Your kids adore stuffed animals. And stuffed animals can be really cute (and inexpensive, which is nice for parents). But stuffed animals can also be really, really gross.

They go through a lot. My kids wanted to have stuffed animals in their high chairs while eating, which led to all sorts of nasty situations. And my kids also held their stuffed animals closest when they were snotty-nosed sick. Of course, that made them pretty darn gross, too.

So, if you’re wondering how to wash stuffed animals, know that there is a solution. Yes, stuffed animals are delicate, but there is a path to cleaning stuffed animals in a way that extends their lifespans and that makes them healthier for your kids to have and to hold.

Always read the tags before you get started washing stuffed animals. Some stuffed animals can be tossed right into the washing machine, which makes things incredibly easy. This post is more for stuffed animals that can’t go into the washing: stuffed animals with clothing or other accessories that can’t be removed, stuffed animals with glitter or sequins or delicate eyeballs or other attachments, etc. Some animals are just too precious to throw into the washing machine, and this post is for those of you who have kids with those kinds of beloved stuffed animals.


Maintenance Cleaning for Stuffed Animals

Before we get too deep into washing stuffed animals, let’s talk a little about maintenance. When you have children who love stuffed animals, try to vacuum them on a regular basis.

Maybe once a month or every other month, use a soft brush to gently brush dust away from the stuffed animal. Then use a small attachment to actually vacuum the rest of the dust away.

This definitely helps extend the lifespan of your stuff animals, and it’s also much healthier for your kids. Lots of dust, dander and pollen allowed to collect on stuffed animal will lead to lots of sneezing. When you’re vacuuming their rooms anyway, vacuum the stuffed animals, too. It’s good for the stuffed animals, and it’s good for your kids.


Carefully Washing Stuffed Animals

First of all, don’t spend a lot of time, energy and effort spot cleaning. It may seem like a good idea, but stains sink into a stuffed animal, and a spot clean will only take care of the surface.

So, if you pass on spot cleaning, how exactly do you carefully wash a stuffed animal carefully? Here are the materials you need:

  • A wash basin (a sink works, if it’s clean)
  • A delicate soap or detergent
  • A toothbrush
  • A garbage bag
  • Baking soda

That’s it: All stuff you probably have around the house already. OK, so here’s how you put it to work in 8 steps:

1. Fill the basin or sink with cold water.

Stuffed animals are delicate, and hot water is going to be just a little too harsh for them. It doesn’t have to be ice-cold water. Just make sure it’s tepid at nothing. Whatever comes out of the faucet when you turn it on should be just fine.

2. Add a little bit of soap or detergent.

Never use too much, or else you’ll be trying to get soap suds out of your stuffed animal for years to come. In fact, I recommend using a detergent that doesn’t create a lot of suds, like Tide’s HD detergent. It’s delicate on stuffed animals, and it far easier to clean out the suds afterward.

3. Dunk your stuff animal.

This is when you’re really going to get your stuffed animal clean. Dunk it in the basin or sink, and gently work your fingers through it to ensure that the soap or detergent can go to work. Be thorough, too. If you have used the proper amount of detergent, there’s really no danger in cleaning for too long.

4. Change out your water.

Once you’re done cleaning your stuffed animal, change out your soapy water for fresh water. Then, dunk your stuffed animal again and start to cleanse it of the soap. You can even gently wring the stuffed animal if it’s durable enough to withstand the stress. Dunk in the fresh water as much as needed. It’s super important that you get all of the soapy water out.

5. Shape your stuffed animal.

Once your done washing your stuff animal, it may look a little misshapen. Now’s your chance to delicately reshape it into what you (and your child) know it to be. It’s a good idea to reshape before you dry, because the drying process itself makes reshaping more difficult.

6. Spot clean your stuffed animal.

So your stuffed animal is clean and back in shape again. And then you see it still has a stain or two. Don’t worry! Now is the time to break out the toothbrush — just make sure it’s a clean one. Use water with the tiniest bit of detergent mixed in, and then apply the mixture to the spots that remain after cleaning.

7. Give it the baking soda treatment.

Grab a tall kitchen bag, add a half cup of baking soda, place the stuffed animal inside, and then tie it off. Gently shake the tall kitchen bag for a few minutes, and then let the stuffed animal sit inside for about 15 minutes. This helps draw out any extra moisture. Once finished, you can gently brush excess baking soda off the stuffed animal, or you can even use the vacuum and attachment if you feel it’s necessary.

8. Hang dry your stuff animal.

Now, for the final hurrah. Use a plastic clip hanger to hang your stuffed animal by a foot, hand or ear. I prefer plastic over metal clip hangers because I don’t want any rust or discoloration to appear. Hang the stuffed animal, and then point a fan right at it. Leave it overnight. In my experience, when you check the stuffed animal the next morning, it will be ready to go — 100%.


Words of Warning Before You Start

I may have mentioned each of these three things above. But, for the sake of full disclosure, three things to remember before you get started:

  1. Soap/Detergent: Don’t use too much. Again, you’re going to see suds for years to come if you choose to use too much soap or detergent.
  2. Temper Expectations: This is a great way to clean stuffed animals, but don’t expect them to look like new. Nothing you can do is going to get your stuffed animals back into off-the-rack shape.
  3. Stay Away From Donations: Don’t buy used stuffed animals. And don’t donate used stuffed animals. Stuffed animals are so incredibly personal, and, no matter how well cleaned, it’s a little gross to think of one child cuddling up next to a stuffed animal that’s already been cuddled up to. That’s how I do it, at least.


Final Thoughts on How to Wash Stuffed Animals

This process is just the one that I use. You can tweak and alter this process to meet your unique needs, or you may find a process that works even better — something I haven’t even tried yet. But just make sure that you are washing your kids’ stuffed animals. As mentioned near the top, washing is good for both the stuffed animal and for your child who loves it.

Have you had any success washing stuffed animals with a similar or different process? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Comment below, or send us a message using our contact form.