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How to Clean Plush Toys and Stuffed Animals

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School’s almost out and the weather is warming up! For most kids, that means spending time outdoors and maybe going on a family trip. Children love taking their favorite plush toys and teddy bears wherever they go, from the backyard to the car or plane, and those toys are bound to start looking a bit dirty. Here are some tips to clean your child’s stuffed toys without ruining them.

Dry “Shampoo” and Fluff

All stuffed toys pick up dirt and smells simply from being handled repeatedly. For a light cleaning, use baking soda to “shampoo” and deodorize.

  1. Put the toy in a household garbage bag with a 1/2 cup of baking soda (you may need more or less depending on the toy’s size). 
  2. Close the top of the bag as securely as possible and shake for about a minute so the baking soda gets all over the toy. 
  3. Let the toy sit in the bag for 30 minutes and then remove it. 
  4. Shake the toy and fluff with your hands to get out the baking soda. 
  5. If needed, you can use a vacuum with the tube attachment to remove any excess baking soda.

Spot Cleaning

For plush toys marked “surface wash only”, spot cleaning with a gentle cleanser is your best bet. Depending on the material and color, different cleansers may work better than others. We recommend baby shampoo, a detergent designed for delicates like Woolite or a homemade cleanser (check online for recipes).

  1. Test the cleanser on a less visible part of the toy first to make sure it won’t discolor or damage the fur. 
  2. Put a dab of the cleanser on a damp washcloth and gently rub the stain until it disappears. 
  3. For tougher stains, use a toothbrush to scrub more deeply. 
  4. Clean the cloth and wipe the stained area with water to remove the cleanser. 
  5. Let the toy air dry and then fluff with hands..

Hand Washing

If you see a label marked “hand wash only”, you can dunk it in a sink or the bathtub to clean it.

  1. Fill sink or bathtub with cold water. 
  2. Dunk the toy under the water and squeeze it. If dirt comes out, you’re on the right track! Keep squeezing until the water coming out is clear. 
  3. Dip an old toothbrush in liquid dish soap or laundry detergent and scrub out any stains or discolored areas on the toy.
  4. Submerge the toy and squeeze out the soap, continuing until the water coming out of the toy looks clear. 
  5. Rinse and squeeze the toy under running water to remove any excess detergent. 
  6. Hang up to air dry (we recommend outside or someplace where you don’t mind water dripping). 
  7. If needed, fluff with hands to revive the plush.

Machine Washing

Many of today’s plush toys are sturdy enough to be put in the washing machine, including lots of baby toys by GUND and other manufacturers. But don’t just throw them in with the rest of your laundry!

  1. Put stuffed toys in an empty pillow case and seal with clips or pins. 
  2. Wash on a gentle, cold water cycle. 
  3. Hang up to air dry. 
  4. Fluff lightly with hands (optional) to return the toy to its original plush look.

With the above cleaning tips, you don’t have to worry about your son or daughter bringing in a stuffed toy covered in dirt, grass or food stains. And let’s face it - toys get grimier faster over the summer months because our kids are more active. That’s why we recommend including your children when cleaning their toys. They may learn a valuable lesson about caring for their toys so frequent cleaning isn’t necessary!


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