Doll Repair & Restoration Hints |
The following hints are also answers to questions I have been asked many times:
When restoring antique or vintage dolls just remember that when in doubt, do nothing that cannot be undone.
Identification of vintage or antique dolls:
Most people just want to know what kind of doll they have. Old dolls generally have a mark on the back of their neck which can identify their maker, origin and value. If the mark is not visible, gently lift the wig to see if there are any markings. Sometimes, if the body is leather and the doll's head sits in the leather body, gently push some of the leather down to see incised markings available. From these numbers or letters, doll book identification guides can be checked out at the library or purchased for the most current value. Please contact me if you have any questions and I will try to help you.
General cleaning of plastic or vinyl dolls:
Since the features are heat sealed, a household cleanser and a soft old toothbrush will work. Be careful when using comet or another abrasive cleanser not to wear down or cause abrasions to the surface of the doll.
When cleaning hair or resetting hair on Toni dolls, Saucy Walkers or other dynel or synthetic wigs, use baby shampoo. When using a doll with rooted hair with synethic hair a mild hand dishwashing soap will make it shine and sparkle. With new synthetic hair, often people think they are hopeless becomes of bad tangling. Using a no tangles spray after washing or sometimes pre-washing can relax the hair enough to comb through and wash this type of wig. I use an unbreakable metal comb for pets when combing very tangled wigs.
Sometimes dolls have laid on their face or back too long and their hair shoots straight up and the bangs won't lay down anymore or the hair doesn't lay right in the back of the head and looks flat. Making sure not to get the body wet or water in the eyes, wrap a cleaner's bag over the body and rubber band around the neck. Wash the hair with baby shampoo or hand dishwashing soap, rinse thoroughly and comb into place. Take a knee high stocking, twist the closed end to make a cap that fits around the doll's head, and carefully put it over her hair. The water will wick away through the nylon and leave the doll's hair set in place. Make sure you have the hair as you want it before it dries as this is where it will revert to. Most doll hairstyles from the 1940's through the 1960's are heat set and will take a long time to dry. I have tried boiling some of the synthetic wigs from the 60's and 70's to curl them. They will pill or leave little balls just like a sweater does. Do not do this! Some dolls can have their wigs set with cut straws and bobby pins as curlers if you do not have the size of curlers needed. Make sure the hair is thoroughly dry and it may still relax after unpinning.
Setting gel is another option when curling synthetic wigs or rooted hair. Mohair wigs and human hair wigs are protein fibers or natural fibers. Human hair wigs were popular with the turn of the century dolls and generally, will not shrink when wet. Mohair wigs, from the angora goat, will shrink when wet. Rubber cement thinner found at teacher supply stores should be used. Dip the mohair wig into the rubber cement thinner and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. When taken out with a utensil, the dirt will stay with the thinner and all curls will be left intact. It acts like a dry-cleaning fluid for mohair wigs. If you are not sure how to remove the wig or feel it is hopeless, a professional can do this. -Eyes that have clouded over in vinyl heads are usually due to mildew. Spray an antibacterial spray into the eyes and flush with hot water. This will remove the cloudy look to the doll's eyes. Make sure to shake the doll to remove excess water or the eye socket could rust.
Cleaning vintage doll clothing:
Some dyes are not permanently set and so I recommend hand washing doll clothing pieces separately. Using a mild detergent, swish the doll clothing article in tepid water never hot water. Let it sit for 30 minutes, rinse the dirty water, and add more tepid water, perhaps more detergent. Let this sit for another 30 minutes minimum, and rinse. If the item is really dirt, do this process a third time. I usually wash doll clothes in a plastic tub that can be bought at your local hardware store. Rinse item thoroughly in cooler water and hang dry; iron.
If the doll clothing has a lot of tears in the material, light iron on interfacing, cut to size, can be used on the underside and ironed to hold the item together, making sure to press the tears together. Sometimes, this can be a painstaking process, but it will preserve the look and integrity of the antique or vintage doll clothing piece. If in any doubt, contact me to send your item to the doll hospital.
Cleaning mohair wigs on old dolls:
Many older bisque dolls and composition dolls have a glued on wig that looks like human hair, but is actually mohair. It is a protein fiber or natural fiber from the angora goat. It was invented to replace human hair wigs that were prevalent in the 19th and early 20th century. DO NOT WASH MOHAIR WIGS, THEY WILL SHRINK! Just like a wool sweater, if they are not probably cleaned or get into warm water, they will shrink in size and no longer fit your doll. To clean-use rubber cement thinner. Yes, rubber cement thinner will lift the dirt and leave the curls intact. Use water soluble glue to reapply the wig like Elmer's. Do not use a permanent glue as it will damage the doll and the wig.
Cleaning human hair wigs Gently lift the human hair wig off of the doll or use a little water spray as the glue is water soluble. The wig can be washed with a gentle shampoo and dried on a Styrofoam ball the size of your doll's head. I like to re-attach the wig to the doll with Elmer's or a water soluble glue, let dry overnight, and then curl the wig. Straws and bobby pins work or old curlers. If in doubt, please contact me.
Some features will come off with water so clean carefully! A lanolin based moisture lotion will clean composition dolls without removing any painted features. If you are not satisfied with this method, try a Qtip with a little water and a spray of 409; try the edge of the eyebrow or eyelash. If only dirt comes off, then proceed with a soft toothbrush and spray cleaner, making sure to dry with a clean cloth immediately. I have used turtlewax on a cleaned composition doll to prevent or retard any further cracking or crazing, but it is labor intensive and tough to get out of crevices. Again, please contact me if you think you do not want to attempt it and would rather have it done professionally.
If the body of the bisque head is composition (a hard surface) or leather, make sure to cover these surfaces with an old cleaning bag or some type of protection. The leather will stain if wet and the composition body should not get wet. However, if you want to clean the leather body, leather cleaner can be purchased at your local shoe repair and used. Cleaning stuffed animals
I have often been asked to clean old stuffed animals, and the problem is you cannot guarantee the results. I suggest using foaming rug shampoo with an old toothbrush. Once dried, use your vacuum nozzle and go over the stuffed animal to raise the nap. Rubbing with an old cloth and brushing is another way to accomplish it after the shampoo has dried.
**If you have any other questions regarding the restoration or repair of your doll, please feel free to contact me with your questions. I have many customers who send their dolls to me for repair. Custom Doll wigs, wigs, general stringing, and clothing for antique dolls are repairs that I have performed at Jack and Jill Doll Hospital for many years.
Vintage doll repair don'ts For all old dolls, do not keep your vintage or antique doll in the basement or attic. Composition dolls, especially, will deteriorate or suffer. Varying temperatures, however subtle, along with moisture can and will cause cracking and crazing to the surface. Thus, damaging the doll and its appearance as well as value. If your vinyl/plastic doll is yellow or orange tinged, this is irreversible and due to prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke.
I want your antique doll to be in the best condition possible for display and to be handed down in your family!
Jack and Jill Doll Hospital Omaha, Nebraska
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