How To Clean Stuffed Animals 

Stuffed animals are a true treasure. Few things in life bring more comfort than snuggling a beloved teddy bear or bunny. Whether it’s you, your kid, or a pet who’s playing with stuffed animal, it’s bound to get pretty dirty over time. For this reason, stuffed animals need the occasional soak and scrub. 

Most stuffed animal can be cleaned by hand or in the washing machine. Check for a care tag with instructions on how to wash a particular stuffed animal. If there’s no tag, the best bet is to hand-wash and then air-dry, tumble drying in a drier with some towels if you need to speed things up.

In this guide, we’ll cover the best practices for cleaning stuffed animals with or without water, by hand or in the washing machine. Let’s get started, so that you know how to refresh you, your child, or your pet’s favorite stuffed animal without accidentally destroying it!

Can You Wash Stuffed Animals? 

Teddy bears on clothes line

It’s genearlly safe to wash a stuffed animal unless it has mechanical parts, a built-in battery pack, or metal aspects. Water may cause damage to such a toy, and it should only be spot cleaned. Most stuffed animals, however, can be safely washed by hand or in the washing machine.

There are many reasons to wash stuffed animals. If you’ve bought them at a garage sale or thrift store, you should certainly wash them before use. It’s also important to wash your child’s stuffed animals after an illness or bout with lice.

Don’t wait for a plush toy to start looking grimy or smelling musty before you wash it, especially if your child has asthma or allergies.   

How to Wash Stuffed Animals in a Washing Machine 

Machine washing stuffed animals is the easiest choice for most people. However, there are some risks involved. Well-worn stuffed animals are delicate and can be damaged by the spinning movement of the machine. Another risk, as mentioned earlier, is damage to electronic components in the animal, if there are any. 

Before you toss a stuffed animal in the washer, check the care tag for the manufacturer’s instructions. If machine washing is recommended, here are some simple steps to follow: 

  1. Remove all detachable pieces like batteries, embellishments, and clothing from the stuffed animal.
  2. Check for any loose seams and resew them to prevent the filling from coming out during washing. 
  3. Place the stuffed animal in a pillowcase with the ends tied or a mesh laundry bag (on Amazon) to protect it from wear and tear. 
  4. Add mild, regular laundry detergent in the proper compartment.
  5. Set the temperature to cold and wash on delicate cycle.
  6. Air dry your freshly washed stuffed animal in the sun for a day or two.  

How to Hand-Wash Stuffed Animals 

Hand-washing is the best choice for delicate stuffed animals that require a lighter touch. It’s also ideal for toys with electronic parts, toys that are too large to fit into a washing machine, or toys with parts like eyes, beads, or sequins that are attached with glue. 

When you decide to hand-wash a stuffed animal, here’s how you go about it: 

  1. Remove any loose or detachable parts. 
  2. Examine the toy for loose stitches and sew them back up to keep the filling inside.
  3. Identify a sink, bathtub, or bucket large enough to hold the stuffed animal and fill it with cold water.    
  4. Add a reasonable amount of mild detergent to the water and submerge the stuffed animal.
  5. Squeeze the stuffed animal gently to saturate it with the soapy water and rub any particularly soiled spots carefully with your fingers. 
  6. Drain the bucket or sink and refill it with clean water. Sink the stuffed animal in the water and squeeze it gently to remove the soap residue. You may also hold the stuffed animal under running water to rinse out the detergent. 
  7. Squeeze the toy gently to push out as much water as you can from it. Avoid wringing. Roll it in a clean, dry towel to dry it further before air drying in the sun.   

Spot Cleaning and Deodorizing 

Soft Baby Toys

Sometimes, a stuffed animal isn’t entirely dirty, and you just want to clean a few stained areas. You may also want to clean a stuffed animal with electrical equipment that can’t be detached, or one that is stuffed with dried herbs, rice, or foam beads.

In such cases, spot cleaning and deodorizing are the only options. 

Spot cleaning

Spot cleaning involves wiping the exterior surface of the stuffed animal with a damp cloth dipped in mild detergent. Here are the steps to follow: 

  1. Add a teaspoon of foaming hand or dish soap to a cup of cold water and mix. 
  2. Perform a spot test by dabbing an inconspicuous part of the stuffed animal with a cotton swab dipped in the cleaning solution.  
  3. If the dye doesn’t transfer to the cotton swab, dip a clean cloth into the cleaning solution and use it to wipe the surface of the toy. 
  4. Use a clean cloth dampened with plain water to wipe off the soap and let the toy dry. 


This involves freshening musty-smelling stuffed animals. The steps involved are: 

  1. Place the stuffed animal in a plastic bag and add a cup of baking soda. 
  2. Shake the bag to spread the powder then leave it to sit for an hour. 
  3. Remove the toy and vacuum the baking soda.   

The Final Word

Cleaning stuffed animals is a straightforward process whether you’re hand-washing or using a washing machine. Make sure you follow the guidelines outlined in the article to avoid damaging a beloved toy.

Don’t worry about your little one having a melt-down if you take their stuffed animal away for a wash. Use it as an opportunity to teach the child that toys also need special care in the form of regular cleaning.