9 Things You Should Absolutely Never Put in the Washing Machine

Washing Machine No-Nos

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Washing Machine No-Nos
Cheapism / Daria Kulkova/Moyo Studio/dblight/istockphoto

Rage Against the Machine

Laundry is one of those annoying chores fraught with loads of confusing and seemingly contradictory rules that threaten to shrink, fade, and utterly destroy your clothes if you don't follow them exactly. 

Wash with like colors. Don't bother separating colors. Cold water only. Hot water only. Do not bleach. Line dry only. It's enough to make an already time-consuming and interminable activity even more exasperating. And don't get us started on trying to decipher the little logos on clothing labels. (Though it is a good idea to take heed of those washing instructions.)

Thankfully, there are some fairly straightforward guidelines to follow when it comes to what not to put in the wash. Whether it's because they'll damage your clothing or cause problems with your machine, here are some things you should never put in your washing machine.

striped texture blue jeans for background

1. Open Zippers and Closed Buttons

Fear not, you can still toss your jeans in the washer. But you should zip the zippers on your pants and other clothing to keep the sharp teeth from tearing delicate materials or damaging the inside of the wash drum. 

Buttons, meanwhile, should be left unbuttoned to reduce the stress on the threads over time and to help keep the button holes from tearing. This goes for buttons on pants, shirts, outerwear, and other clothing.

Woman cleaning black clothes with lint roller or sticky roller from grey cats hair. Clothes in pet fur
Daria Kulkova/istockphoto

2. Pet Hair-Covered Clothing

After a good cuddle session with your dog or cat, it may seem like a no-brainer to toss your hair-covered clothing in the wash. But before you do, it's worth using a lint roller or brush to remove as much hair as you can. If you throw the clothes straight in the washer, the hair will form clumps when it gets wet, which will then stick to the side of the drum and wind up on your next load of laundry — or worse, clog the drain.

One other option is to put the fur-covered clothes in the dryer first, where the heat, tumbling motion, and lint trap will remove the hair. But a lint roller seems like an easier process to us.

Open bag with beach or summer clothes

3. Swimwear

After a fun day at the beach or pool, you may be tempted to just toss your swimsuit into the washer. Resist the urge. While some suits and trunks are machine washable, over time the material will sag and lose its shape after numerous washing cycles. There's also a chance that materials like nylon, spandex, and those mesh interiors on shorts can catch and tear in the machine. 

The Wirecutter recommends rinsing your suit before and after you swim and to hand-wash it in a mild detergent after every wear, especially before any funky odors have the chance to set in.

washing shoes

4. Most Shoes

Some shoes are fine to toss in the washer, namely those made of cotton, polyester, canvas, and nylon (though avoid throwing in running shoes with leather accents or specialized materials). Before washing sneakers, be sure to remove laces and insoles and put them in a garment bag, according to Whirlpool.

Any shoes with leather, suede, vinyl, or cork (used for some soles), however, should never be put in the washing machine as it will damage them. You also should avoid washing any shoes with delicate materials, embroidery, or sequins. 

Related: 10 Great Laundry Hacks To Save Time and Money

Business people in a restaurant

5. Suits

This may seem obvious, but you should never throw a suit or tie in the washing machine — no matter how hard your workday was. Most suits are made with high-quality, delicate fabrics that can be damaged in the washing cycle. Even if a suit is made of cotton or polyester, it still often contains interfacing, which are materials between the outer layer and the lining that give the suit shape. Interfacing can lose its shape and even disintegrate when exposed to water. It's best to take your suits to the dry cleaner. 

Related: Laundry Service SudShare Helps You Make Money Doing Other People’s Laundry

Preparing for work
Laundry in a tumbler dryer

7. Loose Bras and Other Delicates

Don't just toss bras and other delicates into the wash willy-nilly. The washing machine can ruin the shape of bras and damage the underwire. Metal clasps can also catch on and tear other clothing. Other delicates made with lace and other, well, delicate materials can also get damaged in the machine. Consider hand-washing or using a mesh delicates bag like these on Amazon. In a pinch, you can also use a pillowcase.

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Collection of trendy women's garments on rack indoors, closeup. Clothing rental service
Liudmila Chernetska/istockphoto

8. Embellished Clothing

Sequins, embroidery, lace, and other embellishments on clothing may look like fun when you're wearing them, but they can lead to disaster in the washing machine. If items are sewn on, they can easily tear, and if they were applied with glue, the heat of the wash could cause the adhesive to melt. Avoid ruining your favorite outfit, and stick to hand-washing or dry-cleaning. 

Senior woman cleaning and renovating garden furniture and getting the garden ready for summer

9. Flammable Stains

If you're a busy DIYer, there's a good chance you'll eventually wind up with paint thinner, motor oil, cooking oil, or other flammable liquids on your duds. Resist the urge to toss it in with the rest of your laundry, as those stains could spread to other laundry — and if they go into the dryer, they could combust and cause a fire. 

Instead, treat the stain with a solvent-based stain remover like Spray and Wash ($22 on Amazon) and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Then you can wash the material by itself and line dry. Alternatively, you can hand-wash it in hot water with detergent.