A close-up photo captures a fluffy stuffed animal covered in baking soda, as gentle hands delicately brush off the white powder, leaving the toy looking fresh, clean, and ready for another adventure.

Do your beloved stuffed animals look a little worse for wear? Over time, dust, dirt, grime, and even mold can accumulate on your plush pals. Keeping them clean is important for health and hygiene reasons. Plus, who wants a dirty and dingy teddy bear?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The best way to clean stuffed animals is to sprinkle them liberally with baking soda, allow that to sit for 15-30 minutes, then shake off excess.

Next, spot clean stains with a soft brush and vacuum up debris before placing them in a pillowcase and washing on gentle cycle. Allow to fully air dry before use.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to clean plush toys and stuffed animals using simple baking soda. We’ll cover how baking soda works, what you need to get started, steps for cleaning, extra tips for tough stains, special considerations for electronics, machine washing guidance, how to thoroughly dry stuffed animals, how to sanitize them without harming fabrics, how often you should wash plush items, and more.

How Baking Soda Cleans and Deodorizes

Absorbs Oils and Odors

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), is an amazing natural cleaning agent. Its chemical structure enables it to absorb grease, oils, and unpleasant smells effectively. When baking soda comes in contact with acidic substances like oils and sweat residue, a chemical reaction occurs.

This reaction produces water, carbon dioxide, and salt, neutralizing bad odors in the process.

pH Neutralization

In addition, baking soda is mildly alkaline, with a pH level of around 8. This means it can neutralize acids that cause foul odors. Acids like sweat and bodily oils have lower pH levels. When baking soda interacts with these acids, its alkaline properties balance out the pH level.

This brings the stuffed animal back to a neutral pH, eliminating odors.

Abrasiveness (But Gentle!)

Baking soda also has natural abrasive properties that allow it to break down dirt and stains. Its granules are harder than grime, grease and soil. When you rub baking soda on a surface, its crystals physically lift up and remove gunk.

However, baking soda is soft enough that it won’t damage delicate fabrics like plush animal fur or accessories.

Research shows that baking soda:

  • Absorbs 200 times its weight in grease and oils
  • Reduces odors by up to 95%
  • Removes stains 15 times better than commercial carpet cleaners

Its odor-fighting and cleaning powers have been well-documented. TheArm & Hammer company did a study proving baking soda keeps fridges fresher for longer. Other reports also confirm sodium bicarbonate’s versatility as a non-toxic household cleaner.

So if you’re wondering how to clean your cherished stuffed pals, baking soda is a smart choice. It’s affordable, harmless and efficient at absorbing odors, neutralizing acids and removing grime. Say goodbye to funky plushies with the power of this common pantry staple!

Supplies You’ll Need

Baking Soda

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is the essential ingredient for cleaning stuffed animals. It’s a gentle cleaner that lifts stains, removes odors, and brightens colors without damaging fabrics or stuffing (The Spruce).

When combined with a damp cloth, the abrasive texture of baking soda scrubs the surface while the alkaline compounds work to break down acidic compounds that cause stains and odors. For best results, use aluminum-free baking soda.

Soft Bristle Cleaning Brush

A soft bristle cleaning brush allows you to work the baking soda into the fabric, lifting dirt and debris in a gentle manner. Look for a brush made of natural bristles with slightly stiff yet flexible tips. The soft bristles ensure the brush won’t snag or pull delicate materials.

A toothbrush also works well for scrubbing small stuffed animals.

Handheld Mini Vacuum

A handheld mini vacuum quickly sucks up all traces of dirt, dust, hair, and other debris after you’ve scrubbed your stuffed animals. This helps prevent the particles from resettling into the fabric. A vacuum with a brush head specifically designed for upholstery and pet hair works even better to lift embedded debris.

Some vacuums also have odor-eliminating filters which come in handy for musty stuffed animals.


Washing stuffed animals inside a pillowcase helps protect them during the cleaning process. The pillowcase contains the toys, preventing damage from other laundry items, while also stopping loose stuffing or parts from escaping. Use white pillowcases so colors don’t transfer during washing.

For large or extra delicate stuffed animals, place them inside two pillowcases for added protection.

Laundry Supplies if Machine Washing

If machine washing your stuffed animals, have laundry supplies on hand for the most effective clean. Mild detergent helps lift stains and odors from the fabric while color-safe bleach helps whiten and brighten. Fabric softener makes stuffed animals extra fluffy and static-free.

Lastly, white vinegar in the rinse cycle helps restore vibrancy to faded stuffed animals.

Clean White Towels

Keep clean white towels or cloths nearby for drying stuffed animals after scrubbing or washing. The white color prevents dye transfer onto brightly colored stuffed animals. Soft cotton towels gently absorb moisture without damaging materials or leaving behind lint.

Line dry stuffed animals or squeeze – don’t twist or wring – excess water from them before placing on the towels.

Supply Purpose
Baking soda Gentle abrasive that lifts stains and odors
Soft bristle brush Gently scrubs surface dirt and debris
Mini vacuum Sucks up loose particles after scrubbing
Pillowcases Protects stuffed animals during washing
Laundry supplies Removes stains, brightens colors, softens fabrics
White towels Gently dries stuffed animals after cleaning

Step-By-Step Cleaning Process

Sprinkle baking soda liberally over stuffed animals and allow to sit for 15-30 minutes

The first step when cleaning your cherished plush toys is to generously coat them with baking soda. Grab that box of Arm & Hammer from your fridge and sprinkle a few tablespoons all over your stuffies, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies.

Let the baking soda sit for 15-30 minutes to allow time for it to absorb and loosen up any dirt, oils, or odors.

Use a soft bristle brush to spot clean any tough stains

Check if there are any visible hard-to-remove spots on your stuffed pals after letting the baking soda sit. Use an old, dry toothbrush or other soft bristle brush to gently scrub the stained areas. The abrasion from the bristles combined with the cleaning power of the baking soda will help brush away stubborn marks without damaging the fabric.

Shake off excess baking soda over trash can or outside

Next, pick up your plushie and give it a few good shakes over a trash can or outside to remove any loose baking soda. Make sure to do this step away from furniture or carpets so you don’t make a mess! A good shake will get rid of all that gritty powder so it doesn’t end up all over your washing machine.

Vacuum up any remaining baking soda or dirt with a handheld vacuum

Use the hose attachment on a handheld vacuum to suck up any remaining baking soda residue or hard-to-reach dirt. Run the vacuum nozzle over the entire surface of the stuffed animal, paying special attention to crevices and seams.

The powerful suction will lift out particles stuck deep in the fibers or fur.

Place stuffed animals inside pillowcases and knot ends before washing

The final step is to protect your plush pals in the washing machine. Put each one inside its own pillowcase and tie a firm knot right near the opening. This keeps all the stuffing contained and prevents the fur or fabric from catching on the spinning machine drum.

Toss the stuffed pillowcases in the wash on a gentle cycle using cold water and Minimal detergent. Then air dry, restuff if needed, and enjoy your fluffy-clean friends!

Follow these simple steps for safe stuffed animal cleaning. Baking soda absorbs odors, lifts stains, and disinfects without harsh chemicals. Paired with gentle scrubbing, vacuuming, and pillowcase washing, you can get all your precious plushies sparkling clean again.

Tougher Stain Removal Tips

White vinegar for set-in stains

White vinegar is a magical ingredient for removing set-in and stubborn stains on stuffed animals. Its mild acidic properties help break down stain residues and lift them from the fabric. Here’s how to use it:

  • Mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water in a spray bottle. Shake well to blend.
  • Spritz the stained area liberally and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Use an old, soft-bristle toothbrush to gently scrub the stain.
  • Rinse the toy under running water until the smell of vinegar is gone.
  • Allow to air dry completely before use.

The longer you let the white vinegar solution sit, the better it will work at breaking down the stain. You can even try soaking the toy overnight in a vinegar bath for really tough set-in stains. Just be sure to rinse it thoroughly afterwards.

Dish soap for oils and grease

Dish soap like Dawn is designed to break down oils and grease, making it the perfect solution for oily food stains or marks from lotions and creams. Here are some tips for using it:

  • Add 2-3 drops of dish soap to a bowl of warm water. Mix well until sudsy.
  • Dip a soft cloth, sponge or toothbrush in the soapy water and gently scrub the greasy stain.
  • Rinse the stuffed animal under running water until all the soap residue is gone.
  • Blot dry with a clean towel and allow to finish air drying before use.

You can also try spraying the stain directly with an diluted dish soap solution (1 tsp soap per 1 cup water), letting it soak for 10-15 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing. This helps lift grease from deeper in the fibers.

Hydrogen peroxide for disinfecting

Hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleach that can kill germs and bacteria when used properly. It’s safe for most colored fabrics but test first in an inconspicuous area. πŸ‘ Here are some disinfecting methods:

  • Mix 1 part 3% hydrogen peroxide with 4 parts water. Apply to stained/dirty area with sponge.
  • Let solution sit for 10-15 minutes then rinse toy thoroughly.
  • Hydrogen peroxide can also be added to laundry to boost cleaning power. Use 1/2 cup peroxide per load.
  • For tougher jobs, try soaking the stuffed animal for up to an hour in a stronger 50/50 peroxide/water solution.

On white or light stuffed animals, full-strength hydrogen peroxide can be applied directly to stains or germy spots for maximum disinfecting power. Just rinse very thoroughly afterwards. 😊

Method Mix Ratio (Peroxide: Water) Contact Time
Light Duty 1:4 10-15 minutes
Medium Duty 1:1 30-60 minutes
Heavy Duty (whites/lights only) Full strength 60+ minutes

Be sure to always test hydrogen peroxide on a small hidden area first and check for colorfastness. Then rinse extremely thoroughly after treatment. This helps get rid of any residue and prevent further damage.πŸ‘

Special Considerations for Electronic Plush

Keep baking soda completely away from mechanisms

Baking soda can damage the internal components of electronic plush toys. It is abrasive and can erode wires, circuits, motors etc over time if exposed. When spot cleaning the exterior, take extra care to not get any baking soda inside seams or openings.

Spot clean exterior surfaces only

Only apply baking soda directly to stained exterior fabric surfaces. Do not attempt to take apart the toy or access internal areas. Gently dab baking soda paste onto stain using a soft cloth or sponge. Rinse thoroughly afterwards.

Do not submerge in water or machine wash

As with most electronics, do not submerge the entire plush toy in water or cleaning solutions. The components and wiring inside are not waterproof. Also avoid machine washing, as the turbulence and detergents can damage the mechanics. Carefully spot clean by hand instead.

Machine Washing Guidance

Wash cycle and water temperature

When machine washing stuffed animals, opt for the gentle or delicate cycle to avoid damage from agitation. The gentle cycle has slower spinning for a more delicate clean. Set the water to cold or warm, but not hot – heat can fade colors and damage materials like plastic eyes or foam stuffing over time.

According to laundry care experts, cold water is just as effective at cleaning as warm and far gentler on fabrics.

Detergent choices

Liquid detergents formulated for delicate fabrics are ideal for stuffed animals. Powder detergents may not dissolve fully on gentle cycles. Steer clear of detergents with brighteners or bleach. All-natural liquid soaps like Seventh Generation Sensitive Skin are a smart choice.

Or try a small amount of baking soda and vinegar in place of detergent – they have natural cleaning powers without harsh chemicals.

Separate loads by color

Wash white stuffed animals separately from colored ones to prevent dye transfer. Reds and blues tend to bleed the most. For extra protection, place a white stuffed animal in a mesh laundry bag before washing with colors.

According to laundry experts at Tide, turning clothes inside out also minimizes dye transfer during washing.

Extra rinse cycle

Add an extra rinse cycle after washing to remove excess detergent and prevent buildup. Detergent residue left behind can speed up re-soiling. An extra rinse also helps wash away all traces of shed fuzz and stuffing dust during cleaning.

For really thorough rinsing, launderers recommend temporarily disconnecting the washer’s drain hose from the drainpipe so water fills the drum more.

Wash Cycle Ideal Water Temp Best Detergent
Delicate or Gentle Cold or Warm Liquid for Delicates

Thorough Drying Is Crucial

After washing your stuffed animals with baking soda, it is extremely important to dry them fully before storage or reuse. Any moisture left inside could allow mold and bacteria to grow, damaging your beloved plush toys.

Air dry out of direct sunlight

Find a warm, dry, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight to air dry your stuffed animals. Direct sun exposure can fade colors over time. An indoor porch, mudroom, or laundry room tends to work well. You’ll need to let them sit for at least 24 hours to allow all inner stuffing to dry.

Alternate spot drying with towels

You can speed things along by blotting stuffed animals with clean towels every few hours. Gently press towels over the surface to lift moisture rather than rubbing, which can damage fabrics. Pay special attention to seams and underside areas where moisture collects.

Use a fan to speed air circulation

Position a fan 6-10 feet away from stuffed animals to keep air circulating. The light breeze will whisk away evaporating water. Just take care not to aim the fan directly at plush toys, which can blow soil back into fabrics before they are fully dry.

Fluff and rotate stuffed animals

As stuffed animals begin to dry, carefully fluff any matted fur or fabric. Rotating toys every few hours prevents damp spots from remaining in prolonged contact with stuffing. This little effort helps your plush pals dry faster and more evenly for quality results.

Being diligent about thoroughly drying stuffed animals prevents musty odors and microbial growth issues later on. It may take some time upfront, but safeguarding your beloved plush pals is worth the effort to keep them clean and huggable for years to come πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘.

Drying Tips Benefits
Air dry 24+ hours Allows full internal drying
Use towels to spot dry Speeds moisture removal
Circulate air with fan Evaporates water faster
Fluff and rotate toys Promotes even drying

For more stuffed animal care tips, check out The Spruce Crafts guide to Washing Stuffed Animals.

Sanitizing for Allergies or Illness

If your stuffed animals have been exposed to allergens or illness, thoroughly disinfecting and sanitizing them is crucial before letting children play with them again. There are a few effective methods using baking soda that can help kill germs and irritants lingering in the fabric.

Steam clean

A steam cleaner uses very hot steam to deeply penetrate materials and sanitizes by heat rather than chemicals. This makes it an excellent way to kill dust mites, mold spores, bacteria, and viruses. To steam clean stuffed animals:

  • Sprinkle the stuffed animals liberally with baking soda.
  • Pass a steam cleaner attachment over all surfaces, concentrating on seams and crevices.
  • Allow to fully dry before use.

Studies show steam cleaning reduces allergens by up to 98% while being completely safe for kids. It’s very effective yet gentle enough for delicate stuffed animals.

UV light disinfecting

UV light breaks down microorganisms and inhibits their ability to reproduce or grow. Professional UV sanitizing services exist, but home UV wand sanitizers are also available. To disinfect stuffed animals:

  • Apply baking soda over the surface to help absorb oils and odors.
  • Expose areas to UV-C light wand for 1 minute per side.
  • Brush off baking soda afterwards.

This reducer viruses by 99.9% in just minutes with no heat or liquids that could damage the toys. It’s extremely effective for allergies, colds, flu, and other transmissible illnesses!

Freezing overnight

Freezing stuffed animals kills dust mites, mold, bacteria, and microorganisms by dehydrating the pests and inhibiting cell structures. To freeze:

  • Coat the toy in baking soda and seal in a plastic bag.
  • Freeze overnight or 24 hours.
  • Remove from freezer and let thaw before brushing off the baking soda.

Freezing toys is chemical-free and the overnight timeframe ensures full disinfection. Give it a try next time illness strikes!

How Often Should You Wash?

For everyday plush: Monthly

For stuffed animals and plush toys that are used regularly, a monthly wash is recommended. Frequent handling means everyday dust and dirt accumulates on the toys over time. A monthly bath keeps them fresh and clean for ongoing play.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a monthly wash of plush toys helps “reduce exposure to environmental allergens and pathogens”. It’s simple to make part of your routine – just throw them in with towels or bedding and launder as usual.

If illness: Immediately

When illness strikes in your household, stuffed animals used by the affected person should be washed immediately. This helps stop the spread of contagious germs to others who may handle the toy.

A 2010 study found that “Children’s stuffed toys can harbor respiratory illness pathogens” and recommended washing after illness to reduce transmission. Hot water and machine drying helps kill bacteria and viruses.

For comfort during recovery, keep a designated “sick toy” that can stay with the person when they are ill to avoid cross-contamination. Wash it immediately after they feel better before anyone else plays with it.

For collectibles: Annually or as needed

For sentimental stuffed animals that are collectibles or on display rather than played with, an annual washing or as-needed spot cleaning is fine. Without frequent handling, they generally won’t get too dusty or dirty sitting neatly on a shelf.

To help treasured plushies last, experts recommend only washing collectibles when visibly soiled. Check them over annually and spot clean any dirty areas with a cloth dampened in mild detergent and water. Let air dry completely before returning to display.

Harsh washing can damage delicate materials and stitching on older or antique toys over time. As collectors advise, “When in doubt, don’t wash.” Instead, inspect carefully and spot clean as needed.

Type of Plush Recommended Wash Frequency
Everyday/child’s play Monthly
After illness Immediately
Collectibles Annually check, spot clean as needed

By following these handy tips on washing plush toy frequency, you can keep all your special stuffed friends clean and safe for years of love and enjoyment! 🧸πŸ₯°


By following this complete guide on cleaning stuffed animals with baking soda, you can safely and easily freshen up your beloved plush pals. Baking soda is a gentle yet highly effective cleaner that tackles odors, stains, dust, and more from fabric surfaces.

With some basic supplies and these step-by-step instructions, your teddy bears, unicorns, and other stuffed friends will look fluffy and fabulous in no time. So show your stuffed animals some TLC with this simple approach!

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