How to Wash Stuffed Animals

Washing stuffed animals can be tricky.  Can they go in the washer or not?  Can you use regular detergent or do you have to use a specialty product?  Is my little one going to have a melt-down if I take the stuffed animal away long enough to wash it? (Hint: don’t wash those kinds of stuffed animals around nap time or bed time.  Trust me.)

There are many reasons you need to wash stuffed animals: the attack of the stomach bug, they can be dusty from sitting on a shelf, a little too much love from the owner, lice or other varmints, or frequent washing for kiddos with allergies and asthma.

Stuffed animals are like clothes – the less you wash them, the longer they will look new.  After an animal has been washed that crisp, new look probably won’t be there.  But at least they’ll look clean!


You Can’t Wash Your Stuffed Animal in the Washing Machine if:

– They have a music box sewn inside
– They are extremely old and fragile
– They have items glued on – sequins, etc.  Glued-on eyes probably will survive a washing.
– They have delicate ‘clothing’ items on that can’t be removed (think glittery, net-type dresses or delicate little crowns or the like)
– They have small foam balls inside (like Beanie Babies) not batting.

(See the comments section for how to clean Beanie Baby-like stuffed animals.)


How To Wash Stuffed Animals in the Washing Machine

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Before washing a stuffed animal, examine it carefully.  Are there parts that need to be removed first?  Any strings that need to be secured?

Stuffed animals are similar to pillows in that they wash much better if laundered in a machine that does not have an agitator.  If you have a top loader, you could always take a large load and wash them at the laundromat.  Washing with an agitator tends to make the animal ball up due to the agitator displacing the batting.

After determining your stuffed animal can be washed, place it in a mesh laundry bag.  The mesh bag gives it an extra level of protection from snagging or being pummeled too much in the machine.

Stuffed Animal on Mesh Bag

Stuffed Animal in Mesh Bag

Always wash stuffed animals on the gentle/delicate cycle.  They just can’t tolerate a more aggressive washing that a ‘normal’ cycle would give.  You can use a warm or cool wash but steer clear of hot.  If items are glued on, the hot water might dissolve some of the glue.

After washing, remove from the bag and hang dry.  I hang mine using a child’s clamp hanger or on my S-hooks.  I’ve ordered these S-hook-type clips, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to love them! They get great reviews.

Dryer heat – even on low – could potentially melt glued on or plastic parts.

Stuffed Animal Hang Dry

Quick Washing Stuffed Animals Guide:

– Make sure the stuffed animal can be washed.
– Place in a mesh bag.
– Wash on warm/cool water temperature on the delicate cycle.
– Hang dry.  Don’t put in the dryer.

Have questions about washing your stuffed animals?  Ask in the comments –


  1. I just found my stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh that I have had since the late 1970s. He’s about 2 feet tall and I think too big for our washer…Pooh’s got that tummy you know…I’m not sure what he is stuffed with, but it doesn’t feel like smooshy soft anything, it’s more of a firm filling. Purchased from Disneyland, if that helps with what the filling might be. Anyway, He is filthy and needs a good bath. So does his red shirt.

    I also found my stuffed Thumper from the same trip to Disneyland I think. He’s smaller and can probably be washed in the machine.

    What do you suggest?

  2. These are great tips! My mom washed my Baloo stuffed animal when I was younger and melted his hair in the dryer. XD Now I know Rookie will be safe from the same fate. L=

  3. I have heard that you can wash stuffed animals in the dishwasher but I have never tried it because it seems like the water is too hot but I don’t know, what do you think?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Jackie, I would definitely NOT wash them in the dishwasher. It’s way too hot and harsh. I’d steer clear of that.

  4. I have a question. I bought a Beanie Baby bat from the thrift store and I want to make sure if it is ok to spray the RID (bed bug) spray on it and enclose it in a Ziploc bag to make sure if the bugs die if any and how do I wash the Beanie baby after that process is done?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Tatianna, Read through the other comments about Beanie Babies in the comment section. There’s great tips here!

  5. I’m having my second child and am 31 weeks pregnant putting the finishing touches on the baby’s nursery. I saved all of my first sons baby bedding from eight years ago. Everything is in good shape and I’ve wash everything on the delicate cycle & now have his stuffed animals (nursery has a jungle safari theme) to wash. I was wondering how I should separate them. They are about a foot tall…elephant, lion, Tiger, monkey… And want to know how many I should put in the washer at a time or should I do them separately. I thought about putting them All together in pillow cases and using the large washers at our family own laundry mat but worry about colors bleeding. The colors are natural animal colors..tan, grey, brown…no brights or reds that bleed, but should I put in a color catcher just to be on the safe side?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Yes to the color catcher – better safe than sorry!

      I would put two in the washer at the time, assuming you have a washer that does NOT have an agitator. If you DO have an agitator, I would find one without. The agitator will be too harsh and probably ruin them.

      Best wishes with your new little one! xoxo

  6. Hi Mama,

    How would you suggest washing an American Girl doll? This doll was a gift an I know there are very expensive and I don’t want to ruin it.
    Thanks for the help.

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Jessica, I personalyl would NOT wash an American Girl doll.

      My rule of thumb about washing anything: Am I going to cry and be devastated if the item is ruined?

      If the answer is yes, I do not wash. If the answer is I can live with it, I wash. 😉

      • You can wash an American girl doll with a warm wash rag and baking soda. Just put a bit if the baking soda on the warm cloth and rub gently. Just do NOT get the cloth part of her wet (the torso). Just the face, arms, and legs.
        We learned this from the American Girl Doll company when I was little and my doll needed a good cleaning. She looked good as new afterwards!

    • Mother of two says:

      I would go one the safe side if she is really messy and send her to the doll hospital from American dolls I know it’s kind of expensive but they will repair her and make her look new again we found a bitty baby from when I was little and send her it came back looking like we just bought her. Hope this helps. ?

  7. Hello, I just found this today and was wondering, if you don’t have a mesh laundry bag in your house, can the stuffed animal still be washed without it? Can it be washed without a mesh laundry bag if you put it in a pillow case?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Desphiria, it CAN be washed in a pillow case, however, it won’t get as clean as in a mesh bag.

      The mesh bag is the better option because the holes are more porous and allow more water/detergent to reach the stuffed animal.

      It will get it cleaner while giving it a decent amount of protection in the washer.

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