Americans have known for decades that they can wash cloth sneakers in their washing machines, but HGTV's Chelsea Faulkner tells us there is so much more that can be thrown in as well — like baseball caps, floor mats, plastic shower curtains and liners, and even rubber shower and yoga mats. Yes, the delicate cycle is best for all of these, but take a look at several other washable items you may have overlooked as well.
"Cloth and canvas bags, including backpacks, reusable grocery bags, gym bags, purses and more, are usually washer friendly," says Faulkner. "Simply turn them inside-out, place in a mesh laundry bag, and wash on warm with detergent. However, if your bag is bejeweled or decorated with iron-on appliques, you'll want to opt for hand wash instead." Soft-sided lunch boxes and coolers are also washing machine candidates, along with rubber-backed cotton or synthetic rugs to remove mold, mildew, and other bathroom nasties. "Arrange the rug around the central agitator in the washer and add a few towels to balance the load. Wash on cold with a small amount of detergent, then hang to dry," she says.
If you really think about it, pillows soak up sweat, drool and dead skin cells, but how often do you think of doing more than just applying a clean pillowcase? The best way to wash them is in the machine, believe it or not. "Most pillows, even the down varieties, are machine-washable," says Faulkner. "Just add two pillows to your machine to balance the load, then wash in hot water with a cup of detergent and a cup of bleach. You may need to run a second rinse cycle if your pillows are extra fluffy. Dry feather-filled pillows on the 'air' setting and synthetic pillows on low heat with a couple of rubber dryer balls or sock-wrapped tennis balls. Repeat the drying process until your pillows are 100-percent free of moisture."
Stuffed animals and small handheld toys such as plastic building blocks, action figures, bath toys, and even dog chew toys can be placed in mesh laundry bags and run through the delicate cycle on cold. While you're at it, don't forget dirty oven mitts and potholders. Simply add them in with your regular load of towels and hang to dry.
Of course as with everything you place in your washing machine, read the washing instructions. Even dusty curtains (as long as they are not made of a delicate material or have a tag that specifies 'dry clean only') can be washed in cool water on a slow spin cycle, then dried on low heat.
Lastly, don't forget the pooch! "To keep your furry friend happy and healthy, it's recommended to wash his or her bedding on a minimum biweekly basis," says Faulkner. "Just vacuum up any loose hair, remove any cover and toss the bed and bedding into the washing machine with a natural detergent. Wash on hot with an extra rinse cycle, then dry on high heat to kill any lingering pathogens. That goes for pet collars, harnesses, and leashes as well.