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Lovies in the Laundry: How to Get the Stink Out of Stuffed Animals

Lovies in the Laundry: How to Get the Stink Out of Stuffed Animals

By Amalah

A nice easy one for you, but I’m having a hard time finding a good Google answer, so I thought I would ask you.

My daughter (2.5 years old) loves her stuffed animals.  Her Curious George in particular, but she has several favorites.  They all have a slight “pee” aroma from naps and overnights in the crib which occasionally involve leaking diapers.  I know the waterproofing on my cloth diapers is on its last legs, just a month or 2 more. . .  I’ve tried Febreeze, and now I have a chemical “fresh” smelling stuffed thing that stinks worse to me than before.  I’m very scared to run them through my High Efficiency (HE) washer, so how do I get the funk out without making it funkier smelling?  Any hints would be appreciated.

Me Monkey stinks! (her words. . .)

So I’m not exactly sure what’s up with the sudden uptick in laundry/cleaning-related questions, but I’m gonna roll with them because I dig it. It’s like you guys think I’m clean, or something! That’s fabulous! Though now I can never have you over for a dinner party because THEN YOU WILL KNOW THE TRUTH. I live in a hovel made of Lego-sized dust bunnies and rogue superhero underpants.  (Editor: this answer was actually from quite a while ago and was buried in in our database in error.  Sincere apologies.)

But I do have experience with what you speak of, as this exact scenario has happened with every last one of my kids. Beloved stuffed toy gets caught in the leaking diaper line of fire (or worse — poop blowout or vomit or FREAKING HEAD LICE) and needs something more than the tag’s instructions to “spot wash only” can handle.

The reality is that most stuffed toys will survive the occasional go in the washing machine just fine. (I agree with you about Frebreezing them. It doesn’t full deodorize — probably because the urine odor is deep in the stuffing — and tends to leave a chemical/fake/unfamiliar smell behind.) Here’s what I’ve done many, many times, and I haven’t lost a toy yet.

1) Check the toy over carefully first.

Look for any loose or open seams and repair anything you find with needle and thread. Make sure things like eyeballs and other non-removable embellishments seem secure. If the toy is musical or talks, check to see if the battery pack and speaker can be removed completely. (OBVIOUS DISCLAIMER IS OBVIOUS: Do not put musical/talking/light-up toys in the washing machine if you cannot fully remove the electronic guts. But sometimes you can, so it’s worth checking.)

2) Put the toy in a lingerie bag or pillowcase.

Maybe two, if there’s room, but don’t pack it too full.

3) Wash on cold, gentle cycle. Low or no spin.

For odor problems, I usually skip the detergent and use baking soda only, or use my cloth diaper detergent (Charlie’s Soap). Obviously for poop or vomit you’re gonna need to spot-treat with Shout or something first and then wash with actual detergent.

4) Dry carefully.

DRYING is actually the trickiest part, because you want the stuffing to dry completely and avoid mildew. Drying in the sun is GREAT for getting rid of urine odor/stains, but it’s admittedly the wrong time of year for that. (Unless you live somewhere wonderfully warm and consistently sunny. If so, let the toy dry in the sun and FEEL THE HEAT OF MY JEALOUS RAGE.)

I basically always tumble dry. Keep the toys in the bag or pillowcase and dry on low/delicate. It usually takes me a couple cycles until I’m satisfied that it’s fully dry.

5) Special situations.

For toys that are really old, worn or fragile (beyond anything you think you can repair/reinforce yourself), you could try talking to a good dry cleaning place and see what they recommend…or just try handwashing it. Fill up a sink, add baking soda, let it soak for awhile. Then rinse and rinse and rinse until the water runs clear. Air dry only — maybe help it along with your hair dryer.

If the unthinkable happens and you do inadvertently destroy or damage a beloved toy (that can’t be easily re-purchased or tracked down online), get to Google and look up “teddy bear hospital” and see if there’s one in your area. Most will also accept and handle repairs via mail, as well, and provide online estimates. (And “rush” options, if you’ve got a kid who will basically refuse to sleep until his or her beloved Binky Boo Boo Dog is back safe and sound.) Again, it’s NEVER come to that for me, and all of my kids’ toys have been through the HE washer multiple times at this point.

Unrelated side story, for encouraging similar confessions in the comments: We did leave one of my middle son Ezra’s Taggie blankets behind at a hotel once, and he seemed okay with it. So I — gulp — didn’t call the hotel’s lost and found. (To be fair, he had two identical blankets already — I bought a back-up once it was clear how attached he was to it; he promptly found the back-up and needed BOTH of them to sleep from that moment on. He also had a matching Taggies ball that he would wrap the blankets around and cuddle up with. Kid was not lacking in Taggies lovies, is my point.) Anyway, we interpreted his easy acceptance of the loss as a sign that he was getting ready to separate from his blankies and let it be.

Many, many months later, I went into his room to check on him and found him quietly sobbing into his single blankie and ball and talking about the blankie we left at the hotel and how much he missed it, and how he didn’t understand why the hotel wouldn’t give it back to him.


The hotel no longer had any blankies meeting my description in the lost and found, and SURPRISE, the blanket’s fabric had been more or less discontinued and I couldn’t find a similar one anywhere, and showing Ezra alternative patterns/colors only made him even sadder.

Anyway, that’s how my preschooler (at the time) ended up with a $45 discontinued Taggies blanket I bought on eBay. Sigh. Luckily it’s machine washable?

Photo source: Depositphotos/saphira


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About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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