How to Wash Stuffed Animals

How to Wash Stuffed Animals

A Guide to Washing Stuffed Animals

Where kids go, their favorite stuffed animals are sure to follow. As every parent knows, stuffed toys live in the splash zone, exposed to all the grime and germs that are a part of a child’s daily life. Clean stuffed animals may seem like an urban legend, but with the right approach, your kid’s toys can recover from messes big and small. Here’s a guide to caring for stuffed animals, from clearing away dirt and dust to tackling tough stains.

Dry Residue

Whether your child’s stuffed animal was dragged through sticks, twigs, and spider webs or just picked up some dirt, dry residue can be cleaned away easily and effectively. Vacuums are a great way to clean stuffed animals. Using a brush attachment, simply vacuum up the dry residue. Since even dry residue can build up over time, regularly vacuuming stuffed animals is a great way to keep them clean. After you’ve cleared away the dry residue, you can use a wide-toothed comb to brush it out and restore its fluff.

Sticky Messes

If it touches your child’s hands, it will probably reach their stuffed animal. Popsicles, orange juice, food, and more get stuck in the soft material of stuffed toys. They’re also exposed to sweat, odors, and bacteria—particularly after your child has been sick. But don’t worry—taking care of grimy and sticky stuffed animals is easier than it seems.

First, before you clean a stuffed animal, check to see if it comes with a care label. The care label may indicate if you should proceed with a surface wash, hand wash, or machine wash.

Surface Wash

If a care label specifies surface wash only, it’s not recommended to submerge the stuffed animal in water completely. Typically, this is because the animal is stuffed with polystyrene foam, foam beads, or excelsior (wood wool) that could be damaged if wholly submerged. Beanie babies, for example, are filled with foam beads instead of regular batting, so surface washing is recommended. Additionally, anything with an electronic component—lights, music boxes, and so on—should be surface wash only.

To surface wash, start with a damp cloth and a little bit of cold water. If the stuffed animal needs a deeper clean, try mixing cool water with a mild detergent. Our natural liquid laundry detergent is hypoallergenic and gentle on sensitive skin, so it’s a great choice for all things kid-related. Mix a tablespoon of detergent into a spray bottle of water for easy use. If you’re looking to skip the hassle, check out the multipurpose Kitchen & Bath Household Cleaner from Charlie’s Soap. It packs the same cleaning power in a ready-to-use spray bottle. 

Spray the stuffed animal with the cleaning mixture and gently wipe it with a clean cloth. Use a wet cloth to wipe away the suds as you go. Lastly, air dry or use a blow dryer until the entire stuffed animal is dry to the touch.

This method is ideal for spot cleaning, but you can also use it to clean the outside of the entire toy.

Hand Wash vs. Machine Wash 

Many stuffed animals are machine-washable, but some are better off with hand washing. Machine washing should be avoided if a stuffed animal has delicate fabrics, such as lace, or fragile details, such as glued-on sequins and beads.

Hand Wash

To hand wash a stuffed animal, fill your sink with a mixture of cold water and a few tablespoons of detergent. Submerge the entire stuffed animal and gently squeeze it to allow the soap to saturate the toy. Focus on particularly dirty spots by scrubbing at them with your fingers or a small toothbrush to clean the grime away. Rinse the stuffed animal in cool, running water. Squeeze it to remove excess water, but avoid wringing it, as that may cause the stuffing to bunch.

Machine Wash

If a stuffed animal is machine washable, you’ll need to take a few extra steps to keep it in one piece. To protect the toy, place it in a mesh laundry bag or zippered pillow case before you throw it into the washing machine. Also, be careful to choose the right washing cycle— a delicate or gentle cycle with cold water is the best way to keep the stuffed animal in one piece.

For  hand washing or machine washing, allow the stuffed animal to hang dry for several hours. Although machine drying is safe for some plush toys, it’s best to avoid the dryer if you’re not sure. Even a low-heat setting can melt plastic details like eyes and noses or remove glued decals. To hang dry toys, simply attach the stuffed animal to a pinch clip hanger (the kind often used for pants or skirts) and hang on a shower rod.


Stuffed animals, particularly those that are pastel colored or white, can easily collect stains of every hue and intensity. If washing isn’t enough to get the stain out, try pre-treating it with a gentle stain remover. The biodegradable laundry stain remover from Charlie’s Soap is primed to be tough on stains and gentle on sensitive fabrics, so it’s perfect for stuffed animals.

After treating the stain, allow it to sit for up to 30 minutes, depending on the severity of the stain. When you see the stain starting to bleed into the surrounding fabric, you know the treatment is working. If the stain won’t budge, you can gently scrub the stain with a toothbrush. After treating the stain, wash or hand wash it according to the instructions above.

Keeping Stuffed Animals Clean 

The next time your toddler has a muddy adventure with their favorite teddy bear, don’t despair. You can keep your child’s stuffed animals in tip-top shape with the right products and a little technique. Explore more Charlie’s Soap products that are gentle enough for kid’s sensitive skin and tough enough to handle their messes.

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