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Tips for Hard-to-Wash Household Items

5 Tips for Hard-to-Wash Household Items: Shoes, Pillows, and More

You wash your clothes every week or two, but there are plenty of other items around the house that need regular care and cleaning as well. From curtains to rugs to shoes, these items are often lost in the shuffle or simply put off because they are harder to clean. But we can help demystify the process. Here are 5 tips for washing hard-to-wash household items.

Pillows. Pillows should be washed every three months. They can usually be machine washed. It is important to wash an even number of pillows– two, four, six, etc– so the washer’s drum will be balanced. The best water temperature can depend on the filling as well as the material of the casing, so check the care label for specific instructions. If the pillow doesn’t have a label, err on the side of caution and use cold water.

Curtains. Although often overlooked for years (or decades) at a time, curtains should typically be washed every six months. If you have pets, you may need to wash them more often. Curtains usually need to be washed using a machine’s “Delicate” cycle, in cold water. Depending on the fabric, though, you may need to put the curtains in a washing bag or hand wash them. Like clothes, curtains come with labels, so check the care label for specific instructions to ensure they come out of the washer as bright and hole-free as they went in.

Small Carpets and Rugs. Rugs that are used often, like bathroom rugs and front-door carpets, should be washed weekly, or monthly at least, to prevent a buildup of bacteria or fungi. First, check the label to confirm that it can be machine washed, as some carpets have synthetic backings that can’t handle the wear and tear of a machine. Treat any stains and wash in cold water. Unless the label indicates otherwise, it is best to air dry rugs rather than put them in the dryer, as heat can cause them to shrink.

Sneakers. When was the last time you cleaned your shoes? For most people, the answer is “never,” aside from wiping off dirt or mud on the outside. But the inside of the shoe is exposed to sweat and oil frequently, so it should be cleaned as well. Fortunately, with a little extra care, you can wash sneakers in a washing machine like your other clothes. First, sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda inside each shoe and leave them overnight to disinfect them and help remove stubborn odors. Clean the outside as best you can with a damp cloth or toothbrush. Take off the laces, place the sneakers in a washing bag, and wash them in cold water on a delicate cycle. Air dry them, either inside or outside in the sun, as the heat from a dryer can warp or damage the material in the shoes.

Sleeping bags. Unlike most other household items, it is fine to go months or years between fully washing sleeping bags. Full washes reduce the “fluffiness” of the stuffing inside the bag and wear down the material of the shell. It is best to spot treat sleeping bags in the hood and collar areas, which have the most frequent exposure to skin and hair. Use a non-detergent soap and a toothbrush to clean visibly soiled areas. However, if your sleeping bag has an unpleasant odor or is just very dirty, you probably need to wash it completely.  Use a large front-loading washing machine like the commercial machines at laundromats. Home units, especially ones designed for energy efficiency, may not give the sleeping bag enough room to tumble properly during the wash. Wash cold on a delicate cycle.

Consult an expert. With years of experience under their belts and an extensive knowledge of fabrics and detergents, cleaning professionals know the best way to clean hard-to-wash household items without damaging them in the process. Some even have specific services for carpet cleaning and sleeping bag laundering. Consult your local laundromat to see if they offer pick-up and drop-off services to make your laundry life even easier.

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