I'm no expert, but have learned a few things about caring for dolls after years of collecting. Listed below are some of the tips I have found in doll books, doll magazines, and on the Internet. These tips are for those of us who want to do minor things to take care of our dolls. Any major undertaking should be left to the professionals and I've listed two doll hospitals below. If you feel uncomfortable at all, don't do chance it! Consult your local doll repair specialist.
Beauty Tools and Tricks:
Here are a few simple beauty tools and tricks to get you started with caring for your doll.
A toothbrush works great for getting in between fingers & toes.
Cotton swabs work well for cleaning ears and eyes.
Hair pick helps detangle hair and a baby's brush works nicely on mohair wigs.
Drinking straws, cut into sections, make great curlers for tiny curls.
An old cotton t-shirt is great as a polishing cloth.
Small baby scissors can be used to trim loose hairs or threads from clothing.
Glass jars work nicely in various sizes for drying dresses.
Use a touch of sewing machine oil on a cotton swab to rub the eyes of the old hard plastic dolls and they clean to a nice shine. Rub lightly so you don't pop the eyes out of their casing.
To maintain the best care for your dolls so they will last through the years, it is best to encase your doll upright on a stand, inside a curio or doll case to prevent exposure to dust and pollutants and direct sunlight. If you plan to store your dolls away for safe keeping, be sure to avoid damp areas, direct sunlight or high heat. Avoid laying the doll down for extended periods of time in storage, as this may affect the blinking ability of the eyes. If you must store the doll lying down, it's recommended that you check the eyes every couple of months and keep the doll wrapped in white acid-free tissue paper (not plastic).
For hard plastic or vinyl dolls, use a small quantity of mild soap, such as Ivory® or Dawn detergent and a soft cloth to wash/clean hard plastic and vinyl body parts. Use a toothbrush, to clean fingers, toes, ears and lips or nooks of a doll body. Try not to get any water into dolls eyes. If so, dry doll face down so water can run out. Twin Pines of Mainehas several products for cleaning both hard plastic and vinyl. They are safe and non-toxic and can be ordered on line. I've found them very effective in most cases and have listed a couple products below. Remove-Zit is a product made by Twin Pines that works on a variety of stains such as ink, marker, lipstick, dye, food and more. Know that these types of stains will take time and patience to remove, but I've had success on many different issues.
Care of Clothing:
Remember, take care when washing outfits of older dolls as the fabrics may be more delicate than they look. Clothing must be washed by hand in cold water. I personally prefer to wash doll clothing in Perk! by Twin Pines of Main, but you can also use a gentle detergent such as Woolight. Never scrub the clothes, rather soak, gently swish them until the soil comes out, then rinse in cool water. Do a final rinse in a solution of white vinegar and water. After washing, do not wring, but gently squeeze excess water out. To dry, you can either lay the dress flat on a towel or dry the dress over an empty glass jar (size depends on dress). This lets the dress skirt dry very full, with less wrinkles as well as lets the air hit it from all angles. Once dry, press only iron-safe fabrics with a warm iron. Use caution when attempting to launder an outfit that has both red and white on it as the red may bleed when wet.
The following steps can be taken to fix a doll's hair curls if they straighten or flatten:
Gather small portions of the hair and wrap them, one by one, around a small finger or doll size curler using a damp comb.
Secure each curl with a clip.
The next day, remove the clips or curlers and gently open the curls a bit with your fingertips.
Perk! also works well to wash doll hair; you must be extra careful though to protect the eye sockets and not get water inside the doll head.
More Serious Conditions: Aging signs appear as cracks in the rubber bands, in the crotch, and in the arms. No home remedies exist for these conditions, but there are some reliable doll hospitals that you might consider sending your doll to. Click this link to visit the Madame Alexander Doll Hospital, which repairs vintage and modern dolls, even those not Madame Alexander. Or visit the website for The Doll Hospital, another full-service doll repair facility.