How to Clean Stuffed Animals (Quickly, Before Your Kid Notices)

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how to clean stuffed animals cat

Beary Potter is smeared with ketchup. Again. Prying a teddy bear, plushy or any stuffed animal from your toddler is always an uphill battle. You could sneak the beloved stuffy away while they’re napping, watching TV, or off at daycare, but your best bet is to wash the toy after your child goes to bed, then let it dry thoroughly overnight. Below, the best way to clean every type of stuffed animal as quickly as possible.

How to Machine Wash Stuffed Animals

The fastest way to get a stuffed animal all spruced up is to put it in the washing machine. But just because they can survive dozens of princess parties doesn’t mean you can just chuck ‘em in the front loader. Here's how to get them clean while keeping the wear and tear to a minimum.

What you need:

  • Mesh laundry bag or zippered pillowcase
  • Mild laundry detergent

Step 1: Place the stuffed animal in a mesh laundry bag or zippered pillowcase before putting it in the washing machine. This will protect it from friction and give it a chance to remain looking new. Tossing a few bath towels in the same cycle will also help create a buffer.

Step 2: Pour in a small amount of mild detergent, like Tide Free and Gentle.

Step 3: Use cold water and the gentlest cycle on your washing machine to clean the toy.

Step 4: Hang dry when possible. Many toys come with glued-on eyes and noses that can potentially melt when put in the dryer, even at the lowest temperature.

Step 5: To expedite the drying process and ensure the stuffing doesn’t retain water, hang the toy near a fan or dehumidifier. You can also blow dry (on the lowest setting) animals with fur to get them fluffy again.

How to Wash Stuffed Animals by Hand

If you have an heirloom teddy bear from Uncle Walter, it might not survive the rough tussling of a washing machine and is better suited for handwashing instead. Here’s how to clean your beloved family stuffy without ruining it.

What you need:

  • Bucket
  • Mild laundry detergent
  • Cold water

Step 1: If the toy has stubborn stains like blood or vomit, pretreat it with a stain remover (we like Zout). Test the product on a smaller area to see how the fabric reacts first.

Step 2: Fill the bucket (or sink) with enough water to soak the toy.

Step 3: Mix in a splash of mild laundry detergent. Not too much—soapy water may be hard to rinse out once it gets into the mushy stuffing of the toy.

Step 4: Drain the soapy water and fill the sink or bucket with clean water. Rinse the stuffed animal by squeezing water out, not wringing. Otherwise, the stuffing may bunch up and the toy won’t have the same cuddliness as before.

Step 5: Let the stuffed animal air dry near a fan or humidifier.

What if the toy has an electronic component?

If the stuffed animal has a music box or another electric part inside, your best bet it to spot clean. Housewife How Tos recommends mixing 1 teaspoon of liquid dish detergent into 1 cup cold water and dabbing or scrubbing the toy as needed. Before you scour the entire thing, do a spot test on a hidden part of the toy to test for colorfastness.

While spot cleaning will get rid of the dirt and stains, the toy may still be stinky (and considering all the dragging, throwing and snuggling it goes through, that’s not much of a surprise). To get rid of any icky smells, place the stuffed animal inside a zip-top plastic bag and pour in 1 cup of baking soda. Shake for about 30 seconds, then let it sit for about two hours. Then, vacuum the toy or tumble dry with no heat to remove the baking soda. 

How toDisinfect Toys (Because, Um, They'reKinda Gross)

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Steph is a native of Zimbabwe who is both enamored and genuinely baffled by the concept of silent letters. From 2020 to 2022, she served as Associate Editor at PureWow covering...