It all comes out in the wash: It’s surprising what you can (successfully) put in the machine

January 4, 2019

Most of us are “filthy rich”—meaning that we have a wealth of dirty items in our homes that we don’t know how to return to their original, unsullied state.

Real Simple recently interviewed Jill Nystul, founder of the housekeeping blog, One Good Thing By Jillee, to find out about a variety of items—other than clothes, towels, bedding, and sneakers—that can be thrown into the laundry, only to emerge good as new:

  • Shower curtain liners can be washed in a machine to remove soap scum and mildew. Make sure to add a few bath towels to the load to “cushion” the liner and keep it from tearing. Use a small amount of your detergent along with 1 cup of baking soda. “The baking soda will help loosen the gunk, and the towels will help scrub it away,” Nystul told Real Simple.
  • Patio chair cushions: After a few seasons outside, cushions get really dirty. Wash them in cold water on a gentle cycle, tackling stains first with a pretreater if necessary, says Nystul. Allow them to air dry completely before storing or reusing.
  • Car mats: As long as the floor mats in your car or truck aren’t too big or too heavy, you can wash them in your machine, says the expert. “They’ll look so much better after a good cleaning.”
  • Rubber-backed rugs and mats: These items can handle the occasional wash; however, laundering them too often is likely to cause the backing to lose its grip. Only wash them when they really need it, says Nystul, and vacuum them often to keep them clean.
  • Leather purses: Here’s a surprise! “When I first read that you could wash a leather purse in your washing machine, I was highly skeptical. I was certain the purse was bound to get ruined,” says Nystul. “But curiosity often gets the best of me, so I gave it a try. And it totally worked!” She used liquid castile soap and washed the purse on gentle cycle.
  • Hair ties and headbands: Over time, hair accessories get soiled from buildup of oil and hair products. Toss them all into a small mesh bag and throw them in with your next load of laundry, recommends Nystul.
  • Curtains: To clean lace curtains in the washing machine, zip them into a mesh bag first. Traditional, fabric curtains can be washed on a delicate cycle in cold water. Avoid machine-washing heavy or velvety curtains.
  • Sheepskin boots: If you have a pair of old UGGs that have seen better days, try washing them, says Nystul. Start by brushing off any loose dirt from the outside. Then put the boots in a mesh bag and place them in your washer with a couple of bath towels. Use the delicate setting on your washer and cold water. Remove the boots immediately once the wash is done, and give the fleece lining a good fluff. Let them air dry overnight.
  • Stuffed animals: Nothing gets quite as dirty as a toddler’s favorite toy. They survive just fine in the washing machine and dryer, as long as you use low heat. Real Simple recommends placing them in a pillow case and securing the top with a rubber band to keep the toys together in the wash. In addition to stuffed animals, you can wash a batch of plastic toys this way.
  • Yoga mats: Wash these in cold water on a delicate setting, and let them air dry flat.
  • Backpacks and gym bags: Place bags with straps inside a mesh bag before washing. If you don’t have a mesh bag big enough, you can flip the bag inside out so the straps stay contained. Make sure to open and unzip all the pockets before washing, and hang to dry completely.
  • Baseball hats: These get sweaty and filthy on a regular basis. You can safely wash almost any modern baseball cap with cold water on delicate cycle, because the brims have a plastic core. (Vintage baseball caps, however, are more likely to have a cardboard brim, so you definitely don’t want to run them through the wash, says Nystul.)
  • Reusable grocery bags: Wash your reusable grocery bags every few weeks to keep them sanitary. Nystul says she’s washed both vinyl and cloth bags successfully.
  • Pet collars and leashes: Nylon collars and leashes can be washed easily. Just place them in a mesh bag first.
  • Pet beds: A lot of pet beds have removable covers, which makes washing them extremely easy. If yours doesn’t, start by vacuuming any hair or dirt off the surface; then, wash with a gentle detergent. Place it in your dryer for 10-20 minutes to give it a head start on drying, then let it air dry the rest of the way before returning the bed to your pet.

Research contact: @byjillee

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