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How to Wash Stuffed Animals: Hand & Machine Wash

Get those stuffed animals clean without destroying them.

It’s no mystery that stuffed animals toys are exposed to a lot of elements. They’re taken out into the dirt, often covered in food and drink, and perhaps even paint and crayons.

However, you might be scared to wash them in case you ruin them — and then your kid might never forgive you! But we can help you know how to wash stuffed animals so that your kid will never notice.

Key Takeaways

  • Hand wash stuffed animals by filling a sink with lukewarm water, a teaspoon of mild detergent, and soaking the toy for up to an hour before rinsing and air drying.
  • Surface wash stuffed animals by dampening a cloth and gently wiping the toy, then brush the fur and dry with a hairdryer.
  • Machine wash stuffed animals by placing them in a mesh bag, using a gentle cycle with cold water and mild detergent, then air dry or use a hairdryer on low heat.
  • Always check the care label and use mild detergent when washing stuffed animals, and avoid putting them in a dryer unless the label allows it.

How to Hand Wash Stuffed Animals

The first option is to wash the stuffed toys by hand. Hand washing might seem like an old-fashioned chore, but it can actually be the best option for plush toys.

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Pick your location: You can use a kitchen or bathroom sink, a basin or bathtub. Make sure there will be enough space to submerge the toy into the water. Lastly, ensure that the sink or basin is clean!
  2. Fill the sink: Fill your sink, tub or basin with lukewarm water and a teaspoon of mild detergent. You can add more if needed. Mix well, until the detergent has dissolved.
  3. Add another cleaning agent: If necessary, you can add another cleaning agent. This is especially useful if the plush toy is very dirty. We recommend OxiClean, borax or baking soda.
  4. Wash: Use a pumping motion to submerge the stuffed animal into the water. Make sure it’s covered by the detergent solution. Then leave it in the water for up to an hour, depending on how dirty it is. Giving it a good gentle scrub every so often will help remove any extra dirt.
  5. Rinse: Drain away the dirty water. Wash out the sink or basin so that there is no soapy residue left over. Refill with lukewarm water and squeeze the plush toy a few times under the water to release the detergent. Keep going until no detergent is released anymore. If the stuffed animal is made of a sturdy material, you can run it directly under the tap to release the soap.
  6. Dry: Drain the sink and press the stuffed animal gently against the side or bottom of the sink to release as much water as possible. Next, lay down a clean white towel and roll up the toy inside. When the toy is dry, use a hair dryer to fluff it back up. Your little one will love it if you say you’re taking their toy to the hair salon!

How to Surface Wash Stuffed Animals

If the care label on your child’s plush toy says to surface wash only, follow these steps. This is very common for stuffed animals and while it doesn’t get a thorough clean of the inside, it will keep it clean enough!

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Dampen a cloth: Use a clean white cloth — this is to reduce color transfer — and soak it in cool water.
  2. Make a solution: Water is fine, but if you want, you can make a solution of cool water and a mild detergent. You can even use something specifically for toys!
  3. Clean: Gently wipe the stuffed animal. Be a little more vigorous on the dirty areas. If you’re using a detergent solution, make sure to use a separate cloth dampened with only water to rinse the soapy residue from the toy.
  4. Brush: Use a plastic brush with wide bristles to brush out the stuffed animal’s hair. Fluff the hair well.
  5. Alternate: Alternate between wiping the fur and brushing the fur in all directions until the stuffed animal is clean.
  6. Dry: Use a hairdryer on a low heat to dry the stuffed animal.

How to Machine Wash Stuffed Animals

If the care label allows, you can opt to machine wash stuffed animals. This is an easier option but it does increase the risk of damaging the toy.

What You Need

  • A mesh bag.
  • A mild laundry detergent.
  • A washing machine with a delicate or gentle cycle.
  • Hair dryer.

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Test your detergent: Test your mild laundry detergent on an inconspicuous area of the plush toy before washing. If it leaves a stain or damages the fabric, then find an alternative detergent.
  2. Bag it: Place the stuffed animal into a mesh bag. This protects it during the washing cycle.
  3. Empty the washing machine: It’s best to wash the stuffed animal alone to minimize the risk of color bleeding from other garments.
  4. Wash: Select the gentle or delicate cycle. Use cold water. Add your detergent to the drum or using the machine’s dispenser.
  5. Dry: Once the cycle is over, gently squeeze excess water out by pressing the animal against the side of a sink or bathtub. Next, dry on a low heat setting with a hairdryer. You can also air dry outside, but it might take a few days!

When Not to Machine Wash Stuffed Animals

You definitely don’t want to ruin your children’s stuffed animals. So let’s review some instances where you cannot machine wash stuffed animals! This will save you tears (and money).

You cannot wash stuffed animals if they:

  • Have a music box inside.
  • Are old or fragile.
  • If the care label says “hand-wash” or “surface clean” only.
  • Have items glued on, like sequins. Eyes will probably be okay, but you can hand-wash to be safe.
  • Have delicate clothing, like glittery outfits or plastic crowns.
  • Have foam balls — not batting — inside. Beanie Babies tend to be made this way.


We’ll answer a few of the top questions so that you can go into washing stuffed animals with total confidence.

Can You Put Stuffed Animals in the Dryer?

You can, but we don’t recommend it. The heat from the dryer can damage the stuffed animal. For example, if it has glued on eyes, then it could actually melt these.

However, if you do need to machine dry the animal for whatever reason, then use the air dry setting. Keep an eye on the stuffed animal every 10 minutes or so to make sure it’s surviving okay!

Please Note

You should always check the care label to see if the toy can go in the dryer. If it says not to, then absolutely don’t!

How Often to Wash Stuffed Animals?

You should definitely wash stuffed animals whenever you notice dirt on them. It’s always easier to get dirt out of fabric as soon as you notice it. As for surface washing, it’s a good idea to give plush toys a good wipe every week or so. This can be done when your child is out with a relative, eating or napping.

It’s true that the more you wash stuffed animals, the more likely they are to fall apart over time. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a few beloved stuffed animals in the house in case anything happens.

Regardless, as a general rule of thumb, we recommend washing stuffed animals every few weeks or whenever you change your child’s sheets. This is just because stuffed animals can gather a lot of dust and allergens, especially if the plush toy goes everywhere with your little one!

Will Putting Stuffed Animals in the Dryer Kill Bed Bugs?

Yes. On a medium or high heat, the heat of the dryer can kill bed bugs in 30 minutes (1). However, most stuffed toys shouldn’t go into the dryer. So always check the care label first!

Does Putting Stuffed Animals in the Dryer Kill Germs?

If you put the stuffed animal in the dryer at a high heat for at least 30 minutes, it can kill lingering germs (2). Again, check the care label on the stuffed animal to see if it’s allowed to go into the dryer!

What Detergent to Use When Washing Stuffed Animals?

We recommend a mild detergent, like the Puracy liquid detergent. We also recommend something natural like the Babyganics detergent. You can even opt for borax, which can be effective at cleaning stuffed toys. Just make sure you use a gentle and mild detergent.

How Do You Restore Matted Stuffed Animal Fur?

The best way to restore matted stuffed animal fur is to perform regular spot cleaning. You could also brush the matted fur to revive it. Failing that, try washing it in the washing machine and the putting it in the dryer.

Wash Wisely, Reduce Tears

It’s really up to you to make sure you wash your kids’ stuffed animals well. This will prevent the heartbreak of a toy ruined during a wash and dry!

Make sure to follow our tips for hand washing, surface washing and machine washing. Always check the care label and get a quality mild detergent to treat the stuffed animal with care.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism, and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!