Do I need to prepare long-idle appliances before using?
August 28, 2016 2:09 PM   Subscribe

I just bought a house that has been vacant for at least three months. Are the appliances (dishwasher/washing machine) ready to use immediately?

I am specifically concerned about the washing machine and dishwasher, because of water sitting in hoses or whatever. Should I just run them empty once? with or without soap?

If I need to do any prep work to the (electric) stove/oven or dryer, please let me know that, too.

The house was clean and closed up tight. They seem to have painted any maybe done other things specifically for the sale, so I really don't know how long they've been out. I doubt that anything was frozen last winter or something like that.

Thanks for your help on my adventure into homeownership!
posted by MsDaniB to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I had a similar situation recently. I just ran them once through empty, but with soap/detergant to help clean out any nasties in there.

I am still alive to tell you about it.

I also had to run bit of water down the drains and toilets to break up any gunk that dried up.
posted by chillmost at 2:20 PM on August 28, 2016

Yes, wash all the things. I recommend getting actual dishwasher and washing machine cleaner pods, doing one load with those and hot water, then another load with vinegar, just to really give you a clean slate. Same with the stove, oven, microwave, and fridge if those apply to you. Starting fresh is just a good thing to do before using appliances that have once belonged to others. Also, replace the toilet seats and clean all toilets and sinks well, too. It's really worth it, even if the house was cleaned and sealed up tight. Fresh fresh fresh everything.
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:21 PM on August 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My primary concern, more than being dirty, would be malfunction. So yes, run empty, and use cleaner if you want, but *stay close* as well, so you're actually listening to the machines go through all their cycles and can stop/investigate any weird noises or smells, and watch for leaks.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:28 PM on August 28, 2016 [9 favorites]

I would check the hoses and seals (around the dishwasher and refrig) to see if they dried out and cracked, but otherwise, it should work well. I had a cabin upstate that used to sit for up to three or four months unused. Not a worry.
posted by AugustWest at 3:18 PM on August 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Make sure that the taps to the appliances have been turned on before you use them.

When I bought my place I wasn't told that the ones for the dishwasher weren't on and I burned out the motor.
posted by brujita at 3:37 PM on August 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'd run them all once with soap on the hottest setting.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:19 PM on August 28, 2016

If you have a descaler or disinfectant for your appliances, use that. Otherwise yeah, the hottest hot wash you can set, and a decent tumble dry time.
posted by tinkletown at 4:27 PM on August 28, 2016

You might get a "is that a fire?" smell from when you use any electric heating elements for the first time, but it will go away. It's from dust buildup. 3 months isn't that long in this context, though.
posted by ctmf at 4:43 PM on August 28, 2016

Best answer: 3 months is nothing as far as rubber seals go. However before you start the dishwasher pour a couple cups of water into it. Some dishwashers have ceramic seals that can burn up if the motor runs when the seal isn't wet. Several months sitting can allow the water that normal submerges the seal to evaporate.
posted by Mitheral at 4:50 PM on August 28, 2016 [7 favorites]

FYI, if your fridge has an icemaker, there's usually an extremely tiny stopcock on the water line that leads to fridge. Small enough that you could miss it easily if you didn't know what to look for.
posted by Ferreous at 6:09 PM on August 28, 2016

So, weird thing that happened to me: the drain pipe on the HVAC unit clogged up between the time my home was lived in by the last owners and when I moved in. So the first real hot episode we had, my HVAC switched itself off because the of the flood switch . . lots of water, no drainage, no AC.

So run your AC as if you live there for a few days (for me that means keeping the interior ~72) to make sure that hose / pipe isn't full of gunk.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:52 PM on August 28, 2016

Response by poster: You have assuaged my concerns and I will follow all your instructions. (Thank you for not contradicting each other so I can do that!) I'll do the washing machine tonight and dishwasher tomorrow (so I can listen carefully to each and stay close by.)

I appreciate your help. I have never done this before and despite having never really ruined any property before, I worry that I'll accidentally burn the house down around me. (And I am stricken with what my little sister called "toilet-overflowbia," but instead of running out of the bathroom, I repeatedly check to make sure it's not going to flood me.)

Anyway, thanks! I'll close the question after I've finished with both appliances, in case there is anything to add.
posted by MsDaniB at 5:56 PM on August 29, 2016

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