Cleaning Stuffed Toys


If you’ve got kids, you’ve got stuffed toys. Not just a few mind you—mounds of them. Every child loves a good plush and soft stuffed animal, and as every parent knows, that one toy can quickly become a menagerie of stuffed toys that share in tea parties, conquering imaginary lands, going on car rides and taking naps with the kids.

And well, let’s be honest: it’s not just the kids who have stuffed toys, right? I have a few that shares my desk space with me. How about you?

What you may not know is that these toys can harbor dust and dust mites that contribute to allergies and asthma. In addition, the most loved stuffed toys—the ones that get drooled on, slept with and just basically dragged around the house—can be a veritable Petri dish of germs and dirt.

Stuffed animals are loved and cherished beyond the legs and arms falling off. Knowing they are going to be around a while, and knowing what they can harbor, wouldn’t you want to keep them clean and dust free?

Repair Prior to Washing Stuffed Toys

Whether you are washing a stuffed toy in a machine or by hand, there are some repairs you might need to address first:

  1. If there are any rips, stitch them closed.
  2. If there any loose parts like eyes or a nose, stitch those back on.
  3. If there are arms or legs coming apart at the seam, stitch them back so you don’t lose any stuffing.

How to Wash Stuffed Toys

So, how can you get your child’s best friends clean and ready for some serious play? Let’s start with the basics. The first line of defense when keeping stuffed toys clean is to read the instructions on the toy.

  • Many stuffed toys, such as those that are made specifically for babies, can be thrown in the washer and dryer.
  • If you can put the stuffed toy in the washer and dryer, put it into a pillowcase first. This will give it a bit more of a gentle ride through the washing process. To keep the pillowcase closed, either tie the open end if there is enough room, or use a few sturdy safety pins. Do not use a mesh bag, as this may not protect the materials of the toy enough.
  • Take care of any parts that need to be repaired and apply any pre-treatments necessary before putting the toy in the pillowcase.
  • If there is clothing on the toy, remove these first to prevent any dyes from bleeding. Wash these items separately.
  • Wash on a gentle or delicate cycle, cold water wash, using a mild detergent like Woolite.
  • Many stuffed toys that can be washed should be OK in the dryer on an air dry cycle, but again, be sure to check the label. Leave the stuffed animal or toy in the pillowcase when drying. Don’t use a high heat setting as some materials, such as fur, may become matted.

Non-Washable Stuffed Toys

With the cuddly stuffed friends that can’t be put into the washer, the cleaning process is a little different.

There are many stuffed toys that just wouldn’t make it through a wash cycle, as they may contain synthetic materials like foam beads (which, if washed, could completely change the shape of the toy) or joints that can fall apart or be a little too plush for the washer and dryer. For these non-washable stuffed animals, here are a few things you can do:

Using a Vacuum Cleaner to Remove Dust

Your handheld vacuum is your best friend when it comes to getting non-washable stuffed toys clean. Every time you vacuum your kid’s room, you can take the dusting or crevice attachment and carefully run it over the fur of the stuffed animals.

This is the easiest way to get out most of the dust that collects in these little critters and the clothes they may be wearing.

Giving the Stuffed Toy a Sponge Bath to Remove Dust

You can actually get your kids involved in this one and make it fun. Take a damp sponge and wipe down each stuffed animal to get the dust from their fur. You can then send them for a spin in the dryer (set on low) with a good smelling dryer sheet to freshen them up.

Surface or Spot Cleaning a Stuffed Toy

If you find a spot or stain on the stuffed toy and can’t throw it in the washer and dryer, you can use a wet cloth with a little mild dish detergent or gentle cleaner. Gently blot the stain, then hang dry.

After the toy has dried, carefully brush the fur if necessary, unless the fur is meant to be curly or tangled looking. You can also fluff felt-type fabrics with a lint roller.

Make sure you don’t overly wet or saturate the stuffed toy. You want to avoid soaking the stuffing.

Keeping your child’s stuffed toys clean and dust free is a great way to keep them healthy and free from as many allergens as possible. It can feel like a losing battle sometimes, but it’s worth the effort. It’s also a great way to get your kids involved in cleaning and taking care of their own things.

Maintaining Stuffed Toys

For the favorite stuffed toys that are lovingly toted around, they may need a little maintenance between cleanings.

  1. Dusting stuffed toys can be done using a vacuum cleaner or lint roller.
  2. Brushing the fur carefully using a stiff brush with plastic bristles (after dusting) can help keep a favorite toy looking its best. Do not brush fur that is supposed to have a curly or tangled look to it or you will ruin the look of the toy—forever.
  3. If a fresh spill happens, simply take it outdoors and shake the stuffed toy. Blot any remaining liquids using an absorbent material such as a paper towel. Don’t wipe or this can push the liquid farther into the toy.

I hope we’ve been able to help give you some ideas for cleaning your children’s stuffed toys, now you won’t need to cringe when you see your kids cuddling with them.


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