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19 surprising items you can throw in the washing machine

by Karen B. Gibbs /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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If you’re only using your washing machine for clothes and linens, you’re working way too hard.

From car mats to Legos, we’ve compiled a list of 19 things you can toss in the washing machine to clean! We think you’ll be happily surprised.

1. Protective sports gear

It's OK to toss shin guards, shoulder, knee and elbow pads and sport gloves (not baseball gloves) in the washer, according to The Storage Space. Just put them in individual mesh laundry bags and wash in warm water using a small amount of detergent. Then simply hang to dry.

mesh laundry bags
mesh laundry bags

2. Soft lunch boxes and insulated coolers

Open and remove debris from all compartments and wash lunch boxes and soft coolers with two or three bath towels, advises cleaning coach Leslie Reichert. Use the regular setting, cold water and regular detergent and hang to dry. It's that easy!

3. Reusable canvas grocery bags

Residue from meat, seafood, dairy and produce can quickly turn these bags into a breeding ground for bacteria. NSF International advises that you toss them into the machine after each use on the regular cycle with detergent and hot water. You can even dry them in the dryer!

4. Washable mop heads

Washable microfiber mop heads are great for floors and easy-breezy to clean. Cleaning product company O-Cedar recommends that you machine wash the mop head from its ProMist MAX Spray Mop in warm water and with regular detergent. Do not use bleach or fabric softener. Allow it to air dry before using again.

5. Plastic toys

Legos, action figures, dog toys and other plastic items get grimy over time, but cleaning them is child’s play, according to HGTV. Place them all in mesh laundry bags and wash separately on the delicate cycle using cold water and regular detergent. Air dry and they'll be ready to get grimy all over again.

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6. Microfiber cloths

Microfiber cloths hold lots of dust and dirt so be sure to rinse them in the sink until water runs clear before putting them in the washer. Then place them in a mesh laundry bag and wash on a regular cycle using a little less detergent, says Laura Delaney, marketing consultant for e-cloth. One important note: Do not use fabric softener or you'll ruin the effectiveness of the cleansing tool. You can either air dry or dry in the dryer, but avoid fabric softener sheets.

7. Stuffed animals

Your little one's favorite teddy bear could use a bath? It's simple! Start by repairing any loose seams or tears and fastening any loose parts before washing. Place the stuffed animal in a mesh laundry bag or pillow case and wash on the delicate cycle using less than the regular amount of detergent, advises Good Housekeeping. Before placing in the dryer, squeeze out excess water, return the toy to a mesh bag or pillow case and dry on low.

(Pro tip: Toys that are stuffed with small beads, beans or Styrofoam balls and those with battery/electrical/musical components should be spot cleaned.)

8. Removable covers for outdoor pillows and chair cushions

The pros at Sunbrella advise washing removable covers from outdoor pillows, chair pads and small cushions in the washer in cold water on a regular cycle. Use a little less detergent and add a cup of bleach. Air dry.

Heinz distilled white vinegar
Heinz distilled white vinegar

9. Cloth and canvas bags

Always follow washing directions on the care label. Empty all compartments and remove any stickers or pins. Turn bags inside out and place in a mesh laundry bag. Wash on delicate cycle in cold water with a little less than the regular amount of detergent. Hang upside down to air dry.

(Pro tip: Hand wash embellished or beaded bags.)

10. Hair ties and hair bands

Having raised three long-haired daughters, I can vouch for this tip. Place hair ties and hair bands in a mesh laundry bag and wash on delicate cycle in cold water using a small amount of detergent. Then simply let them air dry.

11. Plastic-brim baseball hats

Pre-treat stains, especially oily stains on the sweat band, before adding to the laundry. Wash in cold water on a delicate cycle using a little less than the regular amount of detergent, advises Clean My Space. Reshape and allow it to air dry.

12. Sneakers

Remove laces and inner soles from sneakers. Place laces and shoes in a pillow case (tie it in a knot before washing) or a mesh laundry bag and place in washer. Add a little less than the regular amount of detergent and one cup of vinegar to remove odors. Wash sneakers in cold water on the delicate cycle and let it air dry.

13. Cloth or nylon pet collars, harnesses and leashes

According to DogIDs, place items in a mesh laundry bag and wash with a load of regular clothes. Let it air dry and it'll be ready for Fido.

14. Rubber shower or bathtub mats

Wash the mat with a few towels on a regular cycle in cold water and with a little less detergent than usual, advises Creative Homemaking. Allow it to air dry.

15. Shower curtains and liners

Cleaning Coach Leslie Reichertknows how to tackle this chore easily. Wash with a few towels using a regular cycle, hot water and regular detergent. Hang to dry.

16. Rubber-backed rugs and mats

Merry Maids suggests that you wash the mats on a regular cycle, using cold water and less than the regular amount of detergent with a few towels. Air dry since the dryer may cause the rubber to dry out and crack.

17. Pillows

For washable pillows, including down pillows, repair torn or loose seams before washing or you’ll have a mess to clean. Wash two pillows at a time to keep the machine balanced during the spin cycle. (Add extra towels if you don’t have two.) Set washer for delicate cycle on extra-large load with warm water and cold water rinse. Pre-fill and add enough detergent for a small load. Agitate to dissolve/disperse detergent. Place pillows in washer. Wash. Rinse twice in cold water. To dry, fluff pillows then tumble dry on low with a few dryer balls. Fluff pillows every 20 minutes for even drying and maximum fluffiness.

(Pro tip: Follow the manufacturer’s directions for cleaning pillows. And note that down pillows can only be washed in a front-loading washer as the agitators in top-loading washers could damage the filling.)

18. Pet bedding

According to Overstock.com, Vacuum bedding before washing. Remove cover. Place bed and cover in washer. Wash in hot water using regular amount of detergent. Rinse twice. Dry on high.

19. Yoga mats

PVC and tightly woven fabric mats are usually machine washable but always follow directions on the care label. According to Yoga Outlet, using cool water and a small amount of mild detergent, like Woolite, wash the mat on the gentle cycle but do not let it go through the spin cycle. (That can stretch it out of shape.) Air dry.

Woolite
Woolite

(Pro tip: Always follow the directions on care label.)

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