Whether it’s yours, your child's, or your pet's, a well-loved stuffed animal will naturally accumulate dirt, germs, mold, smells, and dander over time. For that reason, it's recommended that you wash them at least once a month. If you or your child has asthma, allergies, or has recently been sick, you'll want to give Teddy an extra scrub.
Luckily, it's easier to clean stuffed animals than you might think. This article will walk you through everything you need to know to keep these beloved buddies fresh and cuddly for years to come.
What to Do Before Cleaning Stuffed Animals
Although most stuffed animals can be machine-washed, some will require a gentler touch. To determine what wash style is best, here's what to look for before getting started:
- Check Care Labels: Check to see if the stuffed toy has a tag with care instructions. If you don't see a tag or the words have faded off, no problem. There are other ways to determine how best to proceed.
- Assess the Material: The materials will clue you in on their specific care needs. For example, plush toys with batting, like Squishmallows, can usually go through a gentle cycle in the washing machine. However, you should hand wash stuffed toys like Beanie Babies that are made with plastic parts.
- Look for Electronics and Loose Parts: Be sure to remove any electronics and either secure or remove any loose parts before washing. Those buddies will need gentler care.
- Test Colors: To determine if the detergent/spot remover will affect colored fabric, spot test a hidden area of the stuffed animal. If the color comes off, you may want to consider washing with water only to avoid discoloration.
Machine Washing Stuffed Animals
If the stuffed animal can go through the wash, you're in luck. Just follow these simple steps, and they'll be good as new!
What You'll Need:
- Mild Detergent to protect your child's skin and your stuffed animal’s fur. We recommend HeySunday’s laundry detergent sheets.
- Laundry Sanitizer (optional) to kill germs if your child has recently been sick.
- A Mesh Laundry Bag or Pillowcase to protect the stuffed animals from damage during the wash.
- A Soft Brush for pre-cleaning or spot treating those stubborn stains.
Step 1: Prepare Your Stuffed Animal
Get your stuffed animal ready for a bath by removing or securing any loose parts. If there are visible stains, spot-treat them with a natural solution of baking soda and white vinegar.
After they have been secured and spot-cleaned, place your stuffed animals in a mesh bag or zippered pillowcase. A non-zippered pillowcase will also work. Just tie a knot to keep your buddy secure.
Step 2: Add Detergent
As a cuddle buddy, your child's stuffed animals rub against their skin and sometimes even end up in their mouths. A gentle, eco-friendly detergent like HeySunday will ensure a longer lifespan for the stuffed animal and keep harmful chemicals away from your child.
To get started, place a small amount of HeySunday's laundry detergent (about 1/4 or 1/3 sheet) into your drum. Add a natural laundry sanitizer if needed. Be careful not to use spray sanitizers on stuffed animals, as that could damage their synthetic fur.
Step 3: Set Your Wash Cycle
Washing with hot water can discolor the fur or damage any glued-on eyes, so opt for cold water unless you are trying to remove head lice. If that's the case, you will have to use hot water. Set your washing machine to the gentle, delicate, or hand-wash cycle, and you're ready to go.
Step 4: Air Dry and Fluff
Your stuffed animal is now clean and ready to dry. Even for machine-washable stuffed toys, you will want to skip the dryer (unless the manufacturer’s label mentions it’s safe for low-heat cycles). However, it's important to thoroughly dry them to prevent mold and odors.
First, massage the stuffing until it is evenly packed into all of the right places. Then, either hang dry your stuffed animal or flat dry them on a dry towel or a rack, preferably in direct sunlight for natural freshness or in front of a fan. Drying with a hair dryer on low heat can also help restore their fluffiness.
Hand Washing Stuffed Animals
Some older or more delicate stuffed animals will require a gentle hand wash. Follow these steps to safely get them clean:
Step 1: Create a Gentle Cleaning Solution
To hand wash your furry friend, start by filling a bucket or clean sink with cool water and dissolve a small amount (roughly 1/4 or 1/3 of a sheet) of HeySunday's laundry detergent in the water. For delicate or older stuffed animals, it is especially important to purchase a gentle detergent like HeySunday to preserve the softness of their fur.
Step 2: Gently Wash and Rinse
Slowly submerge the stuffed animal in the solution. A gentle squeeze will help saturate them with the detergent. Then, softly massage the solution into the fur, focusing on areas with stains or heavy soiling.
When you're ready, drain and refill the water. Rinse thoroughly to remove all soapy residue from the furry fabric until the water runs clear. After the rinse, gently squeeze out as much water as possible.
Step 3: Reshape and Air Dry
More fragile stuffed animals will definitely need to be air-dried. To remove excess water, gently roll them in a clean, dry towel. Hand-washed stuffed animals may also need to be reshaped before thoroughly flat drying in direct sunlight, if possible.
Considerations for Washing Special Stuffed Animals
Some stuffed animals may need to be washed especially gently due to factors like years of wear or electronic components.
How to Wash Stuffed Animals with Electronics
You will want to avoid water damage to the electronic parts by first removing them, if possible. Never submerge electronic toys in water.
Instead, surface clean them with a damp cloth dipped in a little bit of natural dish soap or laundry detergent. Wrap any attached electronic parts in a protective towel. Gently dab soiled areas and then use a freshly rinsed cloth to wipe away any soap.
How to Wash Delicate or Vintage Stuffed Animals
Delicate or vintage stuffed animals may require a gentler touch to preserve their condition. Use the spot cleaning method to address only the visibly dirty areas and then softly massage with a damp cloth.
For these fragile toys, you may want to consider taking them to a professional cleaner.
Stuffed Animal Routine Care and Storage Tips
To maintain cleanliness between washes, consider the following routine care best practices.
- Regular Dusting: Use a soft brush to remove surface dust and prevent build-up.
- Airing Out: Periodically air out your stuffed animal in sunlight to maintain freshness.
- Stain Prevention: Encourage your child not to bring their stuffed toys into the kitchen or outside.
- Regular Washes: Wash stuffed animals once a month or after a recent sickness.
Stuffed animals can often become beloved companions, and like every other member of the family, they need an occasional bath. With proper care, your stuffed animal can remain a fresh and fluffy cuddle buddy for many years.
While an important step in a stuffed animal's routine care is using a gentle laundry detergent, eco-friendly, non-toxic detergent sheets like HeySunday can benefit the whole family.
HeySunday's slim, biodegradable packaging is great for on-the-go, and their pre-measured sheets take the stress and the mess out of laundry day. Because of their optimal dissolubility, HeySunday sheets are compatible with all washing machines, as well as hand washing in hot or cold water.
If you're looking for a laundry detergent with an effective eco-friendly formula and safer ingredients, give HeySunday a spin.