A close-up shot of a fluffy teddy bear, surrounded by delicate flowers, emanating a delightful aroma, capturing the essence of how to make stuffed animals smell good.

Have you ever experienced picking up your favorite stuffed animal friend only to be greeted with a musty odor? Stuffed animals can easily pick up unpleasant smells over time. However, with some simple cleaning techniques and storage solutions, you can keep your plush pals smelling fresh and clean.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: spray your stuffed animals with an odor eliminating spray and allow to fully dry, use baking soda or charcoal bags in storage containers to absorb odors, hand wash gently with mild soap and allow to fully dry, spot clean dirty areas immediately, and air out stuffed animals in sunlight regularly to prevent musty smells from developing.

Understanding Why Stuffed Animals Develop Odors

Absorption of Odors Over Time

Stuffed animals are prone to developing odors over time as they absorb smells from their surroundings. As you cuddle and play with your stuffed friend, oils and particles from your hands, body, and environment get trapped in the fabric and stuffing.

Common odor sources include food, smoke, pets, musty basements or closets, and body odors from playing. These smells build up gradually through regular use and exposure.

Bacteria Growth in Stuffing Materials

Bacteria, dust mites, and mold can multiply in the stuffing inside stuffed animals, causing unpleasant musty or sour odors. Stuffed animals provide ideal conditions for these microbes to thrive – dark, rarely washed spaces with access to oils, dead skin cells, warmth, and moisture. As the bacteria metabolize and produce waste, this releases gases that smell bad.

Plus if the stuffing gets wet at any point, this accelerates bacteria growth.

Dirty Exterior Surfaces

Odors can come from dirt, grime, and residue on the outside of stuffed animals too. Saliva, food stains, sticky residues, dust, and skin oils can accumulate in the animal’s fur or fabric exterior. As these soils interact with air and light, they can oxidize and cause stale smells.

Problem areas include the mouth, hands/feet, and areas frequently touched or mouthed while playing or cuddling.

Based on a 2022 survey of stuffed animal owners:

  • 73% said their stuffed animals smelled like food or smoke at some point
  • 62% noticed musty, mildew smells coming from the stuffing over time
  • 55% observed sour milk or feet types of odors from bacteria buildup inside

Cleaning Techniques to Freshen Up Stuffed Animals

Spot Cleaning

Spot cleaning is a great way to tackle small, isolated stains on stuffed animals (targeted cleaning for problem areas). With a small amount of mild detergent dissolved in warm water and using a clean cloth or soft-bristle brush, gently blot at the affected area.

Avoid rubbing vigorously, which can damage the fabric or stuffing. Let air dry completely before giving your stuffed friend a hug.

Surface Washing

For a deeper clean, surface washing can help eliminate odors trapped in the outer fabric of plush toys. Fill a sink or basin with cool water and a small amount of mild laundry detergent. Submerge the stuffed animal and let it soak for 5-10 minutes, lightly agitating and squeezing the soapy water through (do not submerge any battery compartments!).

Drain dirty water and refill basin, repeating soak and rinse until water runs clear. Gently press out excess moisture with a towel, then let air dry completely before brushing fur. Be very cautious when cleaning stuffed animals with plastic eyes or other decorations – surface wash only avoid getting them wet!

Full Immersion Cleaning

When it’s time for a total refresh, full immersion cleaning is thorough but more labor intensive. This should only be done for machine-washable stuffed animals once in awhile when they really need revived.

Fill washing machine with cool water and place stuffed animal inside a mesh laundry bag for delicates. Add a small amount of mild detergent. Use the gentlest cycle with an extra rinse. Do not wash other items at the same time! Air fluff in the dryer if needed on low heat then air dry completely.

Full immersion restores stuffed animals but over time can degrade fabrics and stuffings so use sparingly.

Method Best For
Spot Cleaning Small stains, isolated areas
Surface Washing General dirt/grime, odors
Full Immersion Thorough reviving for washable plush

With some mild soap and elbow grease, your beloved stuffed pals will be clean and sweet smelling once again! No special products needed 👍. Handle gently, allow proper drying time, and avoid over-washing to keep them looking their best for years.

Snuggle worry-free knowing these proven techniques safely clean and freshen without harsh chemicals.

Using Odor Absorbers and Air Fresheners

There are several effective ways to use odor absorbers and air fresheners to give your stuffed animals a pleasant scent again. From baking soda and charcoal bags to essential oils, you have options to safely and naturally deodorize your plush pals.

Baking Soda

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a mild alkaline powder that can absorb odors in your stuffed animals (The Spruce). Its odor-eliminating properties make it ideal for freshening up plush toys.

To use it, fill up a sock with 1⁄4 cup of baking soda. Tie a knot at the open end and place inside your stuffed animal overnight or for at least a few hours. The baking soda will help absorb unpleasant smells. You can reuse the sock of baking soda a few times before replacing it.


Charcoal is known for its incredible odor-absorbing abilities. Many commercial odor eliminators contain activated charcoal for this reason. You can purchase charcoal bags and place them inside your stuffed animals to absorb smells.

Some pet stores also sell charcoal odor absorbers specifically designed for use in children’s plush toys. These are safe, nontoxic options made to capture odors and moisture (Charcoal Odor Absorbers).

Cedar Chips

Cedar wood has a fresh, pleasant natural scent that helps mask bad odors. Placing a small pouch filled with cedar chips or shavings inside your stuffed animal can give it a light, woodsy aroma.

You can find these cedar pouches at craft stores or make your own using breathable fabric and all-natural cedar chips. Over time, the lovely cedar fragrance will transfer to the stuffed toy. As a bonus, cedar also has moth-repelling properties!

Essential Oil Sprays

Essential oils like lemon, lavender, eucalyptus, and tea tree not only smell amazing but have antibacterial and deodorizing abilities. You can make an all-natural deodorizing spray for your stuffed animals with essential oils and water.

To make a spray, fill a clean spray bottle with filtered water, then add 15-25 drops of your chosen essential oil(s). Shake well before use. Lightly mist your plush toys with the natural oil spray. The antimicrobial properties will help sanitize them while leaving behind a lovely, lingering fragrance.

As a safety precaution, test the spray in an inconspicuous area first in case the oil could stain certain fabrics. And avoid getting it into toys’ eyes or mouths since essential oils can be irritating.

Proper Storage to Maintain Fresh Scent

Breathable Containers

One of the best ways to keep your plush pals smelling pleasant is to store them in breathable containers. This allows air to circulate and prevents moisture from being trapped inside, which can lead to mildew and musty odors.

Look for storage bins, boxes, or bags made from mesh, cotton, or other breathable fabrics. These allow adequate airflow while still protecting your stuffed critters from dust.

For extra freshness, you can add aromatherapy packets or scented sachets inside the breathable container. Just be sure not to overload the storage box with too many sachets or the scent can become overpowering. We recommend using 2-3 small sachets per medium storage bin.

Moisture Absorbing Materials

Excess moisture is problematic for keeping stuffed animals fresh, so placing moisture absorbers in the storage container can help. Some good options are silica gel packs, charcoal bags, or even crumpled newspaper.

These materials will soak up ambient moisture in the container to prevent pesky mildew growth.

Just make sure to check your moisture absorbers every few months and replace them if they have become saturated. And never eat silica gel packs…they are not snacks! 😂 But used properly, moisture absorbers are a safe and handy way to banish funky scents from your plushie collection.

Cedar Storage

Cedar wood has natural aromatic oils that can help stuffed toys retain a light, pleasant fragrance. Look for cedar storage chests or line your existing bins with cedar panels or planks. The beautiful thing about cedar is that it continues releasing its fresh scent over time, so it’s not a one-and-done aroma booster.

An added benefit of cedar is its natural repelling properties against moths and other insects that can damage fabrics. So cedar storage keeps your plushie pals both smelling and looking their best! Just avoid prolonged direct contact between your stuffed animals and cedar oil, as it could stain light fur over time.

Regular Air Circulation

In addition to proper storage containers and materials, remembering to air out your stuffed animals is crucial for keeping them fresh. About once per month, take your plushie collection out of storage and allow the pieces to air out for 24-48 hours if possible.

You can lightly dust them while they are out as well. Not only does this regular circulation prevent excess moisture from accumulating, but it also allows any built up odors to dissipate. So be sure your storage solution makes it easy enough to take those teddies out periodically!

Storage Tip Benefit
Breathable containers Allows airflow to prevent moisture and odors
Moisture absorbers Soak up excess moisture to inhibit mildew
Cedar wood Natural fresh aroma and insect repellant
Regular air circulation Allows odors to dissipate and moisture to dry

Follow these handy storage tips, and you’ll have sweet smelling stuffed pals for many years to come. Sure, your plushie collection may get a little dusty sitting in storage from time to time, but they certainly don’t have to get stinky!

👃 With some TLC and proper storage methods, you can keep those snuggly friends of yours smelling as lovely as the day you brought them home.

When to Consider Replacement

Extremely Old or Worn

If your stuffed animal is extremely old or worn, it may be time to consider replacement. Stuffed toys that have been around for decades have likely endured a lot of love and wear-and-tear. Over time, fabrics can deteriorate and stuffing can become compressed or clumpy, making toys less cuddly.

According to a 2003 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report, very old stuffed animals may also contain higher levels of possible toxins like lead or asbestos from materials used decades ago.

While it’s hard to part with a beloved childhood companion, sometimes retirement is best. Consider taking commemorative photos for memories, then passing your vintage buddy to another child who will love and play with it. As the saying goes, “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” 😊

Visible Mold Growth

If you notice mold growing on your stuffed animal, replacement is likely the safest option. Mold needs moisture, oxygen and a food source to grow. Fabrics and stuffing provide ideal conditions. According to the EPA, inhaling or touching mold can cause allergic reactions or other health issues, especially for sensitive groups like children or those with compromised immune systems.

While you may be tempted try to salvage the toy with cleaning, mold can be difficult to fully eliminate. Spores often hide deep in fabrics and rapidly return when moisture is present. Complete drying is also challenging given most toys’ density.

To avoid risk, replacement is recommended whenever mold is visible.

Impossible to Fully Clean

If a stuffed toy has been contaminated by messes that are impossible to fully clean out, replacement may be best. Food stains, bodily fluids, car oil or other mystery spills can leave residues. Attempting to wash toys multiple cycles to remove stains also causes breakdown.

While not always a health hazard if allowed to fully dry, such toys may never feel fully clean. Kids with stuffed animal “comfort objects” benefit most when their special friends smell fresh and feel clean for snuggling.

Aside from hygiene, ratty stuffed animals also undermine the sense safety and emotional comfort kids derive. If attempts to revive a truly dirty stuffed buddy fail, replacement preserves positive sensory associations.

In the end, trusted your nose over all else. If a toy has taken on enduring odors from mold, messes or mystery spills, replacement lets kids snuggle a pristine pal instead. 👃👎🚫


By understanding why odors develop in stuffed animals and learning simple cleaning, storage, and air freshening tricks, you can keep your beloved plush toys smelling sweet for years to come. With a little regular maintenance, you won’t have to hold your nose every time you pick up your favorite snuggly friend.

Similar Posts