Stuffed animals can be great fun for kids, but they can also be carriers of germs and dust. Keep them clean by washing them regularly and disinfecting them often.
You may also want to wash them after they’ve been snuggled all night, especially if someone has been sick! This article will give you tips for cleaning them both in a machine and by hand.
Keep it Clean
Often, the best way to keep your child’s favorite plushies clean is by washing them by hand. This helps to prevent the agitation of delicate fabrics and can avoid the potential for color bleeding. If you aren’t sure how to wash a stuffed animal, check the care tag for specific instructions. Most stuffed animals are machine-washable, but it’s important to consult the manufacturer’s instructions and use the gentlest cycle possible.
Stuffed animals spend a lot of time cuddling, which can wear thin any weak spots in the fabric. They also pick up stains from food, drinks, pet hair and dander, ink and other everyday messes. These stains can make your child’s beloved toy seem dingy or smelly.
To give your child’s stuffed animal a bath, fill a sink or bucket with enough cold water to submerge the toy and add a teaspoon to a tablespoon of mild detergent. Soak the toy in the solution for 15 minutes or up to an hour, depending on how dirty it is. Rinse thoroughly to remove all soapy residue and allow the stuffed animal to air dry. Placing the toy near a fan or dehumidifier can speed up the drying process.
Keep it Dry
Stuffed animals are the companions on long car trips to Grandma’s, co-pilots on first airplane rides and constant playmates. They’re a child’s best friend and a great source of comfort when they feel sick or sad. But those stuffed pals can also pick up quite a lot of dirt and grime as they are dragged across dusty floors and dirty playgrounds.
Most stuffed animals and plush toys are machine washable, but if you have a very delicate toy or an antique one that is very well-loved, it’s better to hand wash it. Before washing, patch up any rips and pre-treat any visible stains. It’s also a good idea to put the toy in a mesh laundry bag or a pillowcase tied shut (or improvise with a hair tie!). This will help to reduce the aggressive agitation in the machine and keep it safe.
To spot clean, use a white cloth and cool, soapy water to wipe away any surface messes. Be sure to test the toy for colorfastness and fabric softener safety before using any cleaning products. After rinsing the toy, dry it completely by rolling it in a clean towel or positioning it near a fan. Avoid putting it in the dryer, which can cause permanent damage like matting and melting glue.
Keep it Clean Between Washes
Stuffed animals spend a lot of time with kids, accompanying them on long car trips to Grandma’s and first airplane rides, outings at the zoo or the park, and sleepovers at friends’ houses. And while their role as snuggle buddies makes them very special to kids, all that interaction with germs can make them prone to developing unsightly dirt marks and other stains.
When it’s time for a wash, check the toy’s tag for laundry symbols or washing instructions. Most stuffed animals can safely go in the washer, but those that have more delicate fabrics like satin or lace may be better off being handwashed. If you’re unsure whether your plushie will hold up to the wash, test it out by rubbing a bit of diluted detergent on an inconspicuous area. If the color fades, stick with the gentle handwash.
If you decide to wash your kids’ stuffed animal, first put it in a mesh laundry bag (or use a pillowcase loosely tied off at the top). It’s also a good idea to patch any holes or tears that might cause leaking stuffing or rips in the wash. Next, fill a sink with cool water and add a bit of gentle laundry detergent. Soak your stuffed animal, gently scrubbing the dirty areas and squeezing out excess soap (be careful not to wring too hard) until the water is clear. Then rinse again and hang to dry, being sure to fluff your child’s favorite friend back up when it’s done.
Make it a Bed
If you have a child who has a favorite stuffed animal that they take everywhere, make them a bed out of fabric. It’s an easy way to keep the toy clean and organized and it makes it easier for your child to grab their stuffed friend at bedtime. There are cute stuffed animals names that you can choose for your stuffed animal.
You can use a sewing machine to sew your animal’s sides together, or you can use straight sewing pins if you want to do it by hand. Either way, you’ll want to make sure the best sides of the fabric are facing each other and that you leave about an inch open for stuffing.
Another way to create a stuffed animal bed is to use a simple basket. Home organizer @sunnyspacesllc says she has her kids designate a big enough basket for their animals and then teach them to follow the one-in, one-out rule when adding new ones to their collection. Then they put a blanket on top for the bed and the stuffies are ready to go to sleep!
You can also repurpose an old wall planter and attach it to your child’s bedroom wall for a fun, creative way to store your child’s stuffed animals. It’s a great idea for a shared room, too!
Take it With You
Most kids cherish their stuffed animals and view them as companions to care for, play with and love. Unlike real pets, these beloved friends can be taken with them on outings and make excellent travel companions.
Before you pop your favorite in the wash, be sure to protect it by putting it inside a pillowcase or mesh bag. This helps prevent it from snagging on the agitator of the machine or getting tangled up in other toys. It also keeps the fill material from shifting and can help the animal regain its shape when it’s done drying.
Vacuum sealing is another great way to keep your stuffed animals dust-free, which in turn can help prevent mildew and mold. Plus, when it comes time to pack them away, they’ll be much easier to carry if they’re vacuum-sealed.
For kids or adults who don’t want to give up their stuffed animals, consider donating them to someone else who could benefit from them as they did. You can even find a program like SendAFriend that will send the items to children who live in poverty or are hospitalized with serious illnesses. That way your old friend can be the new bestie for a child in need.
Have Fun with it
Many kids have one or two favorite stuffed animals that they take everywhere, from long car rides to Grandma’s house, overnight stays at friends’ homes and even family vacations. While this companionship is fun, these toys can be hosts for dirt, food stains and germs that need to be washed and sanitized on a regular basis.
To make your children’s stuffed animal cleaning routine easier, set aside one or two days each month to wash and sanitize their favorite plush pals. This will help to keep them clean and extend their life. It’s also a good idea to have backup stuffed animals on hand so your child is never without their friend.
Most stuffed animals have a care tag on them with specific instructions about how to wash them. Be sure to check this label and color test the fabric before washing. If the toy is small enough, place it inside a mesh laundry bag before adding it to the washing machine. Choose cold water, the delicate cycle and a mild detergent such as Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent to keep your children’s furry friends looking and smelling their best. After a thorough wash, dry the toy in a sunny spot and redistribute any shifted fill material for a like-new look.
Keep it Safe
A bit of dirt or a stain can be cute and even add character to some stuffed animals. Only wash them when necessary to keep them safe, clean and fresh. If you’re worried about germs and mites then you can always put your stuffed animal in the freezer overnight. The sub-zero temperature will kill any germs and critters and you can then wash it with cold water.
For most stuffed animals you can safely machine wash them with cold water and mild detergent. However, you’ll want to check the care label for specific instructions. Plush toys with electronics, music boxes, glued on items like eyes and hats, delicate clothing that can’t be removed and/or ones with styrofoam balls inside (like Beanie Babies) should only be hand washed to avoid damaging the material.
To help your stuffed animals maintain their shape, it’s best to hang them up or lay them out to dry instead of putting them in the dryer. To make this easier, you can also vacuum them regularly to remove any dust or lint. When storing them, they should be wrapped individually in tissue paper or put into acid-free boxes to prevent them from becoming tangled and damaged.