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Cleaning Stuffed Animals

Stuffed animals are for hugging, loving, and playing. Proper stuffed animal care is essential for extending their lives. They are partners on the long car trip to Grandma's house and co-pilots on first airplane rides. They accompany their best friends on trips to the store, the zoo, and overnight stays at friends' homes. Sometimes they even sneak into backpacks and take day trips to school. Unfortunately, all of the fun and companionship can result in dirt marks and unsightly stains. Cleaning stuffed animals doesn't have to be a mystery. Follow this simple guide and keep those plush pals looking great!

Stuffed Animals Drying on a Clothesline

Surface Washing

You should always check the care tag before cleaning stuffed animals. Some stuffed animals might not react well to certain methods. The majority of stuffed animals are surface washable and state such on their tags. To surface wash a stuffed animal, use a soft cloth dampened with water to gently wipe the surface. Be sure to pay 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 spot test the cleaner on the stuffed animal for colorfastness or material damage.

If using a cleaner, be sure to wipe the animal with a water dampened cloth to remove any residue. Use a stiff brush with wide plastic bristles to brush the hair out. If you have children at home, most likely you will have some of these small plastic brushes. These handy accessories frequently come packaged with dolls or long-haired stuffed animals. Be sure to fluff the stuffed animal's fur diligently. Alternate between wiping and brushing and work the fur in all directions.

Consider the Washing Machine

If the stain, or stains, does not respond to surface washing then you might want to consider machine washing as an alternative. How do you determine if a stuffed animal is machine washable? To view all of our machine washable stuffed animals, click here. If you see your stuffed animal at that link then it is machine washable. If you don't see it or you bought it elsewhere then you will need to do a little investigating. Begin by checking 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 stiff or firmly stuffed? Does it make sounds through a voice box? Does it have joints or stiffeners? Can it bend into different positions due to internal wires? 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. Cleaning stuffed animals that meet these criteria in the washing machine will result in damage.

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. Machine washing could result in further tearing. Repair any holes that you find before proceeding with machine washing.

Machine Washing

After you determine that a stuffed animal is machine washable, follow these easy instructions. First, remove any attached accessories from the stuffed 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 washing machine is empty. You don't want to discover that your green shirt bled all over your white stuffed polar bear. A black stuffed penguin can easily turn your brand new, bright white blouse to a dreary gray color. Empty the machine to avoid creating more problems!

Once the stuffed animal is in the washing machine, select the gentle cycle with a cold wash and a cold rinse. Use a mild laundry detergent that you have already spot-tested on the plush animal in an inconspicuous area. If possible, use a front loading washing machine so the stuffed animal does not risk damage from the center agitator. You can machine wash several stuffed animals at once using this pillow case or bag method.

The cleaning process can be troubling to some children. If you think this describes your child, then it is probably best to clean the stuffed animals discreetly. You can explain their fresh new look later! Other children will find cleaning stuffed animals to be a fun activity. If you think this describes your child, then you can also show them how easy it is to do a load of towels. They learn a useful skill and you get a little extra free time. Everybody wins. Besides, it's only a chore if they don't think it is fun!

Drying Methods

Cleaning stuffed animals is only the beginning. After they're clean, it's time to consider the best drying methods. You can air dry them but, if doing so, please be aware that they might be damp for several days and run the risk of mildewing inside. Drying them on a window sill or clothesline can add a fresh outdoor scent and reduce the chance of mildew. Placing the stuffed animals near a dehumidifier for a couple of days will also remove the water content much faster than air drying. This method of drying further reduces the risk of mildew forming inside the stuffed animals. Using a blow dryer on a no heat setting works great for a quick dry method.

You can dry machine washable stuffed animals in the dryer using proper precautions. Leave the clean stuffed animals in the bag and put your dryer on a gentle, short cycle with a low temperature setting. The air dry setting works best if possible. Be sure to check the drying stuffed animals occasionally. DO NOT place the stuffed animals in the dryer for extended periods of time and walk away. A couple of short cycles might be necessary to get your stuffed animals sufficiently dry. The dry time will depend on how many stuffed animals and the settings that you use.

Special Note

Please note that Stuffed Safari does not take responsibility for damage done by following any of these cleaning methods. We must suggest that you follow the manufacturer's recommendations. Contact the manufacturer if the care tag is missing or call us if you need help identifying a brand. We are pretty good at determining a stuffed animal's source with a picture or description. It's kind of our thing!

A bit of dirt or staining can signify a degree of love in a child's favorite stuffed animal. Consider this when you are planning to wash any plush pal. Only deep clean them when it is necessary. This is particularly important if the stuffed animal is well-worn or very old. Some stuffed animals might not survive a thorough washing. Cleaning stuffed animals is easy if you follow these useful tips but if you always run the risk of damaging them. If there is no danger then a little bit of wear can add to their charm.