Low-Maintenance Appliances: Small Appliances

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In a way, small appliances are very low maintenance because when one of them breaks, which is often and soon, we simply throw it away and buy a new one. Thus we pass on maintenance to public officials who must figure out what to do with the junk we so wantonly toss away in the garbage. I have an acquaintance who loves to fix things, and he says just about every appliance is fixable if you can get the new part from the manufacturer. This takes time. Manufacturers would much rather you lose patience and buy a new one.

To avoid fixing, I am tempted to say never buy an appliance priced at $19.95, or for that matter $29.95. But that would not be totally true, and besides we will have these appliances whether we want them or not for the same reason men have closets full of ties. Small, cheap appliances make such nice Christmas gifts. But given a choice, it is always better to pay a little more rather than a little less.

Better than that, whenever possible, investigate manually operated appliances. Our manually operated ice cream maker is much more satisfactory in our estimation than the electric one we used to use. A hand- cranked pasta maker we bought last year suits us much better than an electric one. Our hand-operated Victoria Strainer (from Vitantonio Manufacturing Company, 34355 Vokes Drive, Eastlake, OH 44094) is perfect for preparing apples for sauce, tomatoes for juice and catsup, baby foods, etc. Our hand-cranked flour mill and hand-cranked meat grinder are perfect for a normal kitchen’s needs. These tools don’t suddenly quit working and are usually easy enough to fix if something does break.

Vacuum Cleaners

Vacuum cleaners can be high maintenance if you try to run them when the bag is full of dirt, or mercy, without the screen that keeps dirt from being sucked into the motor. A high-priced Electrolux will generally be a better buy than a cheap (fill in the manufacturer of your choice). But for real low maintenance, a central cleaning system is best. The suction motor is much more powerful, the lightweight hose and attachments easier to handle, and cleaning becomes a very quiet job for once. I thought surely the pipes carrying away the dirt would get plugged, but after observing central cleaning in a friend’s house for a good many years, this evidently doesn’t happen. Another advantage is that a central cleaning system does not exhaust air right back into the room like a conventional vacuum does, blowing nearly as much dust into the air as it sucks up.


The ports in steam irons get plugged in time, more so if you are using well water, even if it’s softened. It will pay anyone to catch a little rainwater or save the water from a dehumidifier to use in steam irons to lengthen the time before the ports become plugged. A wire will unplug the holes somewhat. A solution of half vinegar and half water allowed to steam away is supposed to clean out mineral buildup, but doesn’t always work. Build up on the bottom of the iron, from spray-on starches, for instance, can be removed by rubbing gently with a nonabrasive cleanser like Bon Ami. Do not use regular scouring powder; it will scratch the bottom.


Don’t forget to pull the crumb pan out of your toaster once in a blue moon and dump it. And remember Logsdon’s Law of Small Appliance Repair: When it doesn’t work, check the electric plug and cord first. Invariably appliances that you plug in and out frequently develop loose connections or breaks in the wire.

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