After a long winter, it's time to clean and pack away our winter blankets and pull out our summer gear from storage. Last fall I didn't get around to cleaning my summer pads, polos, fly sheet, etc. (but I had a really good excuse! I was pregnant and exhausted) so now I have to wash all that stuff too in addition to my winter blankets...kids, this is called procrastination and it never works out the way you hope it will.
Since most laundromat owners have realized that horse people will load super heavy, hairy, dirty blankets into their machines and eventually break them if they don't post signs saying that washing horse blankets isn't allowed, there are signs up at most laundromats. :| Soooo, that leaves us to either break the rules (stressful!) or to figure out how to do our horse laundry at home without breaking our washing machines. Now, my husband has a strict No Horse Blankets Allowed policy for our washing machine too but what he doesn't know won't hurt him. Here are my tips for getting away with it:
1. Wait for a day when your husband is away fishing, obviously. He isn't really that great at fishing so he'll be gone a while.
2. Remove horse hair and clods of dirt from your pads and blankets with a dry bristle brush or a vacuum first before washing.
3. For heavily soiled blankets and pads, spray with a hose–or even better–a power washer (at a distance–don't rip your blanket!) first. Allow to hang dry outside for a while so you're not loading a 200lb soaking wet blanket into your machine.
4. Remove all leg straps and velcro from blankets if possible before washing. I'd also suggest that you put polos in a lingerie bag to prevent a tangled mess but really, who owns a lingerie bag?? People who wear lingerie, I guess. So in other words, no one who would ever be reading this blog. I had to look up how to spell lingerie.
5. Wash whites with whites and colors with colors. Wash everything on the hottest setting, with an extra rinse cycle to make sure all the detergent has been rinsed out (some horses are sensitive to harsh detergents. Use a mild, unscented soap if your horse is particularly sensitive, and definitely skip the fabric softener!) For whites, spot-treat stains with a good stain-remover before washing, then wash in a combo of regular laundry detergent and OxiClean White Revive.
6. After you're done with your horse laundry, set your washing machine to its "clean" cycle, put a bit of white vinegar in instead of detergent and do a load of towels (not good towels! Rags/beach towels)–they will wipe up any hair that was sticking to the inside of the machine. Empty the lint/dirt filter in your machine. Throw away/hide the towels where your husband will never look (actually they can probably stay right there in the laundry room in that case.)
7. I usually let most of my horse laundry air-dry because many of the materials (velcro, the waterproofing treatment on deniers, etc.) can melt or get damaged in the dryer, but cotton saddle pads are safe to throw in the dryer. Fold and store anything seasonal until next season, or send busted blankets in for repair.
Phew! You did it and he'll ne'er be the wiser! Now is also a great time to deep-clean and take a good look at your leather tack to make sure nothing needs repairing. Happy spring cleaning.