Teddy Bear Care


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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 our Accessories.

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 bear clothes.

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.

 Never, Never ......

subject your bear to the dry cleaners - the chemicals used are harmful 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 fall apart/deteriorate

store your bear in a plastic bag - moisture may build up, encouraging mould growth 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.

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