Can You Put a Stuffed Animal in the Washing Machine?

Can You Put a Stuffed Animal in the Washing Machine? Definitive Guide

Over time, your kid’s favorite Stuffed Animals get dirty and need a thorough cleaning. For a quick wash, throwing Stuffed Animals in the washer seems reasonable. But can you put a stuffed animal in the washing machine?

Yes, you can put Stuffed Animals in a washing machine if the care label allows it. Avoid machine washing if the toy comes with any electric or metal parts and decorative embellishments. Also, you can’t put old and fragile Stuffed Animals in the washer. Choose a delicate cycle and cold water while machine washing.

Read on to learn if it’s okay to machine wash Stuffed Animals and what the alternatives are.

Can You Machine Wash Stuffed Animals? When to Avoid

Most Stuffed Animals are made of natural or synthetic machine-washable materials. The outer cover of Stuffed Animals is typically made of plush, fleece, wool, or terry cloth. Stuffing materials inside the toy often feature cotton, polyester, wool, feathers, foam, and other fluffy fabrics. 

Some weighted Stuffed Animals come with straws, beans, rice, plastic pellets, or other similar fillers. Depending on the outer layer and inner stuffing, you need to decide whether to put the stuffed animal in a washer or choose another method. Here’s a quick overview:

Washing OptionsWhen to Use
Machine WashSuitable for most fabrics and fillers, including cotton, terrycloth, fleece, nylon, polyester, feathers, and plastic pellets
Hand WashPlush, wool, foam, and toys with delicate embellishments should be hand-washed instead of machine-washing
Spot Cleaning Any stuffed animal with electric parts, including a music box, battery, light, etc., should be spot-cleaned
Dry Cleaning at Home For stuffed toys that come with ‘non-washable’ tags

How to Wash Stuffed Animals in the Washing Machine?

If your stuffed animal comes with a machine-washable laundry tag, you need to wash it as per the care label instructions. In any case, you should choose the gentlest cycle and cold water to avoid ruining it. Here’s the step-by-step process of cleaning Stuffed Animals in a washer without any damage:

Step 1: Prepare Your Stuffed Animal

Before you put the toy in the washer, brush off any loose dirt and debris using a soft-bristled brush. If there’s any loose thread or holes in the stuffed animal, trim or sew it. 

To protect the toy from agitation, put it in a mesh laundry bag and tie it securely at the top. You can also use a pillowcase with a chain. It will prevent any loose thread or inner filling from draining. 

Step 2: Choose a Suitable Cleaner

Typical laundry detergents contain toxins and harmful chemicals that might be too harsh on your soft Stuffed Animals. Try to use a mild detergent or soap so that no damage can happen. 

It’s best if you can use a fabric-specific cleaner. Choose a detergent that’s free of bleach, as it can fade the color of your stuffed toy. Depending on the size of the stuffed animal, only one or two tablespoons of cleaner will be enough. 

Pro Tip: If you’re worried about keeping the color intact, test the fabric for colorfastness. Apply the cleaner on a small portion of the toy to see whether it’s fading the color of the toy. Use or ditch the cleaner based on the results.

Step 3: Set the Machine

While machine washing Stuffed Animals, the most important step is to select the right type of machine and washer cycle. Instead of using a top-loading model with an agitator, go for a front-loading washer. The agitator might be too harsh on your delicate stuffed animal. 

Similarly, you need to choose the ‘gentle’ or ‘delicate’ cycle for maximum protection. Always set the temperature to ‘warm’ or ‘cool,’ making sure it never exceeds 30°C or 86°F. Too much heat can shrink the fabric, weaken the glued parts, and fade its color.

Step 4: Let It Dry

When the washing process is completed, remove the stuffed animal from the machine. Gently squeeze the excess water out and try to avoid the dryer. As mentioned, the heat can damage the delicate fabric.

Lay the washed toy flat or hang it on a drying rack. Let it air dry for several hours to a day. Before your kid plays with the toy again, make sure it’s completely dried. Otherwise, it might grow mildew and an unpleasant odor.

Alternative Ways to Clean Stuffed Animals

When the care label of your stuffed animal says, ‘Do not machine wash,’ you need to choose an alternative method. Some Stuffed Animals can be hand washed while others need dry cleaning. Take a look at the methods given below and see which one suits your toy:

1. Spot Cleaning

For Stuffed Animals that can’t be fully submerged in water, you can go for spot cleaning instead. This way, you can protect the mechanical parts while getting rid of stains easily. Here’s the process:

  1. Prepare a proper cleaning solution with a mild detergent or soap. You can add one or two teaspoons of vinegar to remove particularly stubborn marks.
  2. Dip a soft brush or microfiber cloth in the cleaning solution. Gently rub the stained area until the stain is gone. You can also let the cleaner sit on the stain for 30 minutes to completely erase it.
  3. When the stain is removed, rinse the area with water using another clean towel. Make sure you only use a damp cloth and don’t soak the spot too much. Let the spot air dry, and your job is done!

2. Hand Washing

Many Stuffed Animals are too delicate and made with wool or plush fabric. It’s better to hand wash them to maintain their softness and luxurious feel. Follow the steps given below to hand wash Stuffed Animals.

  1. Prepare a large water container where you can freely move the stuffed animal. A bathtub or sink will be perfect for this task. Fill it with enough water so that you can fully submerge the toy. 
  2. Choose a suitable detergent, preferably a fabric-specific one, and mix two tablespoons of it in the water container. Put the stuffed animal in the water container and squeeze it a bit, allowing the detergent to get in. Let the toy soak in soapy water for 10 to 30 minutes.
  3. For better cleaning, you can gently scrub the stuffed animal, especially the particularly dirty areas. After that, drain the soapy water and refill the container with clean water. 
  4. Rinse the toy properly to wash off the detergent. Repeat the process multiple times until there’s no soapy residue.
  5. Finally, gently squeeze the water out of the stuffed animal and let it air dry. Avoid applying extra heat to make the process faster. Instead, hang it in a cool and dry zone on a bright sunny day.

3. Dry Cleaning

When a non-washable stuffed animal gets smelly and oily, you can dry clean it at home. This way, you can make it look and smell clean and fresh. 

Typically, dry cleaning involves using several harsh chemicals and solvents. So, dry washing at home will make sure your stuffed animal isn’t ruined. For this:

  1. Take a dry-cleaning laundry bag or any regular plastic bag and put the stuffed animal in it. Take about one cup of baking soda and sprinkle it in the bag.
  2. Now, give it a vigorous shake so that the baking soda is distributed throughout the surface of the toy. Keep the bag aside for 30 minutes, allowing the baking soda to act. It will absorb the stuffed animal’s unwanted smell, moisture, and body oils.
  3. After that, take the toy out of the bag and give it another shake to get rid of the baking soda. Wrap the stuffed animal in a pillowcase and use a tumble dryer to let it fluff up.

How Often Should You Wash Stuffed Animals?

If the stuffed animal is regularly played with or carried around, it’s best to wash them weekly. However, washing it once a month will also do. If your kid has been sick and playing with the toy, wash it right away to prevent germs from spreading. 

How Do You Keep Stuffed Animals Fluffy After Washing?

After washing, comb the stuffed animal with a wire bristle brush. Go back and forth along the fur, and it will make the toy fluffy again. 

In case you don’t like the brush, you can use a towel and soft comb instead. When the toy’s fur is still damp, rub a towel and comb the fur until it’s dry and fluffy.

How Can You Disinfect Stuffed Animals While Washing?

To disinfect Stuffed Animals, you can use a laundry sanitizer. While machine washing, use a liquid sanitizer like the Clorox laundry sanitizer. 

If the toy is non-washable, use a disinfecting spray instead. Another way is to keep the stuffed animal in the freezer overnight, as the cold will kill the germs.

Parting Thoughts

In our exploration of whether you can put a stuffed animal in the washing machine, we’ve discovered that Stuffed Animals are mostly machine washable. Yet, you must check out the care label and avoid putting delicate and luxurious fabrics in the machine, like leather, plush, wool, etc., in the machine.

Protect the toy from excessive heat and harsh chemicals to avoid ruining it. Finally, you can also go for alternative ways such as hand washing or dry cleaning at home. Always consider the fabric type and manufacturer’s instructions while choosing the right washing method.

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