10 Things You Should Never Put in a Washing Machine

Cellphone, wallet and pen pulled from washing machine

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

Washing machines are miraculous contraptions. The dirty, smelly clothes (as well as some other surprising things) go in, and they come out clean and fresh with just the push of a few buttons. However, as wonderful as a washer can be, there are still some things that should never be put in one. Some are obvious: Cell phones, wallets, ballpoint pens, keys, and coins left in pockets should never go in a washer. Then there are those small and delicate items like baby socks, lingerie, and lace pieces that can go in the washer but should always be placed in a mesh bag to protect them from being lost or damaged. Perhaps less obvious, though, are these eight things that can be ruined by a trip through the washer.


One thing you should never put in your washing machine is too much detergent or fabric softener. With today's concentrated products, overdosing will leave your clothes less clean than usual because the fabric holds onto the excess product, which traps body soil and odor. Additionally, using too much product can also result in mechanical problems for your machine. In high-efficiency washers that use a small amount of water, excess suds and residue from fabric softener can trap soil and bacteria and produce foul odors.


Even though swimwear is designed to be in the water, the water in a washing machine isn't ideal for the material. The mechanical action of the machine can damaged the straps and inner structure of women's swimsuits. Additionally, washing the high-tech fabric of most swimwear alongside garments with zippers and hooks can cause holes or snags. If you want your swimwear to last, wash it by hand.

Tailored Suits

Even if the outer fabric of a suit is cotton, polyester, or another machine-washable fabric, tailored jackets, slacks, and skirts should never be put in a washer. Sandwiched between the outside shell and the lining are materials called interfacings that give a jacket its crisp shape. When exposed to water, most interfacings become misshapen, and some can even disintegrate. A suit jacket and its accompanying pieces should be taken to a dry cleaner, so the overall color will remain consistent.

Leather Sneakers and Clothes

Fabric sneakers can benefit greatly by a trip through the washing machine. Leather sneakers, however, do not. Most leather athletic shoes have some parts that are put together with glue that can be damaged by both excessive moisture and heat. While the surface of leather clothes can be reconditioned after getting wet, the washing machine is going to leave the surface marred and wrinkled. Opt instead for a professional cleaner who specializes in leather care.

Wool, Cashmere, Velvet, and Embellished Clothes

Always read the care label on these garments. Some may be made of a washable wool, and velveteen—a cotton/polyester blend fabric commonly found in children's clothes—can also be washed. However, most wool and cashmere should be treated more delicately and hand-washed. Additionally, velvet, heavily-sequined or embellished garments, and all tailored wool garments should be taken to a dry cleaner.


Seeing the price tag on most neckties should be enough warning not to toss them in a washer. Neckties are often made of silk, and the inner structure can become twisted and misshapen in the washer. Hand-washing or dry cleaning is always best. If you spill something on your tie, use a spot-treatment or ultrasonic cleaner to remove the stain.

Solid Foam Pillows and Pads

If you want to turn your solid foam pillows, mattress pads, and chair cushions into shredded foam, toss them in a washer. The machine's mechanical agitation, especially the spin cycle, is just too much for these items. A bathtub of lukewarm water, a gentle detergent, and a bit of hand-squeezing, followed by a good rinse, will keep them clean and smelling fresh.

Items Covered With Pet Hair

Even though pet blankets, beds, and clothes need regular cleaning, they should not be tossed in a washing machine if they are covered with cat or dog hair. Just like your hair can clog a bathroom sink or shower drain, the pet hair is terrible for the water pump filters and drains in your washer. Before you toss items heavily covered with pet hair in the washer, take them outside for a good brushing or even toss them in the dryer with a couple of dryer sheets and allow them to tumble on low heat or air only for 15 minutes. This will remove enough of the hair so you can wash them safely.

Fabrics Heavily Stained With Flammable Fluids

When a garment is heavily stained with motor oil, gasoline, cooking oil, paint thinner or alcohol, it's a presoak it in a large laundry sink or plastic tub with some heavy-duty detergent before tossing it in the washer. If the stains aren't covering the garment, you can remove them by using an ultrasonic cleaning machine, a solvent-based stain remover or hand-washing.


Fabrics that are excessively stained with these flammable fluids can instantaneously combust and cause a house fire. If the fabrics are coated in these substances, you will also end up with residue left in your machine that can transfer to the next load of laundry. Most importantly, you should never place these stain-soaked items in a clothes dryer, even after washing. The potential for an explosion is not worth the risk.

Antique or Heirloom Clothes or Fabrics

Great grandma's doilies or a hand-embroidered tablecloth can't stand up to the agitation of a modern washing machine, especially after the fibers have slowly started to degrade over the years.

Formal Gowns and Wedding Dresses

Most designers create stunning ball gowns to be beautiful, not practical. Most formal gowns and wedding dresses are made of dry clean only fabrics that shrink and shrivel in the wash, as well as beads and sequins that pop off with even the mildest agitation. Even a lingerie bag is not enough to counter the risks, so leave cleaning these dresses to the dry cleaners.

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  1. Safety with Oily Rags Wet with Flammable or Combustable Liquid. National Fire Protection Association.

  2. Clothes Dryer Safety. National Fire Protection Association.