A typical trip to the laundry room usually involves tossing clothing, towels, and bed linen in the washing machine for a good scrub. You might even go a little rogue from time to time and throw in a well-loved teddy bear, a pillow that needs some sanitizing, or a pair of smelly sneakers. But there are a few more things you can clean in the washing machine that you may have never even realized.
Take a look to at our list of surprising machine-washable items:
Shower Curtains and Liners
How many times have you gotten rid of an old shower curtain because of the scummy film that develops over time? We’re sorry to report you may have been wasting your money on replacing those when you could have just popped it in the washing machine.
The cleaning experts at Merry Maids suggest putting your dingy curtains through a warm wash cycle (never hot, to prevent melting) with either a splash of white distilled vinegar, a bit of baking soda, or gentle laundry detergent — but not all three at once, as they warn that will likely result in a “science experiment volcano” situation. (They also don’t specify exact amounts of the cleaners, so use your best judgement based on the size of your curtain or liner.)
Merry Maids also recommends pre-treating any new shower curtain before you hang it up by running them through a warm water rinse cycle with white vinegar to keep them cleaner for longer in the first place.
Whether you have rubber or cloth mats, soaking up all the drips from our post-shower steps out of the tub can lead to mold and bacteria buildup. Luckily, Merry Maids offers another washer-friendly solution to keep them clean.
For plastic or rubber-backed mats, they suggest running them through a wash cycle on the cold setting with gentle laundry detergent. They also advise checking to make sure there aren’t any cracks or peeling along the mat, which could get worse in the wash. Those might just need to be replaced.
They recommend the same washing setting for microfiber or chenille mats, but remind us to look at any care instructions they might have on the tag as well.
No matter how much you wring out the fibers of these floor cleaners, they still like to hang onto a lot of the germs they helped wipe away. The Janitorial Store recommends regularly popping them into a laundry bag (to keep the strands from deteriorating) and running them through the washer. They warn against using bleach, which can tear down the fibers, but recommend a mild cleaner like regular laundry detergent or even a bit of dish soap to get the job done.
As for the wash setting, Floor Cleaning Tools cites experts who recommend a gentle cycle at high heat. Hang them to air out instead of running through the dryer, which can also damage the fibers.
This goes for pretty much any canvas or cloth bag like re-usable grocery totes, gym bags, and soft lunch boxes. If they have long straps or clunky zippers and attachments, Lifehacker suggests placing them in an old pillowcase that you don’t mind getting roughed up a bit and tying it off to protect your washing machine. Then just run it with regular detergent on a warm water gentle cycle.
This trick also helps when you don’t grab quite all the stray items out of the bags before tossing them in and keeping those from finding their way into places they shouldn’t be in the machine.
This tip comes from the Canadian mom blogger behind Happy Hooligans and is inspired by her sons’ sweaty hockey gear. She claims you can toss everything except helmets and skates into the washer — including elbow pads, skin-guards, neck guards, and other items the athlete in your family brings home smelling of pungent “victory.”
Just use warm water and your regular detergent. It might take a few rounds depending on your laundry unit’s size, but it’s definitely better than letting the equipment lay around the house spreading their odor (and germs).
There’s nothing zen about bending into a downward dog or child’s pose and getting a big whiff of your mat in serious need of a wash. Luckily, Cleanipedia claims you can give most yoga mats a good rinse with your machine, but recommend checking the care labels first to make sure they’re OK to be tossed in. If they are, you can run them through a cold, delicate wash cycle with a mild laundry detergent to make them like new again.
Considering we use these items to pick up the mess of whatever home improvement project we’re working on, or spending time outdoors on backyard projects or camping, it’s not really surprising they can pick up a few nasty things. But when was the last time you actually thought about washing them?
According to Contractor Talk, you can give tarps a better scrub by tossing them in the washing machine for a cold water cycle. You don’t even need to add detergent, unless there’s stains you want to get out without hand-scrubbing them.