Bet you didn't know that your washing machine was multi-functional. It isn't just for cleaning your dirty clothes, but it can be used to clean and disinfect various household products. From dirty sponges to drool covered pillow, you'll be surprised at what you can throw in the washer.

1. Sneakers And Canvas Shoes

denim sneakers
  • Gentle cycle, warm water

Make your old sneakers and running shoes look like new again by cleaning them in the washer. Before tossing them in, take some precautions first. First, remove the laces and insoles--you'll be washing these separately. Then, pretreat any set in stains and lightly scrub scuff marks. Place the sneakers a mesh laundry bag and place them in the washer on gentle cycle with water. Resist the temptation to use copious amounts of laundry detergent, the normal amount you would use for a laundry load will suffice. At the end of the cycle, do not place them in the dryer, let them air dry. Preferably, place crumbled newspaper in them to keep their form.

2. Exercise Mats

blue yoga mat
  • Gentle cycle, warm or cool water

With the amount of sweat and dirt your exercise mat is exposed to, it's a smart idea to wash it regularly. While you can give it a good wipe down after each session, sometimes bacteria can hide in pores and fibers of the material. Give it a deep clean by putting it in your washer on a gentle cycle with warm and cool water. A heavy duty detergent like Persil or Tide will kill germs and bacteria. If you have a washing machine with a center agitator, then arrange it around the agitator and throw in towels to act as a buffer and prevent the machine from bouncing around during the spin cycle. At the end of the cycle, roll the mat on a towel to squeeze out the excess water. Then, let it air dry.

3. Stuffed Animals and Toys

brown teddy bear
  • Gentle cycle, warm or cool water

Yes, beloved Teddy needs a bath every once in a while. Unless the stuffed toy is battery operated or has a mechanical element, then it is perfectly safe to throw in the washer. First, make sure that it is free or rips and tears. If it does, repair them before washing. Also, pretreat any set in stains or heavily soiled areas. Place in a mesh laundry bag and wash in warm or cool water on the gentle cycle with your typical detergent. Finally, let the stuffed toy air dry.

4. Small Plastic Toys

lego toys
  • Gentle cycle, warm or cool water

You'll be surprised at the number of germs that are on your children's toys. To disinfect them by place them in a mesh bag and toss them in the washer with laundry detergent. If someone in your child has been sick recently, add in some disinfectant like bleach or white vinegar (for a natural alternative).

5. Backpacks and Gym Bags

cloth backpack
  • Regular cycle, warm water, heavy-duty detergent

Cloth and vinyl backpacks and gym bags are safe to machine wash. First, empty it completely and check all compartments and pockets. Pretreat any stains with stain removal product and scrub out with a soft bristled brush and let sit for 15 minutes. Turn the bag inside out and wash with heavy duty detergent on the warm cycle. If bacteria like athlete's foot is a concern add disinfectant.

6. Lunch Bags And Insulated Coolers

red lunch bag
  • Gentle cycle, warm water setting

It is important to keep your lunch bag clean for there may be a chance of cross contamination from bacteria and germs like Salmonella, Listeria, E.coli, mold. Soft-sided lunch bags should be washed in warm water on gentle with regular detergent. Additionally, you can add disinfectant to ensure all viruses and bacteria are gone. Do not dry in the dryer.

7. Sports Gear

child roller blading
  • Gentle, warm water setting

Sports gear like shin guards, knee pads, and compression sleeves are like magnets for dirt, sweat, and grass stains. Properly clean them by placing them in a mesh laundry bag and throwing them in the washer on a gentle cycle with regular detergent. Avoid direct heat and air dry.

8. Reusable Grocery Bags

reusable grocery bag
  • Regular cycle, hot water setting

Grocery bags are one of those things that you don't think to wash. They bags that you use for produce, meat, and pre-made meals need to be washed regularly; specifically, after every other use. You probably place them on the ground and on counter tops at the grocery store and they're probably covered in bacteria. Follow the laundry directions on the bag, if available. If not there aren't directions, remove dividers and place in the wash on the hot water setting on the regular cycle with typical detergent.

9. Hot Pads and Oven Mitts

red oven mit
  • Gentle cycle, war water setting

Oven mitts are another thing that you probably don't wash on a regular basis. It's not until it's covered in dried food that you finally decide to wash it. You can throw them in the wash with your normal load. Run the wash on the gentle cycle with warm water and add laundry detergent. Scorched mitts cannot be saved and should be thrown away. This item is fine to place in the dryer on low heat or on air dry.

10. Small Rugs And Car Mats

area rug
  • Gentle cycle, cold water

Rugs near the door and in your car are prone to dirt buildup and bacteria. Be sure to read labels and see if it needs to be dry cleaned. Before washing, pretreat stains and scrub heavily soiled spots. Wash on the gentle cycle with cold water--hot water should be avoided for it will cause the rug to shrink. Also, do not use chlorine bleach for it will destroy the rubber backing. Always let air dry, for heat will cause the rubber backing to flake off. Clean car mats and area rugs once every few months.

11. Silicone Kitchen Tools

silicone muffin tin
  • Regular cycle, warm to hot water, heavy-duty detergent

If you don't have a dishwasher you can deep clean your silicone kitchen tools like baking mats, molds, tools, and trivets in your washing machine. Just place them in a mesh laundry bag, on the regular cycle, on the warm or hot water with a heavy duty dishwashing detergent.

12. Mop Heads, Rubber Gloves, And Cleaning Tools

mop head
anmbph / Shutterstock
  • Regular cycle, hot water setting, disinfectant

Did you know that you could be spreading bacteria when you clean? That's why it's important to give your cleaning supplies a wash to remove bacteria. Remove mop heads from handles and place them in a mesh laundry bag along with smaller cleaning materials like sponges and rubber gloves. Hot water and liquid detergent with a splash of disinfectant should be enough to kill germs. Allow to completely air dry to prevent mold.

13. Shower Curtains And Shower Curtain Liner

shower curtain
  • Regular cycle, warm water setting

Your shower curtains along with your loofah are prone to mold and mildew. To keep nasty fungi at bay, it is recommended that you clean your shower curtain and liner once every three months. To clean your shower curtains and liner, remove them from the rod, and place them in the washer on the regular cycle with a couple of towels. If there are signs of mildew, use chlorine bleach on white curtains and oxygen bleach on colored curtains. Dry shower curtain on the lowest setting in the dryer and let liner drip dry.

14. Pillows

two pillows
  • Regular cycle, hot water

Think about it, your pillow is basically a sponge for sweat, dead skins cells, and saliva. Ew! Taking that into account it needs to be cleaned regularly. To do this, place two pillows in the water to balance the load. Add your typical laundry detergent and run the washer on the regular cycle on the hot water setting. Press water out the excess water on a terry cloth towel. Then, dry it in the dryer on the lowest setting. If you don't want to worry about fluffing it, toss in a couple of tennis balls in the dryer along with your pillows.

15. Pet Beds

dog sleeping in pet bed
  • Regular wash cycle, warm water, extra rinse cycle

You may not realize it but your pet's bed is covered in bacteria. To keep your pet healthy, it is recommended that you clean their bed every other week. Before tossing it into the wash, vacuum any loose hair. Then, set your machine to the regular wash setting. Use regular detergent and a bit of disinfectant for extra germ-fighting power and wash using warm water. To ensure that all of the water is wrung out your pet's bed, run an extra rinse cycle. Toss in the dryer on the hottest heat setting, to ensure that all pathogens and bacteria are killed.

Now that you know of these select items, be prepared for some new additions to your laundry load!

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