Doing a load of laundry in the washing machine should be no-brainer, but there are a surprising number of caveats that come with cleaning clothes. Sure, doing the laundry might seem as simple as just throwing soiled garments in, adding some detergent, and pressing a button, but make one wrong move and you could damage your favorite sequin dress—or even your entire washing machine—beyond repair. Whether you’re a seasoned laundress or are just beginning to wash your own clothing, you’ll want to parse through this lengthy laundry list of what not to put in the washing machine, ever, so as to avoid a laundry room fiasco.
Though knit hats get soiled and stinky from sitting on sweaty heads all day, their delicate fabric and shape just cannot withstand a spin cycle. When it does come time to wash your hat, doing so by hand with a mild detergent will ensure that it maintains its structure and softness.
Memory Foam Pillows
Unless otherwise stated on the label, memory foam pillows are not machine washable. When these pillows go through the wash, they turn into soggy messes with no evident structure—and some don’t even make it out of the spin cycle alive.
Most people wouldn’t put loose change in the wash on purpose, but even doing so by accident can cause some seriously expensive damage should they break the machine. Before you put your jeans and pants through a wash cycle, check the pockets for any coins that might’ve slipped through the cracks.
Embellished items don’t belong in the washing machine, seeing as anything with sewn- or glued-on details is far too delicate to make it through a wash cycle unscathed. To keep these articles of clothing intact, either hand-wash them or take them to the dry cleaner for a professional touch.
Yes, the washing machine’s entire purpose is to get rid of stains, but there are some that just aren’t compatible with the appliance. Things like gasoline, cooking oil, and alcohol are all highly flammable, and putting clothes covered in them in the washing machine can start a house fire. If you do accidentally soil your garments with something flammable, simply spot-treat the stain with a solvent-based stain remover—like Seventh Generation Natural Stain Remover Spray ($4)—and then hand-wash the item.
Throwing regular sneakers in the washing machine is totally fine—in fact, it’s a good trick for keeping white shoes in pristine condition—but running shoes are a different story. Most athletic sneakers that go through a spin cycle come out smaller than before, so be careful to only wash your sneakers if they’re approved for the appliance.
Some amateur fashion bloggers might recommend throwing a dirty leather or suede purse in the laundry, but these expensive items should never, ever set foot in the machine. Not only will the the washer severely harm the bag’s shape and material, but it will also mess up the zipper and any embellishments on the exterior.
Think about this for a second: If your raincoat is waterproof, then how is it going to soak up the water of the washing machine for a deep cleanse? Exactly. Instead, every time a raincoat gets washed, it traps the water like a balloon until it eventually explodes (and makes a huge mess).
Things with zippers can certainly go in the wash, so long as they are closed. Open zippers swirling around in the washing machine can get caught on other items, potentially causing disastrous damage to your other articles of clothing.
As is the case for embellished garbs, anything made of lace is far too fine to be thrown into the washing machine. If you need to wash your lace, laundry care company The Laundress recommends hand-washing the item in cold water and then laying it in its natural shape to air dry.
Ties tend to be made with fine fabrics like silk and wool, and so throwing them in the washing machine will lead to shrinkage, damage, and color loss. Your best course of action when it comes to tidying up your ties is to just take them to a dry cleaner, where they can be properly handled by a professional.
A king-size comforter is simply too big for a typical washing machine, and trying to wash one will both break the machine and leave the comforter just as dirty as it was before. However, most most laundromats and dry cleaners house industrial-sized machines large enough to wash almost anything. Head to one both clean your comforter and keep your machine intact.
Sure, a piece of clothing covered in pet hair might come out of the wash clean, but all that fur is going to linger in your machine until it either leaves via other articles of clothing or clogs the drain—and neither option is fun to deal with. Instead, lint roll your pet-hair-coated clothing before tossing it in the wash.
Always check your coat’s pockets before putting them in the hamper. Should a pen accidentally sneak into a load of laundry, it could explode in the wash and get ink stains on everything in the machine, putting you back at square one.
Anything with Rubber
When something partially made of rubber ends up in the wash, the heat from the machine destroys the adhesive holding it together, causing the rubber to either come apart or straight-up melt. And while some rubber-backed items—like bath mats and rugs—can withstand a delicate wash cycle, under no circumstances should any ever go in the dryer.
Nobody purposefully washes their car keys, but all too often they end up in a load of laundry anyway, resulting in some serious scratches to the washing machine’s interior. Also, these days, most car keys are electric, and washing them in water can render them unusable.
Not only can the washing machine destroy a bra’s underwire, but the undergarment’s clasps can also get stuck to other pieces of laundry and cause serious tears.
Douse your laundry with too much detergent and your clothes will come out of the washing machine with residue all over them, requiring yet another rinse cycle. And what’s more, overdoing it on the soap can cause a build-up of mold in your machine, meaning that both your washer and your clothes will require cleaning.
Precious Stuffed Animals
Stuffed animals are perfectly safe in the washing machine, and for the most part, throwing them in with your laundry isn’t a problem. However, if your child has a favorite stuffed bear that they just can’t live without, then you’re better off just cleaning it by hand. There’s always the chance that the washing machine will pop off an eye or a button—and with something that precious, you just can’t take that kind of risk.
Too Much Clothing
It’s tempting to just throw all of your laundry into one load and call it a day, but doing so can damage your machine and result in an ineffective wash cycle. To keep your washer safe and to ensure that your clothes are getting properly cleaned, opt for laundry loads that don’t take up the entire machine.