How to Clean Stuffed Animals and Remove Germs

Don't touch that teddy bear until you follow this stuffed animal cleaning guide!

We show you how to clean stuffed animals correctly so they remain germ-free. Do you remember the last time you disinfected your kids' favorite stuffed animal? There's a good chance your little one's beloved teddy bear, bunny, or polar bear is crawling with germs, dust, pollen, and more.

And if your children carry their fuzzy friend around with them everywhere they go, they're also spreading the germs and bacteria around the house—especially if they've been sick. Follow the steps below for disinfecting and cleaning stuffed animals.

How Often to Clean Stuffed Animals

It's best to clean stuffed animals every week if kids sleep with them or carry them around a lot. At a minimum, you should clean plush toys monthly—especially if allergies or asthma exist.

If you or your child have been sick or had lice, disinfect and clean stuffed animals right away. And, of course, clean stuffed animals if they smell or look dirty.

Considerations Before You Get Started

Always check the label on the stuffed animal for care instructions. Some stuffed animals should not be machine-washed, such as those stuffed with plastic pellets rather than cotton batting. Also, be mindful of batteries and electronic parts on stuffed animals.

If the toy is very old or falling apart, a delicate hand wash is best. If it's safe to machine-wash the toy, then it's the best option as it will remove more germs and bacteria than hand washing.

What You Need:

To Machine Wash

To Hand Wash

How to Clean Stuffed Animals in a Washing Machine

Step 1: Place in Laundry Bag

If the stuffed animal is small enough, place it inside a mesh laundry bag to protect it. Add to the washing machine.

Step 2: Wash on Delicate

Instead of using the sanitizing setting on your washing machine, super-sanitize a delicate cycle by boosting your laundry detergent with a laundry sanitizer, which can kill 99.9 percent of bacteria in the wash. You'll be sure the stuffed animal is bacteria-free, and your little one won't have to wait to be reunited with their teddy bear during the never-ending sanitizing cycle.

Step 3: Dry the Toy

To prevent glue or plastic parts from melting, it's best to air-dry the stuffed animal.

  • First, remove all excess water, then dry with a towel.
  • Place the toy in a well-ventilated area to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.
  • To speed up the process and get your child reunited with their favorite toy sooner, use a hair dryer set to cool.

How to Hand Wash Stuffed Animals

Hand-washing won't disinfect as well as the washing machine, but it's the best alternative for toys that are too fragile to survive a run through the machine.

Step 1: Make a Cleaning Solution

Fill a basin, tub, or large container with cool water and a drop of mild detergent. You want enough water to be able to soak the toy.

Step 2: Soak and Clean

Submerge the stuffed animal in the soapy mixture. Gently spot-clean any stains with a towel.

Step 3: Rinse and Dry

  • Rinse off any soap and remove excess water.
  • Dry the stuffed animal with a clean towel.
  • Place the toy in a well-ventilated area to air dry thoroughly.
  • If you wish to speed up the drying process, try using a hair dryer set to cool.

How to Keep Your Stuffed Animals Clean Longer

To help stuffed animals stay clean and last longer, try these tips.

  • Wash regularly. So you won't forget, make a habit of tossing plush toys into the washing machine when changing and cleaning bed sheets.
  • Store carefully. If storing stuffed animals for an extended time, individually wrap them in tissue paper. This way, they'll be protected from dust and will keep their form better.
  • Spot clean. Occasionally, look over stuffed animals and spot-clean any stains to prevent them from getting excessively dirty.

Removing Stains From Stuffed Animals

Since stuffed animals are often a child's best friend, it's common for them to get stained—food, dirt, and sticky substances are typical culprits. Here's how to remove stains from stuffed animals:

  1. Mix water and mild laundry detergent in a large bowl or sink.
  2. Gently scrub the spot using an old toothbrush.
  3. Remove soap with a damp towel.
  4. Dry with another towel and allow the stuffed animal to air-dry completely.


Can all stuffed animals be washed and dried?

While most stuffed animals are machine-washable and dryer-safe, some need more delicate handling. Plush toys with batteries, music, and other electronic parts, and those filled with foam balls or plastic pellets (instead of batting), should not be washed in the machine.

You'll also want to be careful with stuffed animals that have sequins, hats or fragile clothing (e.g., sheer), buttons and other plastic accessories, and glued-on eyes. These things may be damaged from the spinning and heat of either a washing machine or a dryer.

What's the best way to clean stuffed animals with batteries in them?

Stuffed animals with batteries or other electronic parts need to be hand-washed. Even still, you have to be careful with them to prevent damage. (Never submerge plush toys with electronics into water.) Follow these steps for cleaning electronic stuffed animals:

  1. Remove the batteries.
  2. Cover electrical areas with tape (electrical tape works great).
  3. Spot-clean the toy to remove stains and dirt using a damp, soapy cloth. (Dish soap or laundry detergent both work.)
  4. Rinse the soap with another cloth, being careful not to use too much water.
  5. Let the stuffed animal completely air-dry before replacing the batteries.

Can you clean stuffed animals without water?

Try these alternative methods for cleaning stuffed animals if unable to wash them:

  • Disinfect in the freezer. You can disinfect stuffed animals that cannot get wet by placing them in a plastic bag, then leaving them in the freezer overnight. The cold will kill germs and bacteria.
  • Vacuum the toy. Remove dust on stuffed animals by vacuuming the toy. This is not a replacement for washing or disinfecting plush toys, but it can provide a quick clean between deeper cleanings.
  • Remove smells with baking soda. Another quick-cleaning method that helps get rid of odors on stuffed animals is to add the toy and 1 cup of baking soda to a sealable plastic bag. Shake the bag for 20-30 seconds, then place the bag in the sun. After removing the stuffed animal, be sure to vacuum it before use.
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