How to Launder Hard-to-Clean Items

Maintaining a healthy home is a continuous process, and it can be hard to keep track of the best cleaning methods for things we use everyday.  We might have the process down for cleaning most clothes, and we know, for the most part, which garments require a trip to the dry cleaner.  But what happens when a ski jacket or sleeping bag gets muddy, or when a favorite area rug needs to be cleaned?  Below are some guidelines for cleaning common household items.

Blankets: Check colorfastness before laundering blankets.  Blankets that are not made of wool can usually be laundered in cool water on the gentle cycle, and either dried on the “low” setting of your dryer or hung to air dry.  Dry cleaning is usually safest for wool.

Sleeping Bags: Read the label carefully for any instructions.  There are many types of sleeping bags made of different materials, so the manufacturer knows best.  Use a front-loader washing machine if possible, and zip the bag before laundering.  eHow.com offers more instructions here.

Area Rugs:  COIT offers professional area rug cleaning.  We properly care for all types of area rugs, including Oriental rugs, and give them the specialized care and attention they need.  Our specially trained, certified technicians are experts when it comes to determining the best cleaning methods for your rug's particular weave, fibers and dyes.

Shower Curtains: Plastic and cloth shower curtains can be washed in the gentle cycle with all-purpose detergent.  Realsimple.com suggests adding socks or a few other soft items to absorb some of the force during the spin cycle.  Plastic shower curtains should be hung to dry; follow directions on the tag for cloth shower curtains.

Cushion Covers and Slipcovers:  Professional upholstery cleaning is the best way to clean most slipcovers and cushion covers because they might shrink or become damaged if washed at home.  Preshrunk linen, cotton, or synthetic fabrics determined to be colorfast can sometimes be washed in cold water using the gentle cycle, then air dried or tumble dried on “low.”  One suggestion is to reposition the cover when slightly damp to help with the fit should shrinking occur.

Silk Sheets: Silksheetsguide.com suggests that you avoid harsh detergents and soaps when laundering silk sheets.  The site recommends Charlie's Liquid Laundry Soap, which is non-toxic and biodegradable and can be purchased online.  Hand wash the first few times.  If you then choose to use the washing machine, always set the machine on the “delicate” cycle and use an extra spin cycle to remove as much water as possible.  Never use bleach, and resist rubbing the material to remove a stain.  Let sheets hang dry if possible, away from direct sunlight.  If you use a dryer, set it on the lowest possible heat setting above air dry.

Stuffed Animals: Your child’s favorite stuffed animal has a stain – now what?  A bit of laundry detergent and a wet scrub brush can do wonders.  If you’d like to wash the toy in the laundry machine, zip it into a pillow case first and use cold water and the gentle cycle.  Dry the stuffed animal, still inside the pillow case, on the lowest possible temperature setting available for your dryer.  You can run it through twice if necessary.

Ski Jackets:  Ski season will soon be upon us, and anyone who wears a winter coat knows that dirt and mud go hand-in-hand with cold weather activities.  eHow.com offers detailed tips on how to clean your ski jacket, including opening all zippers and emptying pockets before washing, washing your jacket alone, and using the gentle cycle and cold water.

Footwear: If possible, check with the manufacturer before washing footwear.  RealSimple.com suggests that you wash canvas or leather sneakers in cold water with an all-purpose detergent, placing them first in mesh bags to keep laces from wrapping around the agitator.  Dry on low for 10 minutes, then air dry.  Some manufacturers do not recommend washing footwear or insoles in washing machines.

Do you have any tricks or techniques for laundering hard-to-clean household items?  Leave a comment below, and let us know!