Most children get attached to soft toys when they’re small. Even if a child doesn’t have a special “cuddly” object, most of them do like to play with teddy bears and other plush toys. Which means, given that children are messy little creatures, that the soft toys will need to be cleaned now and again.
The process of cleaning a special cuddly toy is a lot less traumatic for a child who won’t go anywhere without the beloved bear, panda, elephant or puppy if you can involve him or her in the cleaning process. You can even start the washing process with your child when the child is in the bath. Just this once, Teddy can actually come in the bath with you!
You can also have a special “bath time for teddies” session. This makes a great activity, but is probably one you want to save for a sunny day, as the person who’s doing the washing often ends up as wet as the teddies.
Handwashing is by far the best for soft toys, which can often get buttons knocked off or delicate parts tugged and pulled if you try machine washing soft toys. And hand washing is much better than dry cleaning. Dry cleaning uses a lot of harsh chemicals that produce toxic gases. As soft toys are often sucked, chewed, kissed and held close to little faces, it’s best to keep chemical nasties well away.
So you need to start with a large bowl or bucket of warm water. Grab a bar of ordinary soap or make soap gel. Soap gel is particularly fun for small children. Make this by chopping up a bar of soap and/or saving soap scraps in a container. Pour boiling water over the bits of soap and stir well. When the mixture cools, you should have a slightly translucent gel that your children will think looks like snot.
Now start the washing process. Dunk the teddies into the warm water and massage well with the soap or the soap gel. Make lots of lather. This process can last as long as you like, as this is where the dirt is actually cleaned out.
If your child has been sick, then you might like to add some disinfectant (of the sort you’d use to dress wounds) to the water to kill any lingering bacteria or viruses.
Once you’ve lathered the teddies to your heart’s content, it’s time to do the rinsing. Squeeze as much soap out of the teddies into the water, then go and throw the soapy water all over the roses to deter the aphids. Refill the bucket with fresh water and soak the teddies. Watch the soapy water come out. Squeeze Mr Ted and friends again, then throw out this second lot of water. Repeat the rinsing a second time – you can add vinegar as a fabric softener and/or lavender oil to give a pleasant scent.
Drying is the hard part. Putting the toys in the spin cycle on full speed is quickest and easiest, followed by putting the toys on the radiator or in a sunny spot to finish the drying process. Dryers are a bit too hot and harsh, and you run the risk of damaging the fabric – disaster!