Hot to Wash Stuffed Animals

Many of us had favorite stuffed animals when we were kids—and there’s a good chance our parents never washed any of them. We’ll skip the nasty details, but suffice to say that kids’ messes can be a challenge. Thankfully, we know a lot more about dirt and germs now that we’re parents. They don’t need a bath as often as our children, but stuffed animals and other plush toys need a good scrubbing once in a while.

Learning how to wash stuffed animals isn’t terribly difficult, but you have to be careful and take the right approach. Ideally, your stuffed animals still have a legible label with washing instructions. The stuffed toys that get the dirtiest are usually the favorites, and ironically, they also tend to be the ones most likely to be missing a care label.

Nevertheless, you can still learn how to wash stuffed animals without fabric care instructions, and our guide will cover all the bases.

Can You Wash Stuffed Animals?

Most plush toys and stuffed animals can be washed either by hand or in your washing machine. If there isn’t a label and you can’t determine the type of outer fabric and fill material, your safest bet is to hand wash the toy. But how do you safely hand wash worn and possibly fragile stuffed toys? Follow these steps to find out:

  • Find a side seam, gently cut the stitching, and remove all the fill material (make sure your little one doesn’t see this)
  • Hand wash the exterior fabric on both sides with a delicate detergent and water.
  • Turn the unstuffed animal inside out and wash the interior fabric.
  • Rinse the plush toy thoroughly, squeeze out excess water, and lay it flat to air dry.
  • Replace the original stuffing with a suitable replacement.
  • Stitch up the seam and distribute the fill material equally.

With a bit of handy work, you can get old, worn stuffed animals clean again and even plump up their stuffing to get them back in shape! While you might still have to hand wash the stuffed toy again, for now, you’ve given Mr. Bear a new lease on life.

Other stuffed animals and plush toys that typically can’t be washed and may require extra care include:

  • Stuffed animals with music or other electronics.
  • Plush toys with sequins, buttons, glued-on eyes, hats, and other decorations.
  • Stuffed toys with delicate attire like sheer- or net-type fabrics.
  • Plush animals like Beanie Babies with foam ball fill instead of batting.

Check plush animals periodically for stains, rips, dangling eyes, or loose decorations to stay a step ahead. Spot treat any stains with a damp cloth and repair any damage you find to help those precious stuffed toys stay looking new longer.

How to Wash Stuffed Animals By Hand

While many plush toys are machine-washable, using the washer puts a lot of wear and tear on the soft fabrics. That’s why the best way to wash stuffed animals is almost always by hand. Follow these tips for washing stuffed animals by hand to keep all your favorites smelling fresh and feeling soft.

Spot clean

Check for stains and treat them with a natural stain remover of 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar and 8 oz. of cool water. Use a white kitchen towel to dab up the stain and continue until no more color is absorbed.

Hand wash

Take your time and be gentle, especially with worn plush toys. Daily cuddling can often wear thin spots in the furry fabric, so be on the lookout for these weak spots. Pour a couple of drops of gentle detergent into a sink with cool water and massage the cleaning solution into the furry fabric.

Rinse and squeeze

Squeeze out as much soapy water as you can, but don’t wring the toy. Rinse the stuffed animal until it’s soaking and squeeze out the water. Repeat the rinse until the water runs clear.

Air dry

Use a damp cloth to fluff up the fur and wipe away any soap residue. Because the materials in stuffed toys are usually synthetic, machine drying is off-limits. If possible, put the toy outside in the sun or inside on a rack to air dry.

To keep favorite stuffed toys cleaner even longer, give them a dusting about once a week and check for stains. Use a soft nylon brush to sweep away dirt and debris from the toy and when they begin looking dingy and dull, it’s time for a bath.

How to Clean Stuffed Animals in The Washer

We’ve all washed things we shouldn’t have, either by accident or indifference. If your stuffed animal has a tag that says machine washing is okay, toss it in the washer. When you’re washing stuffed animals in the washing machine, you can wash more than one at a time as long as they are separated.

Here’s how to wash stuffed animals and plush toys in a washing machine:

Test Colors

If the stuffed animal has colored fabric attire, the first step is to perform a color-fastness test. Rub a dab of half water and half detergent on a hidden spot and if the color bleeds you’ll want to use only water in your washer.

Spot Treat Stains

Mix a teaspoon of white vinegar and a cup of cold water in a bowl. Blot stains with a clean white cloth dipped in the spot remover until you no longer see discoloration. To prevent driving the stain deeper into the fur, always dab and never rub.

Kill Germs

You can disinfect a washable stuffed animal by using a laundry sanitizer in the washer. While it’s tempting to use spray disinfectant to sanitize toys, especially in cold and flu season, the chemicals could damage the synthetic fur.

Bag and Wash

Whether you’re washing one or multiple stuffed toys, protect each by putting them in a zippered pillowcase or mesh bag. The last thing you want is one of your favorites to snag on an agitator or another toy and ruin them. Follow the care label if there is one, but a gentle detergent, cold water, and the delicate cycle should keep things safe.

Dry and Fluff

Roll the plush toy in a clean white bath towel, then press down to remove excess water. Redistribute any shifted fill material to help the plush animal regain its original state and let the toy air dry. Fluff things up, make sure all the fill is where it should be, and say hello to your good-as-new fur buddy.

One of your other appliances could be the perfect washing and sanitizing solution to clean bath toys and other kids’ toys. Check out our handy guide for using your dishwasher to get rid of dirt and germs on kids’ toys and other items.

How to Clean Plush Toys With Electronics

Remember that when in doubt, cleaning stuffed animals should be done manually or you could ruin your little furry pal forever. Plush toys with built-in electronics require special care to avoid damaging their parts. Follow these steps to clean them by hand:

  • Remove any batteries and put tape over electrical inputs.
  • Use a white cloth dampened with dish soap and water to dab up the dirt, and be careful not to get things too wet.
  • Fluff up the fur with a damp cloth and wipe away any remaining soap residue.

How Often Should I Wash Stuffed Animals?

Washing stuffed animals does not have to be all that frequent. You should be able to keep them fresh and clean with a weekly dusting and washing them about once per month. However, you should also be sure to clean stuffed toys and disinfect them after a child with an illness has handled them.

You must wash stuffed toys at a minimum of 149 ℉ to kill germs and mites, but few plush animals can withstand a hot water cycle. To work around the hot water issue, simply put the toy in a plastic bag and leave it in the freezer overnight. The sub-zero temperature will take care of any germs or critters, and you can then wash the plush toy in cold water.

Even with diligent spot treating and dusting, stuffed toys can have an unpleasant aroma. Drool, carpet dirt, pet odors, and food can leave things smelling less than fresh. To get rid of unpleasant odors, try the following:

  • Put the stuffed animal in a sealable plastic bag with a cup of baking soda.
  • Shake the bag for about 20 seconds and let it sit outside in the sun or inside by a window.
  • Remove the plush toy, vacuum it, and voila—no more odors.

Now that you know how to clean stuffed animals, you can keep them looking new and your child healthy and happy. Whether you’re a DIYer or you invest in one of our popular healthy cleaning services, we want your family and your stuffed animals to live in a clean home.

From weekly maid service to specialty cleaning services, The Maids is the go-to resource for making your life easier. Why not get a free estimate and find out how easy it can be to have a cleaner home more often? With our 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, you have nothing to lose and a cleaner, more liveable home to gain.


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