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How to Clean Toys, Gear, and More

By Sarah Stebbins
Hooks above a bench in a hallwayWilliam Abranowicz
Bet you didn’t think you could toss that backpack into the washer. Guess again: You can launder all sorts of random things ― just make sure to rinse off grime first, so you don’t clog the machine. “I take my dirty work clothes outside and spray them with the pressure washer first,” says Don Aslett, author of 20 cleaning books.


Wash alone in a front-loader on gentle in cold water with all-purpose detergent. Don’t wash multicolored packs; the dyes may bleed.

Cloth Purses and Tote Bags

“People put them on car and restaurant floors ― they’re some of the dirtiest things we own,” says Sandra Phillips, a cleaning consultant and the author of A Clean Break (Live-Right Books, $10, Wash on delicate in warm water with all-purpose detergent. Air-dry. Don’t wash purses with sequins or other embellishments.

Laptop and iPod Cases

Wash canvas, nylon, and microfiber cases in warm water with all-purpose detergent. Air-dry. Don’t wash padded ones ― they contain a foam layer that holds water and doesn’t dry well.

Ironing-Board Cover

Wash in warm water with all-purpose detergent. Air-dry.

Sleeping Bags

Wash in a front-loader―the agitator in a top-loader may rip seams―on gentle in warm water with mild detergent. (Harsher detergents can ruin the feathers in down bags.) Dry on low or no heat.

Car-Seat and High-Chair Covers

Use warm water and 1 1/2 capfuls of all-purpose detergent to get rid of the ground-in soils on cloth covers. Dry on low for 5 to 10 minutes, then air-dry.


Wash canvas or leather sneakers (even those kids’ shoes with plastic parts) in cold water with all-purpose detergent. Place them in mesh bags to keep laces from wrapping around the agitator. Dry on low for 10 minutes, then air-dry for a day. Wash slippers with rubber soles if the care label allows it.

 Oven Mitts and Sponges

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