How to Wash Stuffed Animals

Need some tips on how to wash stuffed animals?  Those beloved treasures can be a trickier item to launder.

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
– Are extremely old and fragile
– Have items glued on – sequins, etc.  Glued-on eyes probably will survive a washing.
– Have delicate ‘clothing’ items on that can’t be removed (think glittery, net-type dresses or delicate little crowns or the like)
– Are filled with small foam balls inside (like Beanie Babies) and 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 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?

    • In this case, I think it’s best to hand wash Pooh. After confirming what exactly your Pooh is stuffed with. Wash with some soap and make sure to squeeze all the water out to the best of your abilities, depending on how much water you wring out will depend on how long it will take to dry. Place in direct sunlight to dry, this will probably take a week or so to dry. Hope this helps.

  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?

  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!

      • Monica McLane says:

        I have heard that you can send American girl dolls in to be restyled. Maybe you can look into that option.

    • 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.

        • Lauren Hill says:


          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! 🙂


  9. i have a beanie baby hippo that belongs to my cat. the hippo has a brown stain where she sucks in his head. what kind of detergent is safe for me to wash it in so she can suck on his head after its clean? its her safety toy

  10. new Nana says:

    Hi My first grandchild gas arrived and I purchased a stuffed soft plushy animal for him. However , I wish to sanitize it and there are no instructions for washing the plush stuffed toy. Any suggestions?

  11. Hi I need help to learn how to wash a giant stuufed cow with baby beanies inside what should I do

  12. How many animals can I wash at a time? Can I fill up the machine?

  13. Will washing stuffed animals this way kill dust mites?

  14. Just wondering if you can wash the beanie animals like Midas the lion.

  15. So i have this HUGE HUGE Teddy bear i bought for a ex on vday . that huge bear that cost me 40 bucks at walmart. And she left me a few months later left the bear behind. My daughter aboslutly loves this bear but it stinks to high heaven now (4 kitties) can i wash this i nthe wsher? I think it will fit. My washer doesnt have the huge thingy in the middle if that helps.

  16. Hi I’m washing ALL of My Original MLP ponies. 5 of them and a Hello Kitty. I followed your directions the the T. Looking forward to them being all washed and clean and being able to have them out again for my nephew, who loves stuffed animals. (I know he’s a boy. But they colorful ponies and he likes stuffed animals that are bright!)

    I had put them away after I had a friend’s child around for the holidays The Christmas before last. She was ill, boogers and phlegm ensued. Plus, she dragged them everywhere even outside. My white Rarity … Well, let’s say it doesn’t look white anymore. Hehe.

    I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll survive this wash. I’m so happy I found this post!

    Thank you in advance!

  17. Hi there, you didnt mention anything about what cleaner to use in the washer. Please advise. Thank you!

  18. I have like 10 teddy bears. 2 of them are white! do i wash them with normal detergent and or bleach?

  19. Hello! I need a little help. I’ve got a stuffed dog gotten from Limited Too about 20-24 years ago (not way too long year wise before I was even born haha), and to be blunt, after like 17yrs (to my knowledge) of her being with me, she’s filthy. I’m just scared to try to wash her without knowing exactly what I need to do! Her head and body are both regular stuffing, but most of each of her limbs feel like they’re filled with little pellet balls. Harder than Beanie Baby foam, I think they may be plastic. But I’m not going to open her up to check. How should I wash her? And dry her? We have a little bit of bad luck with damp items (especially anything porous like cloth/wood) brought outside of the bathroom getting mold, and I’d rather her stay dirty than get moldy from not being able to dry her immediately…Please help! She’s the most important thing I have…

  20. I have a plush with a specially done neck joint, and I’m worried as to whether washing it could ruin the joint. I don’t know if it’s a good idea to wash it or not, and I’m FAR too worried about it possibly getting ruined to try, any tips?

  21. Heaven Maynez says:

    My daughter has a stuff animal that’s a wight bear but the problem is that it’s too big to put in the washer and it’s in need of a wash what can I do

  22. Can baymax plush wash in the washing machine?
    Mind my english

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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:


      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.


  26. 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!


  27. 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.


  28. 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 🙂

  29. Hi Lauren,
    I tried to send a question to you awhile back, but I’m not sure if you got it. My daughter had a pee accident all over her favorite stuffed penguin. It is pretty loved, one arm (wing) has stuffing coming out. Normally I wouldn’t put it in the washer, but I think the ore may have saturated it and it might smell if I just spot clean it. What are your thoughts? Also concerned about drying. Do they dry out well enough when hang drying? They don’t smell musty? (It’s been raining here, so can’t dry outside.) I would also be afraid to put it in the dryer. Thanks for your help!

  30. I have a couple of larger stuffed animals that my cat sprayed. I have a top loading washer without an agitater, but one of the bears is about a foot tall, 2 ft long and about a foot wide. Thats a lot of batting. It’s not very warm out right no w, so should I put it outside and put a fan on it to dry it? All the animals are larger, but that’s really the only one I’m worried about.

  31. I was wondering I just purchased some used Care Bears and some have stains I did not know about how should I proceed can I wash them what would be best to get ride of the stains

  32. I have a kookookennel ( st Bernard ) and it is very difficult for me to find a way to wash my stuffed animal so it won’t get damaged in any way but so it would be clean
    It has the beanie baby foam balls and cotton / plastic material inside it as well
    I would really like to know how to wash it

  33. Hey, This Page Is Great! I Was Just Wondering Though, I Have A Plush Bunny That Has Long Legs And Ears Compared To Its Body, (We Call Him “Flopsy” Because He Flops Around), And He’s Stuffed Normally, But At The End Of His Legs And Arms, And In The Base Of His Bum Theres Little Beanie Things In Them To Give Them Weight. I Was Wondering What The Best Way To Wash Him Would Be? At The Moment I Have Him Soaking In A Bucket Of Napisan..

  34. Karen Emberley says:

    Eli is a dear friend of mine who goes everywhere with me. He is a plush toy beanie baby. We live in a nursing home and they require that he be washed every time a nasty bug flows through the unit, which happens quite often.

    He has lost a lot of his softness due to frequent washing and I was just wondering if there is any way I can restore it,

  35. Crystal Greyson says:

    I have 4 stuffed animals and they all have a lot of fur and most of them have plastic eyes. What should I do? Should I wash them in the washing machine or not?

  36. Hi. I have a pull musical baby toy that needs washing. (You pull the legs down and it plays music and legs go back up). It was my sons, he is 22 and expecting his first baby and I want to give it them. It still works perfectly. Can I wash in the washer with other things? Maybe let dry for a while before pulling?? It really needs washing. Thanks!

  37. I have multiple beanie babies, and I have read through all of the comments, but I didn’t see any about beanie babies. It would really help me if you could tell me how to wash them. Thank you!


  38. What if my dryer has air dry would that ruin my stuffed stitch animal

  39. Lexi Gresko says:

    Hi! If a stuffed animal only has beads in the bottom to make him sit down, can I still wash him in the washing machine?

  40. So I have a crochet stuff animal with googly eyes and it needs to be washed after coming in contact with insulation how can I wash him ?

  41. Trying to determine how to wash my son’s small stuffed animal, but concerned about damaging it. Would like to send a picture and get your thoughts. Thanks…

  42. i had a huge stuffed Pokemon (about pillow sized at least 1 foot tall.) I need to wash it. Cause of fleas in the house. I got it second hand. So no cleaning instructions My Dad washed him for me last year. Afraid of messing it up. He lives on my bed with me.

  43. Genavieve says:

    We all have that one stuffed animal or toy that we couldn’t part with.. mine so happens to be a 20 year old playskool stuffed bunny. I was one of those kids that wouldn’t let their mom wash anything, It honestly could have been 8-10 years ago when My stuffed bunny was last washed. I need to find a way to wash without putting in the washer. I’m afraid that if I do put my stuffed bunny in the wash and dryer it will fall apart. Any amount of help would be amazing. Thank you! -Genavieve

  44. Is it okay to not use mesh bag??

    • Lauren Hill says:

      It is definitely okay BUT I’d put the stuffed animal in a pillow case or something similar. Because it’s a more delicate item to wash, you want to add a layer of protection, which the mesh bag does.

      You can wash it without that added layer of protection, but you increase the risk of it damaging the animal.


  45. i have a charmander plush toy and hes getting filthy. how do i wash him? like any other stuffed animal?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      So I had to look up Charmander. 😉 It looks like it’s a typical stuffed animal, right? In that case, just follow the directions in this post and you should be a-okay.

      -Lauren 🙂

  46. I have a four-foot polar bear that I have tried spot cleaning but due to his shaggy fur, it hasn’t worked very well. would he be safe to throw in the wash?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      My guess is no. 4 feet is a pretty large stuffed animal.

      You might could try the extra large capacity washer at the laundromat. That’s probably going to be your only option!

      -Lauren 🙂

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