Stuffed animals are more than just toys -- they're beloved childhood companions that can last for years with the proper care. But what happens when your child's favorite baby toys get dirty or start to smell? Fear not, we are here to guide you on how to clean a stuffed animal.
What to do before washing a stuffed animal
Before you start washing a stuffed animal, there are a few steps you should take:
Check for a care tag: Many stuffed animals come with a care tag that provides instructions on how to clean them. If your plush toy has one, be sure to follow the instructions carefully.
Color test the fabric: Before washing, test a small, inconspicuous area of the stuffed animal to ensure the fabric and decorations won't bleed or fade. DO NOT SKIP this step.
Purchase the right detergent: A well-loved stuffed animal spends a LOT of time next to your baby or child’s skin. You should use a mild detergent that is strong enough to clean and remove stains but gentle enough not to irritate delicate skin with contact dermatitis or trigger other allergies with heavy fragrance.
We recommend Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent Fragrance-Free. Made with natural, plant-based ingredients, this pH-neutral, concentrated detergent is fragrance-free, lab-certified as hypoallergenic, and pediatrician- and dermatologist-tested. (Learn more about why hypoallergenic detergents are the best choice for anything that goes near or on your children). It is made with a powerful blend of natural cleaning enzymes that clean and remove stains without heavy chemicals or unnecessary fragrance. Learn how enzymes work here and more about the harsh chemicals we DON’T use in our products here.
What you'll need to clean a stuffed animal
- Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent in Fragrance-Free
- A washing machine with a gentle cycle
- A mesh laundry bag for protecting your toy in the machine
- For handwashing, a laundry tub or sink and water
- Baking soda (for removing stains from hard surfaces)
- A soft-bristled brush
- Several clean towels
How to clean stuffed animals in the washer
- Protect the stuffed animal: Place the stuffed animal in a mesh laundry bag to protect it during the wash cycle. You can also wrap it in a towel for extra protection.
- Choose gentle wash settings: Use the delicate cycle and cold water to prevent damage to the stuffed animal. Learn about washing machine cycles here.
- Add detergent: Add a small amount Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent to the wash cycle.
- Air dry: After the wash cycle is complete, remove the stuffed animal from the mesh bag and let it air dry.
How to hand wash a stuffed animal
- Soak in cold water: Fill a sink or basin with cold water and add a small amount of gentle laundry detergent and a tablespoon of baking soda. Submerge the stuffed animal in the water and let it soak for a few minutes.
- Add detergent: Use a small amount of Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent and gently scrub the stuffed animal with your hands to remove dirt and stains. Use a soft-bristled brush to clean hard-to-reach areas.
- Rinse: Rinse the stuffed animal thoroughly with cold water.
- Air dry: Squeeze out any excess water and let the stuffed animal air dry.
How to clean a vinyl doll
- Wipe-down with baby wipe: Gently wipe the surface of the doll with a baby wipe to remove surface dirt and stains.
- Create an abrasive paste to remove surface marks: Mix a small amount of baking soda with a few drops of water. Using a damp cloth, rub the paste onto the surface of the doll using a circular motion until the mark disappears. Wipe residue away with a wet cloth.
How to wash a doll's hair
- Avoid getting the scalp area too wet: When washing a doll's hair, don’t get the “scalp” area too wet, as this can cause the head stuffing to become damp which leads to the growth of mold or mildew. If possible, cover the scalp area with a plastic bag or towel to protect it from moisture.
- Rinse the doll's hair under a faucet: Hold the doll's hair under a tap and let the warm water run through it to remove any loose dirt or debris.
- Use one or two drops of shampoo: Apply a small amount of gentle shampoo to the hair, being careful not to get any on the scalp.
- Gently lather the shampoo: Gently lather the shampoo into the hair with your fingers, being careful not to tangle the hair.
- Rinse thoroughly: Rinse the shampoo out of the hair with cool water.
- Air dry: Gently pat the excess water out of the hair with a towel and let the doll air dry. Avoid using a hair dryer or other heat source, as this can damage the hair. Once the hair is dry, you can brush it with a soft-bristled brush to remove any tangles.
Tips and tricks for removing stubborn stains
Sometimes, a stuffed animal may have a stubborn stain that won't come out with regular washing. Here are some tips and tricks to try:
- Use a stain remover: Apply a small amount of stain remover to the affected area and let it sit for a few minutes before washing.
- Try vinegar: Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water and apply the solution to the stain. Let it sit for a few minutes before washing.
- Use baking soda: Make a paste with baking soda and water and apply it to the stain. Let it sit for a few minutes before washing.
Frequently Asked Questions About Washing Stuffed Animals
How long will it take to clean a stuffed animal?
Cleaning a stuffed animal will take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours depending on your cleaning method and drying time.
When and how often should I clean a stuffed animal?
You don't need to clean a stuffed animal after every use. For stuffed animals that get played with and loved daily, plan to wash every week or two or when they become visibly dirty. You can also spot clean in-between washes. For stuffed animals that get played with less frequently, plan to wash every few months. Of course, if your child regularly puts the stuffed animal in their mouth, you may want to clean it at least weekly.
Can I put my child's stuffed toy in the dryer?
It's not recommended to put a stuffed animal in the dryer as the high heat can damage the fabric and stuffing. Instead, let the stuffed animal air dry.
How can I freshen my child's teddy bear or stuffed animal without washing it?
To quickly refresh a stuffed animal, sprinkle baking soda on the surface and let it sit for a few hours or overnight. Brush off the excess before returning to your child.
How do I clean a vintage, antique, or sentimental toy that can’t be washed?
If you have a vintage or sentimental stuffed animal that can't be washed, try spot cleaning it with a damp cloth and mild soap. Be sure to test the soap on a small, inconspicuous area first to make sure it won't damage the fabric.
Keep Your Child's Stuffed Animals Looking and Smelling Fresh with Heritage Park Laundry Essentials
Properly cleaning stuffed animals will keep them looking and smelling fresh and help maintain their overall longevity. Follow the steps listed above, being certain to check the care tag and color test prior to washing. Choose Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent in Fragrance-Free, hypoallergenic formula to avoid any irritation or allergic reactions.
At Heritage Park, caring for fine fabric is our passion. As lifelong collectors of luxury sheets, towels, and cloths, we found many commercially available "gentle detergents" either damaged our fabrics or didn't get the job done, leaving stains. We knew we could do better. That’s why we developed a formula with the perfect balance of powerful -- yet safe -- ingredients designed to remove tough, set-in stains while remaining gentle on luxury linens. Please connect with us at (800) 977-1841 or visit our store or email us with any product feedback or cleaning questions.