Should You Clean A Laundry Basket? [And How To]

No matter how thorough you are at cleaning, there always seems to be at least one little thing that you overlook. One object that you probably use almost daily might be one that you may never have considered if it even needed sanitizing. The household laundry basket carries dirty clothes to the washer and clean clothes from the drier, making it one of the most used objects for conducting chores around the house. But should this handy basket ever be cleaned? We've learned why and how to clean your laundry basket.

Your laundry basket should definitely be cleaned regularly. The bacteria from soiled laundry and linens need to be removed before you place clean clothes back into the laundry basket, should you routinely use the same one for hauling clothes back and forth. And even if you use one for your soiled clothes and a different one for your clean clothes, bacteria and mildew from moisture will still build up over time in both baskets. Regularly cleaning all of your laundry baskets is strongly recommended. Below are some methods of cleaning the baskets:

  • sponge and cleanser
  • garden hose
  • washing machine

While it's often overlooked, cleaning your laundry basket can be fairly quick and easy. Deciding which method is best will depend on what your basket is made of. We've researched the best methods for each type of laundry basket material, and will discuss them further in this post. We've also researched the best ways to keep a laundry hamper from smelling, how long you can keep dirty clothes in a basket, and have given you information that will help you determine how many laundry baskets you need. For the answers to these questions, read ahead in this post.

A wooden weaved laundry basket with newly cleaned laundry on a blue walled laundry room, Should You Clean A Laundry Basket (And How To)

How to clean a laundry basket, by type

Keeping your laundry baskets and hampers clean is an important, if not often overlooked, household task. Soiled clothing and linens are already covered in bacteria, and these bacteria will grow and multiply as these dirty items linger inside your baskets. The light dampness from sweat will also increase bacteria growth and make it a perfect environment for mildewing. Over time, these items can grow mold, release horrible smells, and become an issue for people sensitive to mold spores. 

Thankfully, you can prevent this by doing routine cleaning of your laundry baskets and hampers. This extra chore doesn't take very long at all and is very easy to do. Making this a part of your regular household cleaning schedule is simple, but how you'll achieve it will depend on which type of laundry basket you have. Different materials need to be cleaned in different ways. We've broken down the ways to clean laundry baskets by what they're made from, as you can read below.

How to clean a cloth laundry basket

The cloth laundry baskets are the easiest to clean. These handy items can be removed from their wire frames and simply tossed in with the rest of your laundry. Be sure to wash on cold, to avoid any shrinking.

If you'd like to view this DOKEHOM cloth laundry basket on Amazon, you can click here.

How to clean a mesh laundry basket

Mesh laundry baskets are a little trickier to thoroughly clean, but it's manageable. Removing them from their wire frames can be a pain, depending on the model. And tossing the mesh into the washer and dryer can damage the mesh over time.

The best way to clean a mesh laundry basket is to spray it inside and out with a multi-purpose cleaner. You don't want to soak it, but spray enough to get it fairly damp. Once you've sprayed, use a sponge or cloth to rub the inside and outside of the mesh basket. Use a good disinfectant spray when you're finished to kill any lingering bacteria. Allow for your mesh basket to completely air dry before you place any items back inside.

How to clean plastic laundry baskets

Plastic laundry baskets are fairly quick and easy to clean. Using a trusted multi-purpose cleanser, spray the bottom inside of the basket. Spray this same cleaner on a cloth, and scrub the inside and outside walls. Don't forget the top and the handles. Then scrub the inside bottom thoroughly. Finish off by spraying it all over lightly with a disinfecting spray. 

Let your plastic laundry basket air dry before you toss any clothing back into it. If you're in a hurry, you can blot it dry with a soft cloth or paper towels.

A laundry basket filed with laundry on a bed

How to clean wicker laundry baskets

Properly cleaning a wicker laundry basket is a bit more time-consuming. The easiest way is to take it outdoors and use your garden hose. Place it on a level, concrete or wooden surface first. Spray the inside and outside with a cleanser. Warm water with dish soap and a bit of white vinegar will also work. Scrub the inside and outside with a sponge. Then, spray it with the garden hose until all remnants of the cleaning solution are gone.  

Turn the wicker laundry basket upside down and allow it to air dry. The time this will take is based on how warm and sunny it is outdoors. After it is totally dry, you can place things back inside of it.

To view Mrs. Meyer's Multi-Surface Everyday Cleaner on Amazon, click here.

A small laundry basket isolated on a white background

How many laundry baskets do I need?

The number of laundry baskets that you should have in your home will depend on several variables. How many people live in your home, or how many people are you doing laundry for? How often do you do laundry? Do you have your own laundry machines, or do you go to a laundromat? Do you use a clothes hamper?

One Basket

If you live alone or are only doing laundry for yourself, you can probably get by with one or two laundry baskets. You'll want one for soiled clothing and one for freshly cleaned clothing. Of course, if you clean the basket immediately after emptying it of soiled garments, you can most likely get away with just having one laundry basket.

Multiple Baskets

If you're doing laundry for multiple people, you'd be better off with multiple baskets. At this point in your life, you're not surprised at how quickly dirty laundry will build up when you are doing it for other people. Multiple baskets come in handy.

Laundromat Bags

Should you not have a laundry room at home, having multiple baskets and laundry bags make carting your clothes to and from much easier. Many people find that hauling the dirty clothes in a large, cloth laundry bag makes it less daunting. You wash the cloth bag with the clothes, and put it and the freshly laundered clothes in the laundry baskets for the ride home.

Hamper Vs. Basket

Because laundry hampers require much more extensive cleaning than laundry baskets, some find it helpful to forego having the hampers altogether. Instead, they will place a laundry basket in each bedroom and have the occupant toss their soiled clothing inside them. This would obviously mean more than one laundry basket, but it's an easier method than always having to empty (and then clean) clothes hampers.

A laundry basket filed with dirty laundry isolated on a white background

How long can you leave dirty clothes?

Leaving dirty clothes for too long in a hamper or laundry basket will result in bacteria and mildew buildup. Laundry baskets have much larger holes in them and allow for more moisture to escape. Even so, these holes only do so much to ventilate.

Soiled clothes should never stay in a basket or hamper for more than four or five days. Of course, you'll want to make sure that the basket and hamper are regularly cleaned and disinfected.

If the clothing or linens are wet or really damp, you'll want to put them into the washing machine as soon as possible. Wet clothing in a basket is like giving mildew steroids, so you won't want to put wet things into laundry baskets or hampers for more than an hour.

A woman lying underneath her pile of dirty laundry

How do you keep a hamper from smelling?

If you've ever forgotten to empty a laundry hamper, you'll definitely remember how foul the odors can get. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to keep your hamper from emitting noxious smells.

You can take preventative measures to keep the odors from building. Regularly emptying your hamper of dirty clothes is a great way to slow the process. And you should avoid placing any wet items into the hamper. This will lead to quick mildewing and some pretty funky smells.


Soiled clothes will always carry moisture, but you can absorb a lot of this moisture by tossing in a handful of wadded newspapers into the hamper once it's emptied. After two days, the paper will have drawn out a great deal of any moisture that's built up.

Baking Soda

Placing a baking soda carton with poked holes in the lid at the basket base will also absorb moisture and odors from your laundry hamper. Set the carton inside a plastic container if you are worried about potential spills. Potpourri will do the same but will also add a pleasant smell.

Obviously, you'll still want to routinely clean your clothes hamper. The above methods help with bad odors, but won't eliminate all of the bacteria or mildewing.

To see this Simple Houseware brand double laundry hamper on Amazon, you can click here.

In Conclusion

As we learned, there are numerous styles of laundry baskets that are made from a variety of materials. The type of material is the main factor in determining the best way to keep your laundry basket clean and fresh. These handy baskets make the chore of doing laundry so much easier, and many people have multiple units instead of using traditional, upright hampers.

If you'd like to read more tips that might help you around the house, you may find the following posts informative:

How To Wash Feather Pillows [5 Steps]

 How To Fix Bleach Stains On Carpet

How To Use A Bissell ProHeat Carpet Cleaner And Shampooer

How to Clean Bathroom Tiles [8 Steps]

How To Clean Bathroom Faucets And Make Them Shine?

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