How to Clean Toys, Backpacks, Shoes and…just about everything!

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Real Simple Magazine had 2 articles on how to clean everything from cotton to backpacks. I found them incredibly helpful. Here are both articles melded together.

Both written by Sarah Stebbins

How to Wash Cotton
Made from the fluffy fibers of the cotton plant, most cotton fabrics are preshrunk, so “you really can’t mess them up,” says Chris Allsbrooks, a textile analyst at the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute, in Laurel, Maryland.
How to Wash:
Machine-wash in cold or warm with all-purpose detergent.
Sun yellows it; line-dry in shade.

How to Wash Wool
Woven from the undercoats of sheep, goats, and other hairy mammals, wool is ultra-durable. But it shrinks in warm water, so take precautions.
How to Wash:
Dry-clean or hand wash in cold with mild detergent. Air-dry.
Use cedar hangers to repel moths.
How to Wash Silk
Made from protein fibers produced by silkworms, this durable, luxurious fabric is treated with sizing and may have dyes that bleed.
How to Wash:
Dry-clean or hand wash in cold with mild detergent. Air-dry.
Test for colorfastness.

How to Wash Rayon
Created from wood pulp treated with chemicals, cool and comfortable rayon is considered a semisynthetic fabric. When laundered, it may bleed, shrink, or lose its crispness.
How to Wash:
Dry-clean or hand wash in cold with mild detergent. Air-dry.
Iron it when slightly damp.

How to Wash Linen
Linen, woven from fibers of the flax plant, is sometimes treated with sizing, a finish that makes it crisp. It wrinkles very easily and requires ironing.
How to Wash:
Dry-clean or hand wash in cold with mild detergent. Air-dry.
Or machine-wash on gentle.

Wash alone in a front-loader on gentle in cold water with all-purpose detergent. Don’t wash multicolored packs; the dyes may bleed.

Cloth Purses and Tote Bags
“People put them on car and restaurant floors — they’re some of the dirtiest things we own,” says Sandra Phillips, a cleaning consultant and the author of A Clean Break (Live-Right Books, $10, Wash on delicate in warm water with all-purpose detergent. Air-dry. Don’t wash purses with sequins or other embellishments.

Laptop and iPod Cases
Wash canvas, nylon, and microfiber cases in warm water with all-purpose detergent. Air-dry. Don’t wash padded ones — they contain a foam layer that holds water and doesn’t dry well.

Ironing-Board Cover

Wash in warm water with all-purpose detergent. Air-dry.

Sleeping Bags
Wash in a front-loader — the agitator in a top-loader may rip seams — on gentle in warm water with mild detergent. (Harsher detergents can ruin the feathers in down bags.) Dry on low or no heat.

Car-Seat and High-Chair Covers
Use warm water and 1 1/2 capfuls of all-purpose detergent to get rid of the ground-in soils on cloth covers. Dry on low for 5 to 10 minutes, then air-dry.


Wash canvas or leather sneakers (even those kids’ shoes with plastic parts) in cold water with all-purpose detergent. Place them in mesh bags to keep laces from wrapping around the agitator. Dry on low for 10 minutes, then air-dry for a day. Wash slippers with rubber soles if the care label allows it.

Oven Mitts and Sponges
Wash in hot water and all-purpose detergent. Air-dry.

Cloth Diapers

Use hot water, bleach, and mild detergent, and dry on high to help kill germs.*** SEE EXPERT COMMENT BELOW THE POST FOR BEST ADVICE

Travel Pillows

Rather than washing the pillows themselves (their padding tends to get mildewy), slip them inside pillowcases for use, then just wash the pillowcases instead.

Bath Toys

Rubber duckies sometimes need a bath, too. Use warm water and all-purpose detergent. “Throw toys in the wash with a hand towel, which will get the slime off,” says cleaning consultant Sandra Phillips.

Plastic Pool Floats

“If it can be deflated and it fits in the machine, it can be washed,” says Phillips. Use cold water, all-purpose detergent, and a hand towel (as with bath toys) to remove slime. Air-dry.

Pet Accessories
Wash pet-bed covers, collars, and leashes on gentle in cold water with all-purpose detergent in small loads but on a large-load setting to flush out dirt and hair. Tumble dry on low.

Plastic Dish Gloves

Wash on a gentle, short cycle (about four minutes) in warm water. Air-dry.

Sports Gear

Wash basketball nets and shin guards on gentle in warm water. Air-dry.

Mop Heads

Use all-purpose detergent and warm water. Air-dry.

Wash cloth toys
on gentle in cold water with mild detergent; dry on low for 5 minutes, then air-dry.

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  1. Hannah- thanks for your input- can you tell me what the harms of bleach are (I get not to use it on cloth diapers) but I need to be educated on why not to use it in my home. I use Oxiclean for serious stains in clothing and on carpet- this is bleach, right?

  2. I have to echo Megan’s concerns; I would never use bleach on something that will spend hours against delicate baby skin. Instead, her options sound good; add in some lemon juice for more germ-killing power, and then drying in direct sunlight, or if it’s winter/ that’s not an option, in a machine without a fabric softener sheet, which will add unnecessary oils and perfumes.

    Frankly, the only time I consider using bleach in our house is when a pet puts paws on our dining room table. To me, the cost of the odors of bleach do not outweigh the potential harm of parasites that live in animal intestines. Almost anything else can be cleaned with vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, or plain old warm soapy water, and a rag.

  3. good advise. I just recently became a grammy. I purchased a small rocking horse with hair (cloth) on his head. How can I clean it without messing up the wood. If anyone knows, please let me know. Thanks

  4. Lots of advices are given here point by point. Very well explained and furnished. Enjoyed this article very much. I didn’t know many thongs here about cleaning these things. Thanks for sharing.

    Richard Antony

  5. Lots of good advice here but I have to object to her cloth diaper cleaning suggestions. No one advocates cleeaning cloth diapers with bleach – it is totally unnecessary and can be harmful for a baby. Unless there is some specific concern (like mold formed on a forgotten diaper, thrush, needing to be stripped, etc) then you can simply wash your diapers on warm with a small amount of a mild soap and dry either on a line/rack or in a machine.


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