18 Surprising Things You Can Throw in Your Washing Machine

Including your shower curtain liner!

Surprising Things You Can Clean in Your Washing Machine
Photo: GoodLifeStudio/Getty Images

Think washing machines are only for doing laundry? Think again. "One of the most valuable cleaning tricks I've learned over the years is that you can clean much more than clothes, towels, and bedding in your washing machine," says Jill Nystul, owner of the homekeeping blog One Good Thing By Jillee. Here's a comprehensive list of unexpected items you can wash in your washing machine that will save you countless hours of time and effort.

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Shower Curtain Liners

Machine wash your shower curtain liner to remove soap scum and mildew, says Nystul. Add a few bath towels to the load to "cushion" the liner and keep it from tearing. Use a small amount of your regular detergent and 1 cup of baking soda. "The baking soda will help loosen the gunk," she says. "And the towels will help scrub it away."

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Patio Chair Cushions

These can get quite dirty after a few seasons outside. Before you put them away (or bring them out again), wash your chair cushions in cold water on a gentle cycle, tackling stains first with a pre-treater if necessary, says Nystul. Allow them to air dry completely before storing or using.

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Car Mats

As long as the floor mats in your car or truck aren't too big or too heavy, you can wash them in your washing machine, says Nystul. "They'll look so much better after a good cleaning."

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Rubber-Backed Rugs and Mats

These items can handle the occasional wash. (Washing them too often will likely cause the backing to lose its grip.) Only wash them when they really need it, says Nystul, and vacuum them often to keep them clean.

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Reusable Mop Heads

How do you clean an item that's used to clean the rest of the house? Throw it in the washing machine on hot, says Melanie Jackson, director of operations for The Minte, a hotel-style housekeeping service in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Make sure to put them in the dryer alone, however, as adding items like towels in the dryer can ruin them.

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Hair Ties and Headbands

Over time, hair accessories can get covered in buildup from oil and hair products, so they need a good wash every once in a while. Toss them all into a small mesh bag and throw them in with your next load of laundry, recommends Nystul.

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To clean lace curtains in the washing machine, zip them into a mesh bag first, says Nystul. Traditional fabric curtains can be washed on a delicate cycle in cold water. Avoid machine-washing heavy or velvet curtains.

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Bath Mats

Wash on hot to sanitize properly, says Jackson, then tumble dry for about 30 minutes to restore the fluff. Hang to fully dry after the tumble cycle.

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Sheepskin Boots

If you have a pair of old UGGs that have seen better days, try washing them, says Nystul. Start by brushing off any loose dirt from the outside. Then put the boots in a mesh bag and place them in your washer with a couple of bath towels. Use the delicate setting on your washer and cold water. Remove the boots immediately once the wash is done, and give the fleece lining a good fluff. Let them air-dry overnight.

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Children's Toys and Stuffed Animals

Nothing gets quite as dirty as a toddler's favorite toy. But they hold up fine in the washing machine and dryer, as long as you use low heat. Johnson recommends placing them in a pillowcase and securing the top with a rubber band to keep the toys together in the wash. You can always wash a batch of plastic toys this way, she says.

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Yoga Mats

Wash yoga mats in cold water on a delicate setting, and let them air dry flat, says Nystul.

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Canvas Shoes and Sneakers

Remove the laces and zip them into a mesh bag, says Nystul. Place the shoes and the bag in your washer, along with two or three bath towels. (This helps keep the shoes from banging around so much in the wash.) After washing, let the shoes air dry completely.

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Backpacks and Gym Bags

Place bags with straps inside a mesh bag before washing, says Nystul. If you don't have a mesh bag big enough, you can flip the bag inside out so the straps stay contained. Open and unzip all the pockets before washing, and hang to dry completely.

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Curtain Sheers

Wash these with OxiClean, and they'll come out unbelievably white, says Jackson. Be sure to hang them to dry, and they may need a quick steam with a handheld steamer to remove wrinkles.

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Baseball Hats

You can safely wash almost any modern baseball cap with cold water on delicate cycle because the brims have a plastic core. (Vintage baseball caps, however, are more likely to have a cardboard brim, so you definitely don't want to run them through the wash, says Nystul.)

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Reusable Grocery Bags

Wash your reusable grocery bags every few weeks to keep them sanitary. Nystul says she's washed both vinyl and cloth bags in her washer successfully.

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Pet Collars and Leashes

Nylon collars and leashes can be washed anytime, says Nystul. Just place them in a mesh bag first.

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Pet Beds

A lot of pet beds have removable covers, which makes washing them super easy. If yours doesn't have a removable cover, here are a few tips from Nystul for washing it: Start by vacuuming any hair or dirt off the surface, then wash with a gentle detergent. Place it in your dryer for 10-20 minutes to give it a head start on drying, then let it air dry the rest of the way before returning the bed to your pet.

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