Published: Dec 03, 2011 3:40 AM EST
Updated: Dec 03, 2011 10:04 PM EST

FORT MYERS, Fla. - When you're cleaning up your kitchen after those holiday dinners, you might want to be careful how to dispose the leftovers. Overloaded garbage disposals, overused dishwashers, and malfunctioning ovens are three common headaches that can arise.

Things like potato peels and nuts can be your sink's worst enemy. Home-Tech in Fort Myers gave us a few tips on what you should and should not wash down the drain.

"Small bones are okay, as long as they are very small," Mike Hendershott of Home-Tech said. "They'll actually help sharpen the blades. Large bones, you do not want to put in there. You don't want to put grease in there, and you don't want to put any nuts."

They suggest storing any leftover grease in a jar before disposing of it. And to get rid of any odors, try dropping citrus peels and ice in your disposal.

Below is a list of tips from Home-Tech, appliance by appliance:


Garbage Disposals

 
      Turn on a medium to strong cold-water flow before you start using the appliance. Continue running the cold water for approximately 15 seconds after grinding has ceased to flush the drain line and the disposer free of food particles.

      Do not put liquid fat down the disposal; put it in a jar in the trash instead.
 
      Small bones can be placed in the disposal and may actually help keep the blades in your grinding chamber sharp, but NEVER put large bones down your disposal.

      Occasionally use a disposer cleaner degreaser to help eliminate grease that may cause unpleasant odors. Check to make sure that the product is authorized by the disposer manufacturer.

      Several times a year, and especially during the holidays, grind up peels from citrus fruits like lemons or oranges. This helps keep the grinding area smelling fresh and the natural acidity helps suppress bacterial growth associated with odors.

      "The most common plumbing breakdown during the holidays is blamed on the garbage disposer. Consider having your kitchen drain line snaked approximately every two years as preventative maintenance," Marino said. "If your food waste disposer is over seven years old, it might be advantageous to consider having it replaced. Contact your Home-Tech technician to discuss the possibility of installing a new one. The money it saves in plugged drain bills may well be worth it."

 
Ovens

        Do not wait until the big cooking day to check your oven temperatures and working condition. Use your oven on at least two weeks before your big cooking day to rule out any irregularities.

        Do not use the self-cleaning cycle on or before a major holiday like Thanksgiving. The oven may overheat and damage a key component such as the fuse or the main control board. Instead of cleaning your oven before you do your holiday cooking, clean it immediately after. Ovens can sometimes get stuck or have problems when they are in cleaning mode. Cleaning your oven after cooking big meals will prevent pre-baking panic and keep your oven cleaner in the long run.

        If your oven temperature is off, the most likely cause is a bad oven sensor. Call your Home-Tech appliance specialist to help walk you through the repair.

        After your oven tells you it is done preheating, let it preheat for another 5 to 7 minutes. This will allow time for the inside walls to heat. By preheating the oven for an extra 5 minutes you will help keep the heat inside the oven nice and even.


Refrigerator

        Check to see that your refrigerator hasn't shifted in the last few months. Give your refrigerator some breathing room by keeping the appliance at least two or three inches away from the wall to ensure ultimate performance.

        Don't panic if your refrigerator doesn't feel as cold as normal during the holiday season. You probably have a fuller load with all the extra meal ingredients and leftovers. It may take up to 24 hours for the temperature to stabilize from the door being open more frequently.

        Check and care for the rubber seals surrounding the inside of your fridge by using mild soap twice a year to help prevent cracked and torn seals. Use your money to test the seals by placing a dollar bill halfway inside the refrigerator door. If the dollar pulls out easily, then you're losing money in more than one way and it may be time to replace the rubber seals

        Dusting off the coil under your refrigerator will help keep it running well. Use a soft broom or brush.

 
Thermostat

        Install a programmable thermostat and set it to lower the temperature at night and whenever the house is unoccupied. Lowering your thermostat by 10 degrees at night can reduce your heating bill by 10 to 20 percent.

        "Make sure your programmable thermostat is installed properly," says Marino. "The thermostat should not be located in an unheated space, a poorly-sealed or seldom-used room, or in direct sunlight near a heat source. The thermostat should be able to sense the average temperature in your home. If it is not in the right place, contact one of our heating and air conditioning professional about having it moved."

        Many thermostats are battery operated. If you have air conditioner problems and turning the breaker switch on and off doesn't work, try changing the batteries.


Dishwasher

        Run the garbage disposal before starting the dishwasher. The dishwasher generally drains into the disposer.

        Run a bit of hot water in your sink before running the dishwasher. You will get cleaner dishes if the water starts hot. You can collect the water you run and use it for watering plants or other purposes. Run the water until what comes out of the tap feels hot.

        Set the thermostat on your water heater to 120F (50C). Water that is cooler than this won't do a good job cleaning. Water that is hotter could scald.

        Load your dishwasher properly, stacking items facing downward and inwards. Check that all the arms can spin freely before running the dishwasher.

        Run full loads to conserve water and energy, but don't pack dishes too tightly. Dishwashers wash dishes by spraying water over them, so the water needs to be able to get to the dishes to clean them. Don't wash containers with labels that could come loose.

        Don't pre-rinse too much. Dishwashers and detergents have both improved. If you haven't tried putting dishes in dirty lately, try it again. You may be pleasantly surprised.