Teddy Bear Cleaning and Care

Many people ask us how best to clean and care for their treasured toys. We offer a surface cleaning service, and have experience tackling even the grimiest of teddies! There’s also a lot you can do at home to clean and properly store your toys. Proper teddy bear cleaning and care will greatly prolong the life of your precious antique or child’s favourite toy!

teddy bear cleaning before and after
Smoke-damaged antique teddy bear before and after surface cleaning

Teddy bear cleaning tips

  • DON’T throw your antique teddy bear in the washing machine! Jointed mohair bears should only ever be surface cleaned.
  • Modern stuffed toys won’t be destroyed if you put them in the washing machine, but the stuffing will all clump together so it’s best to remove the stuffing first and replace it when the toy is dry. The toy should be placed in a pillowcase to protect it and washed on a gentle cycle.
  • For most teddy bear cleaning, we recommend a surface clean. The best way to do this is with carpet foam or a mild shampoo and warm water solution. Apply the foam or suds with a toothbrush and wipe down with a clean cloth to remove dirt.
  • Some teddies from the 1960s and 70s are stuffed with foam which degrades over time, and can work through to the surface as a dust. In these cases it’s best to replace the filling with modern polyfill after a thorough cleaning.
  • In case of insect infestation, the toy should be placed in a plastic bag and frozen overnight before being thoroughly cleaned.
  • A wire brush is useful for fluffing up fur that has become matted, and loosening dirt.
teddy bear cleaning in progress
Cleaning in progress: this bear is getting a gentle scrub with carpet foam

Care and storage

  • Like any textiles, cuddly toys are vulnerable to damage from excess sunlight, extremes of temperature and humidity, and insects. Try to keep these factors in mind when storing and displaying them.
  • Teddy bears on display should be dusted regularly. Give them a gentle brushing, or carefully hoover, with a stocking or other material placed over the end of the vacuum.
  • It’s best to keep soft toys out of the reach of pets. We get a lot of dog-related injuries at the toy hospital!
  • If you put a teddy in storage, a cardboard box and acid-free tissue paper the ideal container. A plain cotton bag is also a good option. Long-term storage in plastic is not recommended.
teddy bear in pieces, showing discolouring
You can see how discoloured this bear has become from years of handling!

Doll care and cleaning

  • Dolls can be cleaned with dish soap or a special formula, using a soft cloth and cotton buds
  • Fabric dolls and clothing are susceptible to the same sorts of damage as soft toys, and should likewise be stored away from direct sunlight.
before and after doll cleaning
Before (left) and after (right) surface cleaning on a doll’s head

Or in case of emergency…

If all this sounds daunting, or you don’t want to risk your antique doll or teddy bear cleaning it yourself, we are happy to undertake the task. We offer surface cleaning as part of a repair job, or on its own. The cost ranges from £15-£45 depending on the size of the toy and how dirty it is.

Reference: Cockrill, Pauline. The Teddy Bear Encyclopedia. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1993.

Find out more about our repair services here:

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