Stuffed Animal Care & Cleaning – Quick Guide

The constant companionship of a beloved stuffed toy can turn into a messy business! When your child’s favorite stuffed animal turns dingy, or you want to restore a vintage find, there are a number of ways to get that plush looking presentable again.

When cleaning something valuable, it’s important to carefully choose methods that will ensure the best long term care and avoid any techniques that could potentially cause further stains or damage. With our quick guide, we’ll walk you through a few different cleaning options and point out any caveats that should be taken into account. With that being said, let’s start off our guide with a few key things to avoid.

Important Tips on How to Clean Your Stuffed Animal (Read First!) –

1. If soap is applied to a plush, be sure to remove all of it. Any residue that remains, no matter how small, will attract new dirt and dust over time.

2. If you put your plush through the washing machine, make sure to use cold water, mild detergent, and have your plush securely tied inside a pillowcase to keep its eyes and nose from getting scuffed. Avoid using fabric softener since this can leave a sticky residue on the fur of your plush.

3. If you have a large plush, putting it through the washing machine is not recommended. The spindle in the center of the washer drum can damage the fur of the plush and, in some cases, washing oversized plush can also damage your machine. 

4. Never, ever put your plush through the dryer. The heat can singe the plush fur and cause irreversible damage.

5. If you have a larger plush that is damp or wet, it can be a good idea to help speed the drying process to avoid any musty odors. This can be done by placing the plush near a fan or outside in the sunlight, provided you have a safe and secure location to do this.

6. If plush fur is left to dry in a rumpled state, it will typically retain that disheveled appearance once dry. For best results, gently smooth the fur with your hand or a comb while it is still wet.

– Light Surface Dirt & Spot Cleaning –

If your plush is in good shape other than some light surface dirt, you can address this by applying some watered down soap to the stain. Rub lightly at the stain with the direction of the fur so as to not damage the plush fibers. Take care to avoid saturating the plush with the soapy mixture since this will make it impossible to entirely rinse it away. Any amount of soap left on or in the plush, no matter how small, will eventually attract dirt and dust over the years due to soap’s sticky nature, so take extra care to rinse it out thoroughly once you’ve lifted the stain.

– Heavy Soiling & Machine Washing –

If you have a stuffed animal that has a large amount of built up staining or you really want to give it a thorough deep cleaning and your plush is small enough to fit into the washing machine, this might be the best method for you. Place the plush into a pillowcase and tie off the end to keep the plush inside. This will protect its eyes and nose from getting scuffed. Set your machine to the gentle cycle, use cold water and mild detergent, and send the plush through the wash with something light colored and soft, like towels. Avoid adding fabric softener since this can leave a sticky residue.

Once the washing cycle ends, remove the plush from the pillowcase immediately. Smooth the fur in the direction of the plush hairs and place the animal somewhere safe and clean where it can air dry. Do not put the plush through the dryer since the heat can cause irreversible damage. 

– Cleaning Oversized Plush –

Cleaning and restoring large plush can be tricky due to their size. We recommend avoiding putting these stuffed animals through your washing machine since the spindle in the center of the washer drum can damage the plush’s fur. Additionally, in some cases, the large size of these stuffed animals can even damage your washing machine. If the dirt is light and doesn’t cover a large area of the plush, our above tips for Light Surface Dirt & Spot Cleaning will likely work for you. If the stains are more serious, a portable carpet/upholstery cleaner can be used to remove the dirt from the surface of your large plush.

– Plush With Matted Fur –

If you have a plush with fur that has become matted and flat looking, it can usually be improved by carefully working through it with a comb or a brush. Do this gently, otherwise you might end up breaking or pulling out some of the plush fur. Once the fur is combed out, tap it gently with your hand or lightly shake the plush to fluff the fur.

We hope this guide has been helpful and informative. If you have any questions or comments, please share your thoughts with us!

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  1. Hello, I was wondering how can you fix the eyes if a stuffed animal. My daughter has a tiger which has been with her for 6 years. Her eyes are stratched.

    • I like to apply thin layers of clear liquid acrylic to bring life back into scuffed stuffed animal eyes. I like to use Pledge Floor Care Finish but the ZEP Wet Look Floor Polish is a good option as well. I think clear nail polish could also potentially work, though I’ve never tried it. When applying the acrylic, I use a small paintbrush and apply it in thin layers, allowing adequate time for each layer to dry thoroughly before I add another thin layer. Build up the layers until the scuffs/divots become less apparent and the eye has a nice, shiny look to it again. Also, its important to not load the paintbrush with too much acrylic at once and to work slowly and carefully so as to reduce the chance of any excess liquid running down the sides of the eye and pooling in the plush fur next to the eye. Hope that helps!

    • We would not recommend using dry shampoos on plush animals since they contain oils and powders that would remain in the fibers of the plush’s fur and lead to an unpleasant tacky feeling.

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