Why Bathroom Mats Shouldn’t Go in Your Washer

Bathroom mats should never, ever go in your washing machine. Learn why, and what to do when your bathroom mats and other bulky items need cleaning.

As an appliance technician with more than 30 years of experience, I’ve seen too many front-load washing machines ruined because customers used them to wash bathroom mats. I’ve seen a new front-loader broken beyond repair when a customer tried washing two bathroom mats at the same time.

Bottom line: Never clean bathroom mats in your washing machine. Here’s why.

Why Shouldn’t I Put My Bathroom Mat In The Washer?

Most front-loaders washers feature large spin baskets that can accommodate big blankets and bathroom mats. That leads customers to think these washers can wash large, heavy items of any size and weight.

The problem is, bathroom mats absorb so much water that they end up weighing far more than the washer was designed to handle. Modern washers have a much faster spin rate than washers of the past — up to 1,200 revolutions per minute during high-speed spins! These faster rates create large amounts of force with heavy items, and the increased weight tears the washer apart.

If you try to clean bathroom mats in your washer, you risk two expensive problems.

It Can Ruin the Drain Motor

Bathroom mats often have a rubbery backing that disintegrates in the wash cycle. The small rubber pieces then block the drain pump by clogging its motor and drain line.

Often the drain motor needs to be replaced. This repair averages $240 for parts and labor. Even bathroom mats without a rubber backing can affect the drain motor. Long fibers on some mats break off during the wash cycle and clog the drain.

It Can Ruin the Spin Basket Bearing

The rear bearing that supports the spin basket takes the brunt of the damage from heavy bathroom mats and the great centripetal force generated by the spin cycle. When the bearing fails, the fix can cost $500. There’s also a spider bracket that holds up the spin bracket which often breaks due to the increased weight. The spider bracket repair is also around $500.

Just this week, a customer with a two-year-old LG washer contacted me to report an extremely loud spin cycle due to a worn-out rear bearing. He told me he routinely washes large blankets and bathroom mats in his washer.

I felt bad breaking the news to him that because the repair would cost more than $500, it made more sense to replace the washer.  Now he needs to come up with around $1,200 for a new washer, and some landfill somewhere gets another bulky item that will take thousands of years to biodegrade. Washing machine manufacturers really should warn buyers not to wash bathroom mats! Instead, these are the best ways to wash bath mats.

Keep an eye out for these signs that your washer is about to break down.

What If I’ve Already Laundered My Bathroom Mats?

If you’ve washed bathroom mats in the past, it may not be too late.

If the play between the plastic tub and metal spin basket is less than 1/8-in., you should still have many years of service left with your washer. You can check this by opening the door and spinning the silver spin basket by hand. It should spin easily and smoothly with little noise.

If you hear a clunking noise as you spin it by hand, then you know it’s too late for your washer. Here’s a simple test to see if the washer is beyond repair:

  • Grab the big plastic outer tub front lip with one hand. Use your other hand to grab the silver metal spin basket.
  • Try to rock the spin basket up and down while keeping the plastic spin basket as still as possible. There should be little play.

If you hear a really loud sound while the washer is at high-speed spin, like a jet taking off, that indicates a worn-out rear bearing. Your washer will still work for a few more months, but it will get louder and louder and eventually fail to spin.

To keep your washer in shape, don’t forget to clean your washing machine filter.

How Should I Clean My Bathroom Mats?

My customers often ask, “What am I supposed to do with my dirty blankets and bathroom mats?” I tell them to use a coin laundry’s powerful, robust machines. Or if they keep washing heavy items, be prepared to buy a new washer every two to three years.

Other Items You Should Never Wash at Home

The following items are too bulky or too heavy for at-home washing machines. Washing these items will greatly reduce your washer’s life span and may break your spin basket in just one washing:

    • Comforters
    • Sleeping bags
    • Dog beds
    • Drapes
    • Weighted blankets
    • Rugs

It’s best to use a coin laundry for these items.

Need more laundry advice? Don’t forget to check out our guide to laundry symbols.

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Originally Published on The Family Handyman

Scott The Fix-It Guy
Scott Flint is an expert appliance repair technician with over 30 years experience fixing home appliances. His DIY articles have appeared in Earth911.com's website. Scott is a 9th Degree Black Belt and published author of the Self-Defense book Waking The Tiger Within - How to be Safe from Crime. He has been teaching martial arts for over 43 years. Scott has a calm manner that helps to make complex repairs understandable. He enjoys empowering people to be able to confidently do their own DIY appliance repairs. Scott has over 1,900 youtube DIY repair videos that garner over 900,000 views/month.