How to Clean Plush Stuffed Toys

Updated on March 1, 2018


I've been selling plush stuffed toys on eBay for 9 years. I select the toys that I buy very carefully, however, there are times that I find an unusual toy that may need a little TLC. I specifically look for toys that are from a smoke-free home with no pets and a clean environment. When I buy in bulk from an estate sale, I'm not able to look at each one closely, so before I list a toy for sale, I check it thoroughly for cleanliness, stains, odors, missing parts, tags, etc.

I offer my expertise on cleaning for those buying or selling a used/vintage plush toy or doll from a yard sale, estate sale, rummage sale, flea market, thrift store, or one of the many auctions sites online. You really don't know if the toy is clean or not, particularly when buying online, unless you ask (or if it's listed in the description). But I'm here to help. In this article, I share my methods of cleaning that I've researched and developed over the years.

In the beginning I had a difficult time trying to figure out how to clean and sanitize the toys so they would be presentable and clean to list on eBay. After all, I personally wouldn't want to buy a toy that wasn't clean for my grandchildren. So I went the extra mile, experiencing much frustration with trial and error, and even ruining a few toys along the way. Being health-conscious, I finally found ways to clean using safe cleaning methods and products.

The methods are fast, easy and safe. I also have tips on maintenance for toys that are constant companions to children that are exposed to everyday drink spills, dust, dirt, germs and pet hair. I also share tips for refreshing collectible investment toys that sit on a shelf or in a case that are dusty or have picked up odors.

I can't guarantee that the plush toy will last forever, but it can't hurt to try by keeping it clean and refreshed.

General Cleaning for Plush Stuffed Toys

Safe and Fast Plush Cleaning for the Busy Parent

Cleaning a plush toy that doesn't have a Care Instructions Tag is not as difficult as you may think. If the plush is a toy that is a constant companion and is played with everyday, it is probably a sturdy, well-made, meant-to-be well loved toy. In this case machine washing is the most convenient way to clean a plush stuffed toy.

Pre-treat stains with a laundry stain-remover. Use a white washcloth or sponge to gently blot stain. Upholstery or carpet stain remover may also be used.

Remove accessories such as clothes, collars, or sound boxes. Wash separately.

Placing the stuffed toy in a white or light colored pillowcase tied or pinned securely will protect plastic eyes and catch any stuffing that may leak from a loose seam.

Wash on gentle cycle using little cool water liquid cleaner for delicates, or wool fabrics. If you really want the plush to be fluffy and sanitized, use a teeny tiny bit of upholstery or carpet cleaner.

Add a little fabric softener to the rinse cycle.

After washing, place the plush in the dryer on medium heat. The time depends on the size of the plush; small 20 minutes, medium 30 minutes and large 40-50 minutes. After drying you may use the fluff cycle for 5 minutes.

Brush if needed.

Repair loose seams, eyes or buttons.

Dress plush toy with clothes that were taken off and washed separately. Replace sound box if any.

Please note that there are a few exceptions which are listed in "Do's and Dont's".

There are Links at the bottom of this page to help you even more.

5 Tips for Refreshing Collectible Displayed Plushes

Plush collectible toys that are an investment, for example, TY Beanie Babies, Gund, Boyd's Bears, Steiff or Russ with tags, that you can't wash in the washing machine, try one of the methods that are listed here:

Tip #1. Dust them off periodically with a clean, soft cloth. If necessary, you may use a cloth and a mild detergent to spot clean them.

Tip #2. Place it in the dryer on the lowest heat setting for around 5 minutes.

Tip #3. For getting rid of odors, place in the dryer on the lowest heat setting for 5 minutes with a Snuggle DRYER SHEET.

Tip #4. Vacuum with the drapery nozzle.

Tip #5. A Lent Roller will work.

Surface Dusting Method for Cleaning & Odors

Cornstarch and Baking Soda

For cleaning plush toys that can't be washed or you're just not sure on how to clean them and want to be safe, use the the surface dusting cleaning method.

This method will clean the surface and get rid of odors.

Place the plush toy in a large zip lock plastic bag with one or two cups of baking soda or cornstarch. Baby Powder will work fine also as it has cornstarch in it. Shake vigorously to coat the entire toy, then leave the bag closed for one or two hours to allow the powder to absorb odors. After this process is done, take the toy outside and brush it lightly with a soft brush to remove the powder. Even better, use the vacuum cleaner.

Care and Repair for Overly-Loved Plushes

Plush Toys can suffer trauma from too much love and everyday life of being dragged around by it's constant companion and best friend. It may also be exposed to animals, insects or bacteria that has caused an odor.

If the toy is very precious to you or your child, then you may want to have it professionally cleaned. Over the past few years the number of expert restorers have increased to meet the growing demand of time-ravaged and traumatized plushes.

Prices for cleaning and repairs vary, so you may want to contact a Plush or Doll hospital in your area for an estimate before sending your lovey to the hospital. I'm sure there'll be a cost for hospital stay plus cost of the materials and doctor's fees.

If there isn't a hospital in your area, then check the link at the bottom of this page for "Teddy Bear Hospital".

Cleaning Collectible Ty Beanie Babies

Ty manufactures a wide variety of teddy bears, dogs, cats, horses, crabs, tigers, seals, and much, much more! Authentic Beanie Babies always have tags attached to them.

These stuffed plush toys can't be machine washed, especially with the valuable hang tag that's attached.

To keep them looking good, the manufacturer recommends that they be wiped with a clean, damp cloth. Then, use a hair dryer set on medium heat to dry.

Beanie Babies that have long fur should be gently brushed after they are cleaned.

Maintaining Your Child's Plush Stuffed Toy

Don't wait until you actually see dirt on a stuffed plush toy before you wash it. The cloth material can hold a large amount of dust in it. This dust can aggravate asthma, allergies, and other respiratory ailments.

Periodically clean stuffed plush toys to remove harmful dust from them. Plushes that can't be washed in a machine can be carefully cleaned with a vacuum cleaner that has a hose and attachments.

Read the tag on the toy for information on fabric and materials.

Here are a few suggestions on taking care and maintaining a plush toy that your child can't do without:

  • Terry Cloth Fabric: Machine Washable and Dryer Safe
  • Firmly Stuffed: Stuffing will shift in washing machine and may ruin the shape. Dry thoroughly in dryer and keep checking on it to shape it back.
  • Pillow-Like Puffy: Usually polyester fiber and may be machine washed and dried and fluffed in dryer
  • Light and Fluffy Stuffing: Fiber filled usually stuffed with styrene foam, foam beads or excelsior cannot be washed.
  • Pellet or Beans Filled: Synthetic fiber, usually polyester fiber or plastic beads may be washed.
  • Plastic Stiffeners: Cardboard or hardboard stiffeners can collapse or disintegrate and need to be Surface Cleaned.
  • Metal Stiffeners: Washing anything with stiffeners or shapers in it is risky and may corrode.
  • Jointed Plushes with Plastic Joints: May not be affected by water, but are not very strong and can fall apart. Place in Pillowcase to wash.
  • Jointed Plushes with Hardboard Joints: May soften or warp when wet. Surface Clean.
  • Jointed Plushes with Metal Fasteners: Can rust after getting wet. Surface Clean.
  • Synthetic fibers: Fancy mohair/wool/alpaca stuff must be surfaced cleaned.
  • Clothing, Costumes & Accessories: Will need to be removed before washing and washed separately. When washed together, you run a terrible risk of "bleeding" dyes.
  • Over-Sized Plush: Machine washable and Drying poses a challenge for larger animals. That said, I washed a plush Teddy Bear that's about 4 feet from nose to toes and it came out fine.

Bear in mind that the more expensive the plush toy is, the less likely it is safe to wash.

Sanitizing a Plush while on Vacation

You can easily and safely sanitize a plush toy while on vacation or if it is dropped on the floor in a public place by using an antibacterial Wet Wipe until you are able to clean it properly at home.

If the child can do without the toy for a day or 2 and if you have access to a freezer, then you may try placing the plush or soft toy or doll in a plastic bag and place it in the freezer for 42 hours. This will destroy bugs you may or may not see. After you take it out of the plastic bag, place it in the dryer on low heat or fluff.

Repair and Restoring Vintage or Antique Pushes

Consult An Expert For Collectibles

It is always best to consult an expert before repairing or restoring a vintage or antique plush yourself.

Proper restoration and repair will not decrease the value of a collectible plush toy. The eyes can be replaced, noses and mouth threads replaced, paw pads replaced with like materials, ears and limbs can be replaced if missing, and joints can be re-done if they are loose. Torn seams can be repaired, growlers and squeakers can be replaced or sometimes repaired, and careful cleaning can remove dirt and restore the fur to a soft fluffy feel. Stuffing can be added or replaced as needed with like materials to bring your beloved friend back to life.

Check your local Doll Hospital for prices or go online for more options. By consulting online, you may be asked to send the toy for a hospital stay, so be sure to ask about shipping.

See Link for Teddy Bear Hospital at the bottom of this page.

Do's and Dont's


Do follow care instructions on tag

Do contact Manufacturer for care instructions

Do test area before cleaning

Do remove accessories before cleaning

Do remove voice or music box

Do use Spot-cleaning products

Do test cleaning products or alcohol solvents very carefully

Do use anti-bacterial wipes for emergency sanitizing

Do spot-clean collectibles or wool

Do use hair-dryer for drying surface cleaning

Do dry in sunshine to sterilize for fresh smell

Do dry in sunshine for fresh smell

Do clean soiled plush stuffed toys before storing


Don't soak plush toy

Don't use powder or harsh detergent

Don't ever use bleach

Don't machine wash collectibles or wool

Don't use fancy dyed soap for spot cleaning

Don't immerse plushes that are battery operated

Don't use products with formaldehyde, phosphates, ammonia, phenols and other harsh chemicals

Don't leave wet plushes out to air dry...they will mildew

Don't store soiled plushes

Removing Ink or Crayon Marks on Doll Face

In my many experiments cleaning plushes with plastic or rubber faces, hands and feet, I finally found some very good methods for removing ink, crayon and pencil marks and yes, even Magic Marker!

My favorite is the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Awesome!

Most of the time crayon or pencil can be easily be cleaned with a mild soap and warm water or Clorox Wipes. Don't use fancy scented or dyed soaps with color because it can be transferred to the rubber or plastic.

If it's crayon or ink that's really etched in the plastic or rubber, then use alcohol, just don't get the alcohol on the doll's eyes as they will fade.

If the toy gets really dirty then clean it with a little Softscrub on a cotton ball, and remember to take care and not get it on the eyes.

To remove the dreaded Magic Marker of any color, apply a little Clearasil on the marks and let it dry, then wipe it off gently. Yeah, pretty clever huh!

Always use a mild soap and plenty of water AFTER using chemicals to clean then blot dry with a soft cloth.

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    • profile image

      Elizabeth Wilson 5 months ago

      I have a large blank panther made of polyester fibers it doesn't have care instructions it's about 19 years old. For about6 years it's been out in our shed were it might have mildew in it. What is the best way to clean it

    • profile image

      Betty Richardson 3 years ago

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      susan Lockwood 3 years ago

      I rescued twenty boyds stuffed animals that had been exposed to a light rain and they have a mildew smell. Most made in china and assuming that I can't sell them but would like to donate them. Can't do that until I launder them. Thank you for your expertise in laundering them. I am sixty six and have leukemia. Better get on the ball huh?

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      leanderson1 4 years ago

      I wonder if you have any advice on how to "buff" out scratches in a safety eye on a plush bear? Thanks!

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 7 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      Excellent! I have a bunch of bears including beanies that I've wondered about. Thank you

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      AWESOME article. I found you on eBay and was not surprised to find you also wrote exceptional articles on SQUIDOO. I never know what hubby is bringing home for me to list. Recently, it was a large quantity of stuffed toys, so I have had to learn about cleaning, repairing and listing toys. Your article helped immensely. I don't always sell them, I also donate toys to a group of medical missionaries who give toys when they care for needy children. Like you, I want a child's toy as clean and sanitary as possible. I loved this article.

      Sharron Mirikitani

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      Nathalie Roy 8 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      Great tips, I am favoriting it for later use. My sons has quite a few push toys and I am always afraid to ruined them if I wash them.