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! As with the rest of learning to be a parent, it's your job to make sure these members of the family are cared for appropriately. 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 paper tag that probably had cleaning instructions. But we all the best we can.
As with all laundry, first, read the tag attached to the toy if it is still available. It may or may not state cleaning instructions. At the very least, it will 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.
Check toys periodically for rips, loose buttons, eyes or glued-on decorations. Make repairs promptly to avoid more problems down the road.
What You Need
- Regular or gentle laundry detergent
- Laundry tub or sink
- Mesh laundry bag
- Soft-bristled brush
- Drying rack or an automatic dryer
How to Wash Machine Washable Stuffed Toys
Prepare the Toy for Washing Machine
After vacuuming to remove dust, if the care tag says that the toy is fully washable, place it 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, pretreat following the tips for specific stains.
Caring for an Older, Worn Toy
If the toy is older or in a delicate condition, hand wash 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.
Drying Stuffed Animals
To prevent damage, it is preferable to allow the toys to air dry. You can roll the toy in a thick, clean white towel to help remove moisture. They can then be hung to dry using clothespins or dried flat. If you must use a clothes dryer because your little one is screaming or refusing to go to bed, use the lowest heat setting possible. Some synthetic "furs", while washable, will melt in high heat.
Grooming Stuffed Animal 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 the tag says the toy is non-washable, it is often the inner stuffing that is the problem. The toy may also contain a mechanical or musical element or have glued on decorations that won't stand up to water.
Stuffed Animal Surgery
If the toy is well-loved and non-washable, it may be time for surgery. Carefully split a side seam and take out the stuffing. Hand wash the outer skin with a delicate detergent and cool water and lay flat to allow it to air dry. Replace the original stuffing or substitute polyester fiberfill which is completely washable. Stitch the toy back together carefully just in case further surgery is needed.
What You Need
- Gentle detergent
- Oxygen-based bleach
- White cloths
- Baking soda or cornstarch
- Resealable plastic bag
Spot Clean the Toy
To clean non-washable toys, you can 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
Follow the cleaning by wiping 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.
Do Some "Dry Cleaning"
If the item is only 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.