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 that loving results in a few dirt marks and stains here and there.
Most stuffed animals are surface washable and state such on their tag. You should always check the tag before you begin, as some animals may not react well to this method. To clean, use a soft cloth dampened with water to wipe the surface and remove any 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 pre-test the cleaner on a hidden spot on the animal for colorfastness or material damage. If using a cleaner, be sure to wipe the animal with a cloth dampened with water only to remove any cleaner residue. Once the surface has been wiped clean, allow the animal to 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 there are some of this style of brush running around their play areas, as they quite frequently are packaged as play accessories with dolls or stuffed animals.
If the stain does not respond to a surface washing, you may wish to consider machine washing as a last resort. To begin, check the materials on the tag. If the product contains styrene foam, foam beads, or excelsior, do not wash them. Likewise if the item contains leather, natural fur, mohair or wool - washing it may very well damage it.
Once you have confirmed that the item does not contain any of the above, check the structure of the animal. Is it stiffly stuffed? Does it make sounds through a voicebox? 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 the questions above, it is best not to try to machine wash the stuffed animal, as it most likely will end up 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 - not make sounds 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 may find.
Once you have reviewed the above conditions and find that it is a candidate for machine washing, remove any accessories that may be attached to the animal. Place the stuffed animal in a "delicates" bag or a pillow case and close the bag. 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 your black stuffed penguin's color "bled" all over your new white blouse. Once the animal is in the machine, place the settings on a gentle cycle, with a cold wash and a cold rinse. Use a mild, gentle detergent that you have pretested on the animal in an inconspicuous spot. If possible, use a front loading machine so the animal does not risk damage from the center agitator.
Once the stuffed animal is washed, there are a few different ways to dry it. You may air dry it, but by doing this, please be aware that the animal may be damp for several days, and runs the risk of mildewing inside. Some customers have had much luck by placing the animal near a dehumidifier for a couple of days, thus removing the water content much faster and reducing the mildew risk. You may also try to machine dry it; most animals that can be washed can also be dried. Leave the animal in the bag, and put your machine on a gentle, short cycle with a low temperature. DO NOT place the animal in the machine for extended periods of time and walk away from the machine - be sure to check it occasionally. A couple of short cycles may be needed to get the animal dry.
Please note that Stuffed Safari does not take any responsibility for any damage done with any of the cleaning steps here, and we always suggest you follow the manufacturers 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 "best stuffed friend".