One Thing You’re Forgetting to Clean When It Comes to Your Laundry

published Jul 8, 2023
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Laundry is a never-ending battle in most households. It certainly is in mine. One thing I did years ago to lighten the load (pardon the pun) was switch to cloth laundry hampers. They expand to hold more, which can be a bad thing if you’re like me and tend to procrastinate with laundry. But they’re also super easy to clean — I just toss them in the wash with the rest of the clothes every other load or so.

Quick Overview

How to Clean Laundry Baskets or Hampers

Most laundry baskets and hampers can be quickly cleaned using a hard surface disinfectant. Simply spray, let it dry, and you’re done. However, some materials require more attention for a deeper clean. Read below on the different ways to clean cloth/fabric, wicker/rattan, and plastic laundry baskets and hampers.

Now, if the idea of cleaning your laundry basket or hamper never crossed your mind, you’re not alone. “Laundry hampers and baskets are one of the most forgotten items in our household when it comes to regular cleaning,” says Matthew Connelly, founder and CEO of ihateironing, a dry cleaning and laundry collection and delivery service. “A lot of people think that because you’re only putting dirty clothes there, then there’s no point in cleaning it. However, it’s important to keep our laundry hampers clean and fresh to avoid bad odors and the buildup of dirt and bacteria.” 

How Often Should You Clean Your Laundry Basket or Hamper?

It might not be very often that you see the bottom of your basket or hamper, to begin with, but it’s important to empty it at some point so you can clean it as well.

Connelly says your cleaning schedule depends on certain factors, like the material it’s made of and the nature of the clothing you’re tossing in it. His general rule is once a month, but if you toss in soiled baby clothes or any garments with food or drink stains, then a two-week cleaning schedule is better. 

Laura Mountford, laundry and cleaning expert and author of the new book, Live, Laugh, Laundry, takes a more conservative approach and recommends a weekly cleaning of your basket or hamper. But it’s not too much of a chore. 

“Most laundry hampers can be cleaned using a hard surface disinfectant,” says Mountford. She’s based in the U.K., so she likes Dettol; in the US, Lysol is the equivalent. She likes this method because you simply spray the inside of the basket or hamper and let it dry — no need to wipe or rinse, so it’s ideal for a quick clean. 

But for a deeper clean, Mountford agrees it depends on the type of material from which the basket is made.

How to Clean Laundry Baskets or Hampers by Type

Just like with any other surface in your home, it’s important to use the right cleaning method for your basket or hamper. Here are a few of the most common materials and how to keep them fresh.

Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Anna Surbatovich

How to Clean Cloth or Fabric Laundry Baskets or Hampers

“The great thing about fabric hampers is that many of them can be machine washed themselves, which makes them really convenient,” says Mountford. “Pop them in the machine using a laundry detergent on a cool wash with a laundry cleanser to remove the germs.”

I toss my cloth hampers in on the same wash cycle as the clothes they were previously holding, and they’ll go into the dryer, too. They come out looking good as new, and if there happens to be any shrinkage, a new pile of dirty clothes will soon stretch them out again.

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How to Clean Wicker or Rattan Laundry Baskets or Hampers

Wicker and rattan baskets or hampers are an attractive way to hide dirty clothes. Assuming there’s a cloth liner, you can likely toss that in the wash. But you’ll also need to find a way to keep it free of dust and dirt. 

“Cleaning wicker baskets requires more care than other materials, as you can’t soak them in water,” says Connelly. He recommends using the brush attachment on your vacuum to clean out all the dirt, hair, dust, and other debris that can so easily get stuck in the crevices. Then, use a cloth dipped in a solution of dish soap and warm water to gently scrub the inside of the basket. Dry with a cloth, then let it air-dry in a well-ventilated space. 

This last part is key. Whatever basket or hamper you use and whatever you use to clean it with, make sure it is completely dry before filling it once again. You don’t want mold to take the place of any dirt you just banished.

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How to Clean Plastic Laundry Baskets or Hampers

Both Connelly and Mountford agree that plastic hampers are the easiest to keep clean. That’s a good thing — especially if you use the same plastic hamper previously filled with dirty clothes to carry back your clean clothes from the wash.

Mountford says you can spritz them with a multi-surface cleaner and wipe them with a microfiber cloth. Connelly recommends wiping them down with a cloth dampened by a mix of warm water and detergent. To rinse, you can bring it outside and hit it with the hose or simply take a clean cloth soaked in water and wipe away any soapy residue. Either way, let it air-dry completely before its next use.

Do you have a hamper made from a material that’s not on the list? You can likely revert to Mountford’s advice of spraying a hard surface disinfectant and letting it air-dry. Otherwise, you might want to consider swapping out your current hamper for one that’s easier to clean regularly — or whenever you finally see the bottom of it.