How to Wash a Teddy Bear (By Hand or In the Machine)

Brown teddy bear sitting next to yellow and orange slide with dirt on the arm

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 2 - 3 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0-5

Teddy bears are greatly loved by their owners, whether they are young or old. Kids like to take their teddy bears with them to places like the park, daycare, and restaurants and they get grubby with lots of handling. No one wants dust mites and mold on their bear because this can pass allergens, germs and illnesses on to family members. Learn how to wash a teddy bear successfully to preserve the fur so you can give your child years of fun and companionship.

How Often to Clean a Teddy Bear

If the teddy bear is a constant companion, it probably should be cleaned monthly. If the teddy bear sits on a shelf most of the time, you don't need to clean it as frequently, but dust will still accumulate in the fur and folds of any decorative clothing.

What to Consider Before Cleaning a Teddy Bear

If the teddy bear is an antique, avoid washing or cleaning the bear. If the bear is stuffed with foam, it is likely older, and the foam may have degraded (newer bears may be filled with washable polyester). There are special establishments that specialize in restoring older teddy bears.

Before attempting to wash any teddy bear, try cleaning it by wiping it down with a barely damp cloth (especially if the bear is very large). Choose a soft and clean white washcloth; avoid colored ones to eliminate any color bleeding on the bear. Lightly dampen the cloth and gently rub the teddy bear's fur and any decorative clothing to remove surface dirt. Add a tiny drop of liquid dish detergent or mild shampoo if necessary, and then do a quick wipe-down rinse with a damp cloth. This technique can be safely used for almost all stuffed animals and can even help clean a stinky teddy bear.

If you do want to wash the bear in a washing machine, check the care label on the stuffed animal. If you can put a teddy bear in the washing machine, it should be listed on the label. The teddy bear may have removable stuffing. If so, it's advised that you remove the stuffing before washing so it does not clump.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washing machine
  • Laundry drying rack
  • Blow-dryer or fan (optional)
  • Pail, bucket, or sink
  • Clothesline/clothespins (optional)


  • Soft toothbrush
  • Mesh bag or pillowcase
  • Liquid dish detergent or laundry detergent
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Towel


Materials and tools to wash a teddy bear

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

How to Clean a Teddy Bear in a Washing Machine

  1. Brush Decorative Elements

    If the teddy bear has any button eyes, other facial features, or non-removable clothing details, use a damp old soft toothbrush and a little bit of laundry detergent to brush them clean. The toothbrush will loosen up any embedded dust, dirt, and other types of soil. If you can remove the clothing, you can wash separately if preferred.

    Tan teddy bear's eye being brushed with soft old toothbrush

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Use a Mesh Bag

    Put the teddy bear into a protective mesh bag (like a lingerie bag) or pillowcase before putting it into a washing machine. This is a good idea for a delicate teddy bear but should be considered when you wash any stuffed toy.


    If you must launder other items with the teddy bear, make sure they will not bleed color onto the stuffed animal.

    Tan teddy bear placed in white mesh protective bag

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  3. Add Laundry Detergent

    Choose a favorite gentle laundry detergent.

    White bottle of gentle laundry detergent held over tan teddy bear

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  4. Choose Cold Water and Gentle Cycle

    Select a cool or cold water temperature and always a gentle cycle to clean a teddy bear. You will want to be gentle with the teddy bear if it has any glued-on, plastic, or decorative parts pieces because hot water may cause melting issues.


    If your child has been ill and the teddy bear does not have any glued or decorative parts, you may try to use warm or hot water to clean and disinfect the stuffed animal. However, there is no guarantee that the teddy bear will return to its former shape if subjected to hot water.

    Washing machine set to a sensitive setting

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  5. Dry the Teddy Bear

    Do not put a teddy bear in a machine dryer, especially if it has any glued, plastic, or decorative elements. Nor should you put the teddy bear outside in the sun to dry or it may fade. Either lay the teddy bear on a laundry rack placed in the tub or shower to air-dry in an environment with lots of air flow, like a room with a fan. Massage the stuffing (if you did not remove it) before and during the time it dries so it does not dry clumped.

    You may also use a blow-dryer or fan to finish drying out the bear. Or you can drip-dry the bear by hanging it from a clothesline.


    If you must put a teddy bear in the dryer, do so for a minimum amount of time and use the no-heat or low-heat setting.

    Tan teddy bear being dried with black hair dryer

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  6. Brush the Fur

    If the fur looks matted after washing and cleaning, you can make a teddy bear fluffy again by brushing its fur gently with a soft-bristled brush. This restores the sleek shiny look that the teddy bear originally had.

    Back of tan teddy bear being brushed with soft-bristled brush

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

How to Clean a Teddy Bear by Hand

  1. Fill Container or Sink

    Fill the container or sink with cool water and a bit of gentle liquid dish detergent or laundry detergent. Swish the water and detergent to create suds.

    Gentle liquid dish detergent squirted into sink with water

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Submerge Teddy Bear

    Place the entire teddy bear in the water and squeeze the bear to fill it with water.

    Tan teddy bear placed in sink full of soapy water for washing

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  3. Soak

    Let the teddy bear soak in the sudsy water for about 15 minutes up to 60 minutes. Delicate or older teddy bears should soak for only 15 minutes.

    Tan teddy bear soaking in sudsy water in sink

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  4. Brush Decorative Parts

    At the end of the soaking period, grab a soft toothbrush. If the teddy bear has any decorative pieces or clothing, use the toothbrush to gently clean around them to dislodge embedded dust and dirt.

    Tan teddy bear face brushed with soft toothbrush

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  5. Rinse

    Rinse the bear under cool tap water until the suds are gone. Do not handle the bear too vigorously or the fibers and decorative parts can become damaged.

    Tan teddy bear rinsed under running sink water

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  6. Towel Dry

    Place the teddy bear in a towel and wrap it up. Squeeze the teddy bear to remove excess water into the towel.

    Teddy bear wrapped and dried with white towel

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  7. Air Dry

    After towel-drying the teddy bear, prepare it for air-drying. Put the bear on a laundry drying rack that is placed in a tub or shower. Before and during drying time, massage the bear so that the stuffing does not clump (if it was not removed).

    Use a fan or blow-dryer to finish off the drying. You can also drip-dry the bear by hanging it from a clothesline.

    Tan teddy bear laid on drying rack to air dry

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  8. Brush the Fur

    After the teddy bear is fully dry, run a soft brush through the fur to fluff it up.

    Tan teddy bear brushed with soft brush after drying

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Tips to Keep a Teddy Bear Clean Longer

  • Give a teddy bear a gentle vacuum every so often to keep it clean and fresh for longer periods. Use a hand-held vacuum or use the vacuum cleaner's upholstery or brush attachment to do the job.
  • If your child is really attached to a certain teddy bear from a young age, consider buying a backup. Rotate the bears both throughout the day so that they wear evenly.
  • If your child's bear is becoming worn, check the stuffed toy's manufacturer's policy. Some teddy bear companies have a lifetime guarantee and their own teddy bear hospitals. If so, you can ship the teddy bear back to the company and they will happily re-attach limbs and fix other common teddy bear health issues, keeping everyone happy.