15 things you should never put in a washing machine


The best washing machines are used for all kinds of cleaning. Whether you’re dealing with a stubborn stain or want to freshen up your smelly gym gear, your washing machine can do the job. But did you know that some items should never go in the washer?

Taking the risk of throwing anything into the drum can damage not only the items, but also the washing machine itself. That’s why we’ve put together a list of 15 items that should never go in the washer, so you can avoid these mistakes and help make your washer last longer. You might be surprised by some of these laundry bans.

1. Anything covered in pet hair

Someone uses a lint roller on black jeans with a white cat watching

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If you have cats and dogs that run around, you probably know that hair seems to get everywhere, especially on your clothes. And while it may be too tempting to just throw your fur-filled items into the drum, you really shouldn’t.

Even though it washes off, all that shedding doesn’t magically disappear. It will have been transferred to your machine, either sticking to the walls until it goes onto other objects, or clogging the drain. Either way, it’s not ideal.

Trim any excess fur from your clothes before throwing them in the washing machine. A quick brush with a lint roller like the Lint Rollers for Pet Hair ($12, Amazon (opens in a new tab)) can work wonders.

2. Memory foam pillows

Most synthetic, cotton, and even down pillows are machine-washable (see our guide to how to wash a pillow for more information on this), but memory foam usually cannot. The foam is too delicate and can be easily torn in the process. Even if you opt for no spin, you’ll end up with a heavy, wet mess, so avoid it.

The covers themselves can usually be machine washed. But clean the foam pillow using the upholstery attachment of your vacuum cleaner. If spot cleaning is needed, you can also use a microfiber cloth and a mild dish detergent solution, then rinse with a damp cloth. It’s worth checking the care label before doing so. In rare cases, some shredded foam pillows can go in the washer.

3. Loose bras

Red bra with laundry in washing machine

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Baggy bras are another garment to avoid in your washing machine. Indeed, washing can ruin the shape of the bra and damage its underwires. On top of that, the metal clasps can easily snag and tear other items in the load during the cycle.

We recommend using a laundry bag, like the Polecasa Mesh Laundry Bags ($7, Amazon (opens in a new tab)), when you machine wash your bras. Or stick to hand washing if you want to play it safe. See our guide on how to wash bras for complete guidance.

4. Open the zippers

If you run your finger along an open zipper, you’ll notice each of the teeth catching your skin as you do so – much the same effect in a washing machine. If your zippers are unzipped during a wash cycle, they can catch and damage other items, especially anything delicate, and also scratch the inside of the drum.

Zip your zippers up to avoid this mistake, but you should leave all buttons unbuttoned. This will put less strain on the yarn during the wash cycle, so you won’t have to googling how to sew a button so often.

5. Swimwear

A striped bikini lying on the sand

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Although the care label may say your swimsuit is machine washable, it’s best to hand wash it if you want it to last. The material will stretch and sag when put through a wash cycle, which means it will lose its shape over time.

Whether the material is nylon or spandex, it can easily snag on other items in the load, such as zippers or clasps. So, to avoid damage and disappointment, wash gently by hand instead.

6. Flammable stains

We all know that washing machines are designed to get rid of everyday stains, but anything covered in flammable residue should never go in there. This includes stains such as cooking oil, gasoline, alcohol, motor oil, or anything that could ignite. You don’t want these liquids in your washing machine as they pose a fire hazard – and the same can certainly be said for your dryer.

Instead, pre-soak the garment and treat the stain with a solvent-based stain remover, such as OxiClean MaxForce Laundry Stain Remover Spray ($3, Amazon (opens in a new tab)). Then hand wash in warm water. Always hang dry afterwards.

7. Embellished or Lace Items

Decorated clothes hanging on a rack

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If it’s covered in glitter, chances are it’s damaged in the washing machine. Even if you return the item, there are countless threads that can be pulled or caught during the cycle. If the embellishments are glued on, that won’t help either because the high temperature can melt the adhesive.

Anything with lace or embroidery shouldn’t go there either for the same reason. The lace is very delicate and can easily tear when in contact with other items. Follow the care label for these garments and take them to a dry cleaner if necessary.

8. Simple and heavy items

If you throw a single pillow or weighted blanket in your washing machine, you might run into issues with the spin cycle. If the load is not balanced, your washing machine will struggle to pick up the speed to start spinning. In fact, he could very well damage himself by throwing the weight of a single item onto the drum as he tries.

As a result, your washing machine will make a huge ruckus and start vibrating and tremor because it picks up speed with force. Or, it will cut the cycle and leave you with a soggy, heavy mess. To avoid this problem, be sure to fill the drum and equalize the load. It could be as simple as throwing in a few extra towels.

9. Delicate sweaters

A stack of sweaters

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This is probably the most common mistake on this list. If the item is wool, cashmere or velor, always check the care label to find out how to wash it. The high temperatures of a washing machine can cause the material to shrink, and the friction when it comes into contact with other items can cause it to look worn.

Hand wash with a mild detergent or dry clean if necessary. Even though the care label says the item is machine washable, we recommend using a laundry bag to protect it during the cycle and to help the garment last longer.

10. Ties

A tie is something we don’t clean often, but with everyday use or occasional spills, it will eventually need to be washed. The problem is that ties are often made of silk or wool and can have delicate stitching. This means that if you put them through a wash cycle, they may shrink, be damaged or deformed.

Stick to hand washing to keep your ties crisp or take them to the dry cleaners. You can also use a special cleaner to remove stubborn stains.

11. Suits

Someone wearing a suit adjusting the tie

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It seems appropriate to follow ties with suits – these definitely shouldn’t go in the washing machine. Most are made from delicate fabrics that can be easily damaged in a wash cycle.

Even if you’re dealing with a cotton or polyester suit, these will still contain the interlining, which gives them their shape. Interfacing can dissolve and warp when subjected to water, so keep your wetsuits out of the washer and stick them to dry cleaners instead.

12. Wallet

If your handbag has seen better days, it can be quite tempting to throw it in the washer and hope for the best, but you have to resist. Most handbags are made from delicate materials, such as leather, which should never be machine washed. Any embellishments on the outside can also be easily torn or faded.

Ignoring all of that, tossing and tumbling through a washing machine won’t do the shape of your handbag any good either. So just keep the two separate. You must hand wash and treat specific stains. Depending on the material, it may be best to wipe it down with a damp microfiber cloth.

13. Sundries

Someone is taking the pockets out of their jeans

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Always empty pockets before throwing the item in the washing machine. Jeans and jackets in particular can often contain pens, keys and coins, which will cause a lot of noise when loosened.

These can damage the walls of your machine as well as the front panel if you have a front-loading design. In the worst case, they can get stuck in the drain pipe or damage the outer tank, leading to costly repairs. Always check for loose items before loading your clothes and if you hear anything unexpected in the machine, stop the cycle immediately.

14. Too much detergent

This might not seem so extreme compared to the other errors on this list, but it’s still important. Using too much detergent can cause oversudsing, which will be difficult for your machine to remove during the rinse cycle.

As a result, your clothes will contain detergent residue that can lead to skin reactions or, at the very least, crunchy and uncomfortable clothes. You’re also wasting money using extra detergent, so be sure to dose it correctly.

15. Anything that has dry cleaning only on the label

Someone checks the care label on the clothes

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Above all, you should always refer to the care label to find out how to wash the item. If it says “dry clean only” that means it absolutely should not go in the washing machine. This advice will have been given for a reason and by washing the article in the machine, there is a real risk of damaging it.

However, if it says “hand wash only”, you can still rely on your washing machine, but you have to be careful. See can “hand wash only” clothes go in the washing machine for more information.


For more washing tips, tricks and how-to’s, check out our guides to the best washing machines, when you should and shouldn’t use the quick wash setting and 10 things you should never put in the dryer.


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