Stuffed animals are common fixtures in children’s day-to-day lives, so it is no surprise when they get dirty and dusty over time. Cleaning a plushie toy regularly helps keep allergens and contaminants at bay and has it looking new and fresh for longer. Below are tips and tricks for washing stuffed animals safely and effectively.
Can stuffed animals be washed?
Most stuffed animals can be washed in some manner, and it is recommended to clean them regularly, especially with toys that are used more frequently. However, certain cleaning methods work better for different materials. For example, machine washing may be suitable for a newer stuffed animal made from polyester but may be too harsh for an older, more fragile toy handed down through generations.
An good place to start when determining the best method to use is to look for a tag or label with washing instructions. Most labels will state if the stuffed animal can be machine washed and provide cleaning suggestions. It will also likely note the material the stuffed animal is made from, and parents can use that info to help determine the best course of action.
There are a few different ways to clean stuffed animals. These are discussed in greater detail below.
How to clean stuffed animals with a washing machine
One of the easiest ways to clean a stuffed animal is by putting them in a washing machine. Most cleaning labels will outline if the stuffed animal is or is not suitable for machine washing.
Parents must use their best judgment if the label does not provide cleaning instructions. However, some features and characteristics make stuffed animals less suitable for the washing machine. These include those:
- With music boxes are sewn inside
- Made from polystyrene foam, foam beads, or excelsior
- Made from or contains leather, natural fur, mohair, or wool
- That are old and fragile (e.g., a stuffed animal that has been passed down)
- That have items, such as sequins, glued on
- That are too large to fit comfortably in the washing machine
- That contain internal wires or joints
- That have holes or damage that cannot be repaired beforehand
- That have delicate clothing that cannot be removed (e.g., glittery dress)
Also consider the type of washing machine used. Stuffed animals wash better in a machine without an agitator (a mechanism found in top-loading washing machines). Agitators tend to cause the animal to ball up during the wash. Laundromats can be a good alternative for people with top-loading washing machines.
Once it has been determined that the stuffed animal is machine-washable, it can be prepared for washing. Remove accessories or loose pieces, such as clothing.
Next, the stuffed animal should be placed in a mesh or silk laundry bag and closed. A pillowcase can also be used, but it is advised to secure it with a rope or shoestring. The purpose of the bag or pillowcase is to add an extra layer of protection and minimize the chance of snags or rips.
Stuffed animals should be washed on a gentle or delicate cycle, as other cycles may be too aggressive. It is also advised to wash them in cold or warm water. Hot water may also dissolve or weaken the glue used on the toy.
How to dry a stuffed animal
There are a few drying methods, but air drying is the most common and gentle method. However, depending on the stuffed animal, this may run the risk of promoting mildew growth. To avoid this, stuffed animals can be hung on a window sill or clothesline so that the sun speeds up the drying time. Placing a stuffed animal near a dehumidifier can also help.
Machine drying can also be used, but the stuffed animal must be dried on a gentle, short cycle with a low temperature or air-drying setting. It is also advised to monitor the stuffed animal in the dryer to ensure glued, or plastic parts do not melt.
Can stuffed animals be washed with other clothes?
Be sure to wash stuffed animals on their own. Washing with other clothes increases the risk of agitation, and some colours may bleed onto the stuffed animal. However, washing with clothes or other stuffed animals may be alright, as long as the machine is not overfilled.
Can stuffed animals be dry-cleaned?
The same concerns with washing at home apply to the dry cleaners. Therefore, it must first be determined if the stuffed animal is suitable for machine washing. Next, the dry cleaners should be contacted to determine if they have the facilities and experience to wash the stuffed animal properly. However, it is likely to be cheaper, safer, and more controlled to do at home.
How to clean stuffed animals by hand
If a stuffed animal cannot be machine washed, it is best to wash it by hand. This method is more time-consuming but helps ensure the toy is not damaged during the cleaning process.
There are a few methods for handwashing, but it usually begins with filling a sink or tub with cold or warm water and adding a small amount of mild laundry detergent. Then, swirl the detergent into the water.
Next, soak the stuffed animal in the soapy water and gently squeeze, so it becomes saturated. Use fingers or a sponge to rub stained or spotted areas gently. The stuffed animal can be left to soak before handwashing, and the process can be repeated if the stains are not easily removed.
After handwashing, all the soap and excess water should be squeezed out. Then the stuffed animal can be left to air-dry or dried in a dryer on a gentle and low-temperature or air-drying setting.
How to clean stuffed animals that cannot be washed
Some stuffed animals are not washable by machine or hand washing. It may contain a mechanical component or be stuffed with something that expands when placed in water. It may also be made from material that should not get wet, such as leather or fur. Fortunately, there are a few ways to clean non-washable stuffed animals.
Wipe down or shake the plushie
One of the easiest ways to clean non-washable stuffed animals is to wipe them down with water. This is good for stuffed animals that are not particularly dirty but may have a spot on them that does not require a cleaning solution to remove.
Stuffed animals are also prone to collecting dust. Simply shaking the stuffed animal can remove most of the dust. In addition, a gentle vacuum cleaner can be used.
Spot clean the toy
Another popular method is to spot clean. This involves dipping a cloth into a cleaning solution (e.g., one tablespoon of detergent with one cup of cold water) and blotting or wiping the stain with the cloth. Once the stain or spot has been removed, a fresh cloth dipped in water should be used to remove solution residue, and the stuffed animal should be left to dry.
Note: It is advised to do a spot test before cleaning to ensure dye, fabric, or fur does not transfer or get ruined by the cleaning solution.
Deodorizing a plushie
Baking soda can freshen stuffed animals that are musty, old or have been soiled. Place the stuffed animal with a cup of baking soda in a plastic bag. Let it sit for a few hours, remove the toy from the bag, and shake off the powder outside. The remaining baking soda can be removed with a vacuum or tumble-dried on low heat for a minute.