Skip to main content

Laundry tips: What you can and can't put in your washing machine

Laundry tips: What you can and can't put in your washing machine
(Image credit: Getty images)

Laundry day can be chaotic at the best of times, and even more so when you’re trying to remember which items are suitable to go into the washing machine in the first place. Even though most items are fine to be washed this way, there are certainly some exceptions that need to be looked out for, regardless of whether you're using one of the best front load washers or another type of machine. We’ve gathered this information together here so you can find out once and for all what should and should not go in a washing machine.

Though laundry can feel like a task done on muscle memory alone, we’ve all had instances where a cherished item of clothing has emerged from the wash coarse, shrunken, or a different color entirely. And though labels on clothing are always the first place you should turn to get washing directions, it’s good to have a general rule of thumb when it comes to your laundry cycle, to avoid any such disasters. 

Beyond shrinking your favorite pair of pants, getting it wrong when it comes to laundry could also spell trouble with your washing machine. Though forgetting about those few rogue coins in your jean pockets doesn’t seem like a crime, it could seriously damage the mechanisms of your machine and become a very expensive mistake - especially if you have forked out on one of the best top load washers. That’s why it’s best to get straight what does and doesn’t belong in your laundry, for the sake of your clothes and your bank balance.

Thing you should never put in your washing machine 

As with operating any expensive appliance in your home, finding out the specifics of how to use it is super important. For example, you may need to change tactics when it comes to the clothes you put in the best washer dryer combos if you want to use both cycles available to you. Some items like bras and sportswear do not fair well when it comes to machine drying, so be sure to apply each rule to your own specific machine. 

When it comes to washing machines, although everything you want to be cleaned may fit inside your drum, that doesn’t mean it’s exactly suitable to be put in there. Tiny baby clothes may seem like a no-brainer to throw into your machine, right? Hang on though, as due to their size they may end up migrating to your machine’s hoses and vents, and cause flooding within your home. Instead, it’s best to put baby clothes into a mesh bag in order to avoid any blockages. 

The same rule applies to any delicate toys that might need some TLC after a long day’s play; consider hand washing really delicate ones, and put any others into a mesh bag to avoid a lost childhood keepsake.

Though they may not have had a lot of use in the past year, sequined and embellished clothes are ideal for when parties get back into full swing. But anything with glitter and glue is definitely best saved for the dancefloor rather than your washer, including any bags and backpacks adorned with pins and badges. Instead, it’s best to hand wash these items to prevent them losing their sparkle.

What should and shouldn't go in the washing machine: An image showing a white phone left in a pair of jeans in the washing machine

(Image credit: Getty images)

What can you safely wash in a washing machine? 

With spring cleaning season upon us, you’re probably thinking about sprucing up your throws and covers. When it comes to pillowcases and couch cushion covers, machine washing should be fine, but always check the label first to avoid any accidents. The same goes for blankets and throws, with some being more delicate than others. If you’re going to give all your soft furnishings a once over, then rugs are also fine to be washed, though after many cycles the rubberized portion of them may become worn. 

Having a clean and peaceful bedroom environment is paramount to a good night’s sleep, which is why cleaning your pillows is an often overlooked yet crucial step when it comes to laundry. There are many different varieties of pillows for sleeping out there and as a general rule, most are safe to machine wash. Memory foam ones are an exception and are unsuitable for washing due to their density. Instead, to freshen those up, try spot cleaning them and leaving them to air dry. 

When a pair of your favorite sneakers get dirtied the damage can sometimes feel irreversible, especially if they’re light-colored. Thankfully, washing your sneakers is a quick and easy way to bring them back to life, though it’s advisable you throw a towel in alongside your sneakers to act as a buffer in the drum. On the other hand, running shoes are not suitable for a spin in the washing machine, as they often have in-sole features designed to make them comfortable for running that may not survive washing this way.