Cleaning an Old Rubber or Vinyl Doll?

I have an old doll, about 35 years, that would like a cleaning. It has a cloth body and rubber (?) head and limbs. It's eyes open and shut. My grandchildren love to play with "Oliver", but I would like it if I could freshen him up! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
February 3, 20191 found this helpful

Use a mild soap solution for the doll. Only surface wash the cloth part.

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February 3, 20191 found this helpful


I would get a large plastic storage bag-the kind that zips shut- and put a couple of boxes of baking soda in the bag. Then put the doll in the bag. Squeeze the bag to distribute the baking soda over the doll. Let the doll stay in the baking soda for several days.


After several days, take the doll out and blow dry all the baking soda off the doll.

Some people re-stuff the doll's cloth body, but only as a last result.

Have a blessed day,


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Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 196 Feedbacks
February 3, 20192 found this helpful

Test anything you use on an inconspicuous spot (like the back of the head). I have cleaned dolls by taking a drop or two of Blue Dawn (the regular simple version (NEVER the ultra) or a drop of Johnson's baby shampoo on a white wash clothe and carefully wipe the rubber parts. Do NOT scrub. Gentle circular motions. If there eyes have goop in them, a Qtip with warm water can get the goop out, but make sure it is not soaked, just damp as not to ruin the eyes.


The cloth body is the hard spot. You can use the white rag and Dawn to get spots out, but make sure the cloth is not dripping wet, but just damp. You can dry it with a blow dryer on cool or better yet, leave it in the sun to dry.

I only ever hand-wash the clothing (if they are cotton or a cotton/poly blend--if they are fancy like satin or silk, I leave them be). If I do hand-wash, it is with a drop of Woolite or Dreft in cool water.

Again, I either line dry inside or best outside in the sun (but if they are color, don't leave them outside to long or the sun could bleach the color.

I have also washed the hair with a drop of baby shampoo (depending on what the hair is made from). I use a wig brush to CAREFULLY comb it out first to remove knots, then hand wash (never submerge it) by massaging a few drops of water with the drop of shampoo into the hair (all with my hands/fingers. Then I dry it with a blow dryer on cool or out in the sun. It usually needs combed out again and styled after it dries.


All of this said, I only do this on dolls that I am not upset if the cleaning process could ruin it. I have been very successful with these techniques on inexpensive dolls like the dolls that the nieces/nephews played with. I would NEVER do this for a doll like some of those I have sold that are very valuable. In those cases, those get sold AS IS and I leave the cleaning/restoration up to a pro.

Best wishes to you and Oliver!

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