Washing Stuffed Animals

One of the most popular posts here at Mama’s is How to Wash Stuffed Animals.  It is in the top three most viewed posts every day.

And while it offers good advice on how to launder stuffed animals, it doesn’t address those animals that can’t be submerged in water.

How to Wash Stuffed Animals that Can't Go in the Washing Machine

▶ Have a stuffed animal that can go through the washer? Don’t miss: How to Wash Stuffed Animals


So what stuffed animals cannot go through the washer?

– Those with a music box
– Those with items that are glued on, such as buttons or a hat.  Glued-on eyes will probably survive washing okay if you follow Mama’s instructions.
– The animal has on delicate clothing items that can’t be removed
– Those that have objects such as glitter or sequins
– Those that have styrofoam balls inside (ie: Beanie Babies)
– Those that have been over-loved and are extremely old or fragile


How to Wash a Stuffed Animal that Cannot Go Through the Washing Machine

If you have a most-loved stuffed animal that cannot go through the washer for a good cleaning, use the following guide to spot-clean it by hand.  It’s not nearly as hard or time-consuming as you might think.

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Assemble your supplies:

Supplies for Washing Stuffed Animals

— A clean toothbrush (it doesn’t have to be new, just clean)
— Two clean white washcloths
— A clean white towel
— A small bowl or wash basin
— High-Efficiency laundry detergent

I’ve tried washing stuffed animals using several different types of soaps (dish detergent and hand soap) but it works best to use an HE detergent due to its low-sudsing properties.

Use only a white or very light colored towel to wash and dry your stuffed animals.  A towel that is dark in color or hasn’t been washed a million times might transfer its color onto your animal.  And then you’ve got a whole new set of troubles.  So save yourself the headache and use white linens.

Depending upon the size of your bowl or basin, place a small amount of HE detergent in the bottom.  There is only about a tablespoon in this basin.

Detergent to Wash Stuffed Animals

Fill the container with warm water, agitating the water as it fills the bowl so the detergent dissolves.

Soapy Water for Washing Stuffed Animals

Water to Wash Stuffed Animals

Dip your washcloth into the detergent solution and leave the cloth fairly wet, but not saturated.

In a circular motion, very gently rub the outside of the animal.  Continue washing until the whole stuffed animal is clean.

Wash the Stuffed Animal

If you have a problem spot or stain, dip the toothbrush into your detergent solution and very lightly scrub the stubborn spot.  I will caution you that scrubbing any garment or stuffed animal with a toothbrush can cause damage.  So only use a toothbrush for stains after you’ve tried to lightly scrub it with the washcloth.

A toothbrush should be your last resort for a stain.

Wet the other washcloth under cool, running water and again leave it fairly wet but not saturated.  ‘Rinse’ the stuffed animal using the water-only wash cloth, gently rubbing in a circular motion.  You might have to rinse this washcloth several times and wash again to remove the bulk of the detergent.

It is best to let the stuffed animal hang-dry or sit in front of a fan to dry.

In all likelihood, if the animal is too delicate to go in the washer then it is probably too delicate for the heat of the dryer also.

Hang Dry Stuffed Animals

More Washing Tips for Stuffed Animals

→ Once a stuffed animal is cleaned in any fashion (washing machine or spot-clean) the nap (the baby’s fur) will probably never look the same again.  While you are able to clean the animal, it won’t have that ‘brand-new’ look.  Make sure your expectations are realistic about what the animal will look like after it is clean.


→ If you want to fluff up the nap of the stuffed animal, try lightly brushing or combing it.  If you don’t have the results you were hoping for, you can put it in the dryer on the air cycle for a few minutes.  Be extremely careful with the heat of the dryer. Delicate items cannot handle its heat and can melt quickly.  You can also try drying it and fluffing it with a hair dryer.  Again, be very careful with the heat of the dryer.


→ Don’t overdo it on the detergent.  You want there to be enough detergent to be effective,  but you don’t want so much that you can’t get the soap off.  A dry soapy stuffed animal is a crunchy stuffed animal.  For best results, use a high-efficiency detergent so the sudding won’t be as severe.


Questions about washing stuffed animals?  Feel free to leave them in the comments.


  1. ChristiDarty says:

    Oh thank you! I have toys from my childhood that my mom was afraid to wash, I will give this a try on my handmade doll and let you know how it turned out.

  2. Samantha says:

    I want to thank you SO much for this! I do have a question though. The stuffed animal I have in question is a fairly large elephant that’s fur is about 2cm long. I’m kind of scared of washing it in any way because I’m afraid it’ll lose the way it feels and the fur may get matted together or something. So even though I found a way to clean it, I’m not sure if I want to!

    (First gift from my significant other.) 🙂

    • mamalaundry says:

      Samantha, honestly I think it could very well lose the way it feels if you wash it. That’s just the nature of washing this type of item.

      You could try this: Wash the elephant according to these directions and let him hang dry. Then fluff him in the dryer on the lowest heat setting for 4-5 minutes at the time. After 4-5 minutes, take him out and rub him all over to fluff up his fur with your hand. It might help in getting some of the original feel back.

      (But my disclaimer is that you always try Mama’s ideas at your own risk. I’m not responsible if you don’t get your desired result!)

      I hope it works ok for you! Let me know how it goes. 🙂


      • Cristel says:

        When you’re afraid of putting it in de washing machine, you can mix some soft detergent with water and use a cloth. Make it damped with the solutions and rub carefully over the toy. After all it’s done, do the same with clear water and let dry, when it’s dry use a naw dogsbrush and it became as fluffy as it was before. This is methode I use for my handmade bears, if they’re very dusty I first blow them with a hairdryer

  3. Would you use this same technique on baby rattles that have plush feet or arms but plastic bodies? A few of ours have been spit-up on or chewed on and i just don’t know how clean the stuffing may be, even after doing this…any suggestions on how to sanitize, as well as surface clean?

    • mamalaundry says:

      Danielle, as far as baby toys go…yes I put everything in a mesh bag that will go and throw them in the washing machine. If it is something that is extremely gross (like after a stomach flu kind of gross), I put them in the washing machine on the normal cycle.

      If it is a toy that can only be surface cleaned, I use a toothbrush, detergent and running water. And then let it drip dry of course.

      I’m not sure that answered your question. Let me know if it didn’t. 😉


  4. My daughter has a stuffed animal that she sleeps with every night and will even suck on the ears. This has obviously added to it’s “fragrance” lol. The toy has a wind up music box in it and I dont really care too much if it stops working. I just want it to get really clean. Can I put it in the washer (not dryer) or are there other reasons not to put it through the wash.
    Thank you,

    • mamalaundry says:

      You know, Jaime, I still don’t think I’d actually put it through the washer because of the music box. Once it is completely saturated, my guess is that it would rust and/or mold, possibly even through the stuffing and onto the outer surface. Since it’s your daughter’s absolute favorite, I’d steer clear of the machine and just surface wash it.

  5. It didnt work for my Angry bird!!!

  6. THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH FOR THIS POST!!! Several of my son’s stuffed animals are in desperate need to cleaning and I wasn’t sure how to go about doing it. This looks simple enough and won’t take me all day! Thanks again!

  7. DedraLovebug says:

    I am so glad I found this on Pinterest! I just went to a consignment sale last week and bought some good conditioned stuffed animals (most of which have a voice box or move) for a cheap price. The only problem was that they had some minor stains on them. I’m so glad I can get those out before my little girl gets here to play with them! Thank you! 🙂

  8. I am wondering why I shouldnt put a beanie butt stuffed animal in the washer? My daughter has a pooh and eeyore stuffed animals and they have the beanie butts on them and they are getting pretty dirty, would it destroy the beans in them, or do you think its because of a mold problem? I thought about trying to put them in a laundry mesh bag and try a delicate cycle, and let them air dry but since they are disney they are pretty expensive i’d hate to ruin them and waste the money. sorry its probably a silly question 🙂

    • mamalaundry says:

      Kelsi – No, not a silly question at all! I’m not sure it could get totally dry if you completely submerged it in water. And anything damp leads to mold/mildew, as you know. Since they’re pricey, I wouldn’t take a chance on running them through even a low cycle on the dryer.

      • I can’t attest to the Disney animals, but one of my son’s favorite stuffed animals is a Ty Beanie Baby. He loves the tag and it gets pretty dirty, so I put the Beanie Baby in a lingerie bag and wash it on the delicate cycle. I dry it on low. It comes out just fine.

      • I have washed all of our beanie babies, large and small, simply by throwing them in the wash with light colored clothes and mild detergent. No pillow cases and no lingerie bags. Just toss them in. Then they go straight to the drier on normal heat. They have always come out looking terrific and feeling soft. I have never had a problem.

    • I solved the washing Disney stuffed animals with beanie/styrofoam filler problem. I re-stuffed all my kid’s Disney animals with washable fiberfill from the crafts department. Now I wash and dry them as needed. I know it is a tad extreme, but it was totally worth it. Surface wash is fine for less beloved (or less expensive) toys.

      • Lauren Hill says:

        Some may view it as extreme, but I see it as a mama trying to do the best by her kiddos and their favorite stuffed animals.

        Kudos to you! 🙂

  9. We put my son’s pillow pet in the wash….let me just assure everyone that on the commercial when you see them pull out the pillow pets out of the dryer and they are all fluffy and new looking…they lie. I’m thinking I should have tried this. That poor panda pillow pet. Looks pretty disgusting.

    • mamalaundry says:

      Amanda, you could try get the pillow pet wet again and then drying with a hair dryer. It might fluff it up a little. But make sure you use the low heat setting so you don’t melt anything.

    • if you read the tag on a pillow pet it says to wash it in the washer in a pillow case and to let it air dry.

  10. I had to hand-wash a stuffed animal I bought off eBay. Problem was, it had nappy fur to begin with. It was an OLD musical lamb, just like one I had as a baby…28 years ago. I combed it to get bits of stuff out of the “wool”, washed it, the same way your article says, and hung it outside to dry. Smells nice & clean now! 🙂

  11. I have cleaned soft toys and furry soft toys too, by hand using similar methods and also fully submerged them and they have come out okay. However, I have dried them in my sauna, which makes the world of difference…….so if you have one of those, it really helps! Plus, I use an old hairbrush to brush the fur back to original condition. Many of the ones I have washed, you would never know they older, washed toys.

  12. I have found that you can get that stiff feeling out of the fabric of a stuff toy by having rinse water available that has some vinegar in it. It removes the soap film that is the cause of the stiffness. You could also use a very diluted liquid fabric softener in the rinse water. Hang in the sunshine to make it smell clean and dry quickly.
    I have only hand-washed stuffed toys.

  13. Here I am, a 20 year old student wondering of this will work for my hello kitty collection and other stuffed babies haha.

    Thank you for the tips! I will definitely be trying this out soon 🙂

  14. WOW thank you!

  15. This is what i always do 🙂

  16. Thank so much. For. This do you know is baby detergent is safe to use

  17. Great advice! Thank you for this!

  18. Hello, I’m Cristel from Belgium. I am a bearmaker and to brush the bears I use a brush that’s used for brushing a dog.Ofcourse not the same one you use on your dog,buy a new one for the stuffed animals, but with this brush you can make the animal as fluffy as new after it is washed..

  19. Fantastic tips thank you!
    Wondering about soft toys that go on the play mat – they have solid plastic circles to hang them from, and a couple of the have got rattles inside or ‘crinkly’ bits. I don’t really mind what they come out looking like, but it was second hand and my daughter is now at the stage she wants to suck on everything! Would they be ok to throw in the washing machine?

  20. I have a stuffed cat who is my best friend in which id be devastated if the washer ruined her. Yes she is that well loved. So I will give this a try 🙂

  21. This is just what I’ve been looking for. I have a bunch of stuffed dangle toys that I bought for my first baby girl and now I want to get them all cleaned up for my 4 month baby girl. I love the pic of Elmo just hanging out waiting to dry up, hee hee.

  22. Thank you so very much for this informative and thorough article! As a new grandmother I’m always looking for advice and to refresh my memory!! You have a great site.

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Maureen, thank you! Such kind words. 🙂

      Congratulations on becoming a grandmother! One of the best names ever!!

  23. So I bought a stuffed animal for my daughter from eBay and it looks slightly used, just wondering what’s the best way to sanitize it? Dry Cleaning? Or ….something else…..? Grandma is driving me crazy thinking I’m going to give my daughter a disease by letting her use a used stuffed animal….please HELP

  24. Stephanie says:

    My daughter has a Welby Warming Buddy Giraffe that she is attached to and she threw up on it last night. My mom, not realizing that it is stuffed with flaxseed and lavender, put it in the washing machine. Of course it is squishy now, no flaxseed left because of the washer. What can I do? Should I just do major surgery and replace the stuffing? Of course this item is no longer available.

  25. Help! I put my daughters stuffed bunny in the dryer and it got so hard, like burned. My daughter is so upset that her bunny is not soft anymore… Can I do anything to make it soft again? Please help!

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Ivana, I’m so sorry! You can try using a clean toothbrush or a clean nail brush to VERY lightly lift up the fur.


  26. hellopenguin says:

    Does this work for TY stuffed animals?

  27. Ginny Rodriguez says:

    Dear Mama’s Laundry,
    A box of stuffed animals stored in the garage show evidence of mice visits. Is there a way to sanitize the old friends for our grandchild? Or, should we send the stuffed animals to the dump?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      I personally would send them to the dump, as I am NOT a fan of mice or rodents. 😉

      That being said, if you can wash them in extremely hot water in the washer (not by hand), they should be cleaned well enough for new baby hugs.

      If you decide to wash them, use the hottest water possible, use a premium detergent (nothing cheap), and don’t wash them in a pillowcase or mesh bag. They need lots of agitation from the washer to clean them effectively.

      Now keep in mind that washing a stuffed animal on such a “hard” cycle might ruin it, especially if it has some age on it. But it’s better to wash it this way than not have it clean for your grandbaby. 🙂

      Congratulations on your new little one! xo

  28. Mindy Vaughn says:

    one thing that helps bring back the fluffy appearance is using your canister back with a hose and vacuum it after its dry. I used upholstery cleaner, it worked well.

  29. hello I have a VERY fragile stuffed animal and I’m afraid the soap I end up using would stain it. I really can’t mess this up is there a certain soap or detergent you suggest? Thank you!

  30. Thanks for this! I’m the owner of a handmade stuffed animal company and this sounds like really good “best practices” for washing delicate toys. I’m definitely going to refer our customers 🙂 I would add that sometimes we use a piece of “scratchy” velcro to fluff up the nap on our animals’ fur after they are washed. I would think a clean bristle hairbrush would work for stuffed animals with longer fur.

  31. Pardon me.. I’m not sure if you’re still online to answer my question but.. my house has a bit of a leaking problem and a lot of the items in the main area of leaking(the back porch’s sun room), plushies included, have gotten soaked by said water(and have mold/spots in the process). Is there any possible way to get the mold/spots off of said plushies?? I don’t want to have to get rid of them.. 🙁

  32. Taryn Lewis says:

    I tried out the shout out wipes on some old sea world stuffed animal that are washable surface only. Their were some really stubborn dirty spots on the stuffed animal and you just rub it gently with the wipe and It will loosen the dirt and you can actually pull the dirt off with the wipe without harming the stuffed animal. Works great still have more work to do on cleaning but there’s no harm on the stuffed animal surface where the hard dirty was it now soft. Will still use you’re methods for other stuff animals in the future but you could try out shout out travel wipes to cleaning.

  33. Hello.. I know this post is old but I’m really hoping someone can help me please! I bought my toddler a 4 feet tall Elmo stuff animal at Goodwill. I have searched how to sanitize it but I have not found anything. I did put it in the dryer for 45 min. Does that take all the germs away? Or what can I do to sanitize it?


  34. My daughter used to burn candles in her room and her collection of Harrod’s bears got candle smoke on them. Any suggestions on how to get black candle smoke off of white and light colored bears? It is not wax, just black smoke from the candle burning.

  35. I have a question. My question is my daughter has a rainbow bear she got for her 8th birthday but it is stinky and she dosn’t know how to clean it it is from Wal-Mart too not build a bear please help me.

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Hi Kate,

      If the rainbow bear can go safely in the washer, just follow the directions in this post. If it can’t and you’re afraid it will be ruined, I would spot clean only and hang outside in the sunshine for a bit. The sunshine and fresh air will help take away some of that stinky smell.

      -Lauren 🙂

  36. I have a rocking horse i bought at a goodwill and it will be for my grandson. I want to clean it but do not know how i should clean it or with what. the bottom is wood but the actual horse is material and it has a mane and tail with hair that is a very light brown color. The saddle i think is pleather with a wool like material around it. thanks.
    If you are able to view my picture of it, its on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1331918180206081&set=pcb.1331919473539285&type=3&theater

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Scarlet, sadly I can’t see the picture since we aren’t FB friends. 🙁

      However, based on your description, this is what I would personally do:
      – I’d clean the wood portion in Murphy’s Oil Soap. I’d probably use that on the saddle as well.
      – All of the other pieces on the horse that are fabric would be cleaned like I described in this post.
      – Then to dry, I’d set it out in the sun at mid-day. The sun will help kill anything else the Murphy’s or detergent didn’t get rid of.

      What a great find for your grandson! I hope the cleaning works out!

      -Lauren 🙂

  37. PLEASE HELP!!! We have multi-stuffed animals that may have pinworm eggs on them. Most say to surface wash only. Will this method clean the eggs off or worms?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Erin, the only way I know how to remove pinworm eggs is with super hot water and bleach. Even if they are well-loved, I’d get rid of the stuffed animals for fear of re-infestation.

      I know that’s not a great answer, but it’s what I would do.


  38. Sherry Sido says:

    Hi Lauren,

    My baymax toy is about 4ft in height and it’s very big for the washer. I don’t think I can find a mesh for it either. I am planning to spot clean it but I’m concerned with drying. I can’t put it in the dryer; and letting it dry under the sun might take at least 2 days, I don’t want baymax to be smelling like a sun scorched skin. Please help!

  39. Thanks! have a pooh bear and I have been looking all over on how to clean him!

  40. My teddy bear has always gone through the washing machine, and the ear/part of head is wet, but I can’t wash it till tomorrow. Will it be okay for now to be a little wet/damp? It’s my favorite bear that I have and I don’t want it ruined.

  41. MommyOfTwins says:

    Thank you so much for this post, and for the commenter that suggested vinegar in the rinse water… My 21 month old daughter has a stuffed dog that she carries everywhere and sleeps with, that has become rather dingy. I was unsure of how to wash it without causing mildew, as it is small and very tightly stuffed, and cannot go in the dryer. I will try this tomorrow, and look forward to a clean “woof woof”! Thanks again 🙂

  42. Hello! This article is very helpful, although I need help. Today I went on a flield trip with my school chorus to Dorney Park as a reward. While visiting, I won a small plush wolf that stands upright with glitter. It stands about a foot tall and has a bow tie with light glitter, and the eyes are similar. It’s brand name is Fiesta, and I’ve seen other products from them. It has shorter fur though, and knowing amusement parks, not the highest quality. Me and my mom agreed we should wash it to get any public germs out of the new furry friend. I’m not so sure if we can wash it though, so if anyone knows about this production and how to wash it, please respond! I would love to know the most efficient way to clean the toy without damaging it.

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Yay for a reward trip! Those are so fun!

      I’d definitely hand wash. I agree with you that the fur is probably not the best quality, so a run through anything with high agitation might damage it.

      Just follow the method in this post, and it bet it will do the trick.

      -Lauren 🙂


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jimmie, Lauren Hill. Lauren Hill said: Have Stuffed Animals that can't go in the Washer? Here's how to wash them by hand: http://wp.me/pO8yH-vh #laundry […]

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