Park City Home: The Secret Life of Washing Machines |

Park City Home: The Secret Life of Washing Machines

Your clothes washer is the obvious destination for soiled socks, shirts and sweats, but don't be afraid to think outside the box

Washing machine, what can't you clean?

Shower curtains
It makes sense that a fabric shower curtain can go in your washer. Just remove the rings before you toss it in, and hang it on its rod to dry. What’s surprising is that even the plastic liner can benefit from a machine wash. Keep the setting on low-warm and add a few bath towels to balance the load and help with scrubbing. Again, bring it back into the bathroom to air-dry. Non-slip bathmats (the silicone kind) can also go in the washing machine.

Plush toys
If little Arlo’s teddy bear is looking grimy, there’s a good chance you can bring it back to clean, fluffy life in the washer. Check the manufacturer’s tag to ensure it can tolerate a tumble in the machine; if the tag has been removed, be sure there are no plastic, glued-on parts or foam bead filling. (And if a toy is delicate or really ancient, hand-washing is a better choice.) Then choose the gentle cycle, cold water, and a mild detergent like Woolite. Adding a few towels to the drum will help supply balance and padding. Let plush toys air dry.

Athletic shoes
Trainers, sneakers, kicks, whatever — almost all canvas and mesh athletic shoes can go in the washing machine. (If you’re not sure, check the manufacturer’s website for care instructions.) Remove the laces (this may be the time to replace them) and the insoles, shake out any pebbles or dirt, and rinse the soles under the tap, using an old toothbrush or rag to remove as much dirt as possible. Put a load of towels in the machine along with liquid laundry detergent. A mesh laundry bag or pillowcase will keep your shoes from banging around. Be sure to let the shoes air-dry, as heat from the dryer can melt the glue that holds them together.

Oven mitts
From crusty egg yolks to splattered lasagna, these kitchen helpmates take a beating. Before you begin, check the label. Many cloth oven mitts are washable (small load, cold or warm water, air dry), and a lot can even go in the dryer. Happily, even silicone mitts and trivets can go in your washing machine. Just skip the drying.

Car mats
Give your car a refresh by vacuuming the mats to remove the worst of the dirt, spot-treating the stains, then washing them in warm water on the machine’s gentle cycle using your regular detergent. You can use the same method for small area rugs and door mats. If either mats or rugs have a rubber component, wash on the cool setting and avoid the dryer.

It only takes one spilled juice box for a backpack to become the most disgusting thing in your child’s locker. To wash it, remove any parts that aren’t permanently attached, such as buckles or accessories. Pretreat stains by using 1 part detergent to 1 part water, brushing the mixture on the stains. Turn the backpack inside out and place it in a mesh bag or pillow case (otherwise the straps may twist and tangle). Use the gentle wash cycle and rinse twice. Line dry.

Canvas grocery bags
Over time, the bags you tote to the grocery store inevitably become repositories of drips and dirt. Just turn them inside-out and toss in the washer, using a hot-water setting; they can also go in the dryer. Insulated bags and those made of coated plastic require hand-washing.

Mouse pads
If it’s a foam pad (not a hard pad with a smooth plastic surface), toss it in the gentle cycle with warm water and air-dry. Again, use warm water and a bit of mild detergent. Another PVC foam-cushioned item that can be laundered? Your yoga mat.

Bed pillows
Get rid of dust mites by placing one pillow (both down and synthetic are fine) in the washer, alongside detergent, and turn the temperature to hot (if your machine has a dedicated bed linen setting, use that). Use the dryer to puff your pillow back into fluffy shape.

Salad greens
When it comes to making salad for a crowd, drying the freshly-washed greens is usually the most cumbersome task. If you’ve got far too many wet leaves than your salad spinner can handle, try your washer’s spin cycle. Place the greens in a clean pillowcase, tie the end, and put on the gentle spin cycle for a minute. Small farmers have been using a version of this method for years.

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