A Guide To Collecting Stuffed Animals: Preservation, Finding And Other Tips

Collecting stuffed animals can be fun, but finding the best deals and properly caring for and preserving these treasures does take some work.

If you collect cuddly critters, there are several places you can find unique varieties of stuffed animals, and there are many tricks and tips to help you care for and preserve these special specimens.

You can often locate hard to find favorites or collections of promotional pets at an online auction or collector's site, or by placing ads for special animals in both hard copy and online classifieds. You can also plan an outing around searching for rare animals and take advantage of flea markets, thrift stores, craft shows and garage sales. Collectors often find great bargains at such places, because sellers do not always place the same value on an item as a collector does, since he or she sees it as an addition to their collection rather than a single item. One drawback to buying used merchandise is that the treasures you find might not be in the best of condition.

CLEANING STUFFED ANIMALS

Some of the most snuggly stuffed animals are made of delicate, sensitive materials. One way to clean them is to try a dog brush or doll brush to comb out any matted "fur." You can also use a lint brush, especially on animals made of fabric, or you can vacuum your stuffed animals, and the best way to do so is to carefully use the end of the hose with the attachments removed.

If your favorite stuffed pet has developed an odor or seems musty, try fabric refresher or carpet powder (preferably one that contains baking soda, or just use straight baking soda). When using fabric refreshers, spray lightly, and test a spot that is not obvious to make sure the product won't damage or change the look of your collectible. If using carpet freshener or baking soda, sprinkle a small amount into a bag, place the animal inside, and shake. Afterwards, place the animal in a clean bag and shake to remove excess powder.

Always check tags to determine what materials were used in making your animal, and to see if the manufacturer offers instructions for cleaning. If safe to do so, you can throw a teddy bear in the dryer for 5 minutes to remove dust and lint. Adding a dryer sheet will help avoid static and is another good way to freshen up your stuffed pet.

If none of these tips work, and you need to actually wash the toy, try a clean soft rag of a similar color and cold water first. Blot instead of wiping or rubbing. If that doesn't do the trick use a bit of cleanser specifically made for gentle fabrics or a couple of drops of dish washing liquid or upholstery cleaner, with cold water. Agitate the mixture of cleanser and water until you get lather, then use only the lather on the surface of the animal, but do not immerse.



Again, try a test patch first, in a place that is not obvious, but if you find that the cleaner is safe to use, be sure to clean the whole toy so you don't end up with one clean spot while the rest of the toy looks dingy.

Many furry friends are made of acrylic and polyester, so they are machine safe. Wash in cold water with mild detergent on the gentle cycle. Place in a mesh bag like the ones used for washing baby socks or nylons. If the manufacturer's instructions say it is safe, you can put your animal in the dryer, although it is probably best not to do so with foam-stuffed animals. You can try laying them in the sun instead, or placing them in front of a fan. You may not want to just let them air dry, as some may take a very long time to dry this way and could develop mildew.

Before washing, be sure to remove "voice boxes" and battery packs if any, so they don't rust or get damaged. Also, check for open seams and repair any openings before washing. You should also make sure the animal is solidly stuffed before considering washing in the machine. If not, the stuffing could go flat in spots, so you may want to find a different method of cleaning.

Of course, any animal made of wool, leather, real fur or other sensitive materials must be treated accordingly.

SIMPLE REPAIRS AND RESTORING TIPS

If you have an old teddy bear that is purely sentimental, you should be able to restore him yourself. Carefully remove the stuffing, wash covering, and re-stuff with fresh clean materials. Be sure any eyes made of buttons, as well as any other accessories are sewn on tightly or repainted where necessary.

If the animal is made of dark fabric and has dark stitching, rub lightly with powder so stitches will stand out. If hand sewing, take your time and use small uniform stitches, being sure to match the thread as closely as possible. Poke the needle through from the inside of the seam so the knot won't be visible.

Old ripped pantyhose, old socks, and old pillows make good stuffing if you need to re-stuff an animal or fluff up a flat spot.

PRESERVATION

There are many perils that can befall your plush pets, such as mildew, moths, and dust. But, there are some things you can do to protect your treasures.

If you want to display your collection so that you and others can enjoy it then you might consider investing in airtight glass doll cases, or you may want to purchase a glass cabinet.

If you are more concerned with protecting your collection than displaying it, hat boxes or plastic containers with lids are a good idea. Wrap your animals in paper, or place in a paper bag before packing into containers. Do not use plastic bags as they can keep in moisture. Find a cool dry place to store your animals, and check on the periodically to make sure the containers have not been opened or somehow gotten damp.

If you have any collectibles that are of great value, you should probably leave cleaning, repairs, and storage ideas to a professional.

© High Speed Ventures 2011