Cleaning Stuffed Animals

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Cleaning Stuffed Animals

My husband and I are expecting our first child in December (we're very excited). Friends and coworkers have been giving us things for the baby and that is great! We've also received toys (for later of course). The plastic ones are no problem to clean but the stuffed animals have me concerned. How do you clean a stuffed animal? Can they go through the washer? Or will they become matted? If I just sponge them off, are they really clean? Surely, all the frugal garage sale shoppers have the answer to this one!
Diane and Ed

Use the Washer

I always wash my children's stuffed animals. Put the toy in a pillow case and close with a large safety pin or tie the end in a knot. Wash as you normally would, and dry in the dryer.
Elizabeth C

For 'Finer' Animals

Cleaning stuffed animals is very easy. The more expensive ones Dakin etc. can be washed in the washer inside a tied up pillowcase. The cheaper ones can be washed in a paper sack with some baking soda. Just shake. I have never had any complaints and I have two boys with very severe allergies.

Drying Animals

To dry the animals, place them near a dehumidifier. After 2-3 days, all the water is removed from the toys and drying this way reduces the damage to fine hair or fur. (Dehumidifiers are also great for drying shoes and sneakers) If any area of the toy weakens when it becomes wet (like the neck), reduce the stress of this area by laying area flat during the drying process. Some toys are stuffed with natural fiber/material. These should not be immersed in water, but the fur can be wiped off with a soapy cloth and a clean wet cloth.

The 'Brush Off'

I have found that soft toys will wash generally in the washing machine and then I just brush them out with an old clean hairbrush (this helps get the mats out). It's worth a try. If you buy the toys at garage sales (and soft toys are easy to find because nobody wants to buy them--therefore you should get them VERY cheaply-- bargain for them especially at the end of the day) it's worth the risk for spending only a small amount of money.
Sheila O'C

Pretreat Spots

I have always cleaned my son's stuffed animals in the washing machine. I put them into pillow cases and wash them using a gentle cycle with only a little detergent. If there are any really bad spots I will pretreat with a bit of detergent and either take a soft scrub brush or a rag to rub it. I have washed his animals like this for over 6 years and have never had a problem. You must remember not to overstuff the cases or the washing machine. I check the animals for any loose seams and put them back into the cases and put them into the dryer until dry. Some may need a slight brushing but most will come out almost like new.

Spray and Sponge

I am a rep for a toy company (as well as the mother of two of the world's foremost stuffed animal collectors.) If you are looking to get them clean for appearance sake, use a mild all-purpose cleanser like Simple Green. Just spray it on and sponge it clean (with a little water.) Then, just to make sure that any invisible cooties are dead, I either leave it in the sun to dry or put it in the dryer for five or ten minutes if it looks like there are no parts that can melt. No animals have been harmed in this cleaning process.
Kathi H

Scheduled for Surgery

It's a bit of a pain, but you can carefully slit a seam (or create one), making the hole large enough to fit your entire hand inside...about 5 to 6 inches should be enough. Carefully remove all the stuffing, set it aside, and wash the animal's "skin" in the washing machine (it helps to put it inside one of those net "delicate care" bags...this will prevent any stray bits of leftover stuffing from getting into all the other clothes that you are washing at the same time). Air dry, or put in the dryer for just a few minutes to fluff and finish with air drying - don't walk away while it's in the dryer and forget it! Re-install the stuffing (tear into small bits if it's matted), re-sew the seam, and you're done - really sanitary! This takes just a few minutes of time, but you get great results. If the original item was a bit limp, and you need more stuffing, you can use leftover batting, the insides of a pillow that you're retiring, small, cut-up portions of old, clean pantyhose, etc. Another you know it can be washed and end up looking great, which is a big help in the future, as it will, no doubt, get dirty and need a wash again. Congratulations on the new baby - enjoy him/her!
Anne in Maryland

Polyester Problems

I've got five kids, and we've cleaned many stuffed animals. The average teddy bear washes beautifully. I've totally ruined one, though. It was a stuffed dog, with kind of polyester stiff fur, and it was a mess! If the animal is really stiff, it may not wash, but most normal stuffed animals come out fluffier and softer, and really nice if you add fabric softener.

Seam Check

Before you throw a stuffed animal in the washing machine, make sure that it doesn't have any torn seams. Also, make sure that the material is not worn thin in any places. Another thing to watch for is attached plastic eyes, noses, etc. Make sure they are fastened on securely, and then wash on the gentle cycle.

"Woolite" Wash, Sun Dry

Most stuffed animals can be machine washed by putting them in a pillow case and then closing the end with a rubberband or string. Use a Woolite type soap, and fabric softener. Most animals can go through the dryer. If the weather is warm, they can be dried in the sun. This also works for Cabbage Patch dolls (cloth). Put a portion of nylon pantyhose (foot and a few more inches) over the cornsilk hair to keep it from frizzing-when dry, an additional rinse of fabric softener can be used. Yarn 'hair' washes and dries beautifully. Careful with older ' vintage' animals, they may not be submersible.
Linda V.

Simple Dusting

If the stuffed animal is too big to go in the washer, dust it with some baking soda or baby powder to remove surface dirt. Let is sit 20 minutes or so, then rub vigorously with a rough towel. This will get smells out and clean off surface dirt.
Pam W.

Dryer Trick

My children have had a lot of stuffed animals. The way I have cleaned them is to put them in either a zippered pillowcase or tie the top of a regular case. The animals must be able to fit completely inside the case. Then wash in warm/cold water. Then I put them in the dryer with an old pair of tennis shoes so they will beat the animal until it is dry. You will need to take out the sound boxes or other mechanical devices as the washing will cause them to rust and won't work anymore.
Wendy J.

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