How To Wash Stuffed Animals: Tips For Cleaning Your Child's Stuffed Toys

How To Wash Your Kid’s Favorite Germ Factories (AKA Stuffed Animals)

March 5, 2021 Updated April 29, 2021

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Stuffed animals — most of us are drowning in them. It’s like they multiply while we sleep. But our kids love ‘em, so what’s a mama supposed to do? You’re stuck with them for better or worse. The thing is… those beloved stuffies, well, they’re germ magnets. A breeding ground for ick. Can you even wash them, though? What happens if you throw your kiddo’s beloved Miss Bun Buns (Sparkleface, Froggy, whatevs) in the washing machine, and she comes out mangled and not quite the same? You don’t want to take that chance, at least not if you ever want your child to forgive you or go to bed at night without a fight. So, the question remains: If decluttering these stuffed animals isn’t an option, how can we keep them clean and relatively germ-free? We’ve got your fix! We’ll walk you through washing stuffed animals in three ways: machine washing, hand washing, and spot cleaning.

Before we get to the good stuff, let’s talk about the particulars of washing different types of stuffed animals. First of all, plan your wash-time well. Don’t think you can toss them in just before bedtime and have it all go swimmingly (#PunTotallyIntended). If your child relies on Miss Bun Buns for peaceful nighty-nights, you’ll end up making the before-bed routine 100-times harder. Come to think of it, skip naptime washing too. Always consider the time it will take to wash and dry the stuffed animal when you get ready to toss it into the wash.

Another thing to consider? The shape the stuffie is in. Is it old, tattered, and worn? If so, it’s probably best to stick with hand washing, lest you accidentally send Miss Bun Buns to a watery grave. Lastly, does your child’s stuffed animal have a battery pack? If so, you obviously can’t submerge it in water. You know this already. So, spot cleaning is the obvious choice for this type of toy. Now that we’ve nailed down the basics, it’s time to explore the three best ways to bathe your little one’s stuffies.

How to Machine Wash Stuffed Animals

If you plan to machine wash the stuffie, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Check the tag for washing instructions. If the tag is long gone, never fear — most stuffed animals are machine washable and will fare just fine.
  • Wash in cold water on the gentlest cycle possible.
  • Machines without agitators are best. But if you have to wash your little one’s stuffie in a top loader, put it in a zippered garment bag or a pillowcase tied with a hair tie. Doing so will protect any glued-on parts from falling off.
  • If Miss Bun Buns is extra dingy or needs a little extra lovin’, feel free to pre-treat (spot test first!). You can also add in a scoop of an oxygen booster for extra stain-fighting power or a little Lysol laundry disinfectant if needed.
  • Throwing a few towels in the load can give the stuffed animal(s) some protection during the wash cycle.
  • Don’t try to machine wash any toys with delicate accessories (sparkly dresses, tiaras, that sort of thing). It won’t end well for either party.
  • Make sure you remember to air dry. Stuffed animals don’t do so hot (#PunsForDays) in the dryer.

How Often Should You Wash Stuffed Animals

Your kiddo takes their stuffie everywhere — the bathroom, the playground, and even to the dinner table. To keep your nugget and the rest of the family safe from germs, wash it at least once a month. A monthly clean is a great way to keep your kid’s allergies and dust mites at bay. If those little critters can latch onto your pillows, Miss Bun Buns isn’t safe either. Thankfully, they die in 130-degree water, so when washing your kid’s stuffie, make sure it’s set to hot.

How to Hand Wash Stuffed Animals

Hand-washing is the best option for those stuffies that are fragile. The more well-loved they are, the less likely they are to hold up to a run through the spin cycle. Otherwise, hand-washing is a pretty simple process. The steps are as follows:

  • Find a basin of some sort — a sink, dishpan, or bucket. And, of course, grab the stuffed animal in question, along with a washing agent. You can use laundry detergent, dish soap, or even baby shampoo. You’ll need approximately one tablespoon of soap per one gallon of water.
  • Get your area set up and your basin filled. Put down a towel, if needed, to catch splashes and drips.
  • Dunk Miss Bun Buns gently into her warm bath. Agitate gently and then leave her to soak.
  • Once she has soaked for an hour or so, it’s time to rinse. You can do this by holding her under a running faucet — cold water, of course. When you feel confident that the stuffie is soap-free, gently squeeze out as much water out as possible to help the drying process. Be sure to squeeze the stuffie, not wring it; you don’t want to cause any damage.
  • With the excess water out, wrap Miss Bun Buns in a towel, warm and snug. Just roll the towel up and press gently. This action also helps speed up the drying process quite a bit.
  • Finally, let Miss Bun Buns air dry, preferably in front of a fan or open window. By the time you finish, that stuffie will be right as rain!

How to Spot Clean Stuffed Animals

Unfortunately, spot cleaning is really the only way to clean those noisemakers with batteries. For obvious reasons, they aren’t submersible. But also for obvious reasons, they’re still gonna get dirty. Fortunately, spot cleaning requires the same minimal supplies as hand washing (in even smaller quantities). The process isn’t too different either. You just need to:

  • Fill a bowl with warm water and a few drops of soap (again, laundry detergent, dish soap, or baby shampoo).
  • Dip a washcloth in the water and gently dab the spots that need cleaning.
  • Next up? Air drying.

That’s pretty much it. If you notice Miss Bun Buns needs a little grooming after her bath, a few passes of the blow-dryer on low heat will help fluff up matted fur. Bonus: The blow dryer trick can work with any of the above washing methods.

How to Clean Stuffed Animals That Cannot Get Wet

Every blue moon, you’ll come across a stuffie that can’t be emersed in water. Even if the toy has an electronic center (or turns into a gremlin when wet) there’s still a way to clean it. Luckily, you can freeze germs away by putting Miss Bun Buns into the freezer.

Put the toy into a ziplock or plastic bag. Make sure it’s sealed tightly. Place the bag into the freezer overnight or for at least three hours. This kills the germs that grow in warm conditions. Then take the stuffie out of the freezer and defrost it. Feel free to blow dry it to speed up the defrosting process.