How To Clean Your Little One’s Stuffed Toys The Right Way

You can wash a variety of stuffed animals and stuffed toys in the washing machine or by hand.

The Best Way To Clean “Stuffies” And Other Stuffed Toys

In this post, you’ll learn how to wash stuffed animals both in a washing machine and by hand. You’ll also learn which method is best to use when, and how to dry them safely afterward. With the help of these simple tips, you can restore those stuffed animals to a much fresher, cleaner, and more hygienic state!

Most parents know all too well how grimy those beloved “stuffies” can get over time! And considering that they’re often toted everywhere, snuggled overnight, dropped in the street, and dragged across the floor, it’s not much of a mystery as to how it happens.

But what you may not know about your kids’ or grandkids’ favorite fuzzy friends is how to clean them up. And I’m happy to deliver this good news on that front: cleaning stuffed animals effectively isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think!

You can wash a variety of stuffed animals and toys in the washing machine.

When Should You Wash Stuffed Animals?

First, let’s talk about how to tell when it’s time to wash those stuffed toys. The most obvious signals are if a stuffed animal is visibly dusty or grimy, or has an unpleasant odor. (But you probably could have guessed that!)

Related: By Popular Demand, Your New Go-To Stain Removal Guide

Another occasion when you should wash stuffed animals is after a child has been sick. If they snuggled up with it while they were sick, it definitely needs a thorough cleaning!

Otherwise, don’t worry about washing stuffed animals on a regular schedule. Washing stuffed animals more often than necessary can weaken stitching, loosen sewn-on accessories, and cause it to wear out faster. (Besides, washing isn’t the only way to clean plushies — dusty stuffed animals can be freshened up with your vacuum!)

And while I’m sure this goes without saying, you should not attempt to wash a stuffed animal with electronic components. (We’ll cover how to spot clean such toys later in this post!)

How To Wash A Stuffed Animal

Wondering how to wash stuffed animals? The best method depends on how durable (or delicate) they are. Newer, relatively sturdy stuffed animals are probably fine to put in your washing machine (the first method I’ve outlined below), but delicate and well-worn stuffed animals should be washed by hand (more on that below).

Before washing stuffed animals in the washing machine, place them in a mesh laundry bag to protect parts that could come off.

How To Wash A Stuffed Animal In Your Washing Machine

  1. Place the stuffed animal in a mesh bag and zip it closed — the bag will help protect eyes, buttons, bows, and anything else that could get snagged or torn in the wash.
  2. Place the zipped bag in your washing machine, select a gentle cycle with warm water (or cold water, if the stuffed animal has any glued parts).
  3. Add a small amount of your usual laundry detergent — enough to clean the item, but not so much that it won’t get rinsed out completely — then start the wash cycle.

Related: Problem Solved! How To Wash Small Loads In HE Washers

When hand washing a sturdy or very soiled stuffed animal, you can add a scoop of Oxiclean to the water.

How To Wash Stuffed Toys By Hand

  1. Fill your sink, a bucket, or a wash tub with cold water, then add 1 tablespoon of mild detergent per gallon of water. (For heavily soiled stuffed animals, you may want to use a scoop of oxygen bleach instead, but do a spot test beforehand to ensure it won’t affect the stuffed animal’s appearance.)
  2. Submerge the toy until it is fully saturated, then let it soak for about 20 minutes. (Cut the soak in half for really delicate toys, while sturdy and heavily soiled toys can be soaked for up to an hour.)
  3. Remove the stuffed animal from the wash water and rinse with cool running water. Gently squeeze as you rinse to ensure you’re getting all the detergent out.
  4. Gently squeeze (but don’t wring) any excess water out of the stuffed animal.

Related: How To Best Hand-Wash Your Delicates

No matter which method you choose to wash a stuffed animal, to dry it you should let it air dry. Start by using a clean white towel to wrap and press the toy to absorb excess water.

How To Dry Stuffed Animals Properly

Whether you wash a stuffed animal in your washer or by hand, the safest way to dry it is to let it air dry. Start by rolling the stuffed animal up in a clean, white bath towel and pressing gently on it to remove any excess water lingering inside it.

Then set the stuffed animal out on a table or drying rack and allow it to air dry completely. To speed things up a bit, you may want to place a fan or a dehumidifier nearby.

If the animal’s fur looks a little matted once it has dried completely, use a hair dryer on low heat to help fluff it back up. Ta da, a fresh and clean stuffed animal!

Don't wash stuffed toys that are delicate or collectible. Use a damp cloth with a bit of detergent to spot clean, and a separate cloth dampened with just water to

How To Spot Clean Stuffed Animals

As I mentioned previously, certain stuffed animals should never be fully submerged, including ones with internal electrical components. The same rule applies to things like Beanie Babies and other collectible toys and stuffed animals.

These should only be spot cleaned, which you can do using a cloth dipped in soapy water. Wipe the exterior surface of the toy with the soapy cloth to clean, then “rinse” with a clean, damp cloth and let air dry overnight.

For more useful laundry tips like this, check out my Laundry category page!

Does your child or grandchild have a favorite stuffed animal?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


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  • what about foam rubber toys ( like rigadoons ) my daughter’s has developed a 5 o’clock shadow on the face im afraid to wash it incase I ruin it its her favorite ……………..

  • I need to wash the dog’s stuffed toys that have a squeaky in it. If it goes in the washing machine or pail of water – does it “kill” the squeaker?

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