I’m sure I’m not the only person here who’s been given, or who has held onto a fat, fluffy, scruffy plushie-pet or soft-toy animal. Plush-toys or soft-toys, cuddle-toys…whatever you want to call them…have been popular children’s toys and childhood keepsakes for over a hundred years!
In this post, I thought I’d talk a bit about them, where they come from, and my own little plushie-cleaning journey that I had recently.
Anyway, first, I’d like to introduce Mortimer, and Crumpets…
These two little fellows were presents to me, at different points in my life. The first one was when I was five, and was a gift from my dad. The other was when I was 25, and was a gift from some friends when I told them that my Chinese Zodiac animal was a rabbit.
Today, on a pure whim, I decided that I should give these two chaps a jolly good clean. Neither of them had been cleaned in many, many years, and they were both starting to look, and smell a bit funky. I hold onto them for sentimental reasons and whatnot, but I’d still like for them to at least look and smell clean!
After consulting a few videos on YouTube, I concluded that the best thing to do was to wash them by hand. To this end, I filled up a basin with warm water, laundry powder and liquid soap and dumped them in. Along with a scrubbing-brush, I got to work.
I have to say that this is by far the most effective way to clean plush-toys. For one thing, you can actually see how dirty they are! After less than 15 minutes in hot soapy water with plenty of squeezing and scrubbing, the water had turned from a clean, soapy white, to…um…well this:
That disgusting, toffee-brown tinge is what the water looked like after it flushed out years of sweat, drool, dust, and god-knows-what-else from inside these plushies! If you never thought plush-toys could get dirty — THEY CAN!! Oh God…!
After a lot of scrubbing and rinsing, I sat them up on a towel-rack, on top of a folded towel to drip-dry…
As you can see, the water looked pretty horrific! This was after I think, two or three rinses. I gave it at least another two or three after this, making a total of five or six rinses in total to flush out absolutely as much grime as possible! Then I sat them up on the towel-rail to dry. My friend saw this on Facebook and said that Crumpets looked like a dressed game-animal in a butcher’s shop window! 😮 Egad!
Anyway, suffice to say that if you collect plush-toys, if you have younger relatives or siblings who have plush-toys, or if you or they sleep with plush-toys (what? They’re cute!), then every few years or so, give them a damn clean! I mean do you really want to have THIS in your bed??
Anyway. Plushies. Where do they come from!?
A Brief History of Plush-Toys
Plush-toys, cuddle-toys, stuffed toys, snuggle-toys…whatever you wanna call them. Vintage, antique, and even modern plushies are highly collectible among both children and adults – I have a cousin who collects them and her room is jammed full! So where do they come from!?
The first plush-toys of a kind were simple homemade, handmade affairs, made out of whatever was lying around, stuffed with whatever was soft, and accessorised with whatever was close-to-hand. These were traditionally called rag-dolls, since most of them were quite literally made of (and perhaps even stuffed with) rags.
The first commercially-manufactured plushies came out in the 1880s, manufactured by the famous German toymaker Steiff, headed by company founder, Richard Steiff. The Steiff company was among the first in the world to use a new fluffy fabric which simulated animal-fur, to make soft toys.
Most previous efforts used just…ordinary fabric, which was flat, untextured and…boring. By comparison, these new toys had bodies and fur which looked realistic, which was soft, fluffy and huggable. Some plushies had glass eyes, and articulated limbs which could move and bend so that the toy could sit up, or hold its arms in different positions. Some early toys had pull-cords on them which activated bellows or voice-boxes inside the toys, which allowed them to make various animal noises.
The Teddy Bear
We all have our favourite plushies growing up. Rabbits, kittens, mice and so-on, but the most famous plush-toy by far has to be the venerable teddy bear!
Invented in ca. 1902-1903 by Morris and Rose Michtom (candy-shop owners) in the USA, and by the Steiff Company in Germany, the animal was named after then-US-president Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt, who loved going bear-hunting. After one of his more spectacular hunts was publicised in the newspapers, both Michtom and Steiff were inspired to create a toy bear and name it after the president, calling it ‘Teddy’s Bear’.
The first American teddy bears were sold by Michtom out of his candy-shop – they sold so quickly that in 1907, Michtom and his wife set up the Ideal Toy Company, which became one of the biggest manufacturers of plush-toys in the world!
Cleaning Your Plushies!
We all have a plush-toy that we love. It’s some sort of cute, woodland animal most cases, or some TV or movie-character reincarnated in plushie-form. And we give them cutesy, cuddly names to go along with their cutesy, cuddly appearances. And in many cases, we’ve had these toys for years and years and years, we’ve grown up with them, we’ve grown old with them, and they’re often the one toy that we’d never throw out or give away, no matter how old we get! A friend of mine openly admitted that she’d held onto the same teddy-bear for sixty years!! That being the case, we should probably know a thing or two about how to look after them!
Plush-toys are highly collectible. They’re nostalgia-triggers, they’re bedtime companions, they’re thunder-buddies and stormy-night snugglers! They scare away monsters and keep us safe at night. For doing so many amazing things, one thing that you can do for your furry fantastical friend is to at least give him a damn good clean once in a while! Plush-toys are very collectible and if you ever try and sell one online, or if you collect them actively, it’s best to buy and sell and collect and own – clean toys!
So, how do you clean your own plushies? While you can just stick them into a pillowcase and toss them into the washing machine, this isn’t advisable for especially large, small or possibly delicate plush-toys, and some washing machines can be overly aggressive in their cleaning, which doesn’t do the poor little fellows any good at all!
That being the case, it’s generally better to hand-wash your plushies. Fill up a sink or a large basin with warm water – as warm as you can stand without hurting yourself – and dump in a small amount of washing powder or liquid soap. Dump the animal inside after assuring him that he’ll be just fine, and start scrubbing.
You’re trying to scrape and scrub off all the crud on the surface of the toy – so you might want to use a brush with fairly stiff bristles, but nothing so stiff that’ll damage the toy. Scrub in one direction only, so that you don’t accidentally yank out any hair or rip the toy open accidentally.
At the same time, submerge the toy fully and squeeze it firmly up and down its entire length with your hands, hard and fast, several times. This will force water and soap in and out of the toy under pressure, and will shift and force out as much grime, dust and other nastiness that might be lurking inside.
Once the initial cleaning is done, lift the toy out CAREFULLY with both hands. It will be much heavier and floppier than usual, and if it’s an old toy, it’ll have to put up with a lot of extra weight that it won’t be used to – this might be dangerous if it’s been patched up over the years or had seams resewn or reinforced.
Pour out the water and refill with fresh water to rinse. Repeat the scrubbing and squeezing to remove as much extra grime and soap as possible, changing the water as necessary until it’s as clean and as clear as you can get it. Finally, give the toy one last hose-down with a tap and then sit it on a thick, folded towel to air-dry. If necessary, rotate or fold the towel occasionally to wick away as much moisture as possible.
Last but not least, once the toy is completely dry, make sure to deliver it into the arms of its primary caregiver and instruct him or her to give the toy several deep, heartfelt cuddles – this will serve to replace any deep-seated affection which was accidentally washed out of the toy during the cleaning process.