Because even teddy bears need a bath sometimes
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
Stuffed animals may be beloved friends, but let’s face it—they’re also filthy. After all, they’ve been put through the wringer. Children and adults alike hug and kiss their furry pals, drop them on the floor, drag them around, and maybe even leave them in boxes for years at a time.
It’s no wonder they've seen better days!
The obvious solution is to wash your stuffed animal—but how? If it goes wrong, your friend could be gone forever, and horror stories about botched spins in the washing machine abound. So how does one safely clean a stuffed animal?
The washing machine isn’t off-limits, but you should be smart about it.
First, don't toss stuffed animals in the washer if they have an audio or music box inside, are particularly old or fragile, or are stuffed with anything other than batting (Beanie Babies are out). Wash those suckers by hand instead.
If your little buddy is particularly fragile, you may even want to stick to spot cleaning, rather than submerging it in water.
But if you’ve got a reasonably durable, ordinary stuffed animal on your hands, you can give the washer a try.
Be wary if you’ve got a top-loader, as the agitator might prove a bit too rough for your plush friend. We’d recommend placing that teddy bear a mesh laundry bag, selecting a gentle cycle, and using a mild detergent. Skip the fabric softener, and don't put the little guy in the dryer—hang it out to dry.
There is one instance in which you may not want to skip the dryer. If your machine has a steam clean or steam sanitize option, it may prove even more effective than a washing machine when it comes to safely cleaning stuffed animals.
We weren’t sure how well this would work, so we pulled a few well-loved, furry specimens out of storage to see how they fared in the LG DLEX5000V’s Steam Sanitary cycle. We were nervous about the heat and the loud clinking noises the animals’ plastic noses made as they banged against the dryer drum, but we breathed a sigh of relief when they emerged no worse for the wear.
Our plush toys started out musty, bedraggled, and allergy-triggering, but the 30-minute cycle took care of all of that. So if you have a dryer with a steam option, it might be a great alternative to washing stuffed animals by hand, or in the washer.
Stuffed animals inevitably get filthy. It's a fact of life. What's more, cleaning them is always going to involve a small amount of risk. (Casualties from my childhood include a one-armed bear and a lion with an eternally-matted mane—those kinds of laundry mishaps stick with you forever.) But if you approach the task with care, you should be able to avoid serious disasters.
The payoff is clean, cuddle-ready stuffed animals. And trust us—that makes it all worth it.
Sign up for our newsletter to get real advice from real experts.