Helpful Cleaning Tips
As a general rule, the more expensive the plush, the less likely it is safe to wash. If you've got a soiled item that looks like a washing candidate, put it a cloth bag -- a pillowcase is excellent -- tie the bag closed and toss it in for washing. The plush (and the bag) must fit loosely inside the washing machine. Use a bag of some reasonably sturdy woven fabric, not a mesh bag like those intended for washing hosiery. The goal here is to protect the surface of the fake fur so you don't get any split ends or felting or other physical damage from the washing process.
By "wash" we mean cold water wash and cold water rinse with mild detergent on a gentle cycle. If you don't have access to a good washing machine with a gentle cycle, stick to surface cleaning. For detergent, we've had good results with Dreft. Never use bleach, nor fabric softener.
After washing, take the still-tied bag out of the washer. If the toy was safe to wash, it's usually safe to dry, too. Air drying is OK, but puts you at risk of getting mildew started inside the stuffing. Still in its protective bag, put it in a clothes dryer for a cycle on the most gentle, low-temperature setting.
The basic tools for plush care are a hair brush and a damp cloth. An old terry washcloth is perfect for the damp cloth. Wet the cloth and wring it out well; we're talking damp here, not wet. Get a hair brush to be used only on the plush. Synthetic fur does not need to pick up hair care products transferred from a brush used by people. Brushes with metal bristles, intended for pet care, can work very well on plush but can tear up the backing fabric if not used carefully. You want a brush with well-spaced stiff bristles for most uses.
A vacuum cleaner and a lint roller are additional options for dusting.
Rub the surface of the plush lightly with the damp cloth to clean off dust, pet hair, food crumbs or whatever else has gotten onto the fur. Use the hair brush to straighten and arrange the nap of the plush, fluff flattened fur or smooth ruffled fur. For long fur, use the brush gently to separate snarls.
Remember that any hair pulled out with the brush probably will not grow back, so brush gently. The brush will also lift out dust or debris buried in the fur. Give the surface another swipe with the damp cloth after brushing to remove anything the brush lifted.
A lint roller can be used instead of a damp cloth. The lint roller works especially well on pet hair. In our house there are four cats and a dog as well as lots of plush, and plushes that are near cat walkways have to get lint-rolled fairly often.
Pay attention to the style of fur you're working with! Don't brush out a plush surface that is supposed to look felted, tangled or woolly. Stick to lint rollers or vacuums for such material.
Before using any cleanser on a plush, test for compatibility on an inconspicuous spot. Wait until the test spot dries. Brush off any dried cleanser residue and examine the test spot. Is it still the same color? Especially look for a ring of lighter or darker discoloration around the test area. Pull the fur in the test spot and be sure it's not falling out. If you see any problems with the test area, you'll need to pick a different cleaning product or live with whatever it was you wanted to clean out.
After a successful test, use your selected cleansing product to clean the plush. Have enough cleaner to clean the whole toy. Once you take the step of using a cleaner or detergent, you will generally need to clean the whole object rather than just a problem spot. Especially with older toys, one clean patch will usually look different than the rest of the animal. Even with a tested cleaner, proceed with caution. A cleaner that is fine for the base material may damage nose or paw-pad fabric, or affect air-brushed details.
Use just enough cleanser to thoroughly wet the plush and the backing material, avoid letting much soak through to the stuffing. A sponge is generally the best applicator, and gives you good control over the amount of cleanser applied to the plush.