Most children have a stuffed animal for a best friend, but that also means that the toy gets dirty and wears very quickly. Plush toys are made from a variety of materials, including natural fibers like mohair and wool to synthetic fibers like polyester. Depending on the materials used to make the stuffed animal, several options exist for cleaning, drying and fluffing it back up to a like-new condition.
Often, the worn-down look that many stuffed animals get comes from just being dirty, so simple spot-cleaning helps bring back some life to their appearance. Several spot-cleaning options exist, including baby wipes or a wet cloth to wipe dirt from the faux fur. A vacuum cleaner can also be used on larger stuffed animals, though this presents a danger because decorations like buttons and ribbons can be vacuumed away. Another option for spot-cleaning is to sprinkle baking soda on the toy, let it sit for 15 minutes, and then brush it away. This will freshen up the faux fur and remove allergens.
Washing Machines and Dryers
Many stuffed animals can be washed in a washing machine and dried in a dryer, which cleans them and fluffs up the fur. However, the agitator in a washing machine or the heat of a dryer can permanently damage some delicate toys. Check any labels on the stuffed animal before using a washing machine or dryer to check that it is safe for the item. To keep the stuffed animal safe, place it in a mesh laundry bag or a pillowcase that has been pinned closed. Use a gentle-cleaning detergent, and run the washing machine on its gentle cycle. Keep the stuffed animal in the bag when transferring to the dryer, and set the cycle on the air-dry setting to prevent the heat from damaging the materials.
Other Drying Options
Some stuffed animals can handle a trip through the washing machine, but not the dryer. While the washing process takes away any dirt and grime, a stuffed animal won't be back to like-new conditions until it is completely dry. One gentle drying option is to place the animal next to a dehumidifier. This process will take several days to dry the doll, but it is a very gentle way to pull excess moisture from the stuffed animal. A hair dryer is another option, but it should be set on a low-heat setting. Even a stuffed animal that is completely dry will fluff up from a hair dryer.
Once a stuffed animal is dried, fluff up the fur gently with a brush. Some stuffed animals are made from synthetic fibers, so special care needs to be taken to brush them. A regular hairbrush can be used, but it should have soft, widespread bristles. Do not pull too hard, or it will tear some of the fur from the animal. To help the process along, use a hair dryer on a low-heat or no-heat setting to give the fur some lift.
Not all stuffed animals can be washed, dried and fluffed the same way. Some stuffed animals have materials such as suede or velvet in or on them, which will be damaged if immersed in water. Stuffed animals with either sound boxes or other electronics cannot be put in water; neither can those with delicate fabrics. Be careful of decorations like sequins or patches that are glued on because they can come off in the wash. Also, some materials like cardboard or some types of stuffing can be permanently damaged if saturated with water.