12 things you didn’t know you could clean in the washing machine


The washing machine is one of the humblest appliances in our homes. You take a week’s worth of laundry, pop in some detergent, turn a few knobs and voilà, it comes out fresh and clean like the day you bought it.

But did you know that washing machines aren’t just for clothes anymore? There’s a whole host of other things this magic box can handle. Reader’s Digest rounded up this list of unique household items that can stand up to a wash.

Read more: 11 ways to pay less for appliances


Pre-clean these by opening pockets, checking for anything loose and vacuuming out any detritus if necessary.

Once that’s done, place the backpack in a laundry bag or pillowcase. Wash on gentle in cold water with a sparing amount of gentle detergent like a Woolite or a generic equivalent. Hang to dry.

Baseball caps

Pre-treat with a little stain remover and let sit for five minutes before washing. Then use the short cycle with cold water. You’ll have to reshape the hat by hand and air dry it, but this is a great way to get rid of sweaty head smell!

Gym bags

Open the pockets, check for anything loose and vacuum out any protein bars, whey powder, etc. Then wash on a cold-water gentle cycle.

Most gym equipment is more bacteria-laden than a toilet seat. Considering how easily microbes can travel from equipment a gym bag, you may want to do this one pretty often!

Legos and other small toys

Pop them in a mesh laundry bag and run them on a cool delicate cycle.

Don’t attempt this if the toys in question are hollow, like some squirtable bath toys. You don’t want mold growth from the water that will get trapped inside them!


Read more: Always stepping on Legos? These slippers will save your tortured feet

Mop heads

Recently, our contributor Katy Wolk-Stanley explained how the head from a detachable plastic fiber broom could be washed in the dishwasher. In the spirit of that tip, here’s another…

Read the label on your removable mop head and see if it was intended to go in the washing machine. Many are! (Just don’t try this with a Swiffer.)

Oven mitts

Try throwing them in with a load of dishtowels and washcloths.


Using a warm-water gentle cycle, wash them two a time. You’ll probably want to run a cold-water rinse and spin after the initial wash to make sure you’ve removed all the soap residue.

Dry the pillows on low heat to fluff them up.

Plastic shower curtains

If you don’t like cleaning these by hand, here’s your alternative: Throw the curtains in with a regular amount of detergent and a couple of bath towels for extra scour power. Dry them by hanging.

Reusable grocery bags

Check to see that your bags are canvas before attempting this one. If they are, try running them on a hot-water regular cycle with the usual amount of detergent. Be sure to promptly toss them in the dryer when they’re done.


If you have canvas or nylon sneakers, remove the laces and place in a pillowcase to contain them. Next, remove any inner soles or padding that will come out of the sneaker itself.

You’ll use the same regular amount of detergent you normally would on a cold wash delicate cycle, but try adding a tablespoon or two of white vinegar to deodorize. 


Allow everything to air dry when finished.

Sports equipment

Items like shin guards, gloves and knee/elbow/shoulder pads can be cleaned at least once a month. Just be sure you close any Velcro before washing and put the items in a laundry bag or pillowcase. Use a half amount of Woolite or a generic equivalent and wash on regular.

Your yoga mat

First, check the care instructions on your mat. So long as there’s no strict guidance against machine washing, run it on gentle but don’t use any soap.

Yoga mats can generally be dried on medium to high heat.

Read more: Why you’re probably washing your clothes all wrong

You may be washing your clothes all wrong

When it comes to washing your clothes, did you know somewhere between 60 and 65 degrees is the optimal temperature? No need to waste money on super-hot water! That’s according to Consumer Reports.

‘Detergents are formulated with enzymes that kick into action even at 60 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Pat Slaven, a chemical engineer who has worked as a detergent tester for the magazine for 10 years. 

Once the water temperature reaches above 75 degrees, detergents becomes less effective, and the heat can actually help stains set into the clothing. Hotter water can also damage some fabrics and colors.

For more on how to properly wash your clothes, read this article.

Read more: 19 things you didn’t know you could wash in the dishwasher


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