More often than you’d think, the answer to the question, “How do I clean this?” is “Put it in the washing machine.”
It’s common knowledge that the washer is the way to clean clothes, towels and bedsheets, but did you know your shower curtain liner can also be cleaned by doing laundry? How about those reusable grocery totes? Yes, those too. (And you should be washing them more than you are!)
With the help of Laura Johnson, a research and development analyst at LG Electronics, and Shawn Ashby, a brand manager at Whirlpool Laundry, we compiled this list of 23 items that can be cleaned in a washing machine. If you’re a laundry novice, or just looking to brush up on laundry room best practices, also check out our complete guide on how to do laundry.
Reusable grocery bags
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Johnson reminds us that reusable grocery bags can and should be washed to prevent foodborne illnesses and contamination. “Run them through just about any cycle,” she says, “just avoid extra hot water.”
Soft lunch boxes
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Just as with reusable grocery bags, regularly washing soft-sided lunch boxes and bags helps to prevent foodborne illnesses. When buying a new lunch sack, it’s worth taking washability into account.
Backpacks and tote bags
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Ashby and Johnson offer these tips for machine washing backpacks and tote bags without causing damage.
- Follow manufacturers’ guidelines for water temperature and cycle suggestions; absent those, opt for the gentle cycle and warm water.
- Empty out pockets and remove key chains, pins, patches or other embellishments.
- Cut any loose threads around the zippers.
- If the design of the bag allows for it, turn it inside out prior to washing.
- Alternatively, place the bag inside a pillowcase, laundry bag or extra-large mesh washing bag to prevent straps or zippers from getting tangled or caught inside the washer.
Pot holders and mitts
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Wash pot holders and oven mitts with like colors, or in a load with other kitchen textiles like dish rags, Swedish dishcloths, sponges and even floor mats and area rugs.
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Kitchen sponges can be washed in a regular cycle along with other kitchen textiles like dish rags.
Mop heads and cleaning cloths
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Reusable mop heads, cleaning cloths and other textiles used for cleaning can and should be machine-washed. It’s best to wash these items separate from any other laundry to avoid contamination from heavy soil and/or cleaning products. When washing microfiber, avoid the use of chlorine bleach or fabric softener.
Loofahs, shower poufs and bath mitts
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Just as with the items we use to clean our homes, the items we use to clean ourselves — loofahs, shower poufs, bath mitts, etc. — need to be washed regularly to remove dead skin and product buildup.
Shower curtains and liners
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“Cleaning your shower curtain or liner may be as simple as tossing it in the washing machine every few months to keep it looking like new,” Ashby says. “Most fabric, plastic and vinyl shower curtains and liners can be cleaned in the washing machine.” Ashby and Johnson offered these tips for washing shower curtains and liners.
- Curtains and plastic liners with magnets in the bottom can be tossed in the washer.
- Add a couple of bath towels, which will help wipe off dirt and residue and prevent the curtain from wrinkling during the cycle, and which will also pad the drum if the liner has magnets.
- Plastic shower curtain rings can also be machine-washed — place them in a zippered mesh washing bag and wash alongside towels to prevent damage.
- Delicate or handwash cycles with slow spin speeds are safest for plastic liners.
- Choose warm water and the highest water level.
- As with any item, check the care label first for specific instructions.
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Sponges and other soft makeup applicators can be machine-washed; it’s best to place them in a protective mesh washing bag to prevent them from getting nicked.
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Yoga mats can be deep cleaned right in your washing machine, although it’s not recommended that you wash a yoga mat in a top loading machine with a center agitator, as the fins can cause nicks. Use cold water and hang dry.
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Protective sporting equipment like lifting gloves, shin guards and elbow, wrist and knee pads can be washed in the machine and air-dried. Prior to washing, close any velcro straps, zippers or other fasteners to prevent snagging and other damage.
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Stained, dingy and plain old smelly ballcaps can go right into the washing machine; if they’re very dirty, apply a stain treatment product prior to laundering.
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Canvas and other fabric shoes can be washed in the machine, though it is important to check the care and cleaning instructions to ensure they’re washer-safe. “When washing your shoes,” Ashby says, “you’ll want to set your washing machine on a delicate, cold-water cycle and select a slow or no-spin option.” He notes that powder detergent can get stuck in shoes if it does not dissolve properly, and so he recommends using a liquid detergent when laundering shoes.
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Most stuffed animals can be washed in the washing machine. Ashby recommends using the delicate, handwash or gentle cycle setting on your washing machine, along with cold water to help keep colors from fading. Regular laundry detergent is fine, but be sure not to use too much, as soap residue left behind on plush toys can cause skin irritation.
N.B.: Stuffed animals with built-in battery packs, mechanical or metal parts should only be spot cleaned, as machine-washing may cause damage. Very precious stuffed animals (you know the ones) should be washed by hand.
Hard plastic kids toys
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“Legos and other small plastic toys can be run through the washing machine,” Johnson says. She recommends placing the toys into a zippered mesh washing bag and washing them on the gentle cycle along with some towels to pad the drum, which will prevent damage (and a horrible racket!)
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Comforters, duvets and mattress pads
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Cleaning most duvets, mattress pads and other foundational bedding is as easy as doing a load of laundry. To learn how and how often to wash large pieces of bedding, check out our guide to washing these items.
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“Typically, you can wash a weighted blanket in a large capacity commercial washer as long as it’s made from glass, steel or plastic beads,” Ashby says. Read the care instructions that are provided for your specific weighted blanket to ensure it’s machine-washable and, if so, wash in cold water using a gentle cycle. Ashby offers these suggestions when washing a weighted blanket.
- Remove the cover, if there is one, to pre-treat any stains and to wash.
- Consider washing weighted blankets in a commercial washer.
- If using your weighted blanket daily and nightly, wash it every few weeks.
- Frequently washing a weighted blanket can compromise its durability, and therefore regular users may want to purchase a washable protective cover to help prevent wear and tear.
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Human bedding isn’t the only bedding that can, and should, be washed in the machine. Pet bedding can also be cleaned in the washing machine; because pets have more sensitive olfactory systems than do people, it’s best to opt for a fragrance-free detergent when laundering your pet’s things.
Pet collars, leashes, sweaters and booties
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Nylon and fabric pet collars and leashes can also go right into the washing machine. Place them inside a protective mesh washing bag to prevent them from wrapping around other items in the wash. Their other accessories and fashions, like sweaters and booties, can also be machine washed.
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Human sweaters can also be washed in the machine! If you typically think of sweaters as being dry-clean-only garments, this comprehensive guide to washing sweaters will save you a lot of money.
Winter hats, scarves and gloves
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Just as with sweaters, many winter accessories — like scarves, gloves and hats — can be machine-washed.
Parkas and puffer vests
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Heavy wool winter coats are best cleaned either by steaming or by sending them to be dry cleaned, but lightweight styles, like parkas and puffer vests, can be washed right in the machine.