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Cleaning Stuffed Animals

Stuffed animals are designed to be hugged and loved. They can be partners for the long car trip to Grandma's house or for the first airplane ride. They regularly accompany their owners on trips to the store, a museum, or perhaps an overnight stay at a friend's house. Occasionally, they even sneak into backpacks and take a day trip to school. Unfortunately, sometimes all of that loving results in a few dirt marks and unsightly stains that need to be cleaned.

You should always check the care tag before cleaning your stuffed animals, as some stuffed animals might not react well to certain methods. Most stuffed animals are surface washable and state such on their tag. To surface wash a stuffed animal, use a soft cloth dampened with water to wipe the surface while paying extra attention to heavily soiled areas. Some customers prefer to use a gentle cleaner made for stuffed animals or a gentle detergent. If you go this route, be sure to test the cleaner on a hidden spot on the stuffed animal for colorfastness or material damage. If using a cleaner, be sure to wipe the animal with a cloth dampened with only water to remove any cleaner residue. Once the surface has been wiped clean, allow the stuffed animal to air dry. Use a stiff brush with wide plastic bristles to brush the hair out and fluff the stuffed animal. If you have children at home, most likely you will have some of these types of brushes available as they are frequently packaged with dolls or stuffed animals as play accessories.

If the stain, or stains, does not respond to surface washing then you might want to consider machine washing as a last resort. To begin, check the materials on the tag. If the stuffed animal contains polystyrene foam, foam beads, or excelsior then do not clean it in a washing machine. The same applies if the plush animal contains leather, natural fur, mohair, or wool. Cleaning stuffed animals that contain of any of these materials in a washing machine will likely result in damage.

Once you have confirmed that the item does not contain any of the above, check the structure of the stuffed animal. Is it stiffly stuffed? Does it make sounds through a voice box? Does it have joints or stiffeners so it can be bent into different positions? Is it too big to fit in your washing machine? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it is best not to machine wash the stuffed animal as it will most likely be damaged in the process. You don't want your stiffly stuffed giraffe neck to look like a floppy dog tail, nor do you want your chirping bluebird to sound like a vulture (or worse yet, make no sound at all). Also be sure to check the stuffed animal for any holes or damage, as machine washing could result in further tearing. Repair any holes that you find before proceeding.

Once you have reviewed the above conditions and find that the stuffed animal is a candidate for machine washing, remove any accessories that might be attached to the animal. Place the stuffed animal in a delicates bag or a pillow case and close the bag. A gently tied shoestring works well for securely closing a pillow case. Make sure your machine is empty. You don't want to discover that your green shirt bled all over your white stuffed polar bear or that a black stuffed penguin turned your brand new, bright white blouse a dreary gray color. Once the stuffed animal is in the washing machine, select the gentle cycle with a cold wash and a cold rinse. Use a mild, gentle detergent that you have already tested on the plush animal in an inconspicuous spot. If possible, use a front loading washing machine so the stuffed animal does not risk damage from the center agitator.

When you have finished cleaning your stuffed animal there are a few different options for drying it. You can air dry it but, if doing so, please be aware that the stuffed animal might be damp for several days and runs the risk of mildewing inside. Placing the stuffed animal near a dehumidifier for a couple of days will remove the water content much faster than air drying while also reducing the risk of mildew forming inside the stuffed animal. You can also try to machine dry it as most stuffed animals that can be machine washed can be dried using the same method. Leave the clean stuffed animal in the bag and put your machine on a gentle, short cycle with a low temperature or no heat at all if possible. Be sure to check it occasionally and DO NOT place the stuffed animal in the washing machine for extended periods of time and walk away. A couple of short cycles might be necessary to get it sufficiently dry.

Please note that Stuffed Safari does not take responsibility for damage done by following any of the cleaning methods suggested here. We always suggest that you follow the manufacturer's recommendations or contact the manufacturer if the care tag has been removed. If all else fails, as long as the stuffed animal is not covered in flu germs, spaghetti sauce, or other such unfavorable items, always remember that to a child a spot of dirt can signify a degree of love in their favorite stuffed animal.