Cloth Body Dolls
Caution: I do not use this method on dolls that have internal mechanisms
such as Thumbelina or Baby Secret. I also do not use bleach or mildew
remover on dolls that have colored cloth bodies such as flannel or cotton
prints because the bleach would ruin the colors. If I have any doubts, then I
spot clean the doll with a little Spray 409 instead and I do not soak the doll
Cloth body dolls can really get filthy, but it's possible to thoroughly clean
the doll and make her beautiful again.
DON'T BE SHY, SHE NEEDS A BATH!! I like to use the kitchen spray
hose and I work in the sink. I don't submerge the doll. I get the doll damp
with water and then lightly spray the entire body, cloth and vinyl, with
mildew remover or some other kind of spray with bleach in it. I rinse the
cloth body almost immediately before the chemical can harm the fabric.
Then scrub the vinyl parts of the doll as needed.
Mildew remover is actually a specialized kind of spray bleach. I have
found it useful for cleaning up cloth body dolls. It is also useful for
cleaning grubby Baby Faces and it's good to use on dolls that have mold
or musty odor.
SPIN THE WATER OUT. When the doll has been rinsed very very well
and the body looks as clean as it's going to get, then I put the doll in the
washer on spin cycle only. I absolutely do not agitate the dolls in a wash
or rinse cycle: it's too hard on them. But, the spin cycle will get the water
out of the stuffed doll. Remember to empty the vinyl limbs, and squeeze
them out if necessary. You may have to spin the doll again after you've
emptied the limbs and head.
CONSIDER THE STUFFIN'S. It is important to consider what the doll
is stuffed with. Shredded foam is good. Many stuffins are good for this
kind of cleaning, but some kinds of stuffin's are not. Sometimes I have to
remove the stuffing if it is the old paper type or heavy rag type stuffing.
Some cloth body dolls in the 60's were stuffed with kapok, such as Kitten
by Madame Alexander. Kapok tends to stain the doll body when it gets
wet, therefore there is no way to get the doll clean without removing the
old kapok stuffing.
If you know the stuffin's are not the good kind, then remove them before
cleaning and it's much easier to clean a cloth body doll that is flat and
empty. Restuff her after she's dry.
If you find out after you've washed the doll that the stuffin's are Not
Good and won't dry out, then remove all the wet filler and throw it away.
Lay the doll on a towel to dry.
TURN A FAN ON. I turn a fan on my cloth body dolls when they are
drying. I lay them on a table or on a sheet on the floor and place a fan so
it will blow on them directly. I've found this reduces water stain
considerably, almost eliminates it. I turn the dolls occasionally so they
dry evenly. The fan makes a big difference.
STUFFIN'S AND WEIGHTS. To restuff a doll, I use new polyfill and I
add a beanbag for weight because polyfill does not weigh as much as the
old kinds of stuffin's. I put a plastic bag with beans in the rump of the
doll, then fill the rest of it with polyfill. The plastic beans are available in
our doll shop.
CONSIDER THE RISK! Whenever I try to clean an old vintage doll, I do
so at risk of ruining it. I never know when the fabric might be too old to
be cleaned. I have to weigh the risks and the value of the doll. Sometimes
it is better to sponge the doll body lightly rather than do a thorough
cleaning, especially if you think the doll would be ruined by anything