Collecting Beanie Babies can be a hugely lucrative hobby, given that you can often pick up valuable bears for just a few dollars at thrift stores or at flea markets, and resell them for hundreds or even thousands of dollars if they still have tags intact. Unfortunately, picking up Beanie Babies secondhand means that they can often be in need of a little TLC, to bring them back to a sellable condition.
Cleaning Beanie Babies and other vintage toys without diminishing their resale value is tricky, but it can be done with the right techniques and steps. If you’re looking to take your bears from dishevelled to adorable with a little spring clean, then read on!
Wrap the tags
Most of a Beanie Baby’s value is tied up in its tags. It’s a bear’s tag that determines its generation, which in turn determines how much it can resell for, as the older a bear is, the more coveted it is by collectors. A bear’s ear tag can also include various print errors, and those too can drive up the price on the second-hand market. For all those reasons, protecting a bear’s tags is of utmost importance.
The easiest way to protect a bear’s tag at the beginning of the cleaning process is to wrap it in saran wrap (clingfilm) before doing anything else. It may take multiple layers to create a completely watertight seal, so overdoing it is always best.
However, if you’re a serious collector for whom restoring Beanie Babies is a long-term hobby, then it may be worth investing in ear tag protectors, which clip onto the tags and keep them safe from water, dirt and wear and tear.
Vacuum the bear
Once the tags are safely protected from moisture and grime, the first step in cleaning a Beanie Baby should be to vacuum it. Vacuuming will remove any dust or dirt that isn’t stubborn enough to require water or cleaning solution, and is an easy way to freshen up any old bear. Simply turn the vacuum on to its least powerful setting and use the smallest nozzle, and clean the bear from top to bottom in strips.
One side effect of this method is that you may end up with visible lines in your bear, so it may be necessary to brush it with a stiff-bristled hairbrush or clean dish brush, to restore the fur to its original appearance. If your Beanie Baby has elements of long hair, such as a mane or tail, then a soft brush will help to detangle and restore it.
Use a damp cloth
The most important tool in your arsenal when it comes to keeping your Beanie Baby in tip-top shape is water. Used sparingly, it can revitalise even the most bedraggled bear, and should be your go-to next step in the cleaning process. Simply dampen a soft cleaning cloth, squeeze out any excess water, and dab onto any minor stains or blemishes.
Any light soiling should lift pretty quickly with this method, leaving you with a clean, albeit slightly moist, bear. Then simply dab the damp areas with a clean and dry cloth, and leave the bear to air dry out of the reach of children or animals. It should take around four hours for the Beanie Baby to dry completely.
The spot cleaning method
Some stains will be too stubborn to be removed by water alone. However, it is still necessary to be delicate when attempting to remove them. A sodden Beanie Baby is almost impossible to return to its like-new state, so submerging it in soapy water and hanging it out to dry is out of the question. The washing machine is to be avoided unless you’re sure that you will never want to resell the bear you’re cleaning.
The best approach for stains that don’t want to budge is a spray bottle filled with a mixture of dish soap and lukewarm water. Shake the bottle to dissolve the solution, and then spray onto any affected areas. Keep a dry cleaning cloth on hand to gently dab the stain, and hopefully, it should lift. If not, repeat the process and leave the solution to sit for longer. Dab dry with a different cloth and let it air dry for 12 hours.
Cleaning a stained bear
Using the washing machine should be avoided at all costs if you want to retain the value of your Beanie Baby, resell it at some point in the future, or keep it in pristine condition. However, if the tags on your bear are already gone, and it is more a cherished family teddy than a revered collector’s item, then it is OK to throw it in the washing machine in an emergency.
If the above steps fail, then place your Beanie Baby inside a pillowcase, or bag specially designed to help launder delicates. Then place your machine on the gentle setting, and retrieve your bear once clean. Rather than hanging to dry, which can distort your Beanie Baby’s proportions (or at the very least make it look rather forlorn), place it in the dryer on the least harsh setting.