Best Ways to Wash Stuffed Animals

Featured image of teddy bear on wire

Many parents struggle to find an answer to the question of – how to wash stuffed animals. It’s pretty clear why they should be washed, but it’s not easy to find the best way to clean your kid’s stuffed animals while making sure your child’s wellbeing isn’t being jeopardized through exposure to toxic chemicals and aggressive washing agents.

Instead of diving right into the matter, take a moment and check out some of the points we’ve made in this article. These tips and tricks should give you a better insight into the do’s and don’ts of washing stuffed animals, and thus should minimize the risks your child would otherwise be exposed to.

Can You Wash Stuffed Animals?

The short answer to this question is – Yes, you can. However, there are a couple of caveats and conditions that must be met before you can safely wash a stuffed toy. In other words, you can’t just toss a toy into the washing machine, choose an arbitrary cycle, and get it over with. Instead, make sure to follow a set of simple rules:

  • Do not wash toys that contain electronic components
  • Do not wash toys that are filled with small foam balls
  • Avoid washing toys that have items glued on (glued-on eyes should survive)
  • Do not wash particularly old or fragile toys

Now that we’ve established what NOT to do, it’s time to find an answer to the questions of how to wash stuffed animals the proper way.

Machine Washing

The vast majority of stuffed toys are safe to wash in a washing machine. However, you should take steps in order to minimize the potential damage by choosing the right cycles and detergents. It’s always a good idea to use mild detergents in lieu of stronger ones as they can cause discoloration and other predicaments.

Here are a couple of steps you should follow if you decide to use a washing machine:

  • Always use the gentlest cycle available
  • Avoid machine washing toys that have components made of leather
  • Pre-treat stubborn stains with a stain remover before putting the toy in the washing machine (let it sit for a few minutes)
  • Put the toy in a mesh laundry bag or a pillowcase if you don’t have one. This will minimize damage from tumbling
  • Use a mild detergent and wash with cold water
  • Air dry the toys

Before you put the toy into the washing machine, you should always read the tag. It usually contains useful information in regards to washing, and it helps a lot when it comes to choosing the right cycle and temperatures.

Some people recommend weighing a toy before cleaning it, and it’s for a good reason. Even though it seems pretty redundant, weighing a toy allows you to evaluate its level of dryness after washing. Many people oversee this particular step and consequently end up with moldy and even rotten toys. Always make sure the toy is completely dry before you let your kid play with it.

If you’re struggling to find a mild detergent, go for eco-friendly brands. After washing, air-dry the toy in a ventilated environment. Avoid exposing it to direct sunlight as it can cause color fading.

Image of kermit washing

Washing by Hand

As you can assume, the alternative to the abovementioned method is – washing by hand. In fact, it’s somewhat of a more recommended method than machine washing due to several reasons, mainly because it doesn’t expose the toy to as much potential damage. Washing by hand is also considered a bit safer than machine washing as you have complete control over the process rather than relying on the quality of your machine.

Here are the steps you should take when hand washing a toy:

  • Check for delicate and sensitive parts (electronics, wooden components)
  • Submerge the toy
  • Add detergent (must be mild)
  • Scrub and squeeze the toy periodically
  • Squeeze the excess water out and drip dry the toy

The first step is pretty straightforward – all you have to do is check for parts that might get damaged if submerged under water. This includes electronic components and sometimes small parts made of (usually) wood that can be found in some toys (wood is used for structural integrity).

Submerging the toy is also pretty simple. The vital part of this particular step you should remember is to use cold water. Submerge the toy and squeeze it, and subsequently lift the toy and squeeze the water out again. Repeat this process for a few times to get rid of surface grime.

While adding the detergent might seem like a simple process, you should be careful of what kind of washing agent you’re using. For example, you should always avoid particularly aggressive agents, and those that contain bleach or large amounts of chlorine. Some people decide to use bleach for disinfecting purposes, but that too comes with a few caveats.

Scrubbing and squeezing can also be done with the help of some improvised tools like a toothbrush or a conventional hard-bristled brush. With that being said, it’s always better to use softer brushes to prevent potential damage.

Extra-Delicate Cleaning

As we’ve mentioned, the vast majority of stuffed toys are machine washable. However, there are some instances in which one cannot clean a toy in the washing machine due to a particular reason (usually because the toy is old and fragile). In case you stumble upon a similar situation, it might be a good idea to resort to extra-gentle cleaning rather than risking it all with a machine.

Here are the steps for optimal extra-delicate cleaning:

  • Remove the odor and dust by using a damp cloth
  • Use baking soda to remove smells thoroughly
  • Mix a bowl of soapy water and make sure you use mild agents
  • Rinse the toy by wiping the surface with a damp cloth
  • Dry the toy with a towel, do not expose it to direct sunlight

The most important thing about this particular method is to stay patient and persistent. The other two aforementioned methods are usually easier to utilize but can be detrimental for the toy, whereas extra-delicate cleaning can’t.

Image of dirty stuffed bear

Things You Should Pay Attention To

When drying toys, do not use a hair drier, tumble drying, or any drying cycle for that matter. This can cause damage to the toy and jeopardize its overall integrity as well as aesthetic appeal, especially if old and fragile toys are in question. On top of that, avoid drying the toys in direct sunlight as it can cause discoloration.

Always air dry washed toys.

Another important thing you should pay attention to is the strength of the detergent you’re using. As we’ve pointed out, you should always use mild washing agents in order to preserve both the aesthetic appeal of the toy and your child’s health. Using bleach and chlorine can be a dangerous game if you don’t know what you’re doing.

As you can tell, there are quite a few useful methods you can use to wash your child’s stuffed toys. However, it’s important to get familiar with these processes, so that you can expect the best results each time you decide to wash your kid’s toys.

Remember to pay attention to cleaning agents you’re using, the overall condition of the toy before you decide to wash it, and most importantly – keep your kids safe from dirt, mold, and other nasty stuff that’s lurking in their furry friends.

Author: Jonathan M. Ward
Author: Jonathan M. Ward

Himself a father of two, John is obsessed with getting the most out of every children’s product on the market, finding value wherever it can be found. His years of study in developmental psychology coupled with his passion for parenting make him an invaluable asset to our team.

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