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.

How to Wash Stuffed Animals

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!

▶ Have a stuffed animal that can’t go through the washing machine? Make sure you read: Washing Stuffed Animals That Can’t Go in the Washing Machine

 

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 –

Comments

  1. I have a giant stuffed dog, and when I say giant I mean bigger than my 2 year old American Bulldog, it desperately needs washing, any ideas?

  2. 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?

  3. 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=

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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

  7. 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. ?

  8. 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.

      • Hi, is there any way to get rid ofthe bad smells coming from inside the toys? I wash several of mine and all of them have bad smell when the surface already dry.
        Thanks

        • Lauren Hill says:

          Dean,

          Just because the surface is dry doesn’t mean the inside stuffing is dry.

          Try hanging in hot sunshine (or just outside in general), letting every surface of the stuffed animal be exposed to the sun as much as possible. You might need to turn it after an hour or so to ensure all sides see the sun.

          You’ll need to let it be outside for several hours to ensure the inside stuffing is dry. This should take care of the smell problem. Fresh air works wonders for many problems! 🙂

          -Lauren

  9. I found this site trying to research how to clean my old stuffed animals to give to my kids to play with and one of those is my old Sleepy Care Bear! Haha. What are the chances? One is a stuffed dog that I think I’ll just risk and throw in. They were in a box in an attic that had a mold issue. I think the toys were protected but the box wasn’t sealed all around. So in the wash they’ll go! Except one with a music box. That’ll get your hand wash treatment. As well as my old teddy that my grandma gave me. that’s not going in the machine or to the kids! Thank you for this!

  10. Tiara Hamilton says:

    I have a little boy the age of one who loves his Nemo and dory his daddy got him. They are rather large and I really need to wash them, it says hand wash but I really don’t have the time to hand wash them chasing after a one year old. I have a top loader washing machine without the thing in the center it’s a big drum I was wondering if I washed them in there would it be okay? I’m a first time mom and I have a lot of questions.

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Hi Tiara,

      Yes, it’s definitely possible that you could wash them in a machine that doesn’t have the agitator. MAKE SURE you put each animal in a mesh laundry bag, though! It will give them an added layer of protection that they’ll definitely need when in the washer.

  11. I recently bought a large puppet off eBay. It’s a full body puppet (arms and legs). His head is about the size of a volley ball or soccer ball. He’s essentially a large stuffed animal.
    The seller had him in storage. He smells of mildew inside and out. I can wash him at a laundromat.

    My question is about drying. If I shouldn’t dry him in a drier, how do I make sure all the stuffing dries and doesn’t get mildew again?
    I’m afraid hanging him to dry will take too long with that huge head.
    Any advice?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Mark,

      You’re right, the stuffing in the head needs to be totally dry to get the mildew smell out. There are a couple of things you can do: Dry in hot sunshine, turning the puppet several times to all sides are exposed to the sun. This will take several hours.

      Or you can place the puppet in front of a fan to speed up the drying process, again making sure to turn the puppet many times so each side is exposed.

      -Lauren

  12. Mary Wade says:

    I have a foot tall, about four and a half foot long tiger, from paw to the tip of the tail. How do I wash him? Can I just use a wet washcloth?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Mary, I would just spot clean with a very mild detergent, and not much of it. You don’t want it to be soapy at all.

      Then just rub the whole tiger down with a warm wet washcloth.

      Also, make sure the cloth is white or a color that definitely won’t bleed onto the tiger. You’d hate for that to happen!

      -Lauren

  13. Hi, I am wanting to wash a soft toy abc caterpillar. It is over a metre long so wondering if this can go in the machine? Thank you.

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Sarah, I would be extremely hesitant to put the caterpillar in the washer, just due to its length. I think it would probably be fine in a washer that does not use an agitator (a commercial-grade washer or one that is a front-loader).

      However, I would definitely not use in a machine that has an agitator. The possibility of the caterpillar winding itself around the agitator during its hardest spin cycle is pretty high. That would ruin your caterpillar and cause the washer to need repair.

      -Lauren

  14. I got a crook shanks stuffed animal from universal that needs to be washed but I don’t know if it’s safe to

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Linnea, that’s a tough decision.

      I can’t tell you one way or the other if the stuffed animal is safe to wash. Are there any directions on the tag of the animal?

      If the animal is near and dear to your heart and you’d be devastated if it was ruined, I would spot clean only.

      -Lauren 🙂

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