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Appliance repairs can be among the most expensive — and confusing — household tasks a homeowner will face. So it’s no surprise that when Wayne Archer of SearsPartsDirect.com joined home and design writer Jura Koncius on our weekly Home Front chat, we were deluged with questions about weird smells and noises, discontinued parts and machines that simply don’t work.

Archer spent 20 years fixing appliances and now provides DIY help, including troubleshooting videos, online. Here are some common appliance problems posed in the live Q&A, and his advice for solving them. (His answers are edited for length and clarity.)

Washers and dryers

A stinky washing machine: Over time, an odor-causing residue can build up from all the dirt, detergent, fabric softener and water that pass through your front-load or top-load washer. One of the best things you can do to prevent odors is to remove wet clothes as soon as possible when the wash cycle is done. Also, leave your washer door or lid open between loads to dry out. If you have young children who might find the open washer door an invitation to play, make sure to keep the laundry room door closed while airing out the washer. For additional tips, recipes for natural cleaning solutions and links to washing machine cleaning products, check out this Sears PartsDirect article.

Moisture buildup in a dryer drum: Moisture inside the drum could be caused by a broken vent damper on the wall cap where dryer exhaust air blows out of the side of your house. A flapper on that wall cap should close and prevent air from entering your home when the dryer isn’t running. If that damper is broken, replace the wall cap.

A cracked washing machine agitator fin: A cracked agitator fin could throw the washer off balance. Plus it could also rip clothes that get caught on it. We recommend replacing the cracked agitator.

A rattling noise at the end of the washer’s spin cycle: Foreign objects such as coins under the agitator could cause your washer problem. Remove the agitator and check for any foreign items. On older washers the spin bearings could be wearing out and starting to make noise. I recommend having a service technician check your washer if no foreign objects are found under the agitator. The decision to repair or replace would depend on the age of the product and overall shape it is in.

Mold on the front-door seal of a washer: Follow this advice from SearsPartsDirect.com. Empty all garments from the washer. Mix ¾ cup of liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of warm tap water. Wipe the seal area with the solution and let stand for five minutes. Rinse the area thoroughly with plain water. Open the door wide and let the seal air dry.

Dishwashers

A dishwasher that’s not getting dishes clean: Check the holes in the spray arms for hard water deposits that could be blocking water flow. Clean any blocked spray-arm holes using tooth picks or bamboo skewers. If the spray-arm holes are clear or the dishes still don’t get clean after cleaning the spray arms, follow the tips in this video to address other possible dishwasher cleaning issues.

Dirty water at the bottom of a dishwasher: If your dirty water is appearing in the dishwasher at random times, your problem might be from a restriction in your house drain line. This will block the water from going down the drain, causing the house drain water to back up and fill the dishwasher with some dirty water. I recommend checking the dishwasher for dirty water after you run water from other places such as sinks or showers. If water appears then, you will need to have a plumber come over and clean your home drain lines.

Maintaining a dishwasher that gets regular use: Running the cleaning cycle once a month helps get rid of standing water for odors and food particles that collect around the side of the door.

Maintaining a dishwasher you rarely use: Running a load once a month will help keep water seals moist and flush out any water in the pump and hoses.

Microwaves

Repairing an old machine: Repairs for a 10-year-old microwave would most likely be more expensive than buying a new one.

Repainting the inside of a scratched microwave: Touch-up paint is designed only for use on arcs and burn marks up to the size of a quarter. It shouldn’t be used to repaint the entire inside of the microwave. For safety, a service technician should examine the inside of the microwave if it has large scratches. If the technician determines that it’s safe to repaint the inside of the microwave cavity, the technician can apply the paint and then test the microwave for radiation leakage. The microwave leakage test must be conducted before it can be used safely.

Ice makers

A freezer-door dispenser that’s stopped dispensing: Open the freezer door and look into the ice chute from the inside of the freezer door to check for an ice clog. Use a hair dryer on a low setting to defrost ice and clear the clog if you see ice cubes in the chute. If the chute is clear, then a wiring failure or faulty control is likely preventing the ice dispenser door from opening.

For more appliance repair advice, read the full transcript of Archer’s chat.