How to clean dirt and grime from soft toys

How to clean soft toys

Soft toys get a lot of love, which means they also get a lot of grime.

Whether Granny is handing down an heirloom teddy from the attic (dust and all) or the baby years have taken their toll on a favourite stuffed toy, it is possible to make soft toys fresh and fluffy again.

Here’s the low-down on how to clean stuffed toys. Fur real.

On-the-spot stains

Oops, they did it again! If something gets spilt on the plushie, the best thing is to deal with the problem area straight away.

  1. Shake the toy (maybe step outside for this bit) and flick off any surface liquid or muck.
  2. Mop up any absorbed liquid by dabbing it with a paper towel.
  3. Use a clean, damp sponge to rub off any stains.
  4. Dry with a towel and voila! Teddy lives to cuddle again.

All over clean

Over time stuffed toys get grubby, and there comes the day when a complete clean is needed to banish the bacteria and get the toy looking and smelling great again.

STEP ONE: Washing

Toys that CAN be machine washed
Check the label (if it’s still there) to know whether the toy and washing machine are gonna be friends. If the plushie is machine washable, put it in a laundry bag on a gentle cycle. A front loader is kinder than a top-loader, and a dash of fabric softener will leave them fluffy as new. Well, new-ish.

Toys that CAN’T be machine washed

The washing machine is a truly wondrous contraption (swoon), however, some soft toys should steer clear of the appliance, including:

Very big toys – they won’t fit and will take ages to dry anyway
Toys stuffed with foam beads (Beanie Babies alert!)
Very densely stuffed toys
Toys stuffed with paper or plastic parts
Toys with batteries or a music box
Toys with glued on parts, like buttons and hats or sequins and glitter
Old and delicate toys
Toys with a ‘not machine washable’ label (go figure)

And if a soft toy can’t go in the machine, fear not! There are a few things you can do by hand…

  1. Vacuum: Use a vacuum with the hose or upholstery attachment (or a lint roller) to get the dust off its fur.
  2. Wipe it down: Mix a bit of water with a tiny bit of detergent and, using a damp cloth, gently rub the fur in a circular motion till it’s all clean. Then remove the suds by rubbing it with a dry, white towel.
  3. Stain remover: Problem areas, like Vegemite fingerprints, might benefit from a multi-purpose stain remover. Just make sure you test it first.

STEP TWO: Drying

Air-drying is best. Put the soft toy on a rack or give the kids a giggle by hanging it on the line with peg ‘earrings’! To prevent mould, wait until the toy is bone dry before putting it back with all the other soft toys.

STEP THREE: Fluffication

The toy will probably need a bit of a fluff up after all this, so wait until it’s dry, then rub the plushie with a towel or use a hairbrush. Hot dryers can shrink or ruin the shape of a soft toy, but some mums recommend a quick spin in a cool dryer for fresh ‘fluffication’.

STEP FOUR: Deodorise the toy

If that stuffed bear still smells like a skunk after washing it with fabric softener, put it in a paper bag with some baking soda. Shake the bag until the toy is coated, let it sit for half an hour, then brush the baking soda off with a towel.

Ahhhh, all clean. The toy may not look brand-new after its stint in the ‘salon’, but a wash and air-dry certainly works wonders!

Soft toy can’t be saved? Then browse our toy archives to find a new cuddly toy friend for your kid.