There is probably nothing that a bear so dislikes as a good wash.
December 15, 2009 7:33 AM   Subscribe

So, my one year old son has a bear that needs a bath.

I saw a couple of previous posts about washing stuffed animals. But none of those posts seemed to involve talking stuffed animals. This particular bear talks. The battery pack is easily removable through a zipper in the back, and with some surgery, it looks as though we can easily remove the bear's voice box. But what I don't know is if machine washing will damage the little "Press Here" button on the bear's paw that sets off the voice box. And I'm not sure yet if the "Press Here" button is connected by wire to the voice box or how that all works out, which may be a determining factor in how to wash.

But the bear needs a bath like three weeks ago and is getting to the point of icky gross. What is the best way of cleaning this bear without damaging the electronics? I'm afraid it may be beyond the realm of a good hand washing --- and even then, I'd still have concerns about the "Press Here" button becoming damaged. Any MeFites out there who are experienced in bathing a stuffed animal with the ability to speak?

And, since it will possibly be suggested, I will say that I would be tempted in buying a new one to have around as a substitute, but I can't find it anywhere! And it doesn't have a tag that I can find, so I don't even know the brand name! And I don't remember who gave it to us or at which of the many baby showers I received it.
posted by zizzle to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have a picture? Maybe someone can recognize it? It is possible there might be manufacturing information on the voicebox.

Otherwise, I would get a lot of shout wipes and scrub the crap out of it and then steam it and air dry or blow dry.
posted by spec80 at 7:38 AM on December 15, 2009

Gund Teddy Bear Bath Plush Toy Stain Remover, of course.

But really, I would think a damp cloth with mild soap solution, or a "natural" spray cleaner would do the trick also as long as you don't soak the fabric and are just wiping the surface. It won't look new, but it'll be sanitary and safe.
posted by beagle at 7:44 AM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you can get the button disconnected, all you really need to do is make sure that it's completely dry before you reconnect it. I've stuck keyboards the dishwasher before with no ill effects. Just have to dry them out for a day or so afterwards.
posted by valkyryn at 7:46 AM on December 15, 2009

Definitely try not to soak the bear as the inside will take too long to dry and mold will form. I did it once and the smell was unbearable.
posted by Mrs Mutant at 7:48 AM on December 15, 2009

Could you do a steam treatment (no chemicals) to get the surface contaminents off?
posted by stormpooper at 8:12 AM on December 15, 2009, his bear is very much like this one, except it wears tannish yellowish pajamas and the "Press Here" button is on the paw and not on the pillow like in this picture. The company is apparently Emrad Creations, but an internet search reveals very little --- can't even find a website for them. I believe his bear must be from the same company because other than those couple of things they're the same bear.

But I can't seem to locate it anywhere --- an Amazon search for "Emrad" comes up with a couple of books on skiing.....

Thanks for the suggestions! Keep 'em coming if you have any! I'll be washing the bear sometime in the next week, one way or another. I'll let you know how it goes.
posted by zizzle at 8:16 AM on December 15, 2009

Salad spinner?

I'd wash it by hand with some decent soap and water (dish detergent, such as Dawn original not that ultra mega concentrate stuff) and then run it through the salad spinner a while, then the dryer on LOW HEAT/FLUFF or a hair dryer.

I've got a YMCA with a swimsuit spinner (gets a LOT of water out) so I'd probably sneak him in there if I couldn't do the above and wash him in the sink then put him in the swimsuit spinner (in a fine mesh lingerie bag just to be on the safe side - and be ready to fess up if I did manage to cause it to need repair).
posted by tilde at 8:51 AM on December 15, 2009

Good play on words Mrs. Mutant (unBEARable)... It seems like Emrad is an importer based in LA, maybe you can you ask the company directly about the washing instructions or how to get a replacement bear? Details are sketchy at best, but here's the phone number: (818) 407-0500.
posted by Cody's Keeper at 9:18 AM on December 15, 2009

I have put talking toys in the wash before and they came out fine, but that might be lucky.

Can you open him up and get the voice box out? You should be able to feel it.
posted by mippy at 10:08 AM on December 15, 2009

Hi, I'm a toy collector and the mom to a three year old who greatly loves a bear that You Just Can't Get Anymore**.

In general, surface cleaning is really the only way to go with any kind of plush toy. If you immerse them, they're never the same after, unless you're willing and able to remove all the stuffing and then wash the exterior shell separately. Machine washing is particularly bad, because a lot of plush isn't made to withtand the rigors of a center agitating machine, so they get pulled apart in the wash.

Here is what I would recommend instead.

1) Take out the battery pack. Don't worry about the voicebox. "Surgery" on plush isn't really recommended unless you have no other option - most plush is sewn with a nylon thread, and the seam lines weaken over time. The process of opening and closing the seam will cause a stress point that will start to fail later on.

1a) Inspect him very thoroughly for small rips or tears - either in seams or weak spots in the fabric. Water and the cleaning process can cause fabric to degrade, so its important that you do any mending before he's cleaned.

2) Vacuum the entire bear really well. A great trick I use is to first surface vacuum the bear all over really, really thoroughly, then put it in a plastic bag (a trash bag is fine) and put the nozzle of the vacuum against some large surface of the bear (back or belly), then close the bag around the vacuum and turn it on. The vacuum will suck all the air (and dust and yuch) out of the stuffing. You're doing it right when the plastic bag shrivels up like a raisin, but be careful because the force of the vacuum can also damage the spot where its pressed against the bear. Let this run for no more than 2-3 minutes, then take him out and surface vac a second time.

3) Using a small, stiff upholstery brush brush the bear vigorously all over to loosen any remaining surface dirt.

4) Using a washcloth and a minimum of water, gently surface wash the plush. Gund does make a good plush cleaner, but I generally find that Woolite works just as well. The key is that you don't want a detergent that gets too foamy. Wash him in small circles, using two cloths to "rinse" as you go - the goal is to get his plush outer fabric good and lathered and then removing the lather with a separate damp cloth without getting too much moisture into the stuffing.

5) Once he's been washed all over, lay him in a sunny window and let him dry completely. (I generally try not to put plush in the dryer. They're made from crazy fabrics and often do weird shrink/stretch things when exposed to high heat.)

6) Give him another good brushing to fluff up his plush.
7) Reinstall battery pack and you should be good to go.

It may seem like a lot of work, but its much easier to do this (it takes about an hour) than to console your weeping child when Mr Bear comes apart in the machine. I've used this process many times in prepping vintage (ie: 1950's and 60's era) plush for resale, and it always works great. Febreeze is also a terrific product for just keeping stinky bears smelling fresh.

Feel free to Mefi mail me if you have questions.

** PS: the toy my son loves is a plush bear by TY called "Art the Bear" which was sold by a NY Art Museum (Moma? MFA?) in the mid-1990's. If anyone has one, I'm willing to pay to have a backup bear. My email is in my profile.
posted by anastasiav at 10:10 AM on December 15, 2009 [5 favorites]

You can try sprinkling him liberally with cornstarch and then brushing it out. This was the recommended method when my kids were little and it, well, sort of works. It works better than you would think it would but not as well as you might hope. However, it's quick, inexpensive and not difficult, so worth a try. Really, though, it sounds like anastasiav has it.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:24 AM on December 15, 2009

Although it's unfortunately not quite the right season for it, some good old fashioned sunshine (after a surface wash) might do the trick. Key is to get a few hours of strong, intense sun. It's amazing how it takes away odors and freshens things up.

My mom did this for all my stuffed animals growing up. They took showers and then went "sun bathing." They may have worn sunglasses.
posted by charmcityblues at 2:33 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

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