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Washing Stuffed Animals With Polyethylene Beans Inside

Your daughter's plush dog has a good three years' worth of juice, dog hair, boogers and heaven-only-knows-what-else mashed into its sticky fur. You really, really want to just toss it into the next wash and call it a day -- but because of the polyethylene beans inside, you're afraid it won't ever look the same again. Or worse yet, you fear it will fall apart, causing enough tears and drama to last a lifetime. Cindy LeBow, a household cleaning expert with over 30 years of experience and founder of Great Green Cleaning, an environmentally friendly cleaning service in New York City, has reassuring news for parents: You can indeed clean that favorite toy without too much trauma.

Surface-Cleaning Techniques

Grab that stuffie and give it a good surface cleaning whenever it's looking -- or smelling -- less than pristine. LeBow recommends running an ultraviolet wand (available at most home-improvement or hardware stores) over the fur, which kills germs, odors and even -- yucky! -- mites and eggs. "An ultraviolet wand is inexpensive and easy to use," LeBow advises. "You can carry a small one around in your purse so you can get rid of germs your child picks up on the go." If you'd prefer to go a more traditional route, LeBow suggests cleaning a stuffed animal's fur with a mild organic dish soap, using a microfiber cloth.

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When to Use the Washing Machine

There are certain times when you'll have no choice but to put a stuffed animal with polyethylene beans in the washing machine, notes LeBow. Extreme cases of dirtiness -- like a drag through the mud or a fall in the potty -- would call for more big-league washing. "Put the stuffie in a pillowcase and tie the ends with a hairband or an elastic band," she suggests. "This will protect it, and also keep the ears and tail from being pulled off. Wash in cold water with a gentle, organic, green soap."

Removing Stains and Bad Smells

For run-of-the-mill stains like food or blood, LeBow recommends cleaning with a microfiber cloth dabbed in hydrogen peroxide. Nastier stains, like urine, call for a different approach. "I like using enzymes, which are sold at most health-food stores," she says. "They are a living organism and eat organic matter. Let the enzymes sit on the stain for a while, then surface clean it with a microfiber cloth and a mild dish soap." If your child's stuffie is starting to smell a bit funky, close it in a plastic bin with a box of baking soda for a few days, LeBow suggests.

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Drying Tips

Your son's stuffed monkey is -- at long last -- free of ketchup, dirt and maple syrup. Now you just need to dry it so playing can commence once again. You have a couple of options, says LeBow. You can place it in the dryer on a low temperature in a pillowcase tied with an elastic band until it's dry. "Or you can put the stuffie out in the sun, which disinfects it and is good for the smell. It's a thorough way to dry," notes LeBow. "Another option is to leave a stuffed animal near a running dehumidifier, which will suck the moisture out without shrinking it."

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