How to Wash and Clean Stuffed Animals and Plush Toys

Warnings

  • If washed too often, the toy can wear out its fabric.

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  • Too much sun exposure will fade some stuffed animals.

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3. How to machine wash stuffed animals

Check the care label for washing instructions first; if there aren’t any listed, look at what the stuffed animal is made from. If the filling contains polystyrene foam, foam beads or excelsior they’re not suitable for a machine wash. For plush toys, check for leather, natural fur, mohair or wool; the same applies. 

Assuming your stuffed animal is safe to go in the washing machine (double check it’s not damaged and has no electrical components or parts attached with glue), Nick Vassilev recommends using the gentle, delicate or hand wash cycle and cold water, along with a mild detergent for a routine clean. Pop the toy into a mesh bag and throw a few towels into the same wash for extra protection.

Step 3: Scrub

Scrub your critter with a mild detergent (i make my own with Ivory soap).  Cold-water liquids like Woolite work well, but your usual liquid detergent or liquid dish soap are good too.  Use a toothbrush to really get down into the fur.  (sorry, no photo of the scrubbing action; can’t do that one-handed)

How to Surface-Wash Stuffed Animals

If you’re not quite sure how to proceed, start with a careful surface wash to see if you can achieve your desired results. Since stuffed animals are generally intended to be roughed up a bit, most are at least surface-washable.

  1. First, use a dry cloth or soft brush to dislodge any caked-on dirt or crusty bits. Then give the toy a good wipe-down with a damp cloth and a little plain water. Make sure to wipe thoroughly and in a circular motion, covering all angles of the fur or fuzz.
  2. Next, spot-clean any particularly dirty spots with a cloth and a mixture of warm water and a tiny amount of gentle detergent. You may want to do a spot test on the stuffed animal first if you’re worried soap might cause discoloration or damage.
  3. Now, it’s time for another plain water cloth “rinse,” to make sure you remove every last trace of detergent or residue. Then, one more pass with a dry cloth to absorb excess moisture before you move on to drying.

My Background

I've been selling plush stuffed toys on eBay for 9 years. I select the toys that I buy very carefully, however, there are times that I find an unusual toy that may need a little TLC. I specifically look for toys that are from a smoke-free home with no pets and a clean environment. When I buy in bulk from an estate sale, I'm not able to look at each one closely, so before I list a toy for sale, I check it thoroughly for cleanliness, stains, odors, missing parts, tags, etc.

I offer my expertise on cleaning for those buying or selling a used/vintage plush toy or doll from a yard sale, estate sale, rummage sale, flea market, thrift store, or one of the many auctions sites online. You really don't know if the toy is clean or not, particularly when buying online, unless you ask (or if it's listed in the description). But I'm here to help. In this article, I share my methods of cleaning that I've researched and developed over the years.

In the beginning I had a difficult time trying to figure out how to clean and sanitize the toys so they would be presentable and clean to list on eBay. After all, I personally wouldn't want to buy a toy that wasn't clean for my grandchildren. So I went the extra mile, experiencing much frustration with trial and error, and even ruining a few toys along the way. Being health-conscious, I finally found ways to clean using safe cleaning methods and products. I can't guarantee that the plush toy will last forever, but it can't hurt to try by keeping it clean and refreshed.

Questions Answers

Question: I have ty beanie babies. On each of the "butt" tags, there is a mark with black magic marker. How can I get the magic marker off the beanie baby tags? Will magic marker marks decrease the value of the beenie if I leave it the way it is?

Answer: #1 Answer: Place the stain face down on top of some paper towels. Dip a cloth or sponge in rubbing alcohol and dab first around the stain, then directly on it. You should see the ink transfer to the paper towel underneath the stain. #2 Answer Use toothpaste mixed with baking soda. Mix one part baking soda with one part toothpaste in a small cup. Apply this mixture directly to the marker stain and let it sit for a moment or two. Grab a clean, slightly dampened cloth and use this to rub the mixture into the stain using circular motions. This may take a little elbow grease, but the stain should come off #3 Answer

Use a magic eraser. A magic eraser is a special cleaning pad designed to remove stains from a wide variety of surfaces. All you need to do is wet the magic eraser slightly, then use it to scrub the permanent marker stain from the surface

© 2008 Beverly Reid

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8. How to deodorize stuffed animals

To freshen musty-smelling stuffed animals, Nick Vassilev recommends using baking soda. ‘It’s great for absorbing odors; sprinkle it all over your toy and let it sit for a few hours to deodorize. Then shake off the loose powder outside’. 

How to Dry Stuffed Animals

You can put some stuffed toys in the dryer, but most do best if they’re air- or line-dried. To speed things up, wrap the toy in a clean towel and gently press it to blot water. Be sure you don’t wring it, though. Repeat with fresh dry towels until you can’t press out any more moisture. Then, fluff the fur with your fingers and place the item on a flat drying rack so it can air dry. If you prefer line-drying, hang it out of direct sunlight to avoid fading or other damage.

FAQs

We’ll answer a few of the top questions so that you can go into washing stuffed animals with total confidence.

You can, but we don’t recommend it. The heat from the dryer can damage the stuffed animal. For example, if it has glued on eyes, then it could actually melt these. However, if you do need to machine dry the animal for whatever reason, then use the air dry setting. Keep an eye on the stuffed animal every 10 minutes or so to make sure it’s surviving okay! Please NoteYou should always check the care label to see if the toy can go in the dryer. If it says not to, then absolutely don’t!

You should definitely wash stuffed animals whenever you notice dirt on them. It’s always easier to get dirt out of fabric as soon as you notice it. As for surface washing, it’s a good idea to give plush toys a good wipe every week or so. This can be done when your child is out with a relative, eating or napping. It’s true that the more you wash stuffed animals, the more likely they are to fall apart over time. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a few beloved stuffed animals in the house in case anything happens. Regardless, as a general rule of thumb, we recommend washing stuffed animals every few weeks or whenever you change your child’s sheets. This is just because stuffed animals can gather a lot of dust and allergens, especially if the plush toy goes everywhere with your little one!

Yes. On a medium or high heat, the heat of the dryer can kill bed bugs in 30 minutes (1). However, most stuffed toys shouldn’t go into the dryer. So always check the care label first!

If you put the stuffed animal in the dryer at a high heat for at least 30 minutes, it can kill lingering germs (2). Again, check the care label on the stuffed animal to see if it’s allowed to go into the dryer!

We recommend a mild detergent, like the Puracy liquid detergent. We also recommend something natural like the Babyganics detergent. You can even opt for borax, which can be effective at cleaning stuffed toys. Just make sure you use a gentle and mild detergent.

Reader Success Stories

  • Lisa WhitneySprague

Feb 25, 2017

    Lisa WhitneySprague Feb 25, 2017

    “This helped me quite a bit. I wasn’t sure I could wash our stuffies, and I knew (from experience) not to put them in the dryer. This gave me the info I needed. Thanks!” …” more

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