manual, call Atherton Appliance & Kitchens or BSC Culinary. We should be able to determine the location of the coils based on the model and your description.
  • Most refrigerators have a drain hole and drip pan to remove condensation, and it's important to drain and clean these on a regular basis. Your owner's manual will include instructions for removing food particles and mineral deposits from the drain hole and for scrubbing out the drain pan.
  • Gaskets on the refrigerator and freezer doors seal cool air in and keep warm air out. Check them periodically for any spots that appear to be cracked or otherwise damaged. One good test is to shut a dollar bill in the door, and see if you can pull it out easily (the seal should create resistance). You can clean the gaskets with an all-purpose cleaner and then wipe it dry. Replace any damaged gaskets.
  • Change the water filter. If your refrigerator has an icemaker or water dispenser, it is likely that it also has a water filter that should be changed on a regular basis. Check your owner's manual for instructions on how, and how often, to replace your filter – and again, call our staff if you have difficulty finding directions.
  • One thing many homeowners forget to do is to make sure their refrigerators are level. A refrigerator that is not level might not close as tightly as it should, potentially endangering stored foods and decreasing energy efficiency. You can use a carpenter's level to check if your refrigerator is level.

Stovetop, Range, and Oven: There are a wide variety of kitchen stovetops, ranges, and ovens on the market, and each requires its own steps for cleaning and maintenance. One oven might be self-cleaning, and another might not. Some stovetops require the use of specialized cleaning solutions. Electric stovetops require different maintenance steps than gas stovetops. Check your user manual to determine the best way to clean and maintain the range, oven, or stovetop that you purchased.

One basic tip that applies to any stovetop is to clean it after every use. Dirt and oils can build up after cooking, and if they're not cleaned off properly can affect not only the appearance but also the operation of your appliance. Because commercial oven cleaners are highly toxic, eHow.com offers tips for cleaning your oven with baking soda.

Microwave Oven: Many homeowners do it – they wipe down the outside of their microwave ovens without addressing the cooked-in stains that are building up inside. Be sure to remove the glass tray from inside your microwave on a regular basis and to wash it by hand or in your dishwasher. Wipe the interior of the oven with a mild all-purpose cleaner. If dirt is stubborn, MicrowaveHeaven.com offers tips on how to use lemon, soap, or vinegar to perform a thorough cleaning.

Dishwasher: You might think your dishwasher does a pretty good job of cleaning itself every time you use it. In fact, your dishwasher can benefit from regular cleaning, much like any other appliance. Wisebread.com offers basic instructions for cleaning the seals and drains and then using baking soda and vinegar to remove debris and grease and to sanitize the appliance.

Coffeemaker: Cleaning your coffeemaker regularly protects the appliance and safeguards the flavor of your favorite morning beverage. HowtoCleanThings.com notes that cleaning your coffee maker is not rocket science, but it is a task you should perform on a regular basis. If you haven't picked up on the handiness of vinegar yet, you will when you realize that it's really all you need in order to keep your coffee maker clean and functional. Check out the site to review the basic steps.

We've covered the major kitchen appliances in this post, but if you have smaller kitchen appliances, check the user manuals for care and maintenance instructions. Regular maintenance of all your kitchen appliances will keep your kitchen operating efficiently and your food and beverages tasting their best.