Parents everywhere face this problem: What to do when your child’s favourite cuddly toy needs a “bath?” There are wrong ways to wash a plush toy that result in shriveled fur and lots of tears…and right ways to do it that leave your lovey fluffy and ready for lots more snuggles. 

Whether those fuzzy pals have been dropped in the mud, spilled on, or just cuddled for long enough that they are getting kind of stinky, here is our ultimate guide to removing dirt and germs from your little one’s cuddly toys, without compromising their sweet looks or soft feel. 

First things first. Depending on how dirty or what type of dirty the plush toy is, there is a range of cleaning methods to consider. The most minimal is spot-treating, which is recommended for small or manageable messes like a spill or one small dirty spot. Also note that spot-treating is the best course of action for any cuddly toy that should not be submerged in water or machine washed. Plush toys you should not wash include any that:

  • Are antique, handmade, or very fragile 
  • Contain metal like music boxes or electronic parts / batteries (for example, you must remove the soundbox before washing SNOObear)
  • Have glued-on features or sequins
  • Are stuffed with foam balls rather than standard batting (like Beanie Babies

How to Spot-Clean a Cuddly Toy

To spot-treat, use a flannel soaked in warm water and dipped in diluted dish soap or gentle laundry detergent. Wring out the cloth before cleaning the plush toy to avoid getting it too wet. Next, apply a very gentle up-stroke to the soiled spot, “lifting” away the dirt rather than grinding it in. Repeat with a wet flannel that does not have soap on it, until all traces of the detergent are gone. Lay out the stuffy until totally dry, then fluff the affected spot with your fingertips to return it to its original softness. 

How to Wash a Whole Cuddly Toy

Always check for washing instructions before you launder a plush toy, but most can be washed by hand or in the machine with care. 

You will know it is time for more than a spot-treat when a cuddly toy has been exposed to major germs, like during or after a bad tummy bug or flu going around the house. The same goes for any other “icks” like lice and ringworm, even if you can not see anything on the toy. Stuffies that spend a good deal of time on the run—joining your child on outings or play dates, or that get a lot of love with nightly cuddles, will also need some routine washing.

How to Wash a Soft Toys by Hand

Step One: Fill a bucket or bowl with cold water, submerge the stuffy, and soak

Step Two: Add a few drops of mild detergent or clear and gentle dish soap

Step Three: Gently squeeze the plush toy while submerged in the water to give it a more rigorous cleaning than soaking alone

Step Four: Rinse under cold water to get the soap out, without wringing (which can lead to misshaping the soft toy)  

How to Wash a Cuddly Toy in the Washing Machine 

Step One: Place the plush toy in a mesh laundry bag or a zipped pillowcase

Step Two: Wash on delicate cycle in cold or warm water, avoiding normal cycles or high heat that will damage it

How to Dry a Cuddly Animal

NEVER place a plush toy in the dryer. This is what leads to that unattractive “curly” looking damage to their fur. You can lay the plush toy on a towel in a well-ventilated area to air-dry or hang it to dry by clipping its ears with the clamp of a skirt hanger.

Final Thought on Washing Plush Toys

Finding the balance of when and how to wash soft toys is key. To avoid the spread of germs and keep your household healthy, you will want to tackle this project when the soft toy has been soiled or exposed. That said, washing too frequently can change the texture and shape of your beloved stuffies, even when done with care. 

Another way to keep stuffies clean and lessen how frequently washing is required, is to insist on handwashing before play time and bedtime to mitigate the clinginess of illnesses passed by touching. Also, consider a “no soft toys outside the house” rule, and keep cuddly toys off the floor as much as possible. 

You can also lessen your work in the soft toy laundering department by limiting how many plush toys your child(ren) have for cuddling during a period of illness. Only having to clean one well-cuddled lovey per kid once the bug has passed through the house is a form of self-care when you are so busy caring for everyone else. 

Looking for a cuddly toy that is SO much more than a lovey? SNOObear is a responsive, on-the-go white noise lovey that plays the sleep-boosting sounds that babies loved in SNOO. Learn more about SNOObear

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.