How To Wash Soft Toys Without Damaging Them

Cream teddy bear wrapped in a white towel drying after being washed.

Since COVID-19 made its appearance at the beginning of the year, it's safe to say that the nations' cleaning regimens have stepped up.

We've become pretty used to spraying everything in sight with anti-bac, but what about the things that need a bit of a better, deeper clean? Whether you're looking for tips on how to wash bath toys or even how to encourage children to join in with the cleaning, Kidadl are here to help.  

And today we're tackling the ultimate challenge: cleaning the kids' beloved soft toys.

Little girl sat outside cleaning her teddy bear in a bucket of water.

Do I Need To Clean Soft Toys?

It's a job that often goes to the bottom of the to-do list, but it is important to clean them fairly regularly. Although we all have COVID at the top of our minds right now, keeping your toys clean is more to keep on top of the regular things, like dust mites, allergens and germs that might cause coughs and colds, rather than anything more sinister.

Check The Label

Firstly, make sure you check the care label. It might sound obvious,  but it's easily overlooked. Most soft toys should have one and it will tell you, just like clothes, whether you need to hand wash or machine wash, and at what temperature. If the directions have been rubbed off by lots of snuggles, or if the stuffed toy doesn't have one, use a bit of detective work: compare the style and material to other soft toys and use their labels as a guide.

Colourful soft toy bears soaking in a tub of soapy water.

Take A Closer Look

Even if the label says machine washable, if the soft toy is well-loved it might not survive the machine intact! So give the toy a once over, looking for stitching that's come undone, loose embellishments - anything that could fall off or come apart. If you can repair any damaged areas, it might then be OK to go into the washing machine; if not, it will be a hand wash.

It's also worth feeling for any stiffeners that might be inside that could get damaged. Sometimes plastic or wire is used, for example, to hold up a giraffe's neck or to make a monkey's tail curly.

Brown teddy bear hanging on a washing line to dry.

Machine Washing

If the label on the soft toy says yes, and/or you've given the toy a good inspection and it looks sturdy or has been repaired, it's ready for the washing machine. Use a gentle laundry detergent, ideally a non-bio that you might use for babies or sensitive skin, and only use a small amount - you don't need to scoop like you're washing a full load.

You don't need a high temperature, 30 degrees is fine, and you don't need a full cycle either. Make sure to use a delicate or hand wash cycle if your washing machine has one.

You can also give your toys an extra level of protection by washing it inside a net or mesh laundry bag (the kind you might use for bras). If you don't have a washable garment bag, an old pillowcase would work just as well.

Pink teddy bear air drying on the washing line after being washed.

Hand Washing

If you can't machine wash your soft toys, you can still give them a gentle hand wash. Fill a basin with cool water and a sprinkle of washing powder, and give those stuffed animals a bath. Submerge them in the water, and give any noticeable stains a little scrub with a cloth or soft dish scourer. When the toys are clean, make sure to rinse them really well: any detergent left on the toys could irritate children's delicate skin.

Tip: Do always check the label to see what suits your child's soft toy, but we think this is the best way to clean a teddy bear without losing any fluffiness!

If your child's stuffed toys can't be fully submerged, for example, if they contain a battery, you can still give them a kind of surface wash. Give them a good dusting with baking soda, shake them up in a pillowcase and then leave for about 30 minutes to allow the baking soda to extract any oils or moisture. Then give the toys a brush, with a nail brush or baby hairbrush, to dust off all of the baking soda remaining on the surface.

You could use a barely damp cloth for a final wipe, but use with caution.


Air dry the clean soft toy on the washing line, or sit above a warm radiator. Don't be tempted to put a teddy bear in the tumble dryer - it's not worth the risk!

Now you know how to clean soft toys easily and safely, it's recommended that you wash them about once a month. If it's a favourite that get's snuggled in bed every night, taken to the park or dropped from the pushchair, you may want to wash it even more regularly.



At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things, that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents. 

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