How to Clean Stuffed Animals

Two stuffed bears hanging on a clothes line to dry.

Stuffed animals can mean a lot to kids. In fact, I still have one of the stuffed animals I had when I was a kid—Snoopy. My Snoopy spends a lot of time in a box in the closet. I don’t want to put him out, and I don’t want him to go away. I just want him to stay mine. Someday I may pass him on. But he is in rough shape. A couple holes and a few restitched seams. But he still plays Rock-a-bye Baby when I wind him up. I remember as a child holding him close as the tune played, feeling the music reverberating through Snoopy as the little music box tinged away.

Snoopy has a few stains on him. But overall he is pretty clean. He doesn’t smell. So far as I know I have only drooled, not vomited, on Snoopy. Snoopy has moving internal parts, so he would be difficult to clean but not impossible. He would just have to be spot cleaned with quick rinses. Other toys that are submersible should be spot cleaned first, too, to get all the chunks off before a more thorough cleaning in the washing machine. Lastly, air drying is the best way to dry them. Read the full article for detailed instructions.

Cleaning Stuffed Animals and Plush Toys

  1. gray dirty stuffed animalStuffed animal pre-op work up. Look over the little critter to see if it has any tears in its seams and for any weakened spots that could give way in the wash. If possible, stitch these weak areas back together. If the stuffed animal still has a label, check to see if there are any washing directions. If the stuffed animal has any metal or moving parts that can be removed, take them out.
  2. wiping down stuffed animalCleaning the stuffed animal by hand. Some stuffed animals or plush toys cannot be submerged in water because they are made from delicate material, which is rare, or, more likely, they are old and fragile and/or they have music boxes inside, like my Snoopy. In those special cases, spot cleaning is your only option. Even if you can wash your stuffed toys in the washing machine, spot clean them first. The more you get off by hand, the better.
  3. white pillowcaseUse a pillow case or a mesh bag to wash the stuffed animal in. The idea is to contain the stuffed animal and prevent it from coming into direct contact with the agitator, which could potentially damage the stuffed animal. Wash the stuffed animal by itself, with the exception of another object to balance out the washer’s spin cycle. Tie the pillowcase shut with string.
  4. pillowcase in washing machineWash on the gentle cycle. Use the delicate setting or gentle cycle for washing the stuffed animal. And use a scant amount of laundry detergent to clean the stuffed animal. If you are uncomfortable with washing the stuffed animal in the washing machine, wash it by hand in the sink. You may still be able to spin it in the washing machine to get most of the water out before drying it. Just don’t forget to rinse the stuffed animal really well.
  5. hanging stuffed animalsDry on a line. If it is a sunny warm day, dry the stuffed animal outside on the line. It should dry pretty quickly, and as long as you only leave it out for a day, you won’t have to worry about sun damage. Otherwise, hang it up near a dehumidifier, heat vent, or fan. It may take a few days to dry inside. Drying in the dryer is not totally out of the question; it is just kinda risky. If you do try it, make sure to use the lowest heat setting.

Tips for Cleaning Stuffed Animals

  • If the stuffed animal has moving joints, it may not survive the washing machine.
  • If the stuffed animal is made with wool, it should not be washed in the washing machine or submersed in water.
  • Firmer stuffed toys are stuffed so densely that they may never fully dry out.
  • Clothing and/or accessories should be removed, if possible.
  • Read the tag to see of what materials the stuffed animal is made and if there is any advice for washing.
  • Some plush toys and stuffed animals can have their stuffing removed and replaced.
  • Ask a dry cleaner if they have any experience with dry cleaning stuffed animals.

Natural Plush Cleaning Products

Bottle of Teddy Bear CleanerTeddy Bear Cleaner from Siege Chemical is a washing machine alternative. Spray it on and wipe it off. The website says it is an Earth-friendly solution. But, as I was unable to find the ingredients list, I believe that bit of information is up for debate. If you do want to try this out, you can order the Teddy Bear Cleaner from Amazon.

Spray Bottle of Toy CleanerToy Cleaner from Fields Organics is a safe bleach-free sanitizer and cleaner for toys. They have their ingredients listed, and it looks like this may actually be earth friendly. It contains coconut, palm and jojoba oil, water, and tea tree oil.

Box of Baking soda and Jug of VinegarBaking soda and white vinegar.The old stand-by for natural cleaning for a hundred years, these two are probably the cheapest way to clean the toys. Don’t forget to rinse off the vinegar smell.