Surprising Things You Can Clean in the Washing Machine: Maybe the best cleaning hack of all is not having to do any of the work at all! Let the washer do the cleaning for you! You might be surprised by what you can throw in the washing machine:
Stuffed animals. Place each stuffed animal in its own mesh laundry bag. Wash with cold water and 1/2 the usual amount of laundry soap. Do a second rinse if any soap remains on the toy, then air-dry. Fluff fur with your hands or a dry towel, if needed.
Pet supplies. Throw small pet beds, collars, leashes, and toys right in the washing machine. Use laundry bags as needed. Air-dry toys, collars, and leashes. Airdry beds, or toss them in the dryer with dryer balls or tennis balls to fluff up the filling. Is your pet’s bed too large to fit in the washer or dryer? Hand-wash it in the bathtub with Sal Suds or laundry soap. Rinse well, then air-dry. Wash sturdy items in hot water to kill even more germs. Use warm water to prevent damage to more delicate items.
Pillows. Clean machine washable pillows in the washing machine following care label instructions. Wash two pillows at once to help the washer stay balanced. Dry in the dryer with dryer balls or tennis balls to fluff them back up.
Sports gear. Close Velcro closures to prevent tangles. Throw sports gear, including gloves (nonleather), shin guards, and pads (elbow, knee, and shoulder), into the washer with 1/2 the usual amount of laundry soap, then air-dry.
Plastic shower curtain liners. Put your shower curtain liner in the washer. Add your laundry soap and 1 cup of baking soda, then add a few towels to help scrub away soap scum and mildew and keep the curtain from ripping. Wash in warm water to prevent the curtain from melting. Once the wash cycle ends, immediately remove the liner and hang it back up in the shower to dry.
Window curtains. You can wash lace, sheer, and other light curtains in the washing machine on the gentle cycle using cold water. Put delicate lace or sheer curtains in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase before laundering. (Heavy or velvet curtains can’t be cleaned in the washing machine.)
Baseball hats. The best way to clean ball caps is to put them in a cap washer before tossing in the washing machine. If you don’t use a cap washer, you run the risk of ruining the shape of the cap and its comfortable fit. If you don’t have a cap washer, which you can find online or in big-box stores, you can also throw them in the top rack of the dishwasher. Run them in their own cycle, then clean your dishwasher by running an additional empty cycle before using for dishes.
Shower poufs and loofahs. Put shower poufs and loofahs in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase, and toss in the washer with a load of towels. Wash in hot water to kill germs. Hang them up in the shower to air-dry.
Bath mats and throw rugs. Shake rugs and bath mats to remove dirt and debris, then put them in the washer. Distribute them evenly in the washer to keep your washer balanced. Add laundry soap, and wash with cold water. Wash rubber-backed bath mats on the gentle cycle. Throw rugs in the dryer, or air-dry if that’s best for the material (always air-dry rubber-backed rugs and mats).
Sneakers. Canvas shoes and sneakers can also be cleaned up in the washing machine. Remove the laces, and put them in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase. Throw the shoes and laundry bag (or pillowcase) in the washer. Use the normal amount of laundry soap, and add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to remove odors. Wash as usual in warm water, then air-dry.
Yoga mats. Unless the care instructions advise against it, you should be able to clean your mat in the washing machine. Toss it into the washer, and wash in warm water without soap. Dry in the dryer on medium to high heat. Wash your yoga mat once every 1–2 months.
Hair accessories. Throw hair ties and headbands in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase, and toss it in the washer with other laundry.
Stop static cling with aluminum foil. Tear off a couple sheets of aluminum foil, and use them to form a ball about 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Throw the ball in the dryer, and run the cycle as usual.
Dry similar-weight items together to decrease drying time. You shouldn’t just separate the wash according to color; it’s also helpful to separate items according to type and weight. Wash towels, jeans, and lightweight T-shirts in separate loads. If you dry a Tshirt with towels, it’s going to take the T-shirt much longer to dry than if you just did a load of shirts. Plus, you won’t get any lint from the towels on your clothing.
Save time and money with homemade wool dryer balls. Natural wool dryer balls save money on energy costs because wool dryer balls soften and fluff clothes, reduce static without chemicals, and help clothes dry faster. Plus, unlike dryer sheets, they typically last for 1,000+ loads! How many dryer balls you use really depends on personal preference. You should use at least 4–6 balls to notice a decrease in drying time, and use up to 8 for large loads. I prefer to make my dryer balls out of lightly spun roving yarn because it felts better than tighter yarns, but you can use any 100% wool yarn or even an unspun old sweater, as long as it’s 100% wool. If the yarn contains any other material, it won’t felt correctly.
2–3 skeins 100% wool yarn (not “superwash” or washable yarn, which won’t felt)
Large-eyed felting needle or crochet hook
Pantyhose or knee-highs
A cotton or acrylic string to tie the pantyhose (not wool)
- Wrap the yarn about 10 times around your first two fingers. Hold the yarn together, and pull it off your fingers.
- Wrap the yarn around the middle of this little bundle of yarn, and continue wrapping in a circle to form a ball. Once it reaches the desired size (from the size of a tennis ball up to a softball), use the felting needle or crochet hook to tuck the end of the yarn back into the ball through several layers of yarn. Pull the yarn through the ball, and cut the end. You can also save money by filling the ball with an old sock or other fabric instead of making it completely out of wool yarn. Repeat these steps until you have the desired number of balls.
- Cut the leg off an old pair of pantyhose, or use knee-highs. Drop your wool balls into the stocking, tying between each ball. Do not use the wool yarn to tie, because it will felt around the pantyhose. You can use cotton thread, acrylic yarn, or even a shoelace.
- Throw the balls wrapped in pantyhose in the washer with a load of towels, wash with hot water and a cold-water rinse cycle, and dry on the hottest dryer setting. Unwrap your balls to check for felting. You may need to repeat the washing and drying cycles 3–4 times until the balls are completely felted. You’ll know they’re done when you run your fingernail along the ball and the strings of yarn no longer separate.
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