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How to Wash Cats, Pillows, and Other Awkward Items

Skip the dry cleaners — you can clean your down comforters, silk dresses, and leather jackets at home!
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Cat Getting a Bath

One of the best ways to keep your spending in check is to take good care of the things you already have. That means keeping them clean, and cleaning them correctly (so you don't accidentally ruin them).

We researched 16 hard-to-clean items — everything from pillows to electric blankets to cats — so you'll know how to maintain them yourself, as well as when it's time to call a professional.

Pillows

If you wash your pillowcases as regularly as your sheets but don't wash the pillows themselves, your pillow is likely full of dead skin, dust mites, and mite feces. How's that for gross? Experts recommend washing your pillows at least twice each year, but how you do it depends on what material they're made of.

  • To wash synthetic and down-filled pillows, you'll need a gentle liquid detergent and a few tennis balls or dryer balls. Wash them two at a time in the washer on a hot water cycle, and then dry them on low heat with the balls — that'll help to fluff up the pillows again. Most pillows made from these materials can go in the dryer, but check the care label beforehand to make sure.
  • Latex and memory foam pillows shouldn't go in the washer, and they definitely shouldn't go in the dryer. Hand wash them with cold water and gentle detergent, then lay them flat to dry.

Hats

Between sweat, sunscreen, dirt, and oils from your hair, hats can get pretty grimy. Most type of hats shouldn't go in the washer or dryer, but check your care label — you might get lucky with some sturdy knits.

Baseball caps should be spot-cleaned, soaked, and then hand-washed in cold water with a gentle detergent. To dry, shape it and then set it on something head-sized, like a large coffee can. Straw sun hats can be spot-treated, rinsed thoroughly, and dried in the sun. Finally, knit hats should be hand-washed in cold water with a gentle detergent, and then laid flat to dry.

SEE ALSO: What It's REALLY Like to Buy a Mattress Online

Cats

A word of caution: Washing your cat will not prolong their life, generally speaking, but it may shorten yours.

Cats are pretty good at keeping themselves clean, but sometimes they need a little help from their humans. If your cat has fleas or ringworm, is elderly or obese, frequently ventures outside, or has the occasional litter box catastrophe, then you've got to do the deed. Here's what you'll need:

  • A sink or tub (If you have a choice, it's easier to keep a cat contained in a sink.)
  • Thick rubber gloves (to protect you from scratches)
  • Cat shampoo
  • Pitcher (less upsetting to the cat than a faucet)
  • Washcloth
  • Towel

Fill the sink or basin with a couple of inches of warm water and gently place the cat in it. Wet them from the neck down with the pitcher, apply shampoo, and lather. Use the washcloth to gently wipe down your kitty's head, face, and ears. Work quickly, because soapy cats are slippery cats. Rinse with water from the pitcher and wrap them in a towel. At this point, Fluffy has earned a generous helping of post-bath treats.

Shoes

When it comes to shoes, sneakers are the easiest to clean. First, remove the shoelaces and give them a couple of good whacks together outside (or over a garbage can) to remove any loose dirt and debris. Then, toss the shoes and laces in the washing machine with a load of towels and wash on the gentle cycle. Sneakers should be air-dried, not run through the dryer.

Canvas shoes should be hand-washed with warm water and a gentle detergent — you can use a toothbrush or sponge to remove stains. After rinsing, they should be air-dried. Leather and suede shoes often need special fabric-specific cleaners; these should be spot-cleaned only.

Man Washing His Face

Your Face

We've read some surprising statistics about face-washing recently, which is why we decided to include it on this list. Apparently, more than half of American adults aren't washing their faces before bedtime, and a staggering 46% of men don't wash their faces at all. Worse, those who are washing their faces are doing it with all sorts of nonsense like hand soap or body wash.

What are you doing, people?! Ideally, you should wash your face twice a day — morning and night — with a face cleanser that's formulated for your skin type. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you can skip the morning wash and opt for a rinse with water. But definitely wash before you go to bed — this removes all the makeup, sweat, dirt, and other grime from the day. Moreover, it'll control the amount of bacteria breeding on your pillow.

Silk Items

Most silk items say "dry clean" on the label, but we're going to let you in on a little secret: they can usually be hand-washed in cold water with a gentle detergent. To pre-treat stains, work some detergent into the fabric with your fingers and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. Be gentle when washing, and opt for rolling the garment in a clean towel to remove excess water before air-drying, rather than twisting or squeezing it.

Most silk items say 'dry clean' on the label, but they can usually be hand-washed in cold water with a gentle detergent.

Down Comforters

Wash your down comforters once a year. First, remove the duvet cover and wash that separately — if yours has any embellishments or delicate fabrics, you may need to have it dry cleaned. Then, wash the comforter in a front-loading washing machine on the gentle cycle with a mild detergent. Dry it on low heat with some tennis balls or dryer balls. You may need to hit up a laundromat if you don't have large enough machines, but that still beats a $60 trip to the dry cleaner.

Electric Blankets

Washing electric blankets is tricky business, but probably not as tricky as you think. In fact, most of them can even go in the washing machine! Sunbeam recommends the following method: after disconnecting the power cords from the blanket, soak it in cold water with a mild detergent for 15 minutes. Then, wash on the gentle cycle.

They recommend you only dry electric blankets for 10 minutes, so you might want to skip that step and just air-dry. You can also hand-wash your blanket in cold water with a gentle detergent. If you have an old electric blanket — say, made before the late 90s — don't put it in the washing machine. And no matter how old the blanket is, make sure it's completely dry before reconnecting any cords or controls.

Kids Running to School

Backpacks

Backpacks can usually be spot-cleaned, but when they get really dirty, it's time to run them through the washing machine. The challenge is making sure all those straps, buckles and zippers don't damage your appliance.

There are a few different options for addressing this. You can put it in a mesh laundry bag, turn it inside out, or use this genius tip from Lifehacker and wash it inside a pillowcase. Whichever method you're using, wash it on the gentle cycle in cold water, and hang upside down to dry.

Bras

While you can technically run bras through the washing machine, handwashing with cold water and mild detergent is really the best way to prolong their lifespan — especially if you wear high-end brands. That said, cold water/gentle cycle/mild detergent is the way to go if you opt for the washer. Always skip the dryer and let them air-dry.

Spot clean the outside of leather products with a damp cloth and some Saddle Soap or mild dish soap.

Leather Jackets

Leather is tricky to keep clean, as it's so easy to damage. Never run your leather jacket through the washing machine or dryer! Spot clean the outside with a damp cloth and some Saddle Soap or mild dish soap. You want to blot the leather; don't rub! When the liner needs a cleaning, you can wipe it down with a damp cloth and mild detergent, and then hang to dry. Experts recommend a trip to the dry cleaners once a year to help prolong the life of your leather.

Winter Coats

Most winter coats can be machine-washed and dried, but you should check the care tags to make sure. Stick to cold water and regular detergent for parkas and puffy coats, and add some tennis balls or dryer balls to the dryer to keep 'em fluffy.

The exception to this advice is wool coats, which can be spot cleaned with a damp cloth and mild detergent, but should really head to the dry cleaner when they need a deep clean. Winter coats should be washed once or twice each season — definitely do it before packing them up for next year.

Wall of Wigs

Wigs

Wigs should always be washed and conditioned in cold water, rinsed thoroughly, and then placed on a wig stand to dry. For human hair wigs, any mild shampoo and conditioner will work. With synthetic wigs, it's best to use products designed for synthetic hair.

Cloth Diapers

If you're an apartment dweller without access to your own washer or dryer, you might want to skip cloth diapers entirely or use a cleaning service. Sadly, most laundromats won't let you wash cloth diapers there. At home, the first step is to remove and discard any solids, then do a pre-rinse cycle with no detergent to loosen up the gunk. Then wash again with hot water and detergent. You can either dry on low heat or hang to dry.

SEE ALSO: Can You Get Groceries Delivered If You Don't Live in a City?

Cast Iron Cookware

Contrary to popular belief, you can use dish soap on a cast iron pan. Start by washing it with warm, soapy water, using either a sponge or dish brush to rub off burnt-off bits. You can add a little coarse salt to the pan to help remove really tough bits. Then, dry very, very thoroughly — water is the enemy of cast iron. Finally, rub the inside of the pan with a few drops of cooking oil, set it over high heat until just smoking, and then let it cool before storing.

Computer Accessories

A dust cloth will do most of the work of cleaning your computer peripherals — your monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc. — on a regular basis. But sometimes you need to go a bit deeper. Damp cloths will get out smudge marks and mild stains, and disinfecting wipes will do the bigger jobs. Compressed air can help you to loosen up dirt inside your keyboard. For sticky or hard-to-reach spots, a cotton swab lightly soaked in alcohol is just the thing.

Readers, do you know a better way to clean one of the items on our list? Share your tips (and cat-bathing horror stories) in the comments below.


Contributing Writer

Jessica Hulett is a freelance writer, editor and obsessive seeker of online promo codes. She's been writing professionally for more than 15 years, and was most recently the managing editor of coupon and lifestyle site extrasforme.com.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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4 comments
michael bonebright (DealNews)

@Brook -
Adding a couple (clean) tennis balls to a load of comforters or towels supposedly helps these heavy items dry faster, and may help "fluff" them up a bit. You can also buy dryer balls that are made for this purpose, as some experts believe the neon green tennis balls could stain some fabrics -- I've never had this occur, but I can understand avoiding the risk.

Brook

Why the tennis balls in the dryer? What does that do?

HowardaC

The best way is to throw on a pair of swim trunks and a shirt you don't care about, hold the cat to your chest and take a shower. You'll need a high tolerance for pain though as there is a 50/50 chance it will claw into your chest.

The even better way is to just not wash your cat. No matter how filthy they are they can usually get themselves clean.

sheepdog

Evidently you haven't tried the way you are promoting. The best way is to take a baby gate, place at around a 45 degree angle in bath tub, place cat on it and then bath cat. Most cats will grab on to it with their paws and stay there while you wash them