How to Surface Wash Stuffed Animals in the Washing Machine

Since they’re often a child’s best friend, they start to get a little grimy after a while. In these cases, it’s up to us, as parents, to make sure our children’s toys stay safe and clean.

There are a few ways to do this but you can skip the harshness of machine washing altogether by hand washing your children’s stuffed animals. One of the best ways to do this is to surface wash stuffed animals, especially if they can’t be machine washed.

How to Clean Stuffed Animals

However, before you grab your laundry bag and get to work, it’s important to make sure you know exactly how to surface wash stuffed animals. This way, you can tackle the project efficiently and quickly, saving you valuable time.

Keep reading and we’ll break down the supplies and steps you need to make the stuffed animals in your home look like new!


What You Will Need to Surface Wash Stuffed Animals:

  • The stuffed animal that needs cleaning
  • Access to a sink and cold water
    • You’ll want a sink here rather than a bowl of water because you’ll need running water in the later steps in how to surface wash stuffed animals.
  • A drain stopper (to create standing water in the wink)
  • A mild detergent
  • Toothbrush for scrubbing
  • Clothespins
  • A place to hang the stuffed animal while it dries
    • When you’re hanging the stuffed animal to dry, you will want a space where dripping water beneath the stuffed animal won’t be a problem.


[How-to YouTube video link:]

Step 1: Preparing to Surface Wash a Stuffed Animal

The first step in how to surface wash stuffed animals is to make sure you’re ready to get started! This includes a few, fairly simple decisions.

First, choose the stuffed animals or beanie babies that need washing. Then, you’ll need to find a space where you can take the time to surface wash them.

Tips for Cleaning Stuffed Animals Before

Remember, as we noted earlier, you’ll need access to a sink that you can fill with cold water, so working in the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room with a sink is a good idea.

It’s also a good idea to take a second to clean your sink as well. After all, you want don’t want to wash your stuffed animals in a messy sink.

Step 2: Submerge and Squeeze!

Now, fill your sink up with cold water. In this step, you’ll need to submerge the stuffed animal in the liquid, so make sure you have enough water for that!

How to Wash Stuffed Animals

Once you have enough cold pool, submerge the stuffed animal completely to soak it. After you do this, squeeze the water out. For dirty stuffed animals, the water that comes back out of the toy is likely at least a little murky.

That’s why you’ll want to repeat the process of submerging and squeezing the stuffed animal until you see the liquid running out of it turn clear.

Step 3: Preparing to Scrub the Stuffed Animal

Now that you’ve gotten the water to run clear out of the stuffed animal, it’s time to work on scrubbing its surface.

For this step, you’ll need a mild detergent, detergent solution, or soap and a toothbrush. This is what you’ll use to scrub the stuffed animal. While you should generally give the stuffed animal a surface clean with the soap and toothbrush, this is a great chance to focus on stubborn stains.

The advantage of hand washing a stuffed animal with a toothbrush and soap means that you can focus a little elbow grease on the places that need it most.

Pro Tip: If you use HE detergent or high-efficiency detergent in your washing machine, you’ll want to be careful. This type of detergent makes more suds compared to the amount of water that’s used. This means that you may need a little less HE detergent than a standard mild detergent for this process. A washing machine cleaner will prevent detergent buildup thus ensuring your washing machine is properly maintained.

Step 4: Squeeze It Again

In the last step, you added quite a bit of soap to the stuffed animal. Leaving all that soap caught in the stuffing or even on the surface can make for a gross situation pretty quickly. That’s why you have to make sure that it’s all out.

The easiest way to do this is to follow the same format as the second step: squeeze the stuffed animal in cold water again! When you squeeze the stuffed animal, you’ll see suds come out of it and you might even see more dirt or grime. Just keep squeezing until the water that comes out runs clear and soap-free.

Step 5: One More Final Rinse

For this step, you’ll want running pool rather than cold water. That’s because instead of focusing on cleaning now, you’ll just be rinsing the stuffed animal. This makes sure that any grime or soap isn’t caught in the stuffed animal that you may have missed.

Start running cold pool in the sink and squeezing the stuffed animal, similarly to what you did when you submerged it completely. Just like that step, you’ll want to continue to do this until the water runs clean without any suds or mess.

Step 6: Drying the Stuffed Animal

When you’re done hand washing the stuffed animal, you have to make sure it dries completely. It’s best to hang the stuffed animal to dry with the aforementioned clothespins.

The ideal way to hang a stuffed animal to dry is on a clothesline outside if you have one. This is advantageous for a few reasons. First, hanging the stuffed animal in sunlight will help it dry faster than it would inside.

On top of that, the stuffed animal is going to continue to leak quite a bit of liquid throughout the drying process. Hanging the stuffed animal outside is a great way to avoid a puddle that you have to clean up later.

If you don’t have a clothesline, though, you aren’t out of luck! In this case, it’s best to choose somewhere that dripping water won’t be a problem like a bathtub.

Step 7: Squeeze Out the Stuffed Animal One More Time

Technically, this step of the process is optional but it doesn’t take a lot of time and it’s better to add it into the process. Once you hang the stuffed animal to dry, take a moment to squeeze it out one last time.

This time, you aren’t going to repeat this until the water’s clean – it should already be at this point. On the other hand, squeezing excess water out can reduce the amount of dripping the stuffed animal produces over time and decrease the time it takes for the item to dry completely.

Pro tip: If you’re in a pinch for time, you can speed up this drying method too with the help of a blow dryer. Yet, you’ll want to be careful and make sure that you’re using the blow dryer on a no-heat or air-dry setting. All in all, it’s best to avoid heated settings altogether.

Can You Put Stuffed Animals in the Washing Machine?

There are some stuffed animals that can be machine washed but not every stuffed animal can. Like clothes, it’s important to pay attention to any care instructions that a stuffed animal has. There are some stuffed animals that require handwashing – that’s where surface washing comes in! However, when it comes to machine drying, if you do use the dryer, you’ll want to rely on a dryer bag, a gentle cycle, and low heat.

How Do You Surface Wash a Teddy Bear?

The great news about surface washing a teddy bear is that it’s the same as surface washing any other stuffed animal. You can use the same technique that we’ve gone over here to make sure your kids have their favorite teddy bear back in no time!

What Does It Mean If Something is Surface Washable?

Surface washing a stuffed animal means that the stuffed animal needs a gentler touch than a washing machine. The focus here is more on cleaning the outside of the item with a mild detergent or soap and water.

This is much less harsh than the rough motion of a washing machine or washing the stuffed animal with a number of other items. See more info about washing pillows too.

How Do You Clean a Music Stuffed Animal?

If you’re working on cleaning a music stuffed animal or one with other electronic components, don’t submerge it in the water! This will ruin it.

Instead, put your soap and warm water in a separate bowl and make sure it’s thoroughly mixed. Then, use a washcloth to gently clean the outside of the toy. This will avoid exposing electronic components to water.

Something to Consider when Deciding if your Stuffed Animals can be Washed in the Washing Machine:

  • The care label – if it can be hand washed, it can likely withstand the delicate cycle in the washing machine. Your washing machine may even have a hand wash cycle.
  • Know when It's okay to disregard the Care Label - The care label instructs to hand wash
  • Material – Take notice of the care label and use your sense of touch as well as sight to thoroughly examine all parts of the stuffed animal to be washed. Polyester and acetate (a form of cotton) are fine to wash.
    The stuffed animals I washed have plastic pellets and were fine, but you wouldn’t want to machine wash something with foam balls such as Beanie Babies. Be cautious of delicate clothing items and things that are glued on, they may not survive!
  • Age – The older it is, the more fragile it will be.

Additional Tips:

  • Ere on the side of caution if using a top loading washer with an agitator by putting stuffed animals in a mesh bag to prevent them from balling up or snagging.
  • Always use warm or cold (NOT HOT) water and run the delicate or hand wash cycle.
  • After you wash stuffed animals, be sure to hang dry! You don’t want to melt any glued on or plastic parts.

If this tutorial helped you, let us know in the comments and share the article so that your friends can keep the stuffed animals in their homes fresh and clean! Read some of our Housekeeper Pro Tips e.g. storing Christmas Light and cleaning microwave without Vinegar.

To clean hard toys that can unquestioningly be immersed, check out this recipe for an all-natural disinfectant rinse and let your kids wash their own toys!

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