How to Clean Stuffed Animals

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Dear Home-Ec 101,
I just was wondering how to wash stuffed animals? I want to disinfect it properly, so I was thinking of putting them in the wash – with OxiClean and detergent, inside a rubber-banded pillowcase. Or is there any other way?
Fuzzy in Fulton

how to clean stuffed animals
Heather says:

Stuffed animals are beloved by children and abhorred by those of us who actually pay attention to our allergist’s recommendations. As far as washable stuffed animals, you have the method exactly right. However, in my experience even on gentle and tumble drying on low or air drying, even washable stuffed animals are never quite the same afterward.

If your goal is to just kill dust mites and the stuffed animal isn’t washable put the animal in a clean plastic or cloth bag and put it in the freezer for 24 hours or so. Once the time has elapsed take it outside and beat the ever-loving snot out of it. Seriously, you want to get rid of any dead dust mites or their *ahem* excrement which will just trigger allergies and asthma, even after they are dead.

If an unwashable stuffed animal is just generally dirty, you can put it in a large plastic bag -seal it tight- with a cup or two of cornstarch. Shake the heck out of the bag and let it sit for a while. Then brush or vacuum the cornstarch -go outside for this step- off of the stuffed animal. The cornstarch usually gets a lot of dirt and grease. Think of it like that old trick to skip a day of hair washing, by using cornstarch. Even with my long and extremely thick hair, I have never found it to be that time-saving over just washing and restyling.

how to launder unusual items
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If there is a beloved stuffed animal that isn’t washable and the unthinkable happens to it (kid vomit or worse), pick apart one of the seams. Pull out all of the stuffing and discard it. Then gently hand wash the outer material using a detergent like Woolite and lay flat to dry.  Once the skin of the animal is dry, re-stuff with stuffing from the craft store. Finally, resew the seam.

Good luck!

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2 thoughts on “How to Clean Stuffed Animals”

  1. I have had to wash my son’s beloved (read: he won’t go to sleep without it) stuffed elephant, of which we were smart enough to buy two but not smart enough to by three, and I’ve managed to get away with it several times. It’s had all manner of bodily fluids on it, vomit, blood, urine, you name it. I won’t count drool because it’s clear and has no odor. Priorities. Anyway, I’ve put it in the washer (front-loader) inside a lingerie bag with a little detergent on the hand-wash cycle. It usually gets enough water out that I can let it air dry, in the sun if possible. But lately it’s been a little smelly after that – mildew I guess, so I’ve put it in the dryer, still in the bag, on low heat, for 15 minutes at a time. I’ve not had any problems, but I only started doing this when the thing was beyond repair and I had nothing to lose!

  2. You might look into the way a lot of museum items are cleaned: Bran in a bag. Put the item into a bag with a cup or so of bran. Shake vigorously. Brush with a soft brush. – Maybe a drop of cloves or bacterial killing essential oil in the bag, too.


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