Best unexpected uses for laundry machine?
January 26, 2013 12:09 PM   Subscribe

What are some of the most useful, unusual, time-saving, unexpected, and/or awesome things that are (safely) laundry-machine-washable?

I REALLY hate cleaning. Long ago I asked about the best unexpected uses for a dishwasher. I'll revisit that question someday, but for now I don't have a dishwasher, and it sucks. Make me feel better about the cleaning technology I do have: the laundry washing machine! What are the most nifty things that are machine-washable? This includes both things that you wouldn't think to machine-wash, like your cat, and things that have been deliberately designed to be machine-washable unlike other, similar items, like a machine-washable garden hose, if one existed. (Please do not launder your cats or garden hoses. Thank you.)
posted by nicebookrack to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I throw the shower curtain in with a couple of dishtowels (for friction), on cold, about every six months.
posted by monkeymonkey at 12:11 PM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Toss your shower curtain in there with a bit of bleach, and it'll get the mildew off.

I regularly wash all of my dog's stuff (his towels, blankets, toys, tug of war ropes, etc) with detergent and a half cup of bleach. Cuts down on dog stank and hair around the house, and gets the residual crusty slobber off of everything.
posted by phunniemee at 12:16 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pillows! Most poly- and foam-filled pillows can be machine washed and dried.
posted by msbubbaclees at 12:17 PM on January 26, 2013

Non-leather sports shoes will probably survive machine washing with good results, make sure you dry them thoroughly afterwards.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:21 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Legos can be washed in the washing machine, especially if you have a lot of Duplo blocks that have suffered some sort of unfortunate toddler-related incident involving bodily fluids. Put them in a mesh/lingerie bag and toss in a couple of big bath towels so they don't bang around too much (usually the towels used to clean up the unfortunate bodily fluid incident!). Wash them on gentle, cold, with very little detergent. DO NOT DRY in the dryer, just spread them out somewhere.

Obviously do not machine wash pieces with stickers or electrical parts or anything like that, but plain old bricks do fine!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:21 PM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

I haven't done this myself (and I'm a little too nervous to try it myself), but someone just told me they'd washed their yoga mat (Jade harmony rubber mat) in their front loader recently.
posted by instamatic at 12:29 PM on January 26, 2013

A cautionary tale on washing Legos. I had to do this several times because of a confused cat. I put the regular/ small size in several pillow cases to prevent bricks from getting stuck in crevasses or going through the filter. The friction and sharp edges will destroy fabrics so use your old, on its way to the trash stuff.
posted by Talia Devane at 12:35 PM on January 26, 2013

Get yourself a cap cage and you can launder those grubby baseball caps.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:42 PM on January 26, 2013

(I've washed a yoga mat; came out great)

I am a bit of a junk dealer in my spare time and a lot of things are junk if not cleaned up but not worth the time and cost of a non-desperation clean, and so everything that won't damage the machine goes in the machine. I have lots of ugly poly-blend pillowcases just for this. The write-off rate is abysmally low and I encourage washing machine experimentation. Be wary of: unstable glues, bleeding colours. But just using cold water will cut even a lot of those two risks.

I would not launder most leather/suede dress shoes, but I will wash virtually every other kind of shoe. Occasionally one runs into an extremely crappy shoe that has non-waterproof glue used in the manufacture, and occasionally things come out a bit stiff, but I would encourage people to launder shoes; they come out amazingly improved most of the time. If you can step in a puddle and it won't be ruined, it will probably do fine. Sometimes I re-hydrate the leather with whatever product (old hand lotion? Whatever) and sometimes I stuff old socks inside the shoe and accelerate the drying by setting it over a heating vent, but often even that's more fuss than needed.

I stuff fairly big area rugs into mine; perhaps not a great idea for the machine, but it does work out okay here...

Tote/duffel/etc bags, zippered cloth cases. Any flexible vinyl anything like raincoats or shower curtains. Hats. Dollies, teddies, all sorts of toys. Pet collars and leashes. Down duvets (coats, etc) (put old clean shoes or tennis balls in the dryer to beat them back into fluffiness). Pillows as mentioned, both bed and decor varieties. Filters for various things that use filters. Rubber boots.
posted by kmennie at 12:47 PM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I once washed a vinyl shower curtain which was explicitly labelled as machine-washable -- I forget what the washing instructions were but I followed them to the letter. It fell apart very impressively into little pieces about the size of matchbooks.

I washed a synthetic pillow which was also labelled as machine-washable. I used a top-loading machine. The pillow floated to the surface and stayed there no matter how many times I poked it down. Front-loader would probably have worked better though.
posted by pont at 12:51 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wash my husband stinky sneaker in the washing machine all the time. Even ones with leather uppers. They come out clean and fresh smelling, at least until he wears them a few times. The leather softens up after a wear or 2.
posted by wwax at 12:59 PM on January 26, 2013

I don't know if you were serious about the cat, but you should not put anything alive in the washing machine.

I know someone whose cat jumped in the washer and nobody noticed. They no longer had a cat. I will not go into details.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:07 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

(If you do wash your running shoes in the machine and then you're putting them in the dryer, hang them by the laces over the closed dryer door. They won't bang around inside and be noisy or damage your dryer.)
posted by taff at 1:40 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

In case that was unclear, shoes should be inside the dryer, laces hung over the closed door, outside the dryer.
posted by taff at 1:53 PM on January 26, 2013

Some shoes have removable insoles that can be washed in a mesh bag or more safely, by hand. I would not dryer them because of plastic. (Yes, I made a verb out of a noun.)
If you do not wear socks/stockings, remember that feet are the sweatiest body parts. Do your friends a favor and wash your shoes, at least wipe inside with a damp cloth. (Wouldn't it be easier to wear socks?)
posted by Cranberry at 2:02 PM on January 26, 2013

I wash my vinyl shower curtains regularly, but make sure the water is as hot as possible to soften the vinyl so it won't crumble (I will try adding dish towels next time). I recently noticed the little measuring cup for the liquid detergent I use says to throw it in the machine, so I have been doing that and it doesn't get gunky any more.
posted by TedW at 2:06 PM on January 26, 2013

I also use plenty of bleach on said shower curtains to nuke the mildew that is rampant here in the humid Southeast.
posted by TedW at 2:07 PM on January 26, 2013

I just thought about this some more....if dildos are ok then menstrual cups would be too.

My toothbrush handle can get a bit yucky from sitting in a cup with small amounts of water in the bottom. In future, I'm going to chuck it in the dishwasher. Not with a menstrual cup. Nor a dildo.
posted by taff at 2:26 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have washed motorcycle leathers in a standard top-loading machine. Wash them in cold water, hang dry (this can take a few days) and rub down with very cheap hand lotion. I see no reason other leather items couldn't be washed like this, but I suspect nubuck & suede would get imprinted by drain holes during the spin cycle.
posted by workerant at 2:49 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nthing yoga mat. Also: kitchen sponges, non-metal scrubbing pads. Mixed results with backpacks. Once destroyed an expensive sleeping bag.
posted by neutralmojo at 3:19 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've never tried this, but in Lisa Alther's Original Sins, Sally produces "a perfectly poached mackerel" by wrapping it in a square of aluminium foil and poaching it in the dish-washer (part four, chapter four).
Disclaimer: I don't intend to try it, either.
posted by aqsakal at 9:22 AM on January 27, 2013

I mentioned it in the other thread, but I'll repeat it here: My dad threw a big bucket of garden-picked carrots into the washing machine to wash the dirt off them. I assume he chopped the greens off first.
posted by CathyG at 1:00 PM on January 27, 2013

I got so frustrated with trying and failing to clean my white bunny slippers by hand that I eventually just threw them in with the laundry to see what would happen. They came out intact and nearly as white as the day I got them!
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:58 PM on January 27, 2013

Quick note about drying shoes: wad up newspaper or similar type free advertising papers and put it inside your shoes to speed up drying if you're not using the dryer. We do this all the time for our dive booties or snow/slush/wet outdoor shoes.
posted by mightshould at 3:19 AM on January 28, 2013

Disclaimer: I work for a major appliance manufacturer. We advise everyone to clean their items as per manufacturer's directions. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU PUT A LIVE ANIMAL IN YOUR WASHER OR DRYER.

That said:

A tip I learned from the old Tightwad Gazette: I turn Ziploc-type bags inside out and wash them in a separate load with kitchen wash cloths and kitchen towels. No bleach, of course, I just use the Towels setting on my washer.

I wash only the sturdy Ziploc-type bags and don't bother with the flimsy sandwich bags--they come apart.

Also: Dishwasher Salmon Recipe (not endorsed by my company).
posted by magstheaxe at 7:31 PM on January 28, 2013

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