Our Favorite Ways to Clean Stuffed Animals

Posted by Whole Earth | 02.15.2018


What do you do if your child takes his favorite stuffed animal everywhere? Not just to bed, but to breakfast, lunch and dinner, to the playground, on trips to the grocery store, playdates and family vacations, and shares it with everyone including the family pets. It becomes a host for dirt, food stains, germs and who knows what else. While it is said that a certain amount of exposure to dirt can be a good thing for a child’s immune system, the beloved stuffed animal has seemingly gone far beyond any health benefits and could even be a danger.


Extricating the companion stuffed animal for cleaning may be a challenge. If your child has latched onto a specific animal to the exclusion of all others, it might be a good idea to purchase one or two more. Beloved toys can be lost, wear out, or otherwise disappear, and having backups can prevent tears and trauma.  If it’s time for Teddy (or possibly a stuffed octopus) to be “refreshed,” his doppelganger can be substituted during nap or bedtime, and Teddy gets to visit the “spa” for a deep cleaning and R&R.  Keeping two or three Teddy’s in rotation assures that they wear equally and would appear unchanged, just clean, to an unsuspecting child.  This level of subterfuge probably isn’t necessary with an older child, but for a toddler or young child, it’s a blessing.


So how do we clean Teddy?  Read the care label that, if it’s not attached to the toy, hopefully you’ve saved along with his tags. Knowing who made the stuffed animal may also be helpful, as some stuffed animal companies include basic care instructions on their website, either as general information or sometimes for a specific toy.


“Machine washable” are the magic words you hope to find in the care instructions, but not all stuffed animals can be cleaned this way.  Animals with long fur, attached clothing, non-polyester stuffing or multiple types of fabric, may require special handling.  But lucky for us, Teddy is machine washable. Here’s what to do.


If there are some stains or spots, use a minimal bit of mild soap, testing it on an inconspicuous part of the toy to be sure that it will not damage or discolor the fabric, and then use a clean, damp cloth to gently remove as much of the stain as you can.  Next, place Teddy in a mesh laundry bag. Set the washing machine to delicate, use cold water and a small amount of mild soap.  After his bath, don’t put Teddy in the drier.  Let him air dry, hung up by his ears.  When he’s dry, fluff up his fur a bit, if needed, and he’ll be ready to return to life with his favorite child.


But what if Teddy cannot be washed? Can he still be cleaned up? The answer is yes.  You will need a plastic garbage bag, baking soda, a vacuum cleaner with a hose and a soft bristled brush.  For a medium sized stuffed animal, put half a cup of baking soda in the garbage bag. If your animal is larger, use more baking soda.  Place the stuffed animal in the bottom of the bag. Tie a knot in the bag or use a twist tie to close it up leaving enough room for the toy to tumble when the bag is shaken.  Pick up the bag supporting it on the top and bottom and shake up and down and side to side for two minutes.  Leave the toy in the bag for 15 minutes. The baking soda will freshen it and help to remove surface dirt.  Carefully open the bag (don’t inhale!) and gently shake off the excess baking soda from the stuffed animal into the trash bag. Dispose of the bag and baking soda in the trash.  Use the vacuum to remove more of the dirt infused baking soda residue, then use a soft bristled brush to remove even more. Finally, gently shake and pat the toy to free it from the last dregs of baking soda and dirt.  Behold, Teddy is refreshed and ready to go!


You’ll find lots of ideas for cleaning beloved stuffed animals, including heirloom toys, online.  But begin with the care instructions on the stuffed animal’s label or visit their maker’s website for expert advice to ensure a long and happy life for Teddy. 




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