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How to Clean Stuffed Animals


Image of baby with plush toy

Babies and children love them, and adults continue to take comfort in them: stuffed animals hold a special place in our hearts. However, those toys can get pretty dingy. Here’s how to clean stuffed animals.

If your squeezy friend still has its tags, check to see if it is machine washable. If so, use a mild detergent and cool water on the gentlest cycle. If the toy needs sanitizing, use hot water and a non-bleach laundry sanitizer.

Putting the toy in a mesh laundry bag can help protect it from snags, and adding towels to the load provides buffering. Use a machine without an agitator, as the pummeling action can shift the stuffing in a plush toy. If your machine has an agitator, a trip to the laundromat may be in order.

Luxury baby toys and treasured older toys that have been handed down through generations may be too precious or fragile to survive machine washing intact. Also, toys with glued-on parts won’t fare well in the washer, and toys with internal electronics can’t get wet either. If handwashing is the best option, you can use water and mild detergent, or you can use a dry method for lightly soiled toys or those with internal parts that shouldn’t get wet.

Hand Washing – Wet Method

Fill a deep sink or basin with lukewarm water and the recommended amount of gentle soap or detergent. Beware of over-soaping, because rinsing will take forever. Gently submerge the toy and squeeze with your hands until you’re sure both the inside and outside are thoroughly wet and the soapy water has gotten into all the fabric and stuffing. Leave the toy to soak for up to an hour. Squeeze once more and empty the sink or basin, and rinse it out. Fill again with clean water and repeat the squeezing until suds stop coming out of the toy.

While it’s still in the sink, push down on the toy to squeeze out any remaining water. Then, wrap it up in a clean towel and squeeze some more. Unwrap it and allow the toy to air dry outside the reach of children or pets, or on a clothesline if you can attach it with clips that won’t damage the toy.

Hand Washing – Dry Method

If you can’t or don’t want to get the toy wet, try putting it in a plastic garbage bag with about half a cup of baking soda. Tie the bag shut or use twist ties, and shake the toy around inside the bag with the baking soda for a few minutes. Then, let it sit for about 15 minutes. The baking soda will loosen dirt and reduce odors. Open the bag carefully and, being careful not to breathe in the baking soda (you might want to use a face mask that protects against dust for this method), gently shake off the excess into the bag, and throw the bag away.

Use a vacuum cleaner hose attachment to remove any remaining baking soda, and a flexible brush to loosen any stuck-on clumps. Shake the toy over the garbage can to get all the remaining baking soda out. Now that you know how to clean stuffed animals, you can buy them with confidence, and keep them looking fresh.

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