How To Clean Stuffed Animals without Ruining Them
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When your child gets covered in dirt or sweat from playing hard, you make sure they take a good bath. Their stuffed toys need cleaning now and then, too, and for the same reason.
How Often to Wash Stuffed Animals
Wash your child’s stuffed toys after every illness or bout with lice. If your child has allergies or asthma, clean their stuffed animals monthly to remove dust, pollen, and other irritants. And, of course, wash them any time they look grimy or smell musty.
Before You Begin
Determine the best washing method for your child’s stuffed toys. If in doubt, choose spot washing.
- Spot wash toys containing electronic parts including lights and music boxes, those filled with foam beads (like Beanie Babies) or rice, and those embellished with delicate fabrics.
- Hand wash stuffed toys decorated with sequins or ornaments that are glued on, not sewn.
- Machine wash other stuffed animals and plush toys following directions on the care label, if there is one, or use the method below.
Spot Washing Stuffed Animals
Use spot or surface washing to clean nonwashable stuffed toys. You can also use this method to touch up washable stuffed animals when they’re only a little dirty.
- To spot clean a stuffed toy, use a few drops of mild liquid dish soap stirred into a cup of cold water.
- Test the toy for colorfastness by dipping a cotton swab into the water and dabbing an inconspicuous area. If the dye transfers from the toy to the swab, stop and consult a professional dry cleaner. If the dye is color-safe, dip a rag in the soapy water and wipe the toy’s surface to remove grime.
- Change to a fresh cloth dampened with plain water to remove soap residue and let the toy dry.
Washing by Hand
It’s easiest to hand-wash stuffed toys in the sink, though you can use a bucket or bathtub if needed.
- Fill the basin halfway with cold water and add two tablespoons of laundry detergent. Swirl to mix.
- Soak the stuffed animal and gently squeeze soapy water through it. Use your fingers to rub any particularly soiled spots.
- Drain the sink and rinse the toy under cold running water, pressing it against the side of the sink to squeeze out soap suds.
- Once the water runs clear, blot the toy in fresh towels and let it air dry.
See above to determine if it’s safe to launder your child’s toy in the washing machine.
- Put the stuffed animal in a mesh laundry bag or a pillowcase and tie a knot at the top.
- Launder the toy using a delicate wash cycle and cold water.
- Remove the unopened bag and gently squeeze out the sudsy water.
- Run a second rinse cycle to finish removing all the soap.
- Remove the toy from the bag, blot it in clean towels, and let it air dry.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I put my child’s stuffed toy in the dryer?
Tumble drying plush toys often causes their stuffing to bunch or their fabric covering to shrink. To minimize these risks, blot the toy first with fresh towels then tumble dry it on the low heat setting for only 15 minutes. Remove the toy from the dryer, blot it again with dry towels, and fluff up the fur with your fingers. Allow the toy to finish air-drying on a rack or line-dry it away from direct sunlight, which could lead to fading.
How can I freshen a smelly teddy bear without washing it?
To freshen musty-smelling stuffed animals, put them in a plastic bag with a cup of baking soda, seal the bag, and give it a shake so the baking soda covers the toy. Let the toy deodorize overnight, then shake off the powder outside. Remove any remaining baking soda using your vacuum cleaner’s dust attachment, taking care around the eyes or other decorative embellishments.
How do I clean a vintage or sentimental toy?
Damaged, vintage, or valuable stuffed animals require professional attention. Talk to your dry cleaner who may be able to help. Otherwise, check local business listings for places like “stuffed animal hospitals” or toy repair services.
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How do you clean a stuffed animal that smells like lavender, one of those. I’m not sure if it has beans or not.
To preserve the lavender fragrance, I’d skip the washing machine and do a surface cleaning with a washcloth and warm, soapy water. Follow with a clean, damp cloth to remove any soap residue, then let it fully dry.
Any advice on cleaning a pillow that is shaped like a character? So it doesn’t have a case that can be removed. My problem is that our daughter peed on on it in her crib and the tag says you can hand wash the exterior but you can’t machine wash the whole thing. So i’m at a loss how to get the urine smell out. It’s a pillow is really like to keep as i’ve had it a long time and it was a mistake to put in there. Thanks!
Oh no! I’m assuming from your description that it’s dry now but still smells of pee. In that case, I’d put it in a large plastic bag and sprinkle it liberally with baking soda. I’d recommend working the baking soda into the surface, too. Knot the bag and let it sit away from direct light for a few days. The baking soda should neutralize the odors, so just take it out of the bag and shake it outside well. Then surface clean it using the directions above for spot cleaning.
If the pillow has a side seam gently clip the seams and remove the stuffing. Wash the cover separately, then resting and sew up the seam. I have had to do this several times with pet bedding. Polyester pillow replacements are available at many craft stores.
My son passed away in Sept. I found his white stuffed cat his grandma gave him 30 years ago. It’s not white and he also smoked, can u add some bleach to the detergent when washing. I really want to preserve it, very sentimental. Please help. Thank you.
Please accept my condolences for the loss of your son. I understand not wanting to lose his stuffed white cat toy, too. As I indicated in the article, vintage or valuable stuffed animals need professional attention, and your dry cleaner is a good place to start. This would certainly count as a valuable one.
How to clean dusty ( very dusty) furry grandpa snoopy as well a Dr Snoopy who is 50 years old and has been stitched ?
As indicated, if it’s vintage or valuable you should take it to a professional.
My 2 year old threw up on her favorite stuffed animal puppy. This one would fall under the “spot-clean the surface” category under normal circumstances, but I’m pretty sure the stomach acid went deeper than that surface. What should I do?
You could try handwashing in that case, if you think it’ll hold up to it.
My daughter has a large collection of stuffed animals that I am keeping for her until she is settled in her new home after her marriage, she is 33 years old. We recently has a mouse infestation and after we eliminated all of them I found several have been stained with mouse urine. They are large and small size and various made of long to the shorter versions of fluff. I appears the stains are mostly on the surface with little to no saturation. Can you advise me on a safe and sanitary way of cleaning without ruining her collection?
Thank you for your help, any and all suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
With irreplaceable items like this, there is too great a risk that I’d misunderstand your question or you’d misunderstand my pointers, and the item would never be the same. Please take it in-person to a professional dry cleaner who can examine the item’s construction, materials, and condition and come up with the personal answer you’re seeking.
I am concerned that washing stuffed animals would allow for mildew or mold to grow inside the animal because it would take so long for it to air dry and it would be damp inside. Is this a legitimate concern?
Also, I was told years ago to put stuffed animals in the deep freeze to get rid of dust mites. Have you ever heard of doing that? I have done it multiple times.
It’s never been a problem as long as the directions are followed correctly.
I’m curious if I would be able to wash a plushie that can purr if you squeeze it ( its like a dog toy but it’s a real plushie ) I’m asking because I have a Simba plushie that I’ve had since I was five. I had also been wondering if there is a blanket that attaches to the back and comes to the front with Velcro to wrap the plushie would that be a problem. ( im also 14 it’s not a really old plushie)
I’d recommend spot cleaning it with a damp cloth.
How do we clean a stuffed toy that has electronic sounds? The dog got to it amd it needs cleaning and sanitizing. He puts it in his mouth and we can’t use cleaning solutions.
I’d use the spot cleaning method to wipe the entire item down with a warm, soapy rag then let it dry in a sunny spot. Sunlight provides mild disinfection. Once it’s dry, you can go over it again with a disinfecting wipe if you want.
Hi, is there anything to add please to get white bits of a soft toy white again? My daughter has a black and white cat which is very loved, it goes everywhere with her, but consequently very grubby looking! I’ve tried gentle machine washes occasionally but it doesn’t really improve. Thank you!
You could sponge-cleaning the area with hydrogen peroxide, or stir 1 tablespoon of oxygen bleach into a cup of water and use that to sponge clean the area. Either one should help lift more grime and brighten the white spots.
Thank you! My comfort animal was getting quite dirty. I acquired him at a Dollarama in June 2020, and he means a lot to me. A snuggly little orange pillow. I am terrified about drying him properly because he just wouldn’t drain out, and the rolling in the towel didn’t do much. I put him in a pillow case in the dryer with a blanket, and am cycling him 10 mins on low 10 mins tumble. He does look a lot cleaner. 😀
I’m so glad! It’s always nice when they’re cleaner. 🙂