Car mats get dirty very fast. Whether tracking in dirt or spilling drinks, they need to be cleaned more often than you might think.
Most car mats should not go in the washing machine. Rubber mats won’t survive, and even fabric mats have some rubber edges. To clean your car mats, pull them out of the vehicle and either vacuum them or hose them down.
Always allow the mats to dry completely before returning them to the vehicle.
Cleaning Your Car Mats
The most popular car mats are made of rubber. Rubber mats are great for catching mud, dirt, sand, or fallen food.
They also don’t absorb liquids, which makes them nearly stain-proof.
Unfortunately, you shouldn’t be putting anything made of rubber into your washing machine, including rubber-backed rugs, car mats, and other fabrics with rubber liners.
Getting the rubber wet isn’t a problem if you let it dry. The water won’t ruin the rubber, but mold can grow if left unchecked.
The issue is that washing machines clean clothes with more than soapy water – they also spin.
With fabrics, spinning gets the soap deeper into the material; however, with non-fabric items, this same motion can destroy them.
Rubber doesn’t hold up well in the washing machine. It gets pulled, stretched, and ripped apart in only a few cycles.
The rubber might even begin to disintegrate if you machine wash it frequently.
Most car mats are made entirely from rubber. Unfortunately, even fabric mats have some rubber parts attached.
The rubber buffers and liners help grip the floor of your vehicle, keeping the mat in place when you step on it.
Those liners will get torn up in a washing machine, potentially ruining the mats.
Cleaning Fabric Mats
Fabric mats are more difficult to clean than rubber ones.
Firstly, take the mats out of the vehicle and lay them on a flat surface to inspect for dirt and stains.
Next, vacuum both sides of the mats to remove dirt, sand, crumbs, etc.
If the mats smell, you can sprinkle baking soda to neutralize any odors. Leave the baking soda for several minutes, then shake out the mats or vacuum up any excess.
If the mats aren’t stained, smelly, or don’t have ground-in dirt, you might just need to vacuum them and return them to the vehicle.
To remove stains or mud, you can hand wash them by mixing warm water and laundry detergent in a bowl and using a soft sponge to spot-clean soiled areas.
Always try to soak and blot the stains first. You can remove a lot of mud without mashing it further into the car mat.
For tough stains, you can gently scrub the area. Bleach or a foaming cleaner will help, but it can discolor the fabric.
Make sure you give the mats time to dry after cleaning them. Returning wet carpets to your vehicle can lead to unpleasant odors from mold growth or mildew.
Cleaning Rubber Mats
Cleaning rubber car mats is usually much easier than fabric ones.
All you need to do is remove the mats from the car and hose them down. Pressure washers work, but a normal hose head should do the job.
Just spray off all the dirt, hair, or food from the mats and leave them outside to dry.
If you don’t have a hose, you can use elbow grease, a bucket of soapy water, and a sponge or brush.
Rinse off the mats and wipe them down with an old towel to remove as much excess water as you can.
Let the mats dry fully before returning them to your vehicle.
What Else Should You Avoid Putting in the Washing Machine?
There’s a long list of items that you should never place inside your washing machine.
If you have the owner’s manual for yours, there should be a list of common items people have regretted putting in their machines.
Some non-machine-washable items are common sense, such as suits, dry-clean-only items, and expensive fabrics, like cashmere or silk. These items can shrink, tear, or discolor if you wash them in a machine.
Other common sense items include sneakers, leather, clothes with sequins, items with metal wires, and hard pieces that could get bent or misshapen.
Floor mats and rugs around the home should also rarely be washed in your washing machine. Most of the time, these have a rubber backing that can get destroyed by the washer.
Some carpets are also woven into the backing and will unravel if the rubber starts to come off.
Many kinds of pillows aren’t machine washable. Moreover, even after running them through the dryer, you can’t be sure the stuffing is dry, leading to mold growth and mildew inside the pillow.
Always check tags or labels before putting any items in the washing machine. These are there for a reason and will tell you specifically how to best care for your items.
Whether you have rubber or fabric car mats, it’s best to avoid putting them in the washing machine.
Instead, you can vacuum or hose them off to eliminate most of the dirt and grime.
For stains on fabric mats, you can use laundry detergent or special cleaners to lift them out.
No matter the material, always give your mats plenty of time to dry before putting them back in your car.