Using your washing machine for more than just washing clothes is a cleaning hack we can really get behind.
Our laundry experts know all there is to know about what can and can't be washed in your washing machine. And, as it turns out, there are many things you can throw in the drum for a good old spruce up. Give these items a whirl.
1. Doonas, pillows and blankets
Depending on the capacity of your washing machine, you can save yourself time and money by putting larger household furnishings including doonas, pillows, blankets and rugs through a wash cycle.
It's a good idea to clean your doona regularly to help keep dust mites at bay and keep it at its best. But will it go in your laundry basket, or the too-hard basket?
It's a good idea to clean your doona regularly to help keep dust mites at bay and keep it at its best
Well, it depends on what it's made of – synthetic-filled doonas should be machine washable, but you should use a gentle cycle with minimal agitation. Feather or down doonas may not be so forgiving, so check and follow the care instructions first.
Once washed, lay the doona out as flat as you can to dry, and make sure it's thoroughly dried and aired.
Like carpets and anything underfoot, rugs can get pretty filthy. Even if you vacuum them every week, you'll need to give them an extra thorough deep clean every now and then to get the embedded grime out.
While the best way to do this is with a steam carpet cleaner, your rug has one advantage over your carpet: it's portable.
Gently does it
Obviously you should take extra care cleaning your vintage Persian rugs. But if you've got a small, cheap, synthetic number from Ikea, Kmart or Freedom, then you can definitely save yourself a few bucks by throwing it in the washing machine.
But you'll need to be careful how you put your rug in so that your load is balanced, and you should use a gentle cycle with minimal agitation to minimise damage. Then just make sure it's thoroughly dry before you put it back on your floor.
A word about capacity
The big caveat with cleaning doonas and rugs is that you need a large-enough washing machine to fit them in. If you overload your washer you risk damaging it or shortening its life, and you're not going to get a queen-sized quilt in a 4.5kg agitator washer.
But these days you can find washing machines which are up to 18kg in capacity, and many of them now have a dedicated doona setting. If you're after a larger machine, you can easily compare the capacities of different models of washing machines in our CHOICE expert reviews online.
3. Soft toys
Putting plush toys through a quick wash is a good way to get rid of germs or dust mites that can trigger allergies (and to keep Teddy looking his best after being dragged through the dirt to and from the park). You may like to place them in a delicates bag to add an extra layer of protection.
CHOICE laundry expert Ashley Iredale says that while soft toys can easily go through a cycle, it's best not to put hard plastic toys through the washing machine: "The dishwasher is actually the better option for cleaning hard plastic toys, such as building bricks or bath toys, as these could damage the inside drum of your washing machine," he says.
4. Reusable cloth face masks
Most of us now own a reusable face mask or two, and we know how important it is to keep them as clean as possible. A cloth mask that is reused without being washed can become contaminated and may not protect you (not to mention that you don't want a grubby mask up against your face).
Reusable cloth masks can be washed at 60°C with your other washing, using a standard soap or laundry detergent. Find out more about how to do laundry to kill viruses and bacteria.
5. Baby car seat covers, pram liners and baby carriers
Baby car seat covers, baby carriers and pram liners get seriously grubby, but most can go in the washing machine. The manufacturers of popular baby carriers such as Baby Bjorn and Ergobaby confirm their carriers are machine washable with mild detergents on a gentle cycle at 40°C. They also recommend washing them separately in a laundry bag and securing all buckles, then leaving them to air dry (never tumble dry).
Check the washing instructions for your baby car seat cover – many can be cleaned in the washing machine, but some are handwash only. Follow our guide on how to clean baby and child car seats for more information.
6. Reusable shopping bags, lunch bags and reusable food bags
Although many of us grew up with plastic sandwich bags in our lunchboxes, these days there are many more environmentally friendly ways to wrap and store our food.
Reusable sandwich bags and snack bags are often machine washable at low temperatures on a gentle cycle, as are the insulated lunch bags many of us now use (you should wash beeswax wraps by hand, though). Fabric produce bags can also be chucked in the wash, as can some backpacks. Check the manufacturer's instructions first, including advice on whether they can withstand a tumble dryer.
7. Canvas shoes and sneakers
While you should never chuck your spiffy suede loafers in the washer, you can probably use it to spruce up your sneakers. Check the manufacturer's instructions first, but sneakers and shoes made from durable materials such as canvas, nylon, polyester or cotton are usually safe to wash in a washing machine.
You may want to put your shoelaces in a delicates bag so they don't get tangled or lost.
8. Pet beds and leashes
Sometimes a good vacuum isn't enough for pet beds, which can get pretty smelly and/or infested with fleas or other mites. Many have removable covers that you can put through regular machine washes – use a good stain remover (one recommended by CHOICE experts is best) and wash separately.
Depending on what your pet leash is made of – nylon or polyester leashes are probably fine – you may also be able to throw it in for a wash too (but put it in a laundry bag to limit damage to the inside of your drum).
9. Cleaning sponges and mop heads
After a big clean, don't forget the last bit of the job: chuck all your sponges, wipes and mop heads in the washing machine before storing so they're as clean as a whistle and ready to be put to work again.
10. Some 'dry clean only' clothes (but take care!)
Taking your clothes to the dry cleaners is a major pain. OK, sure, it's a first-world problem, but wouldn't it be quicker and cheaper just to bung everything in the washing machine? Aren't those care labels just being a little over cautious?
Well, sometimes, yes they are. But although you can certainly wash some dry-clean-only cottons, linens and durable polyesters in your washing machine, it's not without risk and could affect the quality of your garments.
We're not recommending you throw your full-length silk ball gowns in the wash. But if there are some items you're willing to give it a try with, make sure you put them in a delicates bag first, use a gentle cycle on cold, and hang them to dry (or lie them flat to dry) as soon as the wash is finished.
Wools and silks can be hand washed as well as dry cleaned, but furs, suede, taffeta and velvet should only ever be dry cleaned.