6 Hints On How To Look After An Old Teddy Bear

Me and my teddy bear
I've learned a great deal about renovating and looking after old teddies from my customers, although I don't always practise what I preach in terms of my own little collection. But I try.

Before we begin, do please remember that if you have a very old and potentially very valuable bear, as with any precious possession, you may need some professional advice before you embark on any kind of renovation. Your nearest museum may be able to advise, especially if there is a dedicated toy section, or even a dedicated toy museum. You'll find specialist websites online with links to professional restorers. Large salerooms often have experts in toys, and they too may be able to point you in the right direction. However, if your old teddy is in reasonably good condition, you can do a great deal yourself to keep him clean and well preserved into old age.

1 Look out for moth eggs. You'll probably know if you have clothes moths in the house, and the warmer the weather grows, the more of a problem they will be. You'll have found holes in wool garments in particular or infestations in carpets. It isn't something I personally see a lot, living in a cold old house in a country where the winters are very cold too. But it happens. Where a bear is concerned, pop him in a plastic bag and put him in the freezer for at least 48 hours, preferably a bit longer. That will kill the larvae.

2 Remove all clothes, if your bear has them, and clean them separately. Old cotton and linen clothes can be gently washed but be careful if your bear is wearing delicate old garments - as they sometimes do.  Do NOT attempt to wash the duffel coat and hat belonging to Paddington Bear, for example, although you can give them an airing and a gentle brushing.

3 Dissolve a gentle 'wool wash' fabric cleaner, such as Stergene, in warm water. Whip it into a foam and clean the surface of the bear with a little of the foam on a soft cloth. Be very careful not to saturate the bear. You are aiming only to remove surface grime. You may need to do this several times. Between applications, blot with a separate cloth dipped in cold water and carefully wrung out.

4 You can, if you wish, give a final and very fine mist with a solution of fabric conditioner, but again, do be careful not to saturate the bear.

5 Allow the bear to dry, either in a warm but not hot room, or by using a hair dryer on a cool setting. Then brush very gently with a soft clothes brush.

6 Once your bear is clean and dry, even if he or she hasn't had clothes before, consider dressing him for his own protection. The elderly Paddington Bear I've blogged about this week was in excellent condition beneath his hat and duffel coat, and at least some of that is because clothes protect old bears from pests and grime. You'll find suitable baby clothes in your nearest charity or goodwill shop. For very old and venerable bears, you can find equally old and beautiful little baby gowns on eBay - these are especially nice if you want to display your bears so that visitors can appreciate the dresses as well as the bears.