Deutsches Haus Newsletters
How To Care
For Your Doll
(Tips and Tricks on Doll Cleaning & Preservation)
This is a pretty lengthy newsletter this
month, but contains valuable information for doll collectors. In this
newsletter, we explain tips and tricks to the care and preservation
of your doll depending on which kind you have.
With porcelain, the decorations are usually fired on, so it would be
unlikely that that you would hurt them by cleaning. Use warm soapy water.
If this doesn't work good enough, try a wet eraser to remove marks.
As a last resort, very, very gently clean with a low abrasive cleaner
such as Tilex or Soft Scrub. Use caution because some cleansers have
bleaching agents that could be devastating to antique clothing, wigs
or bodies. Ultra violet rays can be very damaging to porcelain dolls,
so when you are displaying your doll, avoid direct sunlight.
These dolls are extremely perishable. They are easily broken and can
become very brittle over time. Proper care and respect of a celluloid
doll helps a perfect example remain in that condition. Heat is celluloid's
worst enemy. Keep these dolls in a cool room with good ventilation -
and never store celluloid in a sealed case - it can combust!
Vintage cloth dolls can be worth thousands of dollars and deserve your
best efforts to preserve them and prevent needless deterioration. Keeping
the fabric clean is important because it's exposing the fabric to pollutants
that will weaken the material. Direct sunlight is not good for these
dolls. You should also inspect your cloth dolls every now and then for
insects. There are insecticides designed especially for textiles under
many brands and the results can be excellent if used according to instructions.
If you decide to vacuum your doll, place
a nylon screen over the fabric first to protect the delicate fibers.
Alot of times, a good vacuuming is enough to restore a doll to display
condition. If you doll is badly soiled, get the advice of a professional
who specializes in textile conservation.
Sometimes you can use an eraser or art
gum, tapeten and reinger-and-absorene to clean your cloth doll. These
seem to give the best results. Ink can be removed with hairspray, but
first test an area on the doll to assure that no damage will occur.
Apply the hair spray with a cloth, and wipe in a light rubbing motion
with a clean white cloth.
For display purposes, it is best to keep
them in protective cases and inspect them regularly. Moth crystals should
be placed near your dolls. Many collectors recommend making a small
cloth pouch, filling it with moth crystals and placing it under the
doll's hat or tying it around its waist beneath the clothing.
Composition and papier-mâché
These dolls pretty much require the same care as the cloth type dolls.
They are especially susceptible to damage from temperature changes.
Never store composition or papier-mâché dolls in a hot
or cold attic, or in a damp basement.
Most collectors will accept some signs
of aging on composition dolls - fine craze lines or cracked eyes, for
There are many popular ways for cleaning
composition, but first always test it on an inconspicuous area of the
doll and work quickly - never leave any cleaning agent on the doll for
any length of time. Pond's Cold Cream or Vaseline and a soft tissue
work well for these dolls. Another option is paste window cleaner but
not the ammonia type. You want the old fashioned paste that you
can get at most hardware stores.
Wigs can be restyled after spraying with
Johnson's & Johnson's No More Tangles. Faded or worn-off facial
features can be touched up with artist's colored pencils. When moistened,
they are very easy to apply. Crackled eyes are best left alone.
Hard Plastic Dolls
These types of dolls are very resilient and can be cleaned with almost
any soap detergent. You can clean stubborn stains with cold cream or
waterless hand cleaner. Avoid chlorine, bleach and ammonia. Never
use fingernail polish remover or lacquer thinner which may eat into
the plastic! You can use Oxy-10 to remove stains that are not close
to painted surfaces. Just moisten a cotton ball and allow it to sit
on the stain for several hours. You may have to repeat this process
several times. After each cleaning, wash the doll with mild soap and
For displaying purposes, avoid direct exposure
to ultraviolet light. Although they may seem indestructible, hard plastic
can slowly oxidize and change color and direct heat can also cause warping.
These dolls will deteriorate no matter what precautions you take, but
you can delay the process. Any form of grease is harmful and accelerates
deterioration. If you have a "Magic Skin Doll" always wear
cotton gloves when handling her. Rubbing corn starch on these kinds
of dolls twice a year will help to preserve the dolls' life. Maintain
an even temperature and avoid changes in humidity.
These dolls often have chipped paint which can happen from the metal
getting cold which in turn causes the paint to lift off the face. Try
to keep these dolls in a constant temperature environment.
Vinyl dolls are probably the most lifelike in appearance and touch.
In order to keep them looking that way, special care is needed. Extreme
room temperatures are harmful. Even quality vinyl dolls subjected to
heaters or air conditioners can be damaged in just a few months. Direct
sunlight can be deadly. Vinyl is also sensitive to fluorescent light;
use indirect non-fluorescent lights. Finally, avoid tightly sealed show
cases or glass domes because condensation can form and damage vinyl
Chipping paint is a major problem with wooden dolls. Humidity and
mistreatment are the two main culprits. Keep wooden dolls in a dry atmosphere.
Expanding and contracting associated with high humidity causes paint
to chip. Knocks and bumps can also chip paint, so take care in moving
or displaying wooden dolls.
Wax dolls can be intimidating to many collectors. They do require special
care, but so do all types of dolls. Basic care and common sense will
help preserve a wax doll in perfect condition. Of course, never place
a wax doll in direct sunlight or near any heat source, such as a fireplace
The best way to start cleaning these types
of dolls is to use a solution of cool water and Woolite. Saturate a
cotton ball or a Q-tip and wash the wax. If this doesn't work, try a
dab of cold cream on a Q-tip, followed by a rinse of the Woolite solution
and then clean, cool water. As a last resort, try denatured alcohol
on a cotton ball, followed by a through rinsing. Never use turpentine
to clean wax dolls because it can soften the wax!
Tips for Barbie Doll Collectors
Remember those Barbie Dolls with the earrings and how it would eventually
create green deposits around the ear? Here's a way to remove it.