Things You Didn’t Know Should Never Go in the Washing Machine

Washing machines are not the be-all, end-all solution when it comes to cleaning dirty garments and items around the house. Unfortunately, some things just aren’t meant to go in the washing machine — and that list includes some surprising items. (Thankfully, hand-washing and dry cleaning are always safe alternatives.)

Read on to find out what surprising items you should never put in your washing machine.

1. Throw blankets

Blue and gray striped throw

Double check the tag. | T.J. Maxx

Throw blankets seem as though they’d be machine washable, and some of them are. But you’d be surprised how many of them suggest dry cleaning on their care tags. Before you assume you can toss your living room throw in the washing machine, always double check the care instructions. According to HGTV, many throw blankets should be dry cleaned instead of washed in your machine.

2. Small items

Blue background with white baby onesie and sock

The mystery has been solved. | Dash_med/iStock/Getty Images

Have you ever been doing laundry only to realize part way through that you’ve lost a sock? You swear you put a whole pair into the wash and then, somehow, only one comes out. They’re not just disappearing, they’re actually getting stuck in your machine’s hoses and vents. Small socks, baby clothes, and doilies can all get lost in the washing machine. To make sure your smaller items aren’t getting lost in the wash, wash them by hand or put them in a mesh bag before throwing them in the machine.

3. Sofa covers

You might not be able to fit it on the couch after. | A75/iStock/Getty Images

Sofa covers are often expensive home decorating items, ranging anywhere from $40 to $200, depending on the quality and brand. So, it’s imperative to check your sofa cover’s care tag prior to throwing it in the wash. You’d be surprised how many of them aren’t pre-shrunk. And there’s nothing worse than buying a sofa cover that fits your couch perfectly, only to have it come out of the washing machine too small and useless.

4. Bras

Short black top in flower

Try to hand wash your delicates. | SomeMeans/iStock/Getty Images

Bras and other delicate intimates can very easily get ruined in the washing machine. Tossing intimates in the washing machine every now and then on the gentle cycle is typically fine, but your delicate pieces of clothing will have a much longer life if they’re strictly washed by hand.

5. Favorite stuffed animals

one year old boy lying with many plush toys

Your child will appreciate the careful treatment of their favorite toy. | AGrigorjeva/iStock/Getty Images

Especially when they go everywhere with your little one (through the mud, dragged down the sidewalk, on the toilet), it’s important to keep stuffed animals clean. Most stuffed animals are perfectly fine to wash in your machine, but there’s always a chance your family’s favorite friend might lose an eye or a button in the process of getting clean. It’s probably just safer to soak them in the sink and wash them by hand.

6. Flammable stains

Try to get the stain out by hand first. | iStock/Getty Images

Washing machines are great for getting out tough stains, but they’re not equipped to handle every kind of tough stain. According to HGTV, flammable stains (like gasoline, wood varnish, and some oil-based paints) can result in a fire, or worse, an explosion in your washing machine. To be safe, try to get the stain out by hand, then soak the piece of clothing in the sink.

7. Rubber-backed rugs

Gray and white patterned bathmat

The plastic could crack. | iStock/Getty Images

Most fabric rugs are perfectly fine to wash in your washing machine (as long as they fit). Just be sure to wash them in cold water on a gentle cycle with similar pieces, like towels. However, if your rug has a rubber back, it shouldn’t be washed in the washing machine. The vigorous motion of the machine can tear apart the rubber, leaving potentially damaging bits of rubber all over your machine.

8. Running shoes

Female hands lacing running shoes. Closeup

Keep them comfortable. | Fizkes/iStock/Getty Images

Though you can wash your durable sneakers in the washing machine, like your Converse and Keds, it isn’t smart to wash your expensive running shoes. Running shoes typically have more rubber and less fabric than your casual sneaker. They also need to fit you a certain way, and washing your nice running shoes runs the risk of messing with their fit. Asics suggests cleaning unwanted dirt and grime with a toothbrush or nail brush instead.

9. Unzipped zippers

close-up of a zipper on some jeans

Always keep them zipped up. | Pixabay

Zippers can potentially scratch and ruin other clothing in your washing machine. If you’re going to wash something with a zipper in your machine, always make sure you zip the zipper up all the way. According to Bustle, “closing zippers before throwing garments in the laundry will help prevent wear and tear of all your other clothes.”

10. Coins

coins on hand

Empty out those pockets. | iStock/Getty Images

Having loose coins in your washing machine, even on a gentler cycle, can potentially damage your machine. “Small coins can get lodged in the filter and pipes and cause serious problems,” warns Exclusive Repairs. They can also cause damage to the drum. And, in front-loader style machines, they can scratch or even shatter the door panel. 

11. Keys

hand opening a door with keys

They could also damage your clothes. | danny4stockphoto/iStock/Getty Images

Like coins, keys can also damage the inside of your washing machine as well as scratch and tear your clothes. “If your keys get washed any automatic locking system will be affected,” Exclusive Repairs says. The solution? Always check your pockets prior to washing a piece of clothing.

12. Backpacks with accessories

Make sure to take off any chains of patches if possible. | Amazon

Nowadays, backpacks often come with elaborate embellishments, patchwork, and key chains. If your backpack has a lot of attachments on the outside, it’s better to wash it by hand. Simply scrub it with a sponge or washcloth and leave it out to dry. Putting it in the washing machine could potentially ruin the backpack’s accessories. Additionally, the embellishments could fall off and get lost in the washer or scratch other clothing items.

13. Swimsuits

flagpole, swimsuit, bathing suit, bikini

You could ruin the elastic. | Flagpole

It’s important to never wash your swimsuits in high heat, but it’s better to not wash them in the washing machine at all. When you wash a bathing suit in your machine, it loses its elasticity a lot faster than if you were to hand wash it. Instead, wash them by hand in the sink with warm (but not hot) soapy water.

14. Too much detergent

Female Hand Pouring Detergent In The Blue Bottle Cap

Only use what you need. | AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

You may think extra dirty loads need extra laundry detergent, but that’s not the case. According to Exclusive Repairs, “excessive amounts of detergent can harm the sensitivity of the control panel, so you need to know exactly what quantities to use — this information can be found in the appliance manual.” Additionally, too much fabric softener can also damage to your clothes.

15. Too much laundry


Don’t overfill the machine. | iStock/Getty Images

It’s tempting to try to do all of your laundry in one load rather than two. But washing too much laundry at once can potentially harm your machine. “Putting too much laundry into your washing machine can cause damage to the suspension and the bearings. As your clothes are packed tightly together this also affects the quality of the wash — they won’t be properly cleaned,” says Exclusive Repairs. “Slightly smaller loads will ensure your washing machine isn’t strained, and your clothes are spotless.”