18 Surprising Things You Can Clean in the Washing Machine

Sit back, relax and let the spin cycle do all the work.

By now, we all know that our washing machines can be used for so much more than clothes — think sneakers, bedding and even baseball hats. But did you know this magical cleaning machine is capable of so much more?



Laundry room with rolling shelves that pull out from desk area, tabletop ironing board, shelves for items to be stored, clothes hanging on rack, and washer and dryer.

There's a long laundry list (pun intended) of surprising household messes this handy appliance can tackle. And all you have to do is push "start."

 Car Mats

Car Mat

Car Mat

Photo by: iStock/gargantiopa


Those cloth floor mats in your car are totally machine-washable. If they're extra dirty or spotted with spill stains, shoot the soiled areas with a little stain remover before washing on warm with your normal detergent and hanging to dry. Try not to do this more than once every few months, however, as the rubber backing could start to deteriorate from too many spin cycles.

 Plastic Shower Curtains + Liners

Shower Curtain Liner

Shower Curtain Liner

Photo by: iStock/Jamesmcq24


I used to replace my liners every month or so when they started to show soap scum. Now I just throw them in the washer with a few bath towels and wash on cold with my regular laundry detergent. They come out looking good as new and save me the cost of two iced coffees a month.

 Rubber Shower Mats

Blue Bath Mat

Blue Pebble Bath Mat

Exfoliate while you shower by rubbing your feet up against these textured pebbles. Suction cups hold the mat in place. Pebblz Shower Mat from InterDesign in Blue, amazon.com $22.00

When your non-slip mat starts to look yucky, run it through the regular cycle with a few towels (these add extra scrubbing power) and a small amount of your normal detergent.

 Yoga Mat

Yoga Mat

Yoga Mat

Photo by: iStock/Tatomm


Unless the care label says otherwise, most yoga mats can be cleaned on the delicate cycle with no detergent and tossed in the dryer on medium heat.


Gym Bag

Gym Bag

Photo by: iStock/Lifemoment


Cloth and canvas bags, including backpacks, reusable grocery bags, gym bags, purses and more, are usually washer friendly. 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 + Insulated Coolers

Zebra lunchbox for kids.

Zebra Lunch Box

Cute enough for girls but cool enough for boys, this insulated lunchbox from keeps food warm or cold all morning long.

©Skip Hop Zoo Zebra Lunchie, All Childrens Furniture

Skip Hop Zoo Zebra Lunchie, All Childrens Furniture

As always, check your care labels, but most insulated lunch boxes and coolers are totally fine to clean in the washing machine. Throw in with a few towels on cold, then hang upside-down with the zipper open to dry.

 Rubber-Backed Rugs + Mats

Red and White Striped Bath Mat

Break Up a Tile Bathroom with a Striped Rug

A red and white striped bath mat echoes the color scheme featured elsewhere in the room, tying the bathroom together.

Photo by: Eric Perry ©2013, Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Eric Perry, 2013, Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Cotton or synthetic rugs with rubber backs can be washed about once a month 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.




Photo by: iStock/AnaBGD


Pillows are essentially big sponges that soak up sweat, drool and dead skin cells, so it's a no-brainer that they need to be cleaned regularly. The best way to do that? In the washing machine, of course. Most pillows, even the down varieties, are machine-washable. 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.

 Sports Gear

Skating Gear

Skating Gear

Photo by: iStock/ArtMarie


Place shoulder, knee and elbow pads, shin guards and gloves in individual laundry bags and wash on a regular, warm cycle with a small amount of detergent, then hang to dry.

 Stuffed Animals

Pouf Ottoman in Chevron Pattern

Pouf Ottoman in Chevron Pattern

Soft, versatile seating is a must in rooms shared by kids and adults. Plush, upholstered pieces like poufs or storage ottomans are lightweight and easy to move around. Versatile seating also comes in handy should extra playmates arrive, freeing up sofa space for adults.

Photo by: Flynnside Out Productions

Flynnside Out Productions

If fluffy friends are looking a little dingy, a spin in the wash is a must. Remove any loose clothing items and place in a pillow case or mesh laundry bag before running through the gentle cycle with a small amount of regular detergent. (If your toys are stuffed with small beads, beans or styrofoam balls, you'll want to opt for hand-washing instead.)

 Small Toys

Clean your kids' bath toys.

The Easy, Natural Way To Clean Your Kids' Bath Toys

Learn how to clean kids' bath toys.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

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.

 Oven Mitts + Potholders

Oven Mitt and Potholder

Oven Mitt and Potholder

Photo by: iStock/agrobacter


To keep dirty oven mitts and potholders looking and smelling good as new, simply add them in with your regular load of towels and hang to dry.

 Patio Chair Cushions

patio chairs

Patio Chairs Makeover

HGTV Magazine remade these sad chairs into bright seats for your patio.

Photo by: Susan Pittard/Studio D (styled by Karin Olsen)

Susan Pittard/Studio D (styled by Karin Olsen)

After a summer in the elements, your expensive patio chair cushions could probably use a good wash. If your machine is large enough, you can run cushions and chair pads through a regular wash cycle with a small amount of detergent and a cup of white vinegar, then line dry in direct sunlight for several hours until completely dry.


Neutral, Cottage Living Room With Fireplace

Elegant Master Bedroom Sitting Room

Built-in shelves flank an elegant fireplace in this cozy sitting area off the master bedroom. Creamy curtains dress the floor-to-ceiling windows to provide privacy and block out light for a restful night's sleep. A sophisticated wingback chair and linen sofa are paired with a tufted ottoman, creating the perfect spot to watch TV or read a book.

Photo by: Julie Soefer Photography

Julie Soefer Photography

Unless they're made from a delicate material or have a tag that specifies 'dry clean only,' those dusty curtains can be washed in cool water on a slow spin cycle, then dried on low heat.

 Mop Heads

Sanitize dirty mop heads after each use by placing in a mesh laundry bag and washing on hot. Hang to drip dry.

 Pet Beds

How to Slipcover a Pet Bed with a Flat Weave Rug

To keep your furry friend happy and healthy, it's recommended to wash his or her bedding on a minimum biweekly basis. Luckily, it's as easy to clean your pup's bedding as it is your own. 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.

 Pet Collars + Leashes

Decorative leashes

Dog Leashes on Hooks

While plastic retractable leashes can be considered eyesores, graphic traditional leashes are more decorative. Stash them near the door for a pop of pattern and to inspire you to head outdoors with your best friend.

Now that your pup's bed is squeaky clean, it's time to turn your attention to the accessories they wear most often: collars, harnesses and leashes. It's hard to tell, but these things can get gross pretty quick, especially if your pet spends a lot of time outside. To launder cloth or synthetic varieties, simply place them in a laundry bag to prevent tangling and toss in with a load of towels.

 Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

Wipe off dust and allow to dry.

Wipe Clean

Ensure that all sanding residue is removed by wiping your whole piece down with a damp microfiber cloth or sponge. Allow to dry completely.

Photo by: Molly Winters

Molly Winters

To clean these wonderful static-filled cloths, simply give them a quick rinse in the sink, then place in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase. Run through the wash with a little detergent, then place the bag directly into the dryer with no dryer sheet. This helps maintain the cloths' static charge, which is the secret to their cleaning power.

 Watch: How to Clean Major Appliances

Show some love to your dishwasher, washing machine and refrigerator.

How to Clean Major Appliances 01:04

Go deep with these cleaning tips for your dishwasher, fridge and more.

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