16 Things You Never Knew You Could Put in the Washing Machine

Updated: Apr. 12, 2024

Stuffed animals and small toys? Sure. Yoga mats and baseball caps? Bring them on.

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istock/Christopher Ames

Stuffed Animals

Place each stuffed animal in its own mesh laundry bag and set your washing machine to wash and rinse. Use cold water (warm or hot water could melt the toy’s glue) and half the regular amount of detergent, advises Housewife How-Tos. Run the animals through a second rinse cycle to remove all the soap, and allow them to air dry. Fluff fur as needed.

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Mop Heads

Check the label on your removable mop head to see if it can go in the washing machine—most are made to be removable for exactly this purpose. If you’re using a Swiffer, give your wipes a simple hand wash to ready them for a second use.

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Oven Mitts

Add oven mitts and potholders to your load of dishtowels and washcloths.

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Baseball Caps

Spray caps with stain remover and let them sit for five minutes, suggests blogger MomCrieff. Run the hats on a short cycle using cold water. Reshape each hat and allow them to air dry.

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Remove the laces from canvas or nylon sneakers and slip them into a cotton pillowcase where they won’t get tangled. Take out any inner soles or padding from the sneakers and toss the shoes and pillowcase into your washer (if you’re concerned about the shoes causing a racket, throw in a few towels as well). Add the regular amount of detergent, plus a dash of vinegar to deodorize. Set your machine on a cold-wash delicate cycle. Allow the shoes and shoelaces to air dry.  To wash white shoes, you may need to take a few extra steps to get them looking good again.

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Small Toys

Load small toys such as Legos, bath-time puffers, or the ball your dog uses to play fetch into a mesh laundry bag. Run them through a cool delicate cycle to get them squeaky clean. Learn which objects you’re probably cleaning too much.

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Wash pillows two at a time in a warm-water gentle cycle. To ensure you’ve washing out all the soap, add an extra cold-water rinse and spin, advises Good Housekeeping. To fluff things up, dry the pillows on low heat, along with a few rubber dryer balls.

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Plastic Shower Curtains

Clean a plastic shower curtain with a regular amount of detergent. Add two or three bath towels for extra cleaning power. Hang to dry.

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Backpacks and Lunch Boxes

Open all of your backpack’s pockets and check for any items that might be hidden. If there are large pieces of crumbs or debris, use your vacuum cleaner’s crevice attachment to do a thorough pre-cleaning. Put your backpack into a laundry bag or pillowcase and wash it on a gentle cycle in cold water with a small amount of gentle detergent. Allow to air dry.

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Yoga Mat

If the care instructions on your mat don’t advise against putting it in the washing machine, you most likely can. “Throw [your mat] in the washing machine once a month. No soap. Then into the dryer on medium to high heat,” Lauren Imparato, founder of I.Am.You yoga in New York City, told Well+Good.

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Small Rugs

Take the rug outside and shake it to remove any loose dirt, and then load the rug into the washing machine with a few bath towels to balance the load. Set the machine on a cold-wash delicate cycle, and add half the regular amount of detergent.

It might be tempting to wash a bath mat the same way, but the reality is that you should not put your bath mat in the washing machine. Oh, and speaking of, check out the best stone bath mats that’ll have you saying goodbye to fabric mats forever in an instant.

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Reusable Grocery Bags

Your reusable canvas grocery bags go from the inside of your shopping cart to the trunk of your car to … your kitchen counter. Plus, they’re in close contact with your fruits and veggies. Give them the thorough cleaning they deserve. Canvas bags can go straight into the washing machine on a hot-water regular cycle with the recommended amount of detergent. Pop them right into the dryer afterward.

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Sports Equipment

Give sports gear (knee, elbow, and shoulder pads, shin guards, gloves) a good cleaning at least once a month. Close all Velcro closures to prevent them from snagging or tangling, and put them each in laundry bags and into the washing machine. Add a half amount of gentle detergent and wash on a regular cycle.

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istock/Renee Keith

Pet Beds

Foam pet beds can be cleaned whenever you see fit. Remove the bed’s outside cover and place it in the washing machine with cold water and regular detergent. To clean the foam piece, fill your bathtub halfway with warm water. Add a scoop of laundry detergent and sink the bed into the soapy water. Empty the soap water from the tub and refill with clean water. Rinse the foam out and place it in the sun to air dry. Replace the foam cover and zip it up.

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Gym Bags

Aside from the sweat and gunk that accumulates inside your bag, the outside is also covered in the germs the bag picks up in the locker room. Open all of your gym bag’s pockets to check for any forgotten items and wash on a cold-water gentle cycle.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest