How to Clean Stuffed Toys

Stuffed animals can take a lot of abuse, but can also breed bacteria and nastiness. Keep them looking (and smelling!) their best with the instructions below. You may need to perform only the first couple steps if your toy is only lightly soiled. Otherwise, consider performing all five steps.

What You’ll Need

  • Soft cloth
  • Vacuum cleaner or lint roller (optional)
  • Brush
  • Laundry detergent
  • Washing machine
  • Zippered pillowcase
  • Baking soda (optional)

Give those Stuffed Animals a Bath

 

  1. Surface clean firstto remove dust. Rub a slightly damp cloth over the surface of the stuffed animal. You can also use the hose attachment on a vacuum cleaner or a lint roller. Finish the process by brushing the toy’s fur with a brush that is not used on human hair (you don’t want the styling products you put in your hair to get in the toy). A brush with well-spaced plastic bristles works best.
    • If you use a vacuum, do not use the short- or long-pile adjustment.
    • Be careful not to vacuum up any accessories that may be attached to the toy.
    • Haley’s Cleaning Tips by Graham and Rosemary Haley suggests performing a dry shampoo with cornmeal, letting it sit for an hour, and then dusting the toy off.
  2. Check for spots and stains. Make sure to test any cleaner you use on an inconspicuous section of fur first with a Q-tip. Let the area dry and brush off any residue. If there is any discoloration on or around the area, find another cleaner. Remove any accessories (by clipping the threads—don’t forget where to sew them back on!) Use cleaner sparingly and don’t allow it to soak through the fur. You may try one of the following homemade cleaners:
    • Mix 3-tbsp. dish soap with 1/4-tsp. ammonia and 3/4-c. water. Whisk the solution and apply only the froth to the affected areas. Wipe off with a damp cloth.
    • Mix 1/4-c. water with 1/2-c. rubbing alcohol and 1/2-tsp. dish soap. Whisk the solution and apply only the forth to the affected areas. Wipe off with a damp cloth,
  3. Machine wash. Most toys can be machine washed, but always check labels for instructions and warnings. Repair any rips or tears and remove any batteries before machine washing. Pre-treat any stains with mild laundry detergent. Put toys in a zippered pillowcase, along with the rest of your laundry, and use the gentle cycle (preferably in a front-loading washing machine). Using fabric softener can help keep toys soft and cuddly.
    • Do not wash old or delicate toys in the washing machine. To remove odor, you can try placing them in a paper bag with some baking soda. Shake the bag until the toy is covered and let sit 30 minutes. You may then brush the baking soda off with a towel.
    • Do not place very large toys (over 18 in.) in the washing machine.
    • Do not wash any toys that are stuffed with fiberfill or foam beads, stuffed very densely, or contains paper or plastic stiffeners or joints.
  4. Remove toys from the washing machine, brush, and air dry. Don’t place stuffed toys in the dryer. They may lose their shape or shrink. You can hang them up on a clothesline (but keep away from direct sunlight—this could cause colors to fade!) or place them next to a dehumidifier. The latter might take a few days but will definitely prevent any damage.
  5. Maintain your toys and keep them looking new! The Ultimate Accidental Housewife by Julie Edelman recommends washing any animals that you or your children sleep with every two weeks (with your sheets). Dust and brush them regularly. If you do spill something on a stuffed toy, deal with it immediately. Do not rub a spill because it will become more ingrained in the fur. Instead, shake the toy outside or over a towel and then use a damp sponge to blot any leftover residue away. Finish by blotting with a dry towel. Repeat as necessary.

 

Comments

  1. Jenelle says:

    I had some stuffed toys that were very dusty. I simply tossed them in the dryer on a low heat and after a short time the dust was gone and the toys were looking clean and new again. You could add a dryer sheet to freshen them even more.

  2. Kelly says:

    I have a stuffed Garfield that I would like restored. He is wearing light blue pajamas, and has on Garfield slippers. His blue pajamas are faded; can this be repaired back to original condition? Also could use a good cleaning.

  3. Nabeelah says:

    From the tag, all my panda(s) contains POLYESTER FIBERS. There’s no warning sign on the washing machine though, so I was wondering, can I wash my panda(s) in the washing machine? It’s really dusty… and if I can’t put them in the washing machine, how can I make their fur clean and softer?

    Looking forward for replies. Thanks in advance =)

  4. Kevin says:

    Never use the rotating brush attachment (impeller or motorized), it can grab a part of the animal or ribbon and cause damage. Use a DEDICATED upholstery brush (you may find one at the hardware store like Lowes). Don’t use any attachment that has been used on the floor or other furniture (common sense).

    Using a clean dedicated tire brush from an auto parts store can help to restore the nap without being too harsh. These brushes are soft.

    Let me re-state: NEVER use a motorized or impeller-powered attachment like rotating brushes. They will damage the stuffed animal. Been there, done that.

  5. Tammy says:

    My son & his girlfriend are expecting their first child in Dec. He had a Pound Puppy stuffed toy as a child & I would like to give it to his son later on. The puppy is dirty and rusty from being stored in a box in the garage for years. Any advice?

  6. Chris says:

    I’ve heard of using rolled oats in a big bag and put the stuffed toy in it and shake it. It takes off any dust and oil that are in the air. I’m a teddy bear collector and every once in a while I spray them with Febreze and it keeps them fresh. Hope this helps.

  7. Linda says:

    Have a 70-year-old stuffed furry kitty with a zipper on its back. Great antique, but needs some fur on its head and cleaning. You’ve helped a little on the washing. Thanks.

  8. Mary says:

    I have a teddy bear that belonged to my husband, who is now 69. I want to give it to our grandchild, but do not know how to clean it. Any ideas?

    Thank you,
    Mary

  9. Alison says:

    I have a soft teddy and the stuffing is nearly gone. What stuffing can I put inside of the bear that also can be washed?
    I await your reply.
    Alison

  10. Melanie says:

    Alison,
    Kapok stuffing was the original teddy bear stuffing, prior to the invention of polyester, and it is washable. You can also use the common polyester stuffing; it is washable. Another option is corn stuffing, which is very similar to the polyester stuffing in appearance, also washable, and has the added benefits of being hypoallergenic and eco-friendly. Fabric scraps are another great option, but be sure to select fabrics that won’t bleed in the wash. You can use cotton as well, if it has been pre-shrunk, or bamboo batting.

    Source: Funky Friends Factory – Toy Stuffing – What can you use for stuffing toys?
    Source: Wikipedia – Ceiba pentandra
    Source: All About Quilts – Bamboo Batting

  11. Neko says:

    I have a white cinnamon roll plush that I need to clean, but it has long ears and a huge bow attached on its head. They look like they will be torn easily. Is it safe to put it in the washing machine?

  12. Melanie says:

    Neko,
    If the stuffed toy looks delicate, do not wash it in the washing machine. Instead, you can use the baking soda method or hand wash the toy. The article How to Hand Wash Clothing might help. Also, you could use powdered laundry detergent instead of rolled oats for the bag method that Chris mentioned, or brush on the detergent with the method mentioned in the How to Clean Mircofiber Furniture article.
    Also, check the tag that has the washing instructions for the toy. If you cut off the tag, you could try searching the company website or calling the company to find out the optimal care instructions for that toy. If you can’t find that information, I would suggest that you use cold water and place the toy in the sun to dry. Another idea would be to place the toy in a laundry net (the kind used for washing delicates) and washing the toy on the delicate cycle; tie the net tightly around the toy to hold the ears and bow in place. Good luck!

  13. Vesta says:

    Thank you for these excellent suggestions. I want to clean a 40-year-old white snowman I made for my daughter, and also a keepsake stuffed pincushion with lace trim…so special on my bedroom wall. I look forward to using one or more of your ideas and enjoying both for many years to come.

  14. Mary says:

    My dog is pushing 60. The fur is short and a bit rough. The ears are the only soft part left on him. His tongue is now brown, where it use to be red. His eyes are a droopy oval, three tiered. The bottom two are felted. The top is round and it shines. His nose still makes noise, when you give a little squeeze.
    If this old stuffed dog were yours, how would “YOU” make his coat softer and stand up, fix eyes and tongue? Very interested.

  15. Anne says:

    I have an old teddy bear that I’ve had since I was two and the tag is faded. I once washed him in the sink, but he got really wet for about a week. How do I wash him? Most of my old toys say that they have to be hand washed, but I’m not so sure about Teady (that’s his name). He isn’t dirty or anything, but he just smells weird. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  16. Melanie says:

    Anne,
    Instead of washing Teady, you could just deodorize him. Pour some baking soda in a box, set a cookie rack over the baking soda and put Teady on the rack. Seal the box and let it sit overnight or for a few days and the baking soda should absorb the odor. You don’t want to use the baking soda directly on the fur because it is such a fine powder that it will be difficult to remove from the fur. You can use coffee grounds instead of baking soda if you like the smell of coffee.
    Another option is to just set Teady outside in the sun for an hour or two; flip him half-way through. Sunlight is a natural disinfectant and the fresh air will help to air him out. You can set him on a towel or pillowcase so that he doesn’t get dirty while sunbathing. Don’t leave him out for an excessive amount of time though (all day for multiple days) because the sunlight can cause fabric color to fade over time.
    If you do decide to hand wash him, put him in the sun for an hour or two afterwards, or put him in front of a fan to speed the drying.
    Source: BookThink – How to Remove Odors from Books
    Source: HowToCleanStuff.net – How to Deodorize Stuffed Animals
    Source: Apartment Therapy – Home Remedy: Put your pillows in the sun

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