Tidying up our miniature stuffed animals is pretty easy, toss them in the washer for some minutes and retrieve a thoroughly clean plushie afterwards. For stuffed animals having some bulk however, we’re faced with a lot of questions to answer.
Where do I start from? Is there anything important I should know? Will the inside dry up after washing, if so, how long will it take? Will the stuffing get ruined? And many more questions like this.
We’re here to put all these questions to bed with this comprehensive guide on how to properly wash and take care of your large stuffed animals when they get dirty.
Cleaning large stuffed animals
Is your large stuffed animal smelly? Does it have spot stains splattered all around the body? Has it come in contact with your recently sick child? Or is it heavily soiled in general?
These are the signs you should always look out for to know the right time has come to deep cleanse your plushies.
Toys in general, especially the delicate ones (which most old and large toys happen to be), are mostly recommended to be spot cleaned. Or, if they can, and must be washed, then using hand washing technique.
This is because submerging them in water can undo a lot of things about them. For instance the stuffing inside can become clumped and make the plushy feel less fluffier. The outer fabric also can lose its feel or texture, if you like, and become dried or burnt (from putting in the dryer).
Despite the scary prospects of deep cleaning toys however, you still have to submerge your washable toys at the end of the day when they have picked up heavy soiling and are beginning to smell like extracts from the sewer.
There are two methods you can use to deep cleanse a plushy. You can wash them by hand, or you can rely on your washing machine to do the job for you.
Hand washing is mostly recommended for old and delicate toys or those that cannot fit inside the washing machine like very large toys. Machine washing on the other hand is easier, faster and more efficient than hand washing. The only thing is that it can be hard on old and delicate toys and can even end up destroying their structure.
Here is how to wash your stuffed animals using both techniques.
Washing stuffed animals by hand
First of all, before you begin washing any stuffed animal, make sure to check the care label on the toy to determine whether or not it can be washed in the first place, and if so, how.
If it can be washed, and the method recommended by the manufacturer is hand washing, then that is good news for you. If it’s machine washing, it’s also good news, because it means you can actually wash the toy by hand.
If your toy doesn’t have any care label (i guess.. we can try out washing and see…?)
Washing by hand is pretty simple and straightforward.
The first thing you want to do is to inspect the stuffed animal for stained spots and try to treat these spots using a spot remover or by applying detergent to the affected area and working it inside, letting it sit for sometime, and then rinsing with cold water.
Most of the time, using a mild detergent directly on the stained area would work, but for stains that have aged, you might have to use professional stain removers or repeat the detergent technique over and over again. You can also soak using a pre-soak solution, and use this time to add a sanitizer like Zoflora.
Next, you want to fill up water in the kitchen sink or the bathtub or a large bowl that can accommodate the size of your stuffed animal.
Add detergent to the wash water and swish your hands in the water to get everything all incorporated. Submerge the large toy in the container and let it soak for about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how soiled the stuffed animal is.
Afterwards, using gentle motion, try to work your fingers into the fur of the stuffed animal to release dirt and soil. When you’re satisfied with the cleaning, replace the wash water with a rinse water and submerge the toy completely inside.
Dip and take it out continuously to release soapy water from the body. Repeat the process until you’re fully satisfied with the rinse. Whatever you do, avoid squeezing or wringing the toy as that can clump up the stuffing even more.
After you’re done, roll up the toy in a clean white towel and press down on it to remove as much moisture from the toy as possible.
Air dry in a well ventilated area away from sunlight. You can use a hair dryer set on cold to restore back the fluff on the fur after the toy has dried, and maneuver the body to reshape it and declump the fillings inside for plushiness.
Washing large stuffed animals in the washer
If your washer has a very large capacity, you can use it to clean your large stuffed animal. Just like with handwashing, you first need to treat stains if there are any, so the toy comes out pretty clean after the wash session is over.
So treat tough stains with professional spot removers, and light stains using a paste of detergent.
After you’ve gotten them out, prepare your washer and add your stuffed animal into it, but in this manner however; make sure the stuffed animal is inside a mesh bag or a pillow case. Get a large one for this task.
Doing so will help protect delicate parts of the stuffed animal like the eyes and ears. Another alternative is to throw in two large towels together with the stuffed animal in the washer. This would offer protection from the rough agitation of the washer.
Next, run a delicate cycle with cold water and laundry sanitizer (if the toy was originally handled by a sick person). You can use slightly hot water if the structure of the toy permits, i.e. it has no plastic parts or glued on parts. That would help with sanitation also.
After washing, remove the toy from the mesh bag and the pillowcase and put it in the drying machine. Use low heat settings because furs can get burnt in high heat, and dry together with dryer balls or tennis balls to facilitate the removal of moisture from the inside and also to restore the fluffiness of the stuffed animal.
Before you put your stuffed toys in the drying machine however, always check to see that there aren’t any plastic or glued-on parts on them as these can get destroyed in the dryer. Also check the label to ensure that no warning is given out with regards to putting the stuffed animal in the dryer.
Toys like squishmallows typically do not have glued on parts but rather have stitches that hold everything together and even close them up (check the underside, you’ll see where every stitch across the toy terminates). That’s why squishmallow are completely safe to put inside the washer and also the dryer.
How to clean large stuffed animals with batteries
If your stuffed animal has electronic components in it, then 9/10 of the time you won’t be able to submerge it in water. You’ll clearly discover on the product label a warning ditched out against such practice. In that case however, how do you clean the dirty stuffed animal?
By spot treatment and light cleaning!
In spot cleaning, we’re not submerging the toy in water. Rather, all we’re doing is inspecting the toy and trying to locate stained spots that need attention.
All purpose stain removers work great on most types of stains, sometimes, even on aged stains. You can find spot removers in local stores or the supermarket.
You can also apply a laundry soap directly to the spot, leave it to react for at least 5 minutes, and then wipe clean using a dampened cloth. This would work for normal soiling and light stains and may have to be repeated on and on for really tough and deep stains.
In light cleaning, we’re only concerned with cleaning the outer covering of the plushie. So for this we use dish soap or laundry soap and avoid laundry detergent.
The reason for this is because the former are mostly lighter and less dense and because of that, they’re easier to remove from the surface of the toy than laundry detergents that are naturally concentrated and dense.
Using dish soap or laundry soaps would help us minimize the use of water on the toy which we know already, can result in a dense stuffed animal when it penetrates all the way to the stuffings.
How to maintain large stuffed animals
Spot clean most of the time
As far as stuffed animal maintenance is concerned, your best bet is to spot clean most of the time and avoid submerging them in water, especially when you have only light soiling or spot stains.
This will help preserve the longevity of your stuffed animals because the fluffiness of the toy remains so long that water doesn’t penetrate all the way to the stuffing.
For lightly soiled and stained plushies, use “spot treatment and light cleaning techniques” as discussed above to clean them.
Washing large toys mostly follows the same procedure as cleaning smaller toys and is just as easy. The big difference really boils down to the size, in which case, if your washer is on the wide capacity side, it really isn’t a problem, and if not, it still isn’t a problem as you can always wash large plushies by hand using a big bowl or in the bathtub.