A close-up photo of a child's hand gently brushing through the fur of a stuffed animal, with a magnifying glass nearby, symbolizing the careful inspection and treatment of stuffed animals for lice.

Finding lice on your stuffed animals can be upsetting. However, with the right treatment methods, you can eliminate lice from plush toys and stuffed animals, allowing your children to keep enjoying their beloved companions.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Wash infested stuffed animals with hot, soapy water then dry on the highest heat setting. Vacuum wherever stuffed animals are stored and isolate unwashable toys for 2 weeks in sealed bags to suffocate lice.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about identifying lice infestations in stuffed animals, different treatment options depending on the toy material, extra cleaning steps to get rid of any lingering eggs or nits, and prevention methods to help ensure lice don’t come back.

Identifying Lice in Stuffed Animals

Signs of an Infestation

Finding lice in your child’s beloved stuffed animals can be startling. However, infestations often manifest through certain giveaways. Keep an eye out for the following signs that your plush toys may have unwelcome visitors:

  • Small white or yellowish eggs (nits) clinging to the fibers, especially in hidden seam areas
  • Tiny dark dots that could be lice feces scattered around
  • Irritated red bite marks on your child’s body when they sleep with a contaminated toy
  • Noticing the stuffed animal itself looks dirty and unkempt

Discovering lice symptoms early allows for quicker and more effective treatment. So inspect your child’s snuggly friends regularly!

Checking Seams and Tags

When trying to spot lice in stuffed toys, carefully check inside seams, folds, or crevices where the insects could hide.

Use a magnifying glass and bright light if possible. Search the following areas thoroughly:

  • Behind ears, eyes, nose, and other facial features
  • Where limbs attach to the body
  • The bottom or back seam where tufts meet the fabric
  • Around tags, labels, or accessories attached to the stuffed animal

Don’t forget to peer beneath any ribbons, bows, or removable items too. Turn toys inside out to view hidden inner edges as well. Leave no seam unturned in your quest to banish lice!

Distinguishing from Fabric Pills or Debris

Sometimes lint, dust, fabric pills, or stray threads may resemble lice or eggs. Look closely to differentiate.

Try using transparent tape to remove a sample and inspect further. Gently press over suspicious spots, then place the tape on a contrasting surface and observe it under a magnifying glass if possible. Lice and nits will stick to the tape, while harmless debris usually won’t.

You can also spot clean toys with lint rollers or masking tape wrapped sticky-side out around your fingers. Lice or eggs will cling to the adhesive, whereas fake “dots” will come off clean.

When in doubt, isolate the toy and inspect again in a day or two. Real lice infestations rapidly worsen, while innocuous fuzz won’t.

Treating Washable Plush Toys

Washing Instructions

When those cute and cuddly plush toys have been invaded by lice, it’s time to give them a good wash. Washing is an effective way to kill lice and nits while thoroughly cleaning your stuffed pals.

First, check the toy’s tag to see if it’s machine washable. Most modern stuffed animals designed for children can safely be washed in the washing machine. Choose a gentle cycle with cold water to protect the fibers and dyes.

Before washing, brush toys with a nit comb or lice comb to remove any live lice. This will prevent living lice from clinging on during the cycle.

Use a small amount of mild detergent, like what you would use for a baby’s clothes. Avoid using too much soap, as that can be hard to rinse out fully. Set the machine to run for at least 15 minutes for sufficient sanitization.

Washing with detergent alone may not fully kill all lice and nits. For extra protection, the CDC suggests adding a disinfectant like Lysol Laundry Sanitizer or vinegar to the wash. Follow instructions carefully when adding disinfectants.

Check your toy after washing to confirm no lice or nits remain. Re-wash as needed if any evidence of infestation is still present.

Drying Thoroughly

It’s not enough to just wash a lice-infested stuffed toy—it needs to be completely dried as well. Lice can potentially still survive on damp surfaces.

Ideally, washable stuffed animals should be dried on the hot cycle in the clothes dryer for at least 30 minutes. The combination of heat and tumbling helps ensure everything, even inner stuffing, gets fully dried.

You can also hang toys to air dry either outside in direct sunlight or by using fans indoors. Sunlight and sufficient airflow helps kill left over lice or nits faster. Just check carefully that the toy is dried all the way through before further use.

Do not store toys away until 100% dry. Even slight damp areas could allow lice eggs to continue developing.

Disinfecting Washer Afterwards

It’s prudent to sanitize the washing machine itself after cleaning louse-infested items. This prevents any lingering eggs or newly hatched lice from contaminating other laundry loads.

Run an empty hot wash cycle with detergent first. The heat and sudsing action helps remove residues.

For extra disinfection, the CDC suggests washing machine cleaner like Affresh or running an empty cycle with 2 cups of white vinegar added instead of detergent. Vinegar is acidic enough to kill bacteria and most small pests.

You should also use a disinfectant cleaner like Lysol to wipe down any exterior parts of the machine the toys contacted. This includes the lid, door, detergent dispenser, buttons etc. Doing so protects other users as well.

Stay vigilant for any signs of reinfestation over the next few laundry cycles. Frequent hot washes can prevent residual lice from getting established again.

Cleaning Unwashable Stuffed Animals

Using a Lice Treatment Spray

If your stuffed animals are too large or delicate to wash, using a lice treatment spray is an effective option. There are sprays made specifically to kill lice and their eggs on surfaces. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), these sprays often contain ingredients like permethrin, pyrethrin extract, or piperonyl butoxide, which are safe for use on toys when instructions are followed.

To use a spray, take your stuffed animals outdoors or in a well-ventilated area first. Hold bottles 6-12 inches away and thoroughly coat all outer surfaces of the stuffed animal, including the seams, according to National Pediculosis Association. It’s crucial to completely saturate the fur or fabric.

Let the toy air dry outside for at least 2 hours. Repeating the spraying process is ideal for ensuring you get any stray eggs. Sprays available at online retailers often provide guidance on proper application.

Isolating in Sealed Bags

For super delicate stuffed animals like antique collectibles, lice sprays may be too harsh. An alternative approach is to seal toys in plastic bags for 10-14 days to suffocate lice. This allows you to keep using spray or other methods on areas the stuffed animals touched without damaging the toys themselves.

Look for thick plastic bags that fully enclose toys with no openings for air. Vacuum seal bags work best to cut off air supply. Mark calendars and leave sealed bags completely undisturbed in an out-of-reach area during the waiting period before reopening.

Storing in Freezer

Extreme cold from your freezer can also eliminate lice and eggs on kids’ stuffed animals without harming toys. According to pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert, freezing at 0°F for at least 48 hours eradicates lice through dehydration and cell breakdown.

First seal toys in plastic bags again with no airflow inside. Place bags flat in the freezer away from foods for 2-7 days based on freezer temp. Mark the date sealed on bags for reference. When ready, do a final lice spray application while still outside the bag before returning stuffed animals to play areas lice-free.

When combined strategically, using lice sprays, isolation, and freezing provides effective stuffed animal delousing options safely. Talk to your pediatrician if you have questions on best application for your child’s favorite snuggly toys.

Eliminating Eggs and Preventing Reinfestation

Removing Nits and Eggs

Thoroughly going through the fur and fabric to remove any remaining nits or eggs is crucial for getting rid of a lice infestation for good. Use a fine-toothed lice comb, magnifying glass, and bright light to spot the tiny eggs.

Some gentle pulling apart of the plush fibers may help reveal hidden nits. It’s tedious but necessary work. An old toothbrush can also help dislodge stubborn eggs clinging to fibers. Just be very gentle so as not to damage the precious plushie!

Vacuuming Storage Areas

Give all beds, sofas, floors and anywhere your infested plush pals were stored a thorough vacuuming. This helps remove stray hairs that may have viable nits attached. Hard surfaces can be cleaned with a 50/50 vinegar and water solution.

And don’t forget to empty the vacuum or wash its filter after, so eggs don’t just get redistributed!

Storing Properly Afterwards

Once given the all-clear, keep plush toys stored in plastic bins or bags instead of loosely on shelves or beds. This protects them from any roaming lice in the future. It also makes quick inspection easier next time you want to cuddle them!

If lice remain an issue in the home, store stuffed animals sealed up for 2 weeks until the lifecycle ends – just to be 100% sure no nits survived.

Routine Plush Toy Maintenance

Get into the habit of regularly inspecting plushies that have frequent exposure to heads and beds. A quick peek with a flashlight every month or so can catch any potential infestations early. Keeping them sealed in plastic is optimal, but for favorites giving nightly cuddles, just stay vigilant!

Catching lice early makes eliminating them much easier.

Website Key Points
Healthline Tips for combing out nits, cleaning the home, repeat checks for elimination
CDC Overview of lice lifecycle, recommended treatment methods


Lice infestations can happen even in the cleanest homes, especially if small children routinely exchange stuffed animals during playdates and at school. While discovering lice is unpleasant, rest assured proper treatment will rid your child’s plush toys of these pests.

Follow the cleaning methods outlined above to not only eliminate lice from stuffed animals, but also prevent recurrence in the future. With some effort, you can keep your child’s beloved plush companions lice-free for many more years of love and enjoyment.

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