How To: Plushie Care and Restoration

Bitchesaloud on Tumblr requested AGES ago that I do a piece talking about plushie cleaning, so I figured I’d cover plushie care in general. Cleaning and caring for your NEW plushies can be pretty easy, but if you buy something used and receive it in less than desirable condition you’re going to have some work to do.

PLEASE NOTE: This blog post was written considering mostly Japanese Sailor Moon Crane Game plushies from the 90’s. Feel free to ask about specific plushies/issues in the comments, or do some research on the fabrics in your plushies and apply the appropriate techniques! There should still be a lot here to help you.

Lets start off simple.

lint_roller_s1Dusting

Lint rollers are basically my life saver. I use them on my every day clothing, but I also use them on my fabric back drops, and plushies!

If you don’t know what these miracle workers are… they’re rolls of paper with a sticky substance on it that pulls up dirt, hair, and lint. Plus side is that the sticky won’t transfer onto your fabrics, and they won’t pull apart your plushies fabric.

Be cautious about using them on older plushies that might have pieces that are glued on, unless you aren’t worried about fixing pieces that may fall off yourself.

To get into those hard to reach places just pull off a clean sheet and manually clean the areas yourself. If the sheet is too big cut or tear pieces that will work better.

Pilling61BuD0QaODL._SL1500_

Pilling is something that happens when the fabric is rubbed a lot in wear or use. It balls up into little puffs of fabric until the fabric wears away entirely and forms a hole. This doesn’t usually reach hole status in collectible plushies, but you might see it in a plushie that you grew up with, or in the thighs of your jeans, or underarm of knitted shirts. Though definitely most recognizable on the inside of a hoody.

You CAN buy tools for doing this. It’s a little blade connected to a casing that’ll suck up and hold the cut off bits of cotton, but shaving razors work just as well, and maybe faster.

Washing Plushies

There are lots of things to consider when washing a plushie.

First consider how your plushie is assembled. If there are elements that are hot glued on you may want to hand wash your plushie in colder water, unless you don’t mind making some repairs. Some details may flake off as well. Second, how old is your plushie? If it’s old and fragile it might not make it through the cycling in a machine. Last, are there any existing damages that might further if it is machine washed?

If any of your answers were ‘hot glued,’ ‘yes,’ or ‘damn old’ then I highly recommend hand washing your plushie just to be safe.

Machine Washing and Drying

If your plushie has a card board tag that has a plastic tab on it, bend the tab and slip the tag off. This shouldn’t damage your plush, or tag, and it’s easy to put the tag back on: just do the exact same thing, except slide the tag back on.

plastic tag

Once your plushie is tag free and you’re sure it’s washer safe put it into a washer bag. They’re typically for unmentionables, but theoretically they will protect your plushies as well. If you don’t have a washer bag use a pillow case instead, and tie over the end with a hair elastic.

Put in your washer on your lowest setting, or “delicate” if your machine has it.

Drying

When the machine stops you SHOULD be able to put them in your dryer on the same delicate setting, but it might be safer to air dry them  or put them over a vent. Just be sure to check that they’re properly drying, as you wouldn’t want the fabric or the stuffing to go moldy.

Hand Washing

Prep your plushies the same way as machine washing by removing any card board tags.

You have a couple options. You can fill a washing pan, or sink full of soapy water and wash as you would, or you can spot wash. Either way, if you use soap I recommend Dawn Liquid Detergent.

If you wash in a pan or sink: Fill with water and add soap if desired. Place plushies in water, let soak, and lightly scrub as needed with a wash cloth (preferably something microfiber that won’t leave bits of itself in your plushie).

If you spot wash with a cloth: Fill your container with water and add soap if desired. Dip your cloth into the water and only use the cloth on the area of the plushie that requires cleaning. Use clean, non-soapy water to clear off the area of soap.

Drying

Most likely if you HAD to hand washed your plushie it won’t survive a machine drying, so you can air dry in a safe area, or blow dry it with a hair dryer.

If you blow dry your plushie be cautious of the heat settings. Do not let it accidentally melt your plushies if they are made of synthetic materials. Game machine plushies are often made of felt, or a similar fabric which is synthetic and heat sensitive. If that is their case dry on cold air, or let air dry if you do not trust your ability to keep the fabric from melting. This shouldn’t be an easy thing to do with a hair dryer, but it is certainly possible.

Spot Removerstidetogo

Spot removers that are for clothing, or gentle on fabrics should be safe. ALWAYS test these in a spot that is not usually visible (bottom side of a skirt, under a tail, etc.). Be sure that the remover is safe for colours!

Tide-To-Go pens are a popular choice and have a lot of good reviews. Just remember that they are a step previous to washing. If you do not want to wash your entire plush spot washing with a cloth is a good option after using the pen.

Repairing Plushies

Ripped Seams/Pieces that have come Unglued

Repairing a plushie will always depend on how the actual plushie was made to repair it to like-new state. Most of my modern plushies are sewn together 100% with some embroidered elements, while my older plushies from the 1990’s are a mix of sewing, hot glue, or a glue that resembles super glue.

 First, identify what product was used to hold together the pieces in the first place, and buy something similar (make sure you colour match thread if you’ll need to sew).

Once you find the product you may need to clean the area you need to repair. If there is any left over residue from the previous glue it might cause issues with bonding later. If you CAN’T remove it without causing further damage move on and hope your glue bonds just well. There ARE products that can dissolve glues, but I have zero experience with them, and do not particularly want to recommend something that might take the colour out of the spot you remove the glue from.

If your plushie had a piece attached using hot glue you can use a hair dryer, or the tip of a hot glue gun (carefully) to heat up the glue and remove it. Once again, be sure your fabric won’t melt.

If your plushie had a seam rip simply match the thread colour and type, and hand sew the piece back together, or on to the plushie. It might take some practice first (I SUCK at hand sewing), but good results are better than the ripped section spreading, or losing the piece that was attached. Keep in mind that if your plushie is old you might notice a colour difference in threads simply because of age. Fading due to sunlight, or darkening due to years of hand grease and dust WILL create discrepancies.

Last, remember that you do not have to repair a plushie EXACTLY how it was done before. If you don’t mind altering or improving on the plushie you can always use a method that is stronger than the previous one. Just keep this in mind as depending on whether you eventually sell it some buyers may view this as a plus or a minus on the value, and it’s entirely personal opinion.

Sun Bleaching

Sun bleaching happens when an item fades in colour after long exposure to the sun. This normally takes quite a few days to years to happen in items like plastic, but it can take hours on fabrics.

Unfortunately there is no fix for this. Most plushies are made of synthetic materials that do not hold dye very well, and colour matching will be very difficult. Not to mention the plushie is a plushie, and you’ll have a rough time dying a particular section without staining other parts, or making it look blotchy. Synthetic fabrics are not easily dyed or printed at home. The colour is a part of the manufacturing process.

That said, Sharpies DO work on some fabrics, but you’ll have a rough time colour matching with those, and if you DO try it TEST IT FIRST! Some fabrics will hold the dye visually, but will rub off at the softest of touch.

Maintenance/Display

Bagging

A lot of collectible plushies will come in bag plastic wrapping. If the bag does not obstruct any part of the plushie that you want visible it’s worth keeping the plushie in the bag just to avoid dust contamination. If there IS an issue with how the plushie is bagged it should be okay to open it and adjust things. The bags do not really affect their worth the same way an open or sealed box affects a figures value. Alternatively, you can purchase plastic bags from Michaels Craft Store or some Walmarts. Depending on the store it’ll be in the craft scrap booking section. Most Michaels or art/craft stores seem to have bag sections that carry them though. saranwrap If that doesn’t help… Cling Wrap! It’s not the most attractive way to protect a plushie, but it’s cheap, and it CAN look good if you apply it properly. This was a method my parents used with my china dolls when I was a kid. They created a small bag out of the wrap, and while the outside of the cling wrap yellowed with smoke the doll stayed perfectly clean and did not turn.

Display Case

Plushies can be easy to maintain if they’re in a shape you’re ok with, or brand new. Display them in a place where they won’t be covered in a lot of dust. Display cases with doors are great if you don’t want to bag wrap them. You can also buy small cases for base balls, footballs, china dolls, and various other uses that can be re-purposed for plushies.

detolfFor large displays I use the Ikea Detolf. It’s a great tempered glass display shelf that’s compact, but has just the right dimensions to play around with. TECHNICALLY my preferred case of this design is the Jysk Seja. It had better support columns inside, as well as a better system for holding the glass, and I believe the dimensions were SLIGHTLY larger (barely noticeable)… but Jysk seems to have discontinued this display… or at least it’s no longer on the site. So lets go with the Detolf. It technically isn’t worse, but I’ve always felt safer with the Seja, that’s all.

My favourite part of the Detolf is that the shelving is roughly 14.5″ apart, and this covers just about everything I collect, except for my Disney Limited Edition 17″ dolls. Everything else fits like a glove. I’ve even used this space creatively with other different styles of display cases to create levels so I can add more items. ANOTHER plus is that it’s 4 walls of glass, so I’ve even used them as a room divider, and you can view it from roughly 270º (the wall aspect detracts from the rest). So LOTS of plushie viewing pleasure!

Detolfdisplay


Overall I feel like that covers the majority of it. Feel free to ask about certain things you don’t see here and I’ll be sure to reply and cover it. Plushies are pretty easy as long as they aren’t in near-death condition.

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2 thoughts on “How To: Plushie Care and Restoration

  1. Thank you for this.. This is very helpful however the problem sometimes is some products are not available in an area. So hard to look for 😦 I did wash my MKR plushies last year, I got them around 2010 and their eyes faded huhuhu. I dont know what to do actually >_< I still keep them now.

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    • Thank you for the comment! Yea, some of these are fairly region specific, but aside from the Detolf everything should be available online. Ebay, Amazon, AmiAmi, and HLJ.com all carry the smaller display cases I spoke about, and the bags and cling wrap should be really easy to find.

      Fading is not really easy to fix. Like I said, you can try dye and marker options, but the fabric is likely not going to hold it, or the colour might not match.

      If it bothers you I’d suggest looking for new ones and selling off the old ones, but that’s basically all you can do =(

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