Photo of woman and child adding laundry detergent to washing machine

Grove's tips to safely wash stuffed animals (so your kids don't freak out).

Last Updated: May 10, 2021

Keep your child’s favorite plush friends looking new for longer by learning how to safely wash stuffed animals both in the washing machine and by hand.

When your kid’s fuzzy friend goes everywhere the kids go, that stuffed animal is on the fast track to Grubbysville. So maybe a few months — maybe quite a few months — pass, and then one day, you’re fetching Sparky, and you’re suddenly gobsmacked by this filthy rag you’re holding. What was once a pure-white, fluffy puppy is now a drab-gray, misshapen mess of matted fur punctuated with splotches of who-knows-what. Of course, you’re horrified! that your child has been dragging this thing out in public — and sleeping with it!

When it’s time to sneak that mangy dog away from your child’s arms and give that lovey a good scrubbing, here’s how to get that grubby guy so clean you won’t even shudder when your kid eats the sticky goldfish crackers stuck to the stuffie’s back.

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Why do you need to wash a stuffed animal?

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If your child’s stuffed animal sees a lot of action, it’s most likely because it’s getting drooled on, spilled on, and stepped on. It’s getting dragged and dropped all over town, from the playground to playdates and from daycare to the grocery store. You’d think it’d be a veritable breeding ground for bacteria, and even though that may not be the case, it’s a good idea to wash dirty stuffed animals when they start looking like they need it.

Plus, if your child has recently had a stomach bug, head lice, or some other illness, it’s a little more dire to wash that furry in hot water specifically, if possible.

3 things to know before washing a stuffed animal

To determine the best way to wash a particular stuffed animal, start with a few simple steps:

Infographic showing care symbols for washing clothing

1. Check the tag

Most stuffed animals have a care tag that indicates the proper washing method according to the types of materials used.

Napkin illustration

2. Color-test the fabric

Before you wash the entire stuffie, pick an inconspicuous spot to test the color-fastness of the material.

3. Decide when to wash

If the stuffed animal you need to wash is a bedtime must-have, make sure you give yourself enough time to wash and air dry it before bedtime.

How do you know if a stuffed animal is machine washable?

Yellow checked box illustration

Before you throw your child’s favorite cuddle bug in the washer, consider the best way to wash it without damaging it. Don’t wash the stuffed animal in the washing machine if it:

  • Has a music box or electronic element sewn in
  • Is old and especially delicate
  • Features glued-on decorative elements
  • Has a foam ball filling
  • Is dressed in non-removable clothing


How to clean stuffed animals with built-in battery packs

Often, there’s an access panel in the back of the stuffed animal that you can open and remove the battery pack before cleaning. If the battery pack isn’t removable, your best option is to spot-treat any visible dirty patches or smelly spots.

4 easy steps to machine-wash a stuffed animal

If the animal is machine-wash worthy, here’s how to do it right:

1. Protect the stuffed animal

Place the lovey inside a mesh bag designed for washing delicates to protect it during the washing cycle.

2. Choose the cool, gentle cycle

Set the temperature to cool and the cycle to gentle to help prevent bleeding colors and other damage.

3. Use the right detergent

Choose a natural laundry detergent that’s free of synthetic fragrances and additives that could irritate your child’s skin when they snuggle up with the stuffie.

4. Air dry the stuffed animal

Don’t put your stuffed animal in the dryer, which causes a lot of wear-and-tear. Use a pants hanger with a clip to hang-dry, or lay the animal across a traditional drying rack.


Can you put a stuffed animal in the dryer?

The short answer is no.

While it may be tempting to speed up the drying process to get that stuffed animal dry, the heat of the dryer may cause permanent damage, like matting the fur, melting the glue, causing lumps and bumps, and turning your child’s fuzzy into a one-eyed nightmare.

How to wash a stuffed animal by hand

Blue sink illustration

If the animal is too delicate for the washing machine, handwashing is the way to go. This is a much gentler approach to washing a stuffed animal and will help prolong its life (and its soft, fluffy fur.)

  1. Soak the stuffed animal in a sink full of warm water.
  2. Add a child-safe, natural detergent to the sink. Hint, hint: Grove members love Mrs. Meyer’s Baby Laundry Detergent.
  3. Gently handwash the animal thoroughly.
  4. Drain the sink, and rinse the stuffed animal until the water runs clear.
  5. Air dry the stuffed animal completely.

How often should you wash stuffed animals?

The most-loved stuffed animals in your home need a monthly cleaning. Because machine-washing stuffed animals causes wear and tear, handwashing is the safest way to go if you need to wash them more often.

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