Beloved stuffed animals and toys are part of your child's family. And just like your kids, they need to be washed every once in a while. If we could only know which toy is going to become "The One," then we would buy an extra or at least save the original tag on the toy's packaging that probably had cleaning instructions. Without that, you need to make sure these family members are cared for appropriately. If there is a tag still attached to the stuffed animal, here's hoping it's still readable.
As with all laundry, and if at all possible, read the tag attached to the toy. It may or may not state cleaning instructions. At the very least, it should list the materials used during manufacturing. This will give you a hint on where to start.
How Often to Clean Stuffed Animals
Remove dust and surface dirt at least once a month. (Nap time or night hours are good cleaning times.) Use a soft-bristled brush or the vacuum upholstery tool to prevent dust from becoming the base for heavier soil.
Equipment / Tools
- Laundry tub or sink
- Mesh laundry bag
- Resealable plastic bag
- Regular or gentle laundry detergent
- Gentle detergent
- Oxygen-based bleach Water White cloths
- Baking soda or cornstarch
How to Wash Machine-Washable Stuffed Toys
If you have located a tag and it says the stuffed toy is machine-washable, you're in luck. Just a few simple steps might just return the animal to your child in nearly new condition.
Prepare the Toy for the Washing Machine
After vacuuming to remove dust, place the toy in a mesh bag or zippered pillowcase and wash on the delicate cycle using your regular detergent and cold water. If there is a really difficult stain like paint or blueberry juice, pre-treat following the tips for specific stains.
Hand-Wash an Older, Worn Toy
If the toy is older or in a delicate condition, and you don't want to chance it in the washing machine, then you can hand-wash it with a gentle detergent and cool water. Be sure to gently squeeze the cleaning solution through the toy and then rinse by squeezing clean water through the toy with no wringing.
Dry the Stuffed Animal
To prevent damage, allow the toy to air dry. Roll the toy in a thick, clean white towel to help remove moisture. It can then be hung to dry using clothespins or dried flat. If you must use a clothes dryer to save time, use the lowest heat setting possible. Some synthetic furs, while washable, may melt in high heat.
Groom the Fur
If the toy has fur, use a soft-bristled brush to fluff up the fibers. Work slowly and in a small section at a time to prevent tangling and pulling out the fibers.
How to Clean Non-Washable Stuffed Animals and Toys
If you have a tag that says the toy is non-washable (or there's no tag and you prefer not to risk it by putting the toy in a washing machine), it is often the inner stuffing that is the problem. The toy may also contain a mechanical component, a musical element, or have glued-on decorations that won't stand up to water. There are three ways to clean a non-washable stuffed animal.
Spot Clean the Toy
To clean non-washable toys, spot clean stains. Start with a white cloth. Do not use a colored cloth which can cause the color to transfer. Dip the cloth in a solution of one teaspoon gentle detergent and one cup of plain cool water. Blot at the stains and keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stains are transferred.
You can also make a solution of oxygen-bleach (brand names are OxiClean, Nellie's All-Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite) and water. Follow package directions to mix the solution. Do not use oxygen bleach solutions on wool or leather toys.
Rinse and Air-Dry
Wipe down the cleaned area with a cloth dipped in plain water to remove any cleaning solution residue. Allow the toy to air-dry completely before handling.
Absorb Odors With Baking Soda
If the item is a little ripe, slightly dusty, or lightly soiled, place it in a resealable bag and sprinkle with baking soda or cornstarch and shake vigorously. The dry materials will absorb any grease, odor, and dust. Remove the toy from the bag and take it outside to shake it out or vacuum carefully using an upholstery brush.
Can you put stuffed animals in the washing machine?
Some stuffed animals are machine washable, check the tag (if it's there), and if they are, first vacuum it off, then place it in a mesh bag or pillow case before washing. Your washing machine should be on the delicate or gentle cycle to carefully clean the stuffed toy.
How do you clean a stuffed animal that can't be washed?
Stuffed animals and toys that have music boxes and other mechanics in them can't be thrown in the washer or hand washed. Those stuffed toys so lovingly hugged by your kids need to be cleaned, somehow. So how can you get them clean? Thankfully, you can freshen them up by spot cleaning or putting them in a zip lock bag with baking soda and then vacuum them off.
Should you clean a stuffed animal if your child has been ill?
A stuffed animal that has been held by a sick child (or adult) should most definitely be cleaned and sanitized, freeing it from germs and making it all better, too.