How to Wash Stuffed Animals (Hand & Machine Wash)

Introduction: How to Wash Stuffed Animals

By hippie_mama

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“Surface Wash Only” is a myth.  Standard stuffed animal toys can be submerged and washed carefully.  I’ll show you how to rescue your most loveable (and roughly loved) from being discarded on the grounds of being “unsanitary.”


Step 4: Squeeze

Press out the excess soap by squeezing your animal under the water again.  You’ll probably see more gross stuff.  Continue until the water coming out runs clear.

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6. How to clean plush toys

Thanks to their super-soft coat, they usually get a lot of love, but how to clean plush toys? Handwashing is the way to retain softness and avoid any matting. If the fur appears tangled after washing, comb it out and use a blow-dryer on low or medium heat to restore its original fluffiness. 

3. How to machine wash stuffed animals

Check the care label for washing instructions first; if there aren’t any listed, look at what the stuffed animal is made from. If the filling contains polystyrene foam, foam beads or excelsior they’re not suitable for a machine wash. For plush toys, check for leather, natural fur, mohair or wool; the same applies. 

Assuming your stuffed animal is safe to go in the washing machine (double check it’s not damaged and has no electrical components or parts attached with glue), Nick Vassilev recommends using the gentle, delicate or hand wash cycle and cold water, along with a mild detergent for a routine clean. Pop the toy into a mesh bag and throw a few towels into the same wash for extra protection.

Try the Washer

But if you’ve got a reasonably durable, ordinary stuffed animal on your hands, you can give the washer a try.

Be wary if you’ve got a top-loader, as the agitator might prove a bit too rough for your plush friend. We’d recommend placing that teddy bear a mesh laundry bag, selecting a gentle cycle, and using a mild detergent. Skip the fabric softener, and don’t put the little guy in the dryer—hang it out to dry.

How to Hand-Wash Stuffed Animals

If you don’t have a washing machine, you can still get your child’s stuffed animals clean in the sink. Hand-washing is also the best method to clean large stuffed animals that can’t fit in your machine.

When Should You Choose Hand-washing?

  • The toy is made of a fabric that might get damaged in the machine.
  • It has a music box, lights up, or has electronic parts.
  • Things like sequins, eyes, or beads are just attached with glue.

How to Wash Stuffed Toys by Hand

It’s easiest to hand-wash stuffed toys in the sink, though you can use a bucket or bathtub if needed. Fill the basin halfway with cold water and add two tablespoons of laundry detergent. Swirl to mix. Soak the stuffed animal and gently squeeze soapy water through it. Use your fingers to rub any particularly soiled spots carefully. Drain the sink and squeeze water out of the toy but don’t wring it, or the stuffing may bunch. To rinse, turn on the tap and continue squeezing under running water.

How to Dry Stuffed Animals

You can put some stuffed toys in the dryer, but most do best if they’re air- or line-dried. To speed things up, wrap the toy in a clean towel and gently press it to blot water. Be sure you don’t wring it, though. Repeat with fresh dry towels until you can’t press out any more moisture. Then, fluff the fur with your fingers and place the item on a flat drying rack so it can air dry. If you prefer line-drying, hang it out of direct sunlight to avoid fading or other damage.


We’ll answer a few of the top questions so that you can go into washing stuffed animals with total confidence.

You can, but we don’t recommend it. The heat from the dryer can damage the stuffed animal. For example, if it has glued on eyes, then it could actually melt these. However, if you do need to machine dry the animal for whatever reason, then use the air dry setting. Keep an eye on the stuffed animal every 10 minutes or so to make sure it’s surviving okay! Please NoteYou should always check the care label to see if the toy can go in the dryer. If it says not to, then absolutely don’t!

You should definitely wash stuffed animals whenever you notice dirt on them. It’s always easier to get dirt out of fabric as soon as you notice it. As for surface washing, it’s a good idea to give plush toys a good wipe every week or so. This can be done when your child is out with a relative, eating or napping. It’s true that the more you wash stuffed animals, the more likely they are to fall apart over time. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a few beloved stuffed animals in the house in case anything happens. Regardless, as a general rule of thumb, we recommend washing stuffed animals every few weeks or whenever you change your child’s sheets. This is just because stuffed animals can gather a lot of dust and allergens, especially if the plush toy goes everywhere with your little one!

Yes. On a medium or high heat, the heat of the dryer can kill bed bugs in 30 minutes (1). However, most stuffed toys shouldn’t go into the dryer. So always check the care label first!

If you put the stuffed animal in the dryer at a high heat for at least 30 minutes, it can kill lingering germs (2). Again, check the care label on the stuffed animal to see if it’s allowed to go into the dryer!

We recommend a mild detergent, like the Puracy liquid detergent. We also recommend something natural like the Babyganics detergent. You can even opt for borax, which can be effective at cleaning stuffed toys. Just make sure you use a gentle and mild detergent.

Reader Success Stories

  • Anonymous

Apr 4, 2018

    Anonymous Apr 4, 2018

    “I used scented soap, and my toys now smell really good and my stuffed animals are soft!”

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