Unexpected Items You Didn't Know You Could Clean in Your Washing Machine
Let's face it: If you had to hand-wash 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.
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.
For the best results, wash them in a front-loader. Many contain down, which tends to float, meaning they won't get fully saturated in top-loaders. Use a delicate cold-water cycle, then dry with no fewer than three tennis balls to beat the loft back into the feathers.
Slipcovers and Cushion Covers
Cotton, linen, denim, chino, and hemp are typically washable, says Patric Richardson, textile expert and author of the forthcoming book Laundry Love ($19.59, amazon.com). 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.
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.
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.
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 definitely driving you nuts). Wash in cold water and air-dry. You can zip laces into a mesh bag and toss them in too, but if they're really dirty, the best way to brighten them is a quick scrub with a toothbrush dunked in distilled white vinegar and water; air-dry.
Launder synthetics in a detergent that contains hydrogen peroxide to fully remove oils and odor, he says. We like Biokleen Premium Stainfighter laundry powder ($17, biokleenhome.com). Bonus: Removing those oils can also help restore the stretch to saggy elastic.
Mats and Rugs
From the front door to the hallway, these see the most grime from traffic. Your protective mats and rugs 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.
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 Kripalu School of Yoga. Then air-dry indoors or out of the sun. For other materials, check with the manufacturer.
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 ($7.73, walmart.com); check the label for the dosage. Hang back up on the rod to dry.
They get a lot of love from your kids, but stuffed toys look less than lovable when covered in bacteria and grime. While this is not recommended for plush toys, it can work for soft toys as long as there are no excessive embellishments sewn on the outside or musical machinery in the stuffing inside.
To preserve their color, soak new jeans in hot water with 1/4 cup of salt overnight, then flip them inside out (remember to zip the zipper), launder normally, and air-dry. To rescue faded favorites, wash them with a new pair—the dye will bleed a little—or with two capfuls of bluing, a natural brightener that imparts an indigo tint. (Richardson likes Mrs. Stewart's ($4, acehardware.com).) For the latter, wash them solo, or you'll be singing the blues.
Zip everyday bras into a mesh bag, then roll down the top (so there's no space for them to move around) and secure with safety pins. This keeps the straps from stretching and the hooks from catching on other items. Lay flat to dry.
Richardson insists any kind (truly, even fine alpaca knits) can go in as long as you close it up snugly in a mesh bag; use the delicate cycle and a gentle detergent, like The Laundress Delicate Wash ($19, target.com), and lay it flat to dry.
Winter Hats and Scarves
Like other items that touch your skin and hair, these accumulate body oils that can degrade the fabric they're made of. 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.
Rub a little dish soap into 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.
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.
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.