What is a plushie?

A plushie is a stuffed toy animal. The most common and most popular type is the teddy bear, however, plushies come is all shapes and sizes. I personally prefer mouse and bunny plushies.

What is a plushophile?

A plushophile is a person who loves plushies. This can range from simply being a collector, to those who like to cuddle and sleep with their plush, and every shade between.


Why not? Plushies are soft and cuddly, and are made to be loved!  A plushie will never lie to you, will never betray you. A plushie will never complain if you get home late, and will never nag you about not taking out the garbage. A plushie is always faithful to you, and can always be trusted to keep secrets. They are always there for you, and will never turn you away when you need a hug.

How do I clean a plushie?

Over time, even a plush that has just sat on a shelf all its life can become dirty and/or musty.  A plush that has been well loved can pick up oils and sweat from the body which will not only make the plush dirty, but can harbor bacteria which can cause an odor.

There are many ways to clean a plushie, depending on how much you value the plushie, and what condition it is in. Here is a list of some of the ways to clean a dirty plushie:

  1. Machine washing. Most plushies, unless they are very delicate, can withstand a machine washing. It is a good idea to place the plushies in a pillowcase, so that the eyes and what not don't get banged up too much. Don't use bleach or laundry bluing, as these may be too harsh and damage the fur. Any form of immersion washing is not recommended for plushies that are stuffed with paper products or excelsior. Unless the plushie is very dirty, Woolite is the detergent of choice. The main problem is that the stuffing is going to get very water-logged. Wet stuffing is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.
  2. Hand washing. Less likely to damage a plushie that machine washing, but a lot more labor intensive. Again, the stuffing is going to get water-logged, so don't attempt this with paper or excelsior stuffed plush.
  3. Unstuffing and Machine washing. By removing the stuffing, you can solve several problems at once. The old stuffing is likely to be dirty, and washing is probably not going to remove all the dirt, germs, and odor. Also, with no stuffing, the plushie will be limp, and less likely to be damaged in the washing machine. It will also dry much faster without the stuffing to hold all the water in. The main problem is that you will need to know how to sew. When you restuff the plushie, use new poly-fill.
  4. Unstuffing and Hand Washing. Again, this is better for very delicate plushies or plushies with very high sentimental value. Of the immersion cleaning techniques, this is the least likely to damage the plushies.
  5. Bubble Gund. This is a commercial product, made by Gund, specifically for cleaning plush toys. You spray it on the surface of the plushie, then wipe with a clean cloth. Since the cleaner doesn't soak into the stuffing, you don't have to worry about drying or fungal growth. It is a bit on the expensive side, at about $7 per bottle, and is rather hard to find.  (Unfortunately, it appears Gund no longer manufactures Bubble Gund)   
  6. Siege Teddy Bear Cleaner.  This is a commercial product that appears to be very similar to Bubble Gund.   It's a bit more expensive, however, at about $10 per bottle.  It is made by Siege Chemical Co.  
  7. Other substances you can use for surface cleaning include Windex (the clear colorless type), soap suds, and shaving cream, though these are not specifically designed for plushies like Bubble Gund or Siege Teddy Bear Cleaner.  Be sure to test on a small, hidden area first.
  8. Dry Cleaning. Since the solvents used in dry cleaning evaporate at low temperature, the stuffing will dry out very quickly. However, the solvents can be harsh on certain types of fur, so be sure to ask if the cleaners has any experience in cleaning plushies. If they don't, try someone else.
  9. Steam Cleaning.  There are steam cleaning units designed specifically for cleaning plush, however these are quite expensive, so unless you have a lot of valuable plush, this is probably not an option.
  10. If the plush merely smells bad, try using Fabreeze or another of the new fabric freshening sprays.  These appear to be harmless to most plush materials, and will be especially helpful in eliminating musty or smoky odors.  Be sure to test it on a small, hidden area first.

Drying the plushie is even more difficult. Too much heat can melt the fabric. Taking too long to dry allows time for molds and fungi to grow in the stuffing.  Here are some of the various ways to dry a plushie:

  1. Air Drying. Not recommended, unless you have unstuffed the plushie. It would take far too long for the stuffing to dry otherwise. The time it takes to dry can be reduced by using a fan, or a hair dryer set on low heat (high heat might melt the fur!)
  2. Damp Drying, then Air Drying. This seems to work best for stuffed plushies. You first place the wet plushie in the washing machine and set it on it's last cycle, "damp dry". In most machines, this simply spins the contents at high speed, acting like a centrifuge and slinging most of the water out. If the plushie is large or heavy, you may need to place something on the opposite side of the machine to balance it. After the plushie comes out, it should be almost dry. It can then be air dried safely.
  3. Machine Drying. This can be very rough on a plushie, especially if it is still stuffed. If the plushie has been unstuffed, it should be safe to dry it, if you place the plushie in a pillowcase, and set the heat on low. Too much heat could melt the fur, so be careful.

My plushie's fur has become matted, how do I correct this?

Whenever a plush is handled, the individual hairs that make up the fur become damaged.  Much like a human hair that has been mistreated, plush hairs will crack, split, fray, twist and tangle.  Unfortunately, while a human hair will regrow and replace the damaged sections, once a plush hair is damaged, it's permanent.  The more a plush is handled, the more extensive the damage.

Oil and dirt can increase the effects of matting, so giving your plush a good cleaning can help restore some of it's original fluffiness.  One can also gently brush the fur with an ultra fine pet brush, however, this runs the risk of actually pulling out the hairs, so don't do this everyday, and don't try it on valuable plush!

Unfortunately, there is no way to permanently reverse the matting, and the only way to prevent it is to never touch the plushie.   But then, what's the point of having them?

I smoke, how can I protect my plushies?

Quit smoking.

Seriously, cigarette smoke is the absolute worst thing for a plush.   It will soak into the stuffing, and into the fur, and the nicotine and tar will cause the fur to become yellow and sticky.  You will never be able to get the plush clean, or remove the odor.  Even a single hour of exposure will taint fabric with the smell of smoke.  Plastic bags or display cases won't do any good, as smoke can penetrate plastic quite easily, and only a hermetically sealed glass case has any hope of keeping out the smoke.

What are plushies stuffed with?

Plush can be stuffed with literally almost anything.  But the most common stuffing materials are:

  1. Poly-fill.  This is the most common stuffing today.  It is a cheap polyester fiber.  It is water resistant, mold resistant, and ages well.  This is probably the best material the stuff a plush with, and is very easy to work with.
  2. Styrofoam.  The second most common stuffing today, especially among "beanbag" plush.  Styrofoam pellets can be fairly hard, which gives the plush a bean-filled feeling.  Styrofoam is water and mold resistant, and appears to age quite well.   Styrofoam is electrically charged, which means it sticks to everything, making it extremely messy to remove.
  3. Foam rubber.  Also fairly common today, though more common in the recent past.  It is a firmer material than poly-fill.  It is mold resistant, but does not age well.   Over time, the foam will break down and turn into a terrible mess.  It is very difficult to work with.
  4. Cotton.  Not commonly used anymore, as poly-fill is cheaper.  Cotton is not mold resistant, so care should be taken to keep the plush dry.  Cotton ages reasonably well, as long as it is kept dry.
  5. Shredded paper.   Almost never used anymore.  It was mostly used in cheaper plush in the past.   Extremely vulnerable to water and mold damage.  Paper does not age well, either, and the acids produced by the paper can ruin the fabric.  The stuffing should be replaced with poly-fill.
  6. Excelsior.   A wood fiber stuffing.   Commonly used in the past, but only rarely used today.  Vulnerable to water and mold damage.  Ages better than paper.  Difficult to work with, and rather messy.
  7. Wire.  Most large studio plush have a wire skeleton to maintain the shape, and many smaller plush use wires to maintain the shape of certain parts such as ears.  If carbon steel or iron wire is used, it can rust if exposed to water.  Most modern plush use stainless steel or other non-rusting alloys, but exposure to water should still be avoided just in case.  Wire skeletons generally cannot be removed without major disassembly of the plush.  One must also take care not to flex the metal too much, as the skeleton might become permanently damaged.
  8. PVC pipe.   Some tall plush contain a PVC plastic pipe down the center to keep the plush upright.  The pipe is water and mold resistant.  The pipe can sometimes be removed, but this will cause the plush to fall over or sag, and replacement can be difficult unless the stuffing is also being replaced.  PVC can become brittle over time, so care should be taken not to flex the pipe or it might crack.

(Note that even though some stuffing materials are impervious to damage from mold, mold can still infest the stuffing, causing bad odors and aggravating allergies.)


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