While most of us use our washing machine for dirty clothes, you’d be surprised to learn there’s a long laundry list of items (pun intended) that are machine washable, too. From rubber-backed rugs to sneakers, find out what’s fair game to toss in the washer with our must-see list of dos and don’ts.
Published May 30, 2014, Updated August 5, 2021
Sneakers, really? Yes, really. Your Cons and Keds can handle a ton of wear-and-tear (mud, rain, trekking across Europe) so they’re equipped to handle a good tumbling in the washing machine, too. Just throw a towel in with them to act as a buffer and prevent any warping. Remove the insoles and laces if possible and wash them separately.
Don’t: Running Shoes
Putting running shoes in the washing machine could mean a very expensive mistake! The harsh water cycle could shrink the shoes or reduce their plushness. To be safe, hand-wash the shoes and let them air dry.
Do and Don’t: Backpacks and Lunch Bags
It’s okay to throw some backpacks and lunch bags in the washing machine, as long as they’re not embellished with any delicate 3D details like jewels or beading, or have an excess amount of zippers. The extra embellishments will likely fall off in the washing machine and ruin your fancy carryalls. To wash plain backpacks and lunch bags, turn them inside out, place them in a pillowcase or mesh bag and wash on a gentle cycle.
Most rugs, including rubber-backed doormats and small cotton rugs, are machine washable. If they’re made of cotton or synthetic fibers, you can throw them in the wash with towels and wash them in cold water on a gentle cycle. Just be careful not to wash rugs with a rubber-back too often or they’ll tear.
Don’t: Flammable Stains
The only stains your washing machine isn’t equipped to handle? Stains from flammable substances like gasoline or other combustible solvents. Putting clothes tarnished with flammable stains in the washing machine could result in a fire or worse, an explosion.
Do and Don’t: Pillows and Duvets
We all know it’s okay to wash sheets in the washing machine, but did you know that pillow inserts and duvets are machine washable, too? Whether or not you should wash them at home is a different story, and depends on the size of your washing machine. If you have a small washer, the heavy load could damage it. If your washing machine can hold the extra large load, go ahead. Just use a gentle cycle and always follow the instructions on the care tag.
Do: Stuffed Animals
Just like your kids, sometimes their stuffed animals need a bath. Toss them in the washing machine on a gentle cycle, but be sure to remove loose bows and “clothing” first. Refer to the care tag for washing instructions, and place them in a pillowcase or mesh bag for added protection. But when it comes to your kid’s favourite, can’t-sleep-without-it toys, play it safe and hand wash it.
Don’t: Underwired Bras
The underwire in some bras can destroy the inside of your washing machine. To be safe, hand-wash underwired bras and if you must put them in the washing machine, place them in a protective pillow case or mesh bag.
Do and Don’t: Sofa Covers
Most sofa covers are pre-shrunk, meaning you can wash them in your washing machine, no problem! However, without that label, getting them dry-cleaned is a must or you could risk shrinking the often costly home item.
Do: Shower Curtain Lining
Most shower curtain linings (caked-on mold and all) are completely machine washable. Just pop it in the washer instead of replacing it with a brand new one.
Don’t: Tiny Items
Tiny items like baby’s socks can easily get lost in the wash, never to be seen again. But where do they go? Into your laundry machine’s hoses and vents, that’s where. This could prevent your washer from draining properly and result in a flood. To avoid this, place teeny tiny items in a mesh bag in the washing machine or wash them by hand.
Do and Don’t: Throw Blankets
While it only seems practical that throw blankets would be machine washable, many of them are dry-clean only. Double check the care tag before your next purchase to avoid the expensive up-keep.