Teddy Bear Care
Teddy bears are made from a variety of fabrics and
stuffing, they have wooden, metal, glass or plastic eyes, a stitched,
felt, metal or plastic nose so may need to be preserved from a number
of different destructive elements including dust (enemy number one),
damp, sunlight, pests, smoke, children and dogs.
Display and Storage
A glass dome or display case is ideal for showing
off and protecting your teddy bears from dust which is one
of their biggest enemies. Apart from the dust itself not being ideal,
it clogs attracting moths and other pests into the fabric. Some collectors
put pot pourri or a sachet of lavender nearby to deter moths. Lovely
white organza bags, filled with dried lavender, are available from
Sunlight: the dye in coloured old bears
will fade naturally but beware of sitting them in direct sunlight
as this will hasten the process and even 'natural' coloured bears
will soon discolour AND sunlight will cause the fabric to rot. Also,
avoid keeping teddy bears close to radiators, pipes or air conditioning
outlets as the mohair will, over time, become brittle.
Clothes: there are different schools of
thought on whether a bear should be dressed or not. Some collectors
prefer bears "in the fur", others like to dress bears
in period costume to enhance character whilst some have a complete
wardrobe giving the bear a new personality on each change. Appearance
aside, clothes will not only cover any imperfections but will offer
some protection against harsh sunlight and dust. Choose clothes
which are not too tight and allow air to circulate around the mohair.
See our selection of teddy
Stands: it is possible to display bears
effectively using wooden, metal or plastic stands which have "arms"
that grip teddy bear around the middle or the neck. Ensure any such
stands used are the correct size and are in good condition; stands
that are too small may cause an indentation on your teddy bear's
fur or old metal stands which become rusty could mark the fabric.
Longer term storage: if you have no display
space available you may want to pack and store some teddy bears.
Wrap teddy in white, acid-free, tissue paper - "white"
because dye has been known to rub off coloured tissue on to the
bear's fabric, acid-free tissue is available at most craft stores
and many stationers. Alternatively wrap him in a white cotton pillowcase.
Then place teddy in a suitable box, a shoe box is ideal for a small
bear. Add some cedar-wood shavings or a sachet of lavender to deter
insects. Store teddy safely in a cool, dry place (remember your
roof space may get very hot in the summer).
Regular Care of Antique and Vintage bears
Teddy bear fur attracts larvae from carpet beetles and moths which
feed on the wool fibres, larvae from furniture beetles may attack
wood-wool/excelsior stuffing and even animal fleas can make a cosy
home in mohair.
This systematic check is particularly important for vintage bears
and antique bears: part the mohair fibres and check for larvae castings
(small oval papery casings): pay particular attention to joint crevices
and where the ear joins the head. One of the first signs of infestation
is often tiny holes in the felt pads. If your bear shows signs of
infestation either put him in a plastic bag and put him in a freezer
for 4 - 7 days (depending on size of the bear) OR place him in a
large plastic bag or bin liner, spray inside with insect/moth repellant,
seal the bag and leave for approximately 10 days. N.B. Seek
specialist advice before treating musical or mechanical bears in
either of these ways. When he emerges give him a gentle
brush to remove any debris. If you collect vintage or antique
bears you should always check a new arrival before introducing him
to the rest of your hug.
Vacuum: regularly vacuum using low power setting with
gauze/old tights/stocking over end of the nozzle but be careful
not to damage claw stitching and be sure to keep clear of eyes,
buttons and labels (they significantly improve his value).
Blanket bath: very occasionally give him a blanket bath.
Use a JUST DAMP, white cloth to wipe over the surface of his fur
only. Don't dampen/touch his pads. When dry, give him a gentle brush
(a toothbrush is ideal for this).
Modern, synthetic bears
In 1955 the unjointed, machine-washable teddy bear was introduced
by Wendy Boston. With synthetic fur and filling and with plastic
eyes it could be washed and dried. However, not all synthetic bears
can be washed - some materials react badly to water. Pay attention
to care labels in the seams or on swing tags which may indicate
"surface wash only".
If a bear is washable (NOT just surface washable): immerse in a
bowl of warm water, with either baby shampoo or a detergent for
woolens. Gently remove any stains with a bristled brush. Rinse.
Place in a muslin bag and peg the bag to the clothes line - don't
attach the bear to the line by it's ears. When completely dry, brush
the bear with a teasel brush to separate the matted plush fibres.
- subject your bear to the dry cleaners - the chemicals used
- put your bear in the washing machine - unless washing instructions
clearly indicate that he will survive
- immerse jointed bears in water - the card/wooden joints will
- store your bear in a plastic bag - moisture may build up, encouraging
We have only covered regular, basic care here, not
restoration. To find out more about care and restoration, see the
excellent reference books e.g. Miller's Teddy Bears, A Complete
Collectors Guide in our bookshop.
If you are ever in any doubt, your bear is valuable (in either financial
or sentimental terms) or for major repairs please do take your bear
to a reputable, skilled restorer - someone who specialises in restoring
vintage and antique bears so they retain their original charm.