Should I wash…?

May 04, 2015

Ever stare at your muddy joggers or yoga mat and think, “This will never be clean again”? Fear not because those are both items that can be machine washed. In fact, there are a lot of things you can (and probably should) regularly clean that you may not even think of.

The rule of thumb for most of these items is that things you didn’t think you could wash generally can be put in the washer, but not in the dryer, and should be washed on the most delicate setting available. Of course, if you’re traveling or camping, you’ll have to make do with your sink or bag method, but the information below should get you through most common laundry queries.

Things you didn’t know you could clean but probably should.

Some of these things can go into your washer…

  • Shoes: You probably don’t want to throw your best shoes in the washer, but for more casual apparel, the washer might hit the spot – even for shoes  with leather like TOMS. You’ll want to make sure any large debris is removed from your shoe before you throw it in the wash, and then fill the washer with cold water in the most gentle cycle you have. Add a small amount of gentle detergent and add your shoes. To dry them, place them in a well-ventilated place, or outside in the sun. Under no circumstances should you throw them in the dryer. You can also stuff the shoes with newspaper or dryer sheets to help absorb water faster and act as a deodorizer.
  • Pillows: After working part-time as desks, chairs, and floor cushions, pillows spend all night, every night, on your face. They’re something you want to make sure stays clean. You should be washing them at least twice a year (pillowcases once a week or so,) but this is another item that can be easily cleaned in your washer. Wash them in pairs to keep your washer balanced: Wash them on gentle with a mild detergent. You’ll want to use liquid detergent here, because a powder could leave residue on your pillow. Dry these in the dryer and use either very low heat or an air tumble dry. No heat is preferred, but make sure the pillow is truly dry before returning it to your bed. Any remaining dampness can cause mold.
  • Yoga Mats: These spend a lot of time on the floor and under your feet, so yoga mats should be cleaned after every use to rid them of any sweat, dirt, oil or dust that you may have tracked all over them in the studio. For a daily after-practice spray, FreePeople has a good recipe to disinfect and keep your mat smelling fresh. A thorough washing is easier than you might think because you can throw your mat right into the washer, but you still need to keep an eye on them. Use cold water and a mild detergent, and remove the mat before it hits the spin cycle. Rinse your mat with cool water in your shower or with a hose, and hang the mat to dry. Mats take at least 24-hours to dry, so make sure you plan your cleaning when it won’t interfere with your zen.
  • Plastic Shower Curtains: Even these can go into the washer, and this is a great way to remove the mold and mildew that commonly gathers here. Put your shower curtain into the washer with two towels, regular clothing detergent and a cup of baking soda. The towels help to provide a little cushion for your shower curtain and with with the baking soda to help scrub all that mildew away. After that, just hang the shower curtain back up to dry, and throw the towels into the dryer as you would normally do. This also works for plastic shower mats!

And some things can’t go into the washer.

  • Smartphone: Notorious for accidentally getting a spin cycle, your phone is much better off just being cleaned daily with a disinfecting wipe.
  • Your desk: Did you know your office desk has 400x the amount of bacteria than the average toilet seat? Just like your cell phone, find a disinfecting wipe and get working.
  • Car steering wheels: We’ll set the scene for this one. You’re gritting your teeth in gridlocked traffic and clutching your steering wheel in frustration after a long day of work and a long day touching your germy desk, cell phone, doorknobs, elevator buttons, and stair rails. There’s a lot of time spent transferring germs to that thing. If your wheel is leather, you’ll want a leather cleaner, but a simple disinfecting wipe will get plastic. Clean everything in there: wheel, gearshift, radio buttons – everything.
  • Reusable grocery bags: You know the importance of food hygiene for food safety, but boxes and bags for food transport are easily overlooked, especially if these bags live in your car or garage, only used at the weekly shop. Reusable cloth bags are highly susceptible to germs, bacteria and very dangerous and harmful strains like E. coli. Throw these in the washing machine (after taking out the plastic insert)! In between washes keep your bags disinfected with a spray. Combine white vinegar, distilled water and a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Shake well before each spray, and be sure to get seams and corners when you spray them. Your health will thank you.