Have you ever thought about all the gunk your child’s stuffed toys collect? That’s why it’s so important to wash stuffed animals now and then, whether you do it in the machine or by hand. But there’s a right way and a wrong way, as I learned over the years.
When my son was little, he had a plushie toy called “Bear Bear” that he took everywhere: in the car, to his room, to the bathroom. Ew, right? When he needed a napkin, he used Bear Bear. Sneezed? Wiped it on Bear Bear.
What he didn’t know was that Bear Bear was a triplet, and there was almost always one version of him in the wash. As I’ll explain, that turned out to be a genius move. But if you don’t have triplets, be sure to test for colorfastness to be on the safe side.
Spot-Cleaning Stuffed Animals
To spot clean small messes on stuffed animals, like when they’ve been used for a napkin, use a soapy, white cloth and dab lightly to lift the mess.
Once it’s gone, wipe away the soapy residue with a fresh damp cloth. Let it air dry then fluff up the fur with your fingers or a brush and your work is done.
Washing Stuffed Animals by Hand
Sometimes, spot cleaning just won’t do—like the time my son got carsick while we were on a cross-country roadtrip and Bear Bear took the full force of it all.
Wipe off any wet messes and brush away the dry ones before hand washing your child’s stuffed toy—especially if an upset stomach was to blame.
Hand-wash stuffed animals in a sink of cool water with a little dish soap. Work the soapy water through by gently squeezing, and rub any stubborn spots with your fingertips. Then, drain the sink, press the toy lightly to squeeze out soap suds, and rinse until the water runs clear. Blot with towels and air dry.
Machine Washing Stuffed Toys
To protect stuffed animals in the washer, pop each one into a separate mesh laundry bag or pillowcase that you knot at the top.
Machine wash stuffed animals using a cold, gentle cycle with mild detergent, but skip the fabric softener since that make the stuffing clump. Blot the toy with a clean, dry towel then let it air dry.
Cleaning vintage stuffed toys
Cleaning vintage, antique, irreplaceable, or sentimental items is best left to professionals. Consult your dry cleaner who may be able to do it, or may know of someone who can. Other options are stuffed animal hospitals (yep, they’re a thing) and toy repair businesses.
FAQs about Cleaning Stuffed Animals
How often should I wash stuffed animals?
There’s no firm rule about how often to do this. If your child plays with the toy all the time, spot cleaning once a week and a washing it once a month is good.
Kids with allergies may do better if you clean their stuffed toys more often. And any time a child is sick, it’s important to clean their toys, including stuffed animals.
Can I put my child’s stuffed toy in the dryer?
It’s best to air dry stuffed animals so they don’t shrink or get lumpy from clumped filling. If you need to speed things up, use a blow dryer on a low heat setting for 5 minutes, let the toy cool, press between fresh towels again, and repeat.
How do I get barf off stuffed animals?
Shake off the big chunks over the toilet then use a plastic spoon to scrape off the excess. Wipe with paper towels until you’ve got off as much as possible. If you have a washing machine, don’t delay. Otherwise put on rubber gloves and start hand-washing it, because stomach contents and stuffed animal filling are not a good combination. Guess how I know?
How can I freshen a smelly teddy bear without washing it?
To freshen stinky stuffed animals, sprinkle them all over with baking soda and wait a few hours then shake it off. Finally, vacuum the toy but be careful around the eyes and decorative embellishments.
But What About The Three Bear Bears?
When my son was a toddler, both of his grandmothers and I bought the exact same bear for his birthday. It was serendipitous. Because on that road trip I mentioned? We learned that my son is super prone to car sickness, and Bear Bear took the full force it.
Fortunately, since Bear Bear was a triplet, there was always a stuffed animal for him to snuggle while I washed and dried the others. Every. Single. Night. And that’s how I got so good at cleaning stuffed animals. The End.