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As your child clutches her stuffed bear or cuddly koala, the last thing crossing her mind is the bacteria that may be covering her favorite toy. Dust mites, though, can invade stuffed animals that are not properly cleaned and disinfected regularly. "Toys are a germ factory," warns Leslie Reichert, a Boston-based cleaning coach and the author of "The Joy of Green Cleaning." Keep dust mites away and your children's prized possession safe and sound with cleaning solutions for stuffed animals.
Just as you toss grass-stained jeans and smelly socks into the washing machine, you can rid your child's stuffed animals of dirt, grime and dust mites by tossing them in, too. "Fabric toys are difficult to clean, but should you want to try washing it, use a gentle laundry soap made from soap flakes, baking soda and just a touch of borax," says Reichert. If Terry the Stuffed Turtle or Max the Monkey will fit, place them in a lingerie bag or tied pillowcase for safekeeping during the wash cycle.
Dust mites are hard to spot, but you can still kill them off with some spot cleaning. Use laundry detergent, or mix vinegar and baking soda with warm water and wipe down the stuffed animal with a microfiber cloth. Reichert recommends placing the stuffed toy into a pillowcase in the dryer after washing for a few minutes to rid Berry the Bear of any dust mites still lounging around.
If your child's stuffed animal is clean but showing signs of dust, heat will do the trick, says Reichert. "Find a fabric bag big enough for the stuffed animals, take off anything that could melt with the heat and place them in the dryer for 10 minutes," she advises. "The heat from the dryer will kill all the dust mites."
Stuffed animals may need to chill a little to get rid of those pesky dust mites. After cleaning in a washing machine or with a washcloth, kill stray dust mites by putting the toy in a freezer bag and freezing it overnight. For extra protection from germs and bacteria, spray the stuffed animal with Lysol, freeze in a bag and wipe with a damp cloth once it thaws.
You don't have to wait until Perry the Panda or Tommy the Tiger starts showing signs of dirt and dust to eliminate dust mites. Safeguard your child and her beloved stuffed animal from dust that can aggravate allergies and asthma by cleaning and wiping down the toys daily. When vacuuming the floor, grab the hose and vacuum all the stuffed animals in your child's room. The heat and suction will rid the toy of dust and dust mites while also keeping it fluffed and pampered. Plush toys and stuffed animals can also be disinfected quickly with antibacterial wet wipes when on the go -- in the car or on vacation.