This appliance can refresh everything from sneakers and dog beds to backpacks and shower curtains.
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Let's face it: If you had to hand-wash or scrub everything, you'd have pruned hands for life. The better way to get all your cleaning done? Head to the laundry room and let the washing machine do as much of the dirty work as possible. Here are several items you can toss right into your machine for a wash right now.

Laundry room with iron
Credit: Matthew Williams

Pillows

Did you know that pillows should be cleaned every three to six months to remove mold, bacteria, and odors? Whether yours is made of natural fibers (like down) or synthetic materials (like polyester), most pillows can be washed in the machine. Pro tip: It's best to use a front-loading washer since pillows tend to float and stay dry in spots in a top-loading machine.

Slipcovers and Cushion Covers

Cotton, linen, denim, chino, and hemp are typically washable, says Patric Richardson, textile expert and author of the book Laundry Love. Follow the label and hang until just damp. Put back on furniture to dry and let wrinkles fall out. If they're mildewed, swish in hot water and oxygen bleach for a few minutes, dry in the sun, wash normally, and air-dry; then repeat the process.

Pet Beds

After all, Fido needs a clean place to sleep at night, too. First, make sure the bedding base cushion is machine-washable. Then, wash both the fabric lining and the cushion in the machine. It's best to wash these two pieces separately from the rest of your load of laundry, unless it's with like colors.

Tote Bags and Backpacks

Whether it's worn from hiking mountains or trekking to and from school, a working backpack needs cleaning. This cleaning technique works best for canvas bags—be sure to check the tag for "machine-washable" and spot-test it first for discoloration. Remember to empty out the pockets, turn it inside out, and remove key chains, patches, pins, and other embellishments. Wash in warm water on a gentle cycle, and lay flat to dry.

Sports Equipment

Shin guards, elbow pads, kneepads—fabric-lined protective gear like this needs a good, thorough washing after game day. Before tossing these items into the wash, close velcro straps and zippers to avoid snagging, and use a lukewarm cycle to prevent disfiguring the structure of the items.

woman tying runnign sneaker on bench
Credit: skynesher / Getty Images

Sneakers

Do you know how to wash sneakers in the washer? To clean up your kicks, pull out the laces and put the shoes in the washer with a few towels (to cushion them from banging against the drum, potentially throwing it off balance and to dull the sound). Wash in cold water and air-dry. You can zip laces into a mesh bag and toss them in, too.

Pro tip: If they're really dirty, give them a quick scrub with a toothbrush dunked in distilled white vinegar and water. Then, air-dry.

Mats and Rugs

The areas near your front door and hallway see the most grime from foot traffic, which makes cleaning the protective mats and rugs you put in these spaces important. These items will have different cleaning specifications depending on the material, but generally, you can clean machine-washable throw rugs and runners with your weekly load of laundry. Aside from sisal and natural weaves, most can go in.

Check the label, then wash in cold water (solo, if very sandy or dirty); air-dry. If it has a rubber backing, don't do this too often, or you can damage it.

healthy older woman stretching on yoga mat
Credit: Getty / Robin Skjoldborg

Yoga Mats

And by mats, we mean those of the yoga variety, too. It's fine to put rubber ones through a cycle with spin to deep-clean them and remove excess water, says Cristie Newhart, dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga. Then air-dry indoors or out of the sun. For other materials, check with the manufacturer.

Shower Curtain

When was the last time you cleaned your shower curtain? Your liner needs a good suds at the start of every season. Wash vinyl, nylon, cotton, hemp, and even plastic ones in warm water. To kill mildew, soak for a few hours first in diluted oxygen bleach, such as OxiClean; check the label for the dosage. Hang back up on the rod to dry.

Stuffed Toys

They get a lot of love from your kids, but stuffed toys look less than lovable when covered in bacteria and grime. While running extra-plush toys through the machine is not recommended, you can toss in soft ones as long as there are no excessive embellishments sewn on the outside or musical machinery inside the stuffing.

Winter Hats and Scarves

Like other items that touch your skin and hair, hats and scarves accumulate body oils that can degrade their fabric. Aim to clean them every three or so wears, like almost everything else in your wardrobe. Richardson advises washing them on a gentle cycle zipped inside (you guessed it) a tight-fitting mesh bag.

table setting with red patterned tablecloth
Credit: The Ingalls

Table Linens

You absolutely can freshen up your beloved table linens in the washing machine. Before you do so, rub a little dish soap into any spots on tablecloths, place mats, or cloth napkins as soon as possible, says Tricia Rose, founder of home-textiles company Rough Linen. Wash in a regular cold-water cycle, then tug to release wrinkles and air-dry, as hot air can set stains.

Microfiber Cloths

Launder them only with other microfiber fabrics, says Jennifer Ahoni, scientific communications manager for fabric-care brands at Procter & Gamble. If you combine them with cotton items, all the lint from the cotton will flock to them like moths to a flame. Shake out excess dirt or dust; wash in warm water.

Pot Holders

Throw them in with other same-color items—unless a mitt has an unusual amount of kitchen grease on it from, say, dipping into the lasagna pan as you took dinner out of the oven. In such an instance, spray it with distilled white vinegar, then rinse and launder as usual.

Comments (4)

Martha Stewart Member
April 4, 2020
Removable mats from your car.
Martha Stewart Member
April 4, 2020
Then no one should be buying the pillows that say, do not launder. They are disposable and not very expensive. But they do need to be tossed when they are dirty. To prevent pillows from getting prematurely dirty, use a padded pillow cover similar to a mattress pad. It can be washed every time you change bedding.
Martha Stewart Member
November 25, 2019
I should HOPE everyone knows this!!!
Martha Stewart Member
October 23, 2019
You may be asking too much of your washing machine. Sounds like your asking for a breakdown.