Can You Put Car Mats in the Washing Machine? What Are the Risks?

No matter how careful you are with your car’s interior, the floor mats will inevitably get dirty.  Using a vacuum cleaner can eliminate some dirt, but it won’t suffice if you want your floor mats to look new.  Given how filthy floor mats can get, deep cleaning is the best way to get rid of all the dirt.

You can machine wash fabric car mats as long as you don’t overload your machine. But you should never clean rubber floor mats with a washing machine because they can disintegrate. In any case, there are other effective cleaning methods that don’t run the risk of damaging your floor mats and washer.

Keep reading to learn how to keep your car’s floor mats in pristine condition. This article will explain why you shouldn’t just toss your floor mats in the washing machine and offer you various solutions to clean them.

Machine Washing Your Car’s Floor Mats

The only floor mats you can clean with a washing machine are those made of fabric. However, most fabric floor mats have a rubber back, so make sure the floor mats don’t have any rubber parts before placing them in the washer. 

You must also ensure the floor mats do not exceed your washer’s weight capacity. Note that a washing machine’s capacity refers to dry laundry, while a dryer’s capacity is based on damp laundry. 

Aside from the weight limit, you also want to make sure the machine’s drum is big enough to accommodate the floor mats. If the floor mats are cramped inside the washer, you may not achieve your desired results. Therefore, you may have to run separate cycles for the front and rear floor mats if they don’t fit in the drum.

Remove as much loose dirt from the floor mats before tossing them in the washer. Washing machines are generally made for clothes, which do not absorb as much dirt as floor mats. You may have to deal with stubborn stains separately.

Once the floor mats are in the washer, use warm water, a conservative amount of detergent, and a gentle spin cycle. 

The Risks of Machine Washing Floor Mats

It may be tempting to let your washing machine do most of the work, but you’d be remiss to think doing so doesn’t have its share of disadvantages. Apart from the fact that you can achieve more pleasing results with other cleaning methods, using a washing machine for your car’s floor mats may cause damage.

Here are some disadvantages of cleaning your car’s floor mats with a washing machine.

Your Floor Mats Won’t Be as Clean

Since floor mats are relatively bulky and heavy, your washer’s most aggressive cycle may still have trouble agitating all the dirt. Washing machines rely heavily on water and detergent to lift dirt, which might be enough for heavily soiled floor mats. 

You may have to presoak the floor mats several times to get your desired results, but that may offset the convenience of using a machine in the first place. Washing machines may also have difficulty removing stubborn stains, which you may need to pretreat before starting a wash cycle. 

Other cleaning methods will allow you to focus on the floor mat’s problem areas, giving you more desirable results. 

The Dirt Can Get Trapped in Your Machine

Floor mats accumulate a lot of dirt since they are usually what your shoes initially make contact with after stepping in the car. The debris from your shoes can get deeply seeded into the floor mats, especially if they have thick fibers. So, even after you shake off the dust and dirt, floor mats will still be filthier than clothes. 

Aside from the possibility that the machine may not rinse off all the dirt from your floor mats, it might also have trouble eliminating all the soil or whatnot from the tub. 

Washing machines expel dirt that’s dissolved in water through the drain hose. The water and detergent may not be able to dissolve all the substances from your floor mats, and they may end up getting stuck in and around the drum.

The last thing you want to do is put your laundry in a dirty tub with residue from floor mats.  At the very least, you may have to run multiple wash cycles just to get rid of all the dirt. 

Most Floor Mats Are Not Machine Washable

Only fabric floor mats are relatively safe to wash in washing machines. However, the back of most fabric floor mats is made of rubber, while others have rubber trims. This means hardly any floor mats are suitable for machine washing.   

You should never place anything with rubber in a washer because the high temperature inside the machine could cause the rubber to melt or tear. The rubber fragments can get tossed around in the washer and might even clog the drain pipe.

Due to their shape and size, floor mats absorb more water than regular laundry. So, even if the floor mats are within your washer’s weight capacity, the water they hold may still put them over the limit. A washing machine’s capacity may be based on dry laundry, but this typically considers how much water laundry holds, not floor mats. 

Overloading a washing machine impacts its efficiency and ability to clean. Moreover, the added weight strains the machine’s bearings, which may lead to costly repairs.

Tips for Cleaning Different Types of Car Mats

Given all the risks associated with tossing your car’s floor mats in the washer, you’re better off using other cleaning methods. Aside from keeping your washer and floor mats in one piece, alternative techniques will allow you to clean the mats more thoroughly and achieve better results.

There are specific ways to clean different types of floor mats. 

Rubber Floor Mats

The easiest floor mats to clean are those made of rubber since they catch dirt without absorbing it.  Additionally, rubber floor mats are less likely to stain, so hardly any agitation is necessary.

Here are the steps for cleaning rubber floor mats.

  1. Shake off or whack the mat against a hard surface to remove dust and dirt.  If you choose to hit the mat against a wall, please note that the wall will become dirty.  Use a concrete surface that isn’t painted.
  2. Hose off the surface of the mat using medium pressure (intense pressure might puncture or crack the rubber)
  3. Apply mild detergent using a soft-bristle brush.  Make sure to scrub tight crevices thoroughly.
  4. Rinse off the detergent with water
  5. Dry the mat using a blower or towel

Vinyl Floor Mats

You can clean vinyl floor mats using the same steps used for cleaning rubber mats.  However, vinyl is less flexible and durable than rubber. Therefore, make sure to use gentle water pressure and less force when agitating the dirt with a brush.

Vinyl Coil Floor Mats

Vinyl Coil floor mats have a rubber base and contain thousands of polyvinyl loops to scrape dust and dirt off your shoes. The main advantage of vinyl coil mats is that they can hold loads of dirt without looking filthy on the surface. Fortunately, despite their intricate surface and how much dirt they can keep, these mats are relatively easy to clean.

Here are the steps for cleaning vinyl coil floor mats.

  1. Remove as much dirt as possible by shaking the mat or swinging it against a hard surface
  2. Use a vacuum cleaner to collect more dirt.
  3. Wash the mat with a garden hose using medium pressure to eliminate any remaining dirt.
  4. Let the mat sit under the sun, or hang it out to dry.

Fabric Floor Mats

Fabric floor mats are the most difficult to clean since dirt can get buried deep into their fibers. They are also less stain-repellant. Professional detailers use fancy equipment like drill brushes and water extractors to agitate and remove the filth. But even if you do not have the same tools, you can still achieve similar results.

Here are the steps for cleaning fabric floor mats.

  1. Remove as much dirt and debris as possible using a vacuum cleaner.
  2. Spray the mat with water until it is adequately drenched.  If you have time, you can also soak the mat in a container with soapy water.      
  3. Agitate deep-seated dirt with mild detergent and a soft-bristle brush.  You can use stain removers to deal with stubborn stains.
  4. Rinse the mats by hosing off the detergent—work from left to right, covering one layer at a time. 
  5. Repeat steps 2 to 4 until you feel the mat is clean enough.
  6. Let the floor mats drip to remove excess water. You can complete the drying process with a blower. Otherwise, hang the mats and make sure they are completely dry before putting them back into your vehicle. 

Final Thoughts

The only machine-washable car mats are those made of 100% fabric. However, such mats are extremely rare because most fabric mats have a rubber base. 

Using a washing machine to clean your mats isn’t a good idea for the following reasons:

  • You could damage the machine.
  • You could damage the floor mats.
  • The washing machine will not clean them thoroughly.
  • Floor mats can leave a lot of dirt in your machine’s tub.

If you want to keep your car’s floor mats looking fresh, you can achieve better results with other cleaning methods. Moreover, they do not require much effort.

Scroll to Top