How to Wash Stuffed Animals in Washing Machine


What You Will Need to Surface Wash Stuffed Animals:

  • The stuffed animal that needs cleaning
  • Access to a sink and cold water
    • You’ll want a sink here rather than a bowl of water because you’ll need running water in the later steps in how to surface wash stuffed animals.
  • A drain stopper (to create standing water in the wink)
  • A mild detergent
  • Toothbrush for scrubbing
  • Clothespins
  • A place to hang the stuffed animal while it dries
    • When you’re hanging the stuffed animal to dry, you will want a space where dripping water beneath the stuffed animal won’t be a problem.

Something to Consider when Deciding if your Stuffed Animals can be Washed in the Washing Machine:

  • The care label – if it can be hand washed, it can likely withstand the delicate cycle in the washing machine. Your washing machine may even have a hand wash cycle.
  • Material – Take notice of the care label and use y
  • Material – Take notice of the care label and use your sense of touch as well as sight to thoroughly examine all parts of the stuffed animal to be washed. Polyester and acetate (a form of cotton) are fine to wash. The stuffed animals I washed have plastic pellets and were fine, but you wouldn’t want to machine wash something with foam balls such as Beanie Babies. Be cautious of delicate clothing items and things that are glued on, they may not survive!
  • Age – The older it is, the more fragile it will be.


How to Machine Wash Stuffed Animals

If the care label allows, you can opt to machine wash stuffed animals. This is an easier option but it does increase the risk of damaging the toy.

What You Need

  • A mesh bag.
  • A mild laundry detergent.
  • A washing machine with a delicate or gentle cycle.
  • Hair dryer.

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Test your detergent: Test your mild laundry detergent on an inconspicuous area of the plush toy before washing. If it leaves a stain or damages the fabric, then find an alternative detergent.
  2. Bag it: Place the stuffed animal into a mesh bag. This protects it during the washing cycle.
  3. Empty the washing machine: It’s best to wash the stuffed animal alone to minimize the risk of color bleeding from other garments.
  4. Wash: Select the gentle or delicate cycle. Use cold water. Add your detergent to the drum or using the machine’s dispenser.
  5. Dry: Once the cycle is over, gently squeeze excess water out by pressing the animal against the side of a sink or bathtub. Next, dry on a low heat setting with a hairdryer. You can also air dry outside, but it might take a few days!


We’ll answer a few of the top questions so that you can go into washing stuffed animals with total confidence.

You can, but we don’t recommend it. The heat from the dryer can damage the stuffed animal. For example, if it has glued on eyes, then it could actually melt these. However, if you do need to machine dry the animal for whatever reason, then use the air dry setting. Keep an eye on the stuffed animal every 10 minutes or so to make sure it’s surviving okay! Please NoteYou should always check the care label to see if the toy can go in the dryer. If it says not to, then absolutely don’t!

You should definitely wash stuffed animals whenever you notice dirt on them. It’s always easier to get dirt out of fabric as soon as you notice it. As for surface washing, it’s a good idea to give plush toys a good wipe every week or so. This can be done when your child is out with a relative, eating or napping. It’s true that the more you wash stuffed animals, the more likely they are to fall apart over time. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a few beloved stuffed animals in the house in case anything happens. Regardless, as a general rule of thumb, we recommend washing stuffed animals every few weeks or whenever you change your child’s sheets. This is just because stuffed animals can gather a lot of dust and allergens, especially if the plush toy goes everywhere with your little one!

Yes. On a medium or high heat, the heat of the dryer can kill bed bugs in 30 minutes (1). However, most stuffed toys shouldn’t go into the dryer. So always check the care label first!

If you put the stuffed animal in the dryer at a high heat for at least 30 minutes, it can kill lingering germs (2). Again, check the care label on the stuffed animal to see if it’s allowed to go into the dryer!

We recommend a mild detergent, like the Puracy liquid detergent. We also recommend something natural like the Babyganics detergent. You can even opt for borax, which can be effective at cleaning stuffed toys. Just make sure you use a gentle and mild detergent.

Give Your Steam Dryer a Whirl

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.


Credit: / Kori Perten

If your dryer has a steam clean cycle, it might be a great option for cleaning your 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.

Things You’ll Need

  • A dirty stuffed toy
  • Needle, thread, and thimble (optional)
  • Mesh laundry bag or pillowcase and safety pins
  • Gentle laundry detergent
  • A washing machine with cool and gentle cycles (not the laundromat!)
  • A drying towel or clamp hanger
  • A sunny windowsill or veranda
  • A dryer (optional)
  • Dental pick or fine comb

How to Wash Machine-Washable Stuffed Toys

If you have located a tag and it says the stuffed toy is machine-washable, you're in luck. Just a few simple steps might just return the animal to your child in nearly new condition.

  1. Prepare the Toy for the Washing Machine

    After vacuuming to remove dust, place the toy in a mesh bag or zippered pillowcase and wash on the delicate cycle using your regular detergent and cold water. If there is a really difficult stain like paint or blueberry juice, pre-treat following the tips for specific stains.

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  
  2. Hand-Wash an Older, Worn Toy

    If the toy is older or in a delicate condition, and you don’t want to chance it in the washing machine, then you can hand-wash it with a gentle detergent and cool water. Be sure to gently squeeze the cleaning solution through the toy and then rinse by squeezing clean water through the toy with no wringing.

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena
  3. Dry the Stuffed Animal

    To prevent damage, allow the toy to air dry. Roll the toy in a thick, clean white towel to help remove moisture. It can then be hung to dry using clothespins or dried flat. If you must use a clothes dryer to save time, use the lowest heat setting possible. Some synthetic furs, while washable, may melt in high heat.

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 
  4. Groom the Fur

    If the toy has fur, use a soft-bristled brush to fluff up the fibers. Work slowly and in a small section at a time to prevent tangling and pulling out the fibers.

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  

How to wash a stuffed animal by hand

Older or more fragile stuffed animals may need a lighter touch and can be washed gently by hand using the following simple steps.