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)
- Laundry detergent
- Washing machine
- Zippered pillowcase
- Baking soda (optional)
Give those Stuffed Animals a Bath
- 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.
- 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,
- 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. Instead, use the Dry Method outlined below.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Dry Method of Cleaning
For any toys that are older, delicate, or have sewn-on parts that could be damaged in a wash, use this method instead.
You Will Need:
- An absorbent powder: (choose one)
- Baking soda
- Corn meal
- Wheat germ
- A bag large enough to hold the toy
Steps to Clean the Toy:
- Get a bag that is large enough to hold the toy and put the toy in it.
- Select an absorbent powder. Any absorbent powder can be used, however it is best to select a powder that is a similar color to the stuffed item if possible in case the powder clings and is difficult to remove. For dark colors, use wheat germ. For beige or yellow colors, corn meal can be used. For white or any dye color (blue, red, green, etc.), use baking soda. Do not use coffee as it could leave a stain.
- Sprinkle a generous amount of the powder into the bag.
- Seal the bag, then shake it to distribute the powder over the toy.
- Leave the toy in the bag for at least an hour.
- Take the bag outside and remove the toy.
- Shake off the powder. Use a bristle brush to brush off any remaining powder.
- If the powder is difficult to remove, use a vacuum hose. For delicate toys, wrap a sock or breathable fabric over the end of the hose to decrease the suction.
- This process can be repeated as many times as needed. The powder will absorb any dirt or oils on the surface of the toy. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer that can remove any odors as well.