When it comes to using a washing machine, we often focus on what not to do. Don’t use this temperature, don’t mix those colors, don’t dry this or that—the list of laundry faux pas is lengthy. But did you know your humble washing machine could be doing a lot more than refreshing your clothes?
Washing machines can work their magic on many everyday household items, from leather accessories to gym equipment. Wave farewell to the stress and inconvenience of hand-washing and the arguably grosser option of skipping the wash altogether (looking at you, Uggs).
1. Car Mats And Other Small Rugs
The average washing machine can easily handle carpeted car mats and other small rugs. Use a vacuum to remove large debris, then run through a cold cycle. Set the rugs or mats somewhere safe to air dry. We do not recommend this method for washing rubber or plastic mats—some mild, soapy water and a cloth is better for those.
2. Hair Ties, Headbands, And Scarves
You wouldn’t wear the same socks every day without washing them, and if you think about it, your hair ties and other head accessories aren’t much different. Our hair and scalp transfer oil, sweat, and dirt onto our hair ties, headbands, scarves, and wraps. So, a quick rinse in a secure delicates bag will revive your adornments and fasteners. Air dry the items to prevent shrinkage or other damage.
3. Sheepskin-Lined Shoes
Whether you have sheepskin slippers, mules, or the same pair of ratty Ugg boots from 2014 like me, you might be surprised to know these cozy shoes can be machine-washed. Start by brushing off any loose dirt or debris. Then, place the boots in a mesh bag and add them to the washer.
Add a couple of towels to sop up excess moisture, then run on a cold, delicate cycle. Remove the sheepskin shoes from the washer as soon as the cycle is done, fluff the lining with your fingers, and allow them to air dry.
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4. Stuffed Toys
Speaking of years-old accessories—as cute as a child’s beloved stuffed toy can be, all that wear and tear (and no washing) can leave those cuddly companions looking more like rogue escapees from the Island of Misfit Toys than something you actually want in your home.
Most stuffed animals can handle a gentle, low-heat cycle and a good air-dry. If the stuffed animal has lots of plastic components that can’t be removed, a cold cycle is a safer bet. Smaller plastic toys can also be machine-washed in a pillow case secured with a rubber band to prevent a loud, clanking, chaotic mess.
5. Yoga Mats
Listen. I can watch all the DIY yoga mat spray videos I want, but I’m never going to actually make it. By the time I think of cleaning my yoga mat, I’m already starting my flow session for the day and not in the mood to go into cleaning mode.
Luckily, yoga mats can be safely cleaned in the washer in cold water on a delicate setting. Allow them to air dry flat or on a drying rack. Note: if your yoga mat is prone to flaking or crumbling, even a delicate wash cycle might exacerbate the problem.
6. Pet Beds
You wouldn’t want to sleep in the same bed linens for months on end. So why should your pet have to? Even if your pet bed doesn’t have a removable cover, you can still wash the whole bed much like a pillow. Start by vacuuming any hair or dirt off the surface (pet hair can do some serious damage to your washer), wash with mild soap on low heat, and then place in the dryer for up to 20 minutes before letting it air dry the rest of the way.
7. Leather Purses
While “leather” and “water” isn’t a combo I typically imagine will have a positive outcome, it turns out that you can actually machine-wash a leather purse. The key is to use a castile soap, which is made from plant-based ingredients for far gentler suds.
First, empty the bag completely (that means double-checking the pockets for any stray sticks of gum). Take out any removable liners or inserts, then throw the whole thing in the washer. Use around a quarter-cup of castile soap with cold water and run it on the gentlest wash cycle.
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8. Baseball Hats
If your classic pinstripe ball cap is starting to look a little more yellow than white, that means it’s time for a refresh in the washing machine. Most modern baseball hats have a plastic core and backing, which means they do fine in a cold, delicate cycle. Just hand it up to dry and you’re good to go.
You’ll want to exercise more caution when washing hats made before the 1980s, as their linings tend to be cardboard. Cardboard-lined hats will sound hollow when you flick the brim and should be spot-cleaned only (although one can argue that grime ads to the vintage appeal).
9. Canvas Shoes
Stop stuffing your shoes with newspaper or foot powder to absorb odors, and just wash them already. If your kicks are seriously caked with mud and grime, use a small brush or other cleaning device to remove the bulk of the dirt.
Remove the shoelaces and insoles, then place the laces in a mesh garment bag to prevent them from tangling. Wash the shoes, insoles, and laces on a delicate cycle in cool water. Using a non-bio detergent without additional cleaning enzymes will help protect the fibers of hemp-based canvas.
10. Shower Curtain Liner
Forget awkwardly wiping down a wafer-thin, massive piece of plastic—your shower curtain liners can go in the washing machine. Machine-washing your shower liners helps remove soap scum and mildew and is considerably easier than trying to clean it while it’s on the shower rod.
Add a few bath towels to weigh down the liner and help prevent tearing. Add an additional one cup of baking soda to your usual detergent to help shake off stubborn soap grime. For an extra deep cleanse, you can also add Borax and Oxi Clean to create a “miracle block” that mimics bleach for brighter whites and a more thorough clean.