A close-up photo of a child's tattered teddy bear, soaking in a sudsy basin of warm water, surrounded by colorful bubbles, capturing the innocence and care involved in washing cherished stuffed animals.

Does your child’s favorite stuffed animal look a little worse for wear? Stuffed animals can harbor dirt, germs, and allergens over time. Keeping them clean is important for your child’s health and to extend the life of these cherished toys.

If you’re short on time, here’s the key to cleaning stuffed animals: spot clean often with mild soap and water, occasionally machine wash on gentle cycle using a laundry bag, and allow to fully air dry. Read on for more details on these steps and other tips for keeping plush toys clean.

Spot Clean Stuffed Animals Frequently

Check toys for stains weekly

We all love our stuffed pals, but it’s important to check them at least once a week for any dirt, stains, or sticky spots that can attract germs over time. You’ll be surprised how fast small spills can happen!

Whether it’s some juice or a bit of play dough, weekly checks ensure you catch any messy mishaps early before they have a chance to set.

Get your stuffed animals together each Sunday when you are changing linens or tidying up and give them a quick once over. Check crevices, embroidered details, and fabric seams carefully in good lighting. Look at both sides of appliques or attached clothes.

It’s so easy for little hands to wipe sticky fingers or dribble milk in hard to notice places! Check any plastic eyes and noses for grime buildup too.

Hand wash with mild detergent

If you find a fresh stain on your stuffed pal, don’t fret! Simply grab a soft clean cloth or toothbrush and mix up mild laundry detergent with warm water until sudsy. Gently scrub only on the affected area, taking care not to saturate any inner stuffing.

Rinse thoroughly to avoid residue buildup over time. Avoid harsh scrubbing and let toys fully air dry before giving them back to playtime rotation to keep them looking fluffy and bright.

For tough stains, try letting a small amount of concentrated detergent or stain remover soak on the spot for 5-10 minutes before gently dabbing – but never let toys sit wet for too long! Repeated stain treatments may lighten fabric dyes over time on well-loved animals.

Rinse thoroughly

After spot treating stains on stuffed pals, you’ll want to carefully rinse the area with plain water until suds have been cleared. Take extra care to rinse hidden seam folds thoroughly. Leftover cleaning product residue trapped inside the fibers or seams of fabric toys can cause skin irritation when chewed or hugged over time.

For rinse water, distilled water is preferred for its purity to prevent mineral deposits over many washes. But clean tap water works too in most cases. After rinsing, gently squeeze excess moisture from the fabric without twisting or wringing before air drying.

And always keep plush pets away from direct heat sources when wet – no tumble drying or direct sunlight!

Air dry fully before giving back to child

It’s tempting to quickly “rescue” a favorite snuggly friend from the drying line when playtime cries begin. But it’s vital to patiently allow even small washed areas at least 24 hours to fully air dry before giving stuffed animals back to little ones.

Damp fibers are vulnerable breeding grounds for mold and bacteria – yuck!

Set your stuffed pets in a clean, pet-free area with plenty of airflow at room temperature. Placing near a gently circulating fan speeds evaporation. Turn toys every 12 hours to encourage even drying front and back. Check seams by touch before deeming fully dried and ready for play.

Take your time for your child’s health and to prevent musty odors.

By spot cleaning your child’s plush pals every week, you can keep them looking bright, smelling fresh, and remove germs before they accumulate. Check them over regularly, treat stains fast with mild detergent, rinse thoroughly, and air dry completely.

With a little attention, you’ll keep cute stuffed friends clean and huggable for years to come!

Occasionally Machine Wash Stuffed Toys

Use a laundry bag

When it’s time to deep clean your stuffed animals, be sure to place them inside a laundry bag before tossing them in the washing machine. This prevents the items from getting damaged or tangled up with other laundry. Mesh bags made specifically for delicates or lingerie work perfectly.

Just make sure to tie or zip the bag securely shut! Leaving the bag partly open could allow the toys to fall out.

Wash on gentle cycle with cold water

Choosing the right washing machine settings helps ensure a safe, effective stuffed animal cleaning. Opt for the gentle or delicate cycle, which agitates clothes less roughly. And always wash with cold water—hot water could negatively affect dyes and materials commonly used in plush toys.

According to fabric care experts, cold water cycles tend to be gentler on fabrics, while still getting your stuffed pals squeaky clean. Isn’t that great news? 👍 Washing with cold water means you don’t have to sacrifice cleaning power for safety.

Use mild detergent

When adding detergent, avoid heavy-duty options containing brighteners or bleach. These can be too harsh on stuffed animals. Instead, look for a gentle or sensitive skin laundry detergent. Baby shampoos and soap-free cleansers also work well. Follow dosage directions carefully to prevent over-sudsing.

Skip the fabric softener

It may sound counterintuitive, but skip the fabric softener when laundering plush toys. Chemical residues left behind by liquid softeners and dryer sheets can cause sensitivities for some people. Little ones may end up with skin irritation from fabric softener transferred onto their stuffed pals.

Since the toys don’t need additional fragrance or softness, it’s best not to take any risks.

Air dry completely

After washing, it’s essential to completely air dry stuffed animals before playtime can resume. Putting damp toys into a hot dryer could damage materials. Instead, squeeze out excess moisture and let toys dry naturally on top of towels. Make sure to fluff and rotate items for even drying.

Check for any remaining moisture deep in seams before declaring toys ready for fun. With this proper care, your stuffed pals can spark joy for years to come! 🧸

Clean According to Fabric Type

Delicate fabrics: gentle wash and air dry

Stuffed animals made from delicate fabrics like silk, velvet, or lace require extra special care when cleaning. The key is to be very gentle to avoid damaging the fabric or any embellishments. Here are some tips for keeping your delicate stuffed pals sparkling clean:

  • Hand wash only using a very mild soap or detergent formulated for delicates. Woolite or baby shampoo work well.
  • Fill a sink or basin with cool water and add a small amount of soap. Gently swish and squeeze the soapy water through the fabric to lift dirt and oils.
  • Don’t submerge, scrub harshly, wring, or twist the stuffed animal which can cause damage.
  • Rinse thoroughly with plain cool water to remove all traces of soap then gently press out excess moisture with a towel.
  • Reshape the stuffed animal and allow to air dry completely on a towel before storing. Hang drying is also an option but clip clothespins very gently to a shape-safe area.

Plastic eyes and parts: surface clean only

Plush stuffed animals often have plastic elements like eyes, noses, paw pads or inner squeaker devices. It’s best not to get these parts wet to prevent damage or mold growth. Here are some safe cleaning methods:

  • Use disinfectant wipes containing alcohol to gently wipe plastic areas removing surface dirt and killing germs.
  • For lightly soiled areas, rub gently with an art gum eraser to lift dust and debris.
  • Spot clean stains on fabric areas around plastic pieces very carefully with diluted dish soap on a soft toothbrush.
  • For squeakers exposed to saliva, disinfect with pet-safe antimicrobial spray and allow to fully dry open to air.
  • Check any glued joints around eyes, noses etc and re-glue if needed to prevent detachment during cleaning.

Plush fabrics: wash more frequently

Stuffed plush toys made from synthetics like polyester fleece, microfiber or plush can withstand regular machine washing to keep them fresh and clean long-term.

  • Check toy labels first and follow any washing instructions if provided. Generally machine wash cold, delicate cycle with similar colors is safe.
  • Use laundry bags for extra protection to prevent damage from other items. Air dry thoroughly after washing.
  • Clean weekly or every two weeks for toys heavily used or mouthed by pets or young kids.
  • Spot scrub with carpet cleaner for tough stains from food, makeup, dirt etc using soft brush.
  • Check seams regularly and hand stitch any loosening to prevent hole tears. Clip any snags in fabric promptly too.

With some gentle care for more delicate fabrics, and frequent cleaning for sturdy plush toys, you can keep cherished stuffed pals looking their best for years of love and enjoyment! Check out this stuffed animal cleaning guide for more great tips.

Disinfect Stuffed Animals If Needed

Use vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or Lysol

If your stuffed animals have been exposed to illness or are just looking a bit dusty, a disinfecting cleaning is in order. Some gentle yet effective disinfectants to use are:

  • Vinegar: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spritz onto stuffed animals, let sit for a few minutes, then put into the washer on a gentle cycle.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: Mix a 3% solution with water, spritz onto stuffed toys, let fizz for 5 minutes, then rinse and air dry.
  • Lysol Laundry Sanitizer: Follow instructions on the bottle for adding to your washer, then wash stuffed animals on a gentle cycle.

These methods can help kill bacteria and make sure your stuffed pals are fresh and clean.

For mold/mildew: vinegar soak and dry in sun

Uh oh, is your beloved teddy bear smelling a bit moldy? Don’t worry, with some vinegar and sunshine you can get them fresh again! Here are the steps:

  1. Fill a bucket or sink with equal parts white vinegar and water. Submerge the moldy stuffed animal.
  2. Let it soak for at least an hour, longer for more severe mold.
  3. Wring it out gently and thoroughly to remove excess moisture.
  4. Lay outside in direct sunlight for 6+ hours, flipping halfway. The sun’s UV rays help kill mold spores.
  5. If needed, very lightly brush the toy once dry to remove any remaining mold residue.

And voila, your stuffed pal will be mold-free and fresh as new!

For lice, bed bugs: hot dryer cycle or freezer time

Got a case of lice or bed bugs on your stuffed animals? As unnerving as that sounds, the solution can be simple:

Hot Dryer Freezer
Method Wash stuffed animals, then run a hot dryer cycle for 30 mins Seal toys in bag and freeze for 4 days
Why it works Heat kills lice & eggs Cold temperature kills bed bugs

As you can see, the hot dryer method stops a lice infestation, while the deep freezer treatment eliminates any sneaky bed bugs. So bid farewell to those creepy crawlies and say hello to clean stuffed animals!

Other Useful Tips for Keeping Plush Toys Clean

Vacuum stuffed animals regularly

It’s a great idea to vacuum your plush toys once a week to suck up dust, dirt, food crumbs, and other debris that can accumulate on them over time. Use a soft brush vacuum attachment and gently go over the entirety of each stuffed animal.

This quick clean helps keep them fresh between occasional full washes.

Spot clean immediately after spills

Don’t let stains set on your stuffed animals! If you accidentally spill something on them or notice new spots, gently dab the area with a soft cloth and mild soap diluted in water. Avoid harsh scrubbing. Then let air dry completely before giving back to your kid.

Store out of child’s reach when very dirty

If your child’s beloved plush buddy gets extremely grubby from lots of love and play, consider temporarily storing it up high or in a closed bin until you have time to properly clean it. This keeps the excessive dirt from spreading and gives you a chance to freshen it up.

Check stuffing for rips when washing

Before placing plush toys in the washing machine, carefully check the seams and openings for any interior peeks of stuffing. Small rips can easily grow bigger in the wash. If you spot a tear, either hand wash gently instead or seal up the hole with stsitches first.

Consider washable toys for babies and toddlers

For very young kids who may drool, teeth, or have accidents on their stuffed pals, choose plush toys labeled “washable” when possible. These tend to have more durable, kid-friendly designs and materials built to withstand frequent machine washing.

Here are some top-rated washable stuffed animals for babies and toddlers.


While it’s practically impossible to keep stuffed animals in pristine condition when being loved on by kids and babies, with some basic cleaning you can keep these favored friends clean enough for safe, healthy enjoyment.

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