You should empty the dust-bag religiously, because when it is too full, the motor is working against a back-pressure. Whenever you hear a strange noise in the vacuum cleaner, you should snap the switch, turn it over, open it and see what has been picked up which the impeller has not been able to digest. In short, treat the machine as you would a sewing-machine, and not as you would treat a steam-shovel.
For a few dollars you can have the brushes and bearings looked over by a competent man once a year. It is worth the expenditure.
Washing machines are pretty sturdy pieces of equipment. We believe that the manufacturers of them realize that they will probably be overloaded, and therefore make due allowances for it, but in spite of that the four-pound washer usually gets a six pound charge, and if the owner has been warned not to attempt to wash small rugs in the machine, they will try it anyhow. Washing machines are usually built along the same pattern; a revolving disc swirls the contents of a hopper or receptacle, and presents in a few moments the same effect that might be had after an hour's labor over a scrubbing-board. The heart of all washing machines is the motor, and as a rule it requires lubricating at regular intervals. The average owner of a washing machine will read with care the directions about the amount of soap-powder to add to the water, and will be careful about the temperature of the water, but will give scant attention to the directions for the care of the working parts. Our first advice is to get out the pamphlet which came with the machine and read it thoroughly. If you have failed to lubricate when and where the directions direct, do it immediately. If there is any odor of overheating, or any unusual vibration in the machine, call for the representative of the manufacturer. Do not attempt to make washing machine adjustments yourself.
Electric toasters, as anyone can see, toast bread because a series of flat wires glow red-hot and brown the bread which is placed near them. Outside of possible trouble with the cord, the only trouble developed with a toaster is about the same as that developed in the electric iron; namely that the ribbon burns through and the current is cut. Most toasters are made so that new heating surfaces are available, and can be put in place without any difficulty. It is also possible to re-connect the burnt-out ends in the same manner as recommended for the electric irons, but the cost of new plates is so small that we do not recommend it. The average toasting surface should last for several years, so there is little to be gained by attempting to repair it.
The time-honored carpet-sweeper is still a very efficient and handy machine to have around the house. Many people prefer it to the vacuum cleaner because it has a gentle action on expensive rugs or carpets, and does not wear them out as rapidly as some types of vacuum machines. The action of a carpet-sweeper is simplicity itself. The small rubber-tired wheels which roll across the floor, are geared to two small sweepers which brush up the dirt and whirl it into two long pockets. The reason that most people think that their carpet-sweeper is worn out, is that it needs a good cleaning. We would wager that if you were able to get your hands on a hundred carpet-sweepers at this moment, you would find that the small sweepers were practically jammed with pieces of twine, lint, hair and strings, until their effectiveness as sweepers was completely gone. We would make another wager to the effect that the dust pockets were so filled as to prevent another ounce being taken in. You do not have to oil, adjust, or overhaul carpet-sweepers; simply clean out the brushes and empty the pockets.
All of the repair parts for the average small auxiliary household devices and machines are easy to get today. Hardware and specialty shops are loaded with switches, plugs, connections and sockets. Manufacturers are catching up with the demand. Never discard any piece of auxiliary equipment until you are sure that it cannot be repaired, because as a rule it is the frame which costs the money, and not the parts.
In practically every house and apartment today, you will find an electric refrigerator or a mechanical refrigerator which operates by a gas flame. It might be said at the start, that repairs to refrigerators cannot be undertaken by anyone other than a mechanic skilled in that kind of work. We must confess that although we fancy ourselves as more or less of a good mechanic, we noticed that our own refrigerator continued to start and stop frequently, and failed to freeze the ice-cubes properly. We removed the head of the box, exposed the mechanism, and tried our best to find the difficulty, without any success whatever. Motor, starter, wiring, and everything else seemed in good shape. When the refrigerator man took over, he showed us that there was a cooling-plate composed of fine baffles through which air flowed to cool the motor, and it was completely filled with dust so that it was solid. The motor would run for a few minutes, heat up, and stop. As soon as it cooled, it would start again. We missed the cooling-plate because it was inside a metal duct, and unless you were thoroughly acquainted with the design of the machine, you would never find it.
We have always believed that the best instructions and advice on keeping anything in repair, is the kind of advice which shows how to avoid the necessity of making any repairs, so we had quite a talk with the refrigerator mechanic. Now we know that ninety percent of the trouble with refrigerators comes from what might be called "careless treatment." The average refrigerator frosts-up too fast and too often; therefore the ice-cube trays stick in the box, and have to be yanked at, tugged at, hammered and strained, in order to remove them. As a result the fine tubes are frequently broken, the ice-chest warped out of shape so that the small door will not close tightly, and the machine forced to work overtime to accomplish what it should be able to do with ease. Heavy frosting comes from having too much moisture in the refrigerator. In other words, open dishes or liquids and wet shelves. If the refrigerator is kept dry, and no exposed liquids kept in it, it will not frost-up rapidly. You should never attempt to defrost a box by chipping away the ice. Disconnect the machine, open the door, and the refrigerator will defrost itself in an hour. Still another cause of difficulty is the fact that the rubber gasket around the door becomes flattened out and the box is not tight. You can see this at a glance, and you can replace the gasket. As a rule they are fastened inside the door edge with a removable molding.
Mangles which are used for ironing, and incidentally becoming more popular in these servantless days, are what we usually call heavy-duty machines. They are composed of two rollers, one free-wheeling (revolving by itself), the other motor-driven. The clothing or linen to be ironed, is started between the rollers and drawn through, coming out in back of the rollers, pressed. There is an adjustment on the rollers which presses them closer together or allows more space between them. Invariably, the operator will try to put through material which is too heavy for the adjustment, and thus throw too heavy a load on the motor. There are other types of mangle, composed of a revolving roller, heavily padded, and a pressing-plate which becomes very hot and which comes down in contact with the roller. The material to be pressed is squeezed between the two and thus ironed. This type of mangle can give a hard or a soft press by means of a foot-operated pedal, and these particular machines are practically fool-proof. The motors are slow-speed affairs and seldom require any attention whatever.
There are probably a hundred more small, handoperated, mechanical gadgets used in the average house. You will find meat-grinders, mixers, egg-beaters, fancy can-openers and pressure cookers. Most of them are simple affairs and more or less inexpensive. The electrically operated or motor-driven gadgets are the ones which you want to watch and care for, because they cost money. There will always be a small orifice in a motor-driven gadget, which will say "OIL." Don't continue to use any piece of equipment while it is whining and crying for lubrication. A fifteen-cent can of light oil will take care of everything you have in the house for the next two years.