13 Surprising Things You Can Clean in Your Washing Machine

It turns out you can throw a whole lot more in there than just dirty clothes.

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When it comes to using a washing machine, most people know to separate lights from darks, use cold water for washing dark clothes, and hot water for whites and lighter colors—you know, the basics. But at some point you've probably found yourself standing in front of your washing machine holding an item that doesn't fit these traditional categories, leaving you to ask yourself: "Can I just throw this in there?" For instance, can you wash velcro? What about your yoga mat? The answer to both is, yes. As it turns out, there are actually quite a few of items you can toss in your washing machine that aren't clothes. So, to help make your household chores easier, we've rounded up all the surprising things you can clean in your washing machine.

1
Pillows

white pillow on the bed in the bedroom with woman 's hand who are making the room.
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We all know that you can put pillow cases in the washer, but did you know that you can actually just stick the entire pillow in, as well? According to Consumer Reports, unless your pillow has a "dry clean only" label, you should wash it in your washing machine about twice a year—adhering to any label instructions in the process.

In order to achieve the best results, Consumer Reports suggest washing "two pillows at a time" to help balance the load and ensure that "water and detergent circulate more effectively." In terms of pillow types, for down or feather pillows, only wash with a small amount of powder detergent, as liquid will leave sticky residue and cause clumping. Polyester pillows should be washed on a gentle cycle using warm water and about one tablespoon of liquid soap.

2
Yoga mats

cropped shot of an unrecognizable woman rolling up her yoga mat
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Cleaning your yoga mat may not be the first thing you think about, but doing so is necessary for the same reasons you clean the clothes you exercise in. After all, you spend a good amount of time sweating it up on there—not to mention the dirt that gets on it from the floor of wherever you practice yoga. So, when you need to give it a thorough cleaning—assuming your mat doesn't have a label that explicitly states against doing so—pop it in the washer. The experts at Cleanipedia recommend adding your favorite mild laundry detergent and then washing on a delicate cycle in water that is 30 degrees or cooler.

3
Velcro

one blue sneakers with Velcro fastener isolated on white. Clothe-up. Sport shoes. Side view.
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The age old question of "can you wash velcro?" is finally answered—you can! Whether it be baby bibs, sporting equipment, or shoes with velcro straps, you can rest assured that it's fine, as long as you wash it the right way. Velcro manufacturers recommend first using a stiff brush to clean debris out of the hook surfaces. After that, you can put the item in the washer as long as the hook portion is covered in some way, whether you "engage the hook and loop" or stick the entire item in a lingerie garment bag (like mommy bloggers recommend for baby bibs) for extra protection.

4
Silicone kitchen utensils

multicolor cooking tools silicone based
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Various kitchen items and cooking tools can easily get covered up with food, grease, and bacteria. But no worries, Elly Ray, cleaning expert and editor at BrightStuffs, says that your silicone kitchen utensils can be put in the washing machine without trouble. In fact, she says you can throw them in "alongside your kitchen towels and old clothes." All you need to do is use a "long, high-tumble, and hot water to get rid of stubborn grease."

5
Sneakers

new and old sneakers on wooden background.
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Everyone likes the look of a fresh pair of kicks, but you don't have to throw out the perfectly good pair you've already broken in just because they're a little dirty. And don't worry, Ray says that doesn't mean you have to hand wash them either. All you need to do is remove the insole inserts, toss them into the machine and wash them in cold water "with a regular amount of detergent and a tablespoon of vinegar." She also recommends adding some dirty or old clothes to "maintain the balance" and reduce the loud noise of sneakers bouncing around the spin cycle.

6
Stuffed animals

baby hands holding a teddy bear. Baby in bed, holding a teddy bear
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Those stuffed animals your children are always affectionately clinging to can harbor a lot of germs. For instance, one 2013 study published in Infection and Immunity found that four out of five stuffed toys tested positive for streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacteria that causes respiratory tract infections in children. And while that's certainly not good news for you or your child's health, you don't have to get rid of their favorite teddy bear or cuddly creature.

As long as the stuffed animal doesn't have a "do not wash" warning on its label, you're free to give it a ride in the spin cycle. Leading laundry brand Tide says that once you've confirmed that there are "no electronics, batteries, or foam filler balls" in the toy, place it in a mesh bag and "wash on a gentle cycle in cold water." After that, just hang it out to dry, and your child's stuffed friend is clean and ready for some germ-free snuggling.

7
Backpacks

back to school. Cute asian child girl with backpack running and going to school with fun
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While you're at it, go ahead and dump your child's backpack in the washer, as well—as long as you've taken out the books and binders! The Spruce's Mary Marlowe Leverette's step-by-step cleaning guide says that after you empty everything out, hand clean the straps in a solution of heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent and allow them to soak for 30 minutes. Finally, place the backpack in an "old pillowcase or large mesh laundry bag" and wash in warm water on a gentle cycle using regular laundry detergent.

8
Small toys

Albuquerque, USA - December 5, 2011: Colorful, old lego bloks on a pile. Studio shot. Lego, consists of colorful interlocking plastic bricks and an accompanying array of gears, minifigures and various other parts. Lego bricks can be assembled and connected in many ways, to construct such objects as vehicles, buildings, and even working robots. Anything constructed can then be taken apart again, and the pieces used to make other objects. The toys were originally designed in the 1940s in Denmark and have achieved an international appeal.
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Cleaning your children's stuff in the washing machine is not limited to their stuffed animals and backpacks. You can also throw smaller toys in there, like Lego pieces. We understand, no one has the time to meticulously clean every little Lego piece by hand. As Trine Jensen Burke with Her Family explains, all you need is a washing bag for delicates. You can put all your Legos into one bag, set the machine to a low temperature (like a delicates or wool cycle) and plop them into the washing machine. Once it's done, you can place them "on a towel to dry them out properly" making sure they are "tilted to the side so they don't hold water."

9
Car mats

putting back floor mats after a detailed vacuuming
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Your washing machine isn't relegated to just household items, either. All the foot traffic—no pun intended—your car's floor mats see on a daily basis can really cause a substantial amount of dirt to accumulate in a short period of time. But, if you notice the mats could use a good cleaning, and a trip to your local car wash doesn't fit into your schedule that day, head back inside and toss them in the washing machine.

A good, separate clean in the "washing machine with regular detergent and stain remover" helps get cleaning substances deep into the carpets to thoroughly wash away dirt hiding in your floor mats, Abigail Blake wrote in an article for Your Mechanic. But, before you stick your car mats in the washer, make sure you vacuum them on both sides, and rub baking soda in the cloth to help "remove stains and unpleasant odors."

10
Makeup sponges

beauty box, set of female cosmetics, crumbly matte mineral powder and blush with a beauty blender for makeup on a blue pink and purple background. Flat lay. Top view.
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As anyone who uses them can attest, washing makeup brushes and sponges can be a real pain in the neck. So much so, in fact, that a 2015 Anisa International survey found that more than half of people who use makeup brushes clean them less than once a month, or even, not at all. But this daunting task gets that much easier when you realize you can utilize your washing machine.

"I put my sponges and velour puffs in net lingerie bags and put them in the washing machine on the gentle cycle with an extra rinse cycle," celebrity makeup artist Kathy Jeung told Glamour magazine. "Add some beauty blender cleansing solution and Meyers laundry detergent, and voila—throughly clean sponges."

11
Baseball caps

young boys in baseball hats cheering during a game
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Some people worry that washing a baseball cap will cause it to lose its form and take on an awkward, ill-fitting shape, so they just avoid cleaning their favorite cap all together. But just like any other piece of clothing you wear, it requires washing. According to the pros at Dropps, an eco-friendly cleaning brand, you can simply put your hat into the washing machine either alone or with a small load so "it doesn't lose its shape." Use a mild detergent and wash it with warm water on a gentle cycle. After that, all you need to do is let it air dry. And if you remain concerned about losing the shape of your hat, try placing it in a machine washable hat holder before you run it through the washing machine.

12
Mop heads

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Over time, you may notice your mop head getting dirtier and dirtier. After all, it's picking up all the grime off of your floors. But when it gets too dirty, it starts to just redistribute that collected dirt back onto your floors, rather than making them shiny and squeaky clean. But how do you wash something you use for cleaning and rinse in water all the time anyway?

Maids by Trade, a professional house cleaning service, says there's no harm in putting a removable mop head in the washing machine, as long as it's not made of sponge material. Just "add a half cup of bleach to the washing machine and wash the mop by itself on a normal cycle." Once it's gone through the cycle, squeeze out any excess water, let it dry, and then get back to making those floors sparkle.

13
Dog collars

dog outdoors with his collar on
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After they roll around in mud and dirt while playing outside, it's not unusual for your dog to return home with a less-than-clean collar. But it doesn't have to stay that way. As long as your dog collar has a machine washable label, you're good to go. Oscar and Hooch, a leading dog product company, suggests putting the collar in a washing bag or pillow case so that the metal is protected and doesn't make as much noise while being tossed around in your washing machine.

Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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