Dogs live in the moment, and the moment you leave the house, they jump on the bed to take a snooze until you get back. They might think they’re getting away with something, not realizing they’re leaving behind telltale signs of their misbehavior—pet hair. It's particularly bad this time of year, when dogs shed their winter coats. Removing all that pet hair from your bedding, clothes, or the pet’s bed can be a challenge, for you and your washer.

"Pet hair in general is tough to remove, especially when water is added to fabrics," says William Bittner, vice president of North American sales at Speed Queen, a company that makes both commercial and residential washers. "The hair tends to clump and stick to fabric. Once the items are washed, the hair can end up clumping in drain pumps, or stuck to the sides of the wash cylinder."

The wet clumps of hair can prevent water from draining properly, stressing your home's plumbing. That’s why it's important to reduce the amount of pet hair on your bedding and clothing before you put the laundry into the washer. Dryers aren't as affected by pet hair. (In fact, using your dryer first is one way to cut down on the amount of pet hair that finds its way to the washing machine.)

These expert tips will help keep your washer in working order.

Removing Pet Hair From Bedding

The most pet hair ends up where your dog or cat sleeps, whether that's on your bed or their own. If your bed is your pet's chosen spot, pet hair can become embedded in the cloth fibers of your sheets, blankets, and clothing.

Remove the hair from clothes with a lint roller or masking tape. For your bedding, put on a rubber glove, dampen it with water, and run your hand over the sheet or blanket. The hair will cling to the glove, so you'll need to wash it off from time to time. When you've removed as much hair as possible, follow these steps:

  1. Before washing, run clothes or bedding through a 10-minute no-heat dryer cycle. This loosens the pet hair, which winds up in the lint trap. Throw in a dryer sheet, because any static buildup can keep hair bonded to fabric. Take the items out of the dryer, give them a good shake to remove any remaining pet hair, then toss them in the washer.
  2. Add a half-cup of white vinegar to the machine’s rinse cycle. Vinegar is a natural fabric softener that helps relax fabrics and loosen the pet hair.
  3. Clean your washer by running a wash cycle without laundry. After the cycle ends, wipe down your washer tub with a wet cloth.

How to Clean a Pet Bed

“For years I used my washer’s extra rinse cycle to rinse away the hair from the bed for my cocker spaniel, Sonny,” says Emilio Gonzalez, the laundry appliance expert at Consumer Reports. Before you wash your pet's bed, take steps to keep pet hair to a minimum. Start by brushing your pet every day, and follow these recommendations from the American Cleaning Institute:

  1. Use a vacuum, lint brush, or sticky tape to remove as much fur as possible from your pet’s bed, including the corners and around any buttons or tufting.
  2. Remove the bed cover, if possible, and use a stain remover on any extra dirty or funky spots.
  3. Check the label for washing instructions, then load the cover or the entire bed in the washer (if it doesn’t fit, the bathtub will do). Washing in hot water can help kill any insects and eggs that may be on the bed.
  4. Dry the bed in your dryer, if it will fit. A dryer sheet helps reduce static and will remove any remaining hair. Clean the dryer’s lint filter halfway through the cycle, because the cleaner it is, the more hair the filter can catch. If you put the bed out to dry, place it in a well-ventilated area to help prevent mildew and mold.
  5. Afterward, wipe the washer tub with a damp paper towel to remove any hair.
  6. If you still see a lot of hair inside your washer, allow it to air-dry, then use the soft attachment of your vacuum cleaner to remove the rest.

Need a new washer? Though Consumer Reports tests the best vacuums for pet hair, we don't test washers that way. We do score many other factors, including cleaning performance and energy efficiency. For more information, see our full washer ratings and recommendations.