Cleaning an Old Doll

April 16, 2021

A doll with discolored places on the nose and cheeks.Does anyone know what this stuff is on my doll. Is it mildew, dirt or mold? Is there anyway to clean it? I've tried washing with soap and water but it doesn't come off :(


Discolored fingers on a doll.
Discolored toes on a baby doll.


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April 16, 20211 found this helpful
Best Answer

Is the doll vinyl? If so, it is most likely a chemical reaction to something it was stored with or in. Like how old Barbie dolls get green ear when they have metal earrings in their vinyl body--these dolls react to various things like metals or even print in newspaper.

If it is vinyl you can try acne medications (those that have Benzoyl Peroxide) and try on a tiny place where no one will notice and see if it removes it. If so, you can use it liberally to remove the green.


If it stains or discolors or does not work, then the doll may not be vinyl.

For non vinyl dolls there is a product called CLR or CRL (or limeaway) that is a lime remover for the bathroom. Some people have luck with that on dolls made of plastic or fiberglass but again, try in a place where no one will notice.

Post back how it goes!


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April 27, 20213 found this helpful
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I've found a post about this darkening on a vintage doll made by Sonni, Germany GDR. This doll has vinyl head and arms, and the torso and legs are plastic.
It says that the vinyl from which the doll's parts of vintage German dolls were made, over time, began to become covered with black spots or completely blackened. According to unverified data, this depends, first of all, on the composition of this vinyl, which does not tolerate moisture and direct sunlight, as well as on how thoroughly the vinyl components were mixed before making the casting. Some dyes oxidize over time in air, and in these places the doll turns black.


It is impossible to get rid of such damage to the end, but for a while you can refresh the faces of such dolls. And if you're lucky, the doll will delight you for a few more years with its beauty. If the process initially went too far, then the blackness will return, and you will have to carry out all the procedures again.
So, is it not mildew, dirt or mold. It is due to the quality of the vinyl.
Is your baby doll made by Sonni by accident?

The author of the post advises to act so:
You need a cream containing 10% benzoyl peroxide - for example OXY10. If the concentration of benzoyl peroxide in the cream is less, the process will be slower.
1. Separate vinyl parts.
Your baby doll does not have eyelashes. But if a doll has eyelashes, then they must be protected, otherwise they will fade. It is better in this case to remove the eyes with eyelashes.


2. Moisturize the doll's vinyl parts.
3. Apply cream to all black areas. In case of severe darkening, apply the cream to the inside too (inside head).
4. Wrap all the vinyl parts smeared with cream in plastic wrap and put them in a warm place, for example, near a warm heater (not hot).
5. Repeat this procedure every day or every other day. Wet, spread cream, cover with a film, put in warm place. Do all this until the vinyl parts brighten.
For the author of the post, this lasted a week.

Remember that this darkening is not due to the contact of any objects with the doll, but due to the composition of the vinyl. And this darkening is likely to recur in a few years.

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6 More Questions

Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

April 2, 2018

How do I clean a 1950s Horseman doll without making it sticky. It's not sticky now and I do not want to clean it with anything that will make it sticky. Also another problem is that it smells like mold coming from tiny silver hole in back. The outside looks great, but I know mold is dangerous. The head is the only joint on the body. Is it possible to take the head off and remove fibers from inside and maybe wipe it out with vinegar on a piece of cotton?

This is a special gift for my mom. When she was little her brothers stretched the arms off her doll, and for years I heard the story of this. I decided to surprise her with this one, but don't want to ruin the doll. I feel I can fix this problem. The doll is in very good shape and as I said not sticky. I just need to know how to clean it. Help?Cleaning a 1950s Horseman Doll - vinyl baby doll


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April 9, 20181 found this helpful
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Many doll sellers and collectors like to find these baby dolls that can be placed in a tub and washed so that dirt and grime can be removed from inside the head, arms, legs but I do not believe you can do this with your doll.


  • It looks like your doll has a "stuffing" inside her vinyl(?) body and if this is the case, you cannot afford to let that get wet.
  • Removing and replacing a doll's head can be a very tricky undertaking because the head is usually attached with "wire" inside the head that attaches to some type of wire/rod in the body and doll repairers have special tools that can fit inside the body to reattach the two pieces.
  • But - some dolls have heads that just slip/fit inside a special groove in the body and yours may be like that.
  • I cannot tell if your doll has movable eyes but if she does, that may also present some problems if the head is removed.
  • Have you tried cleaning the "hole" with q-tips dipped in alcohol? You may be able to reach some areas and see if it is mold or maybe just dirt.
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  • If your doll is clean (as you say) on the outside then just try to figure out how to wipe around inside the hole to remove as much grim as possible.
  • After doing this you might want to stuff a part of a hand or baby wipe around inside. You could maybe wrap it around something that will fit inside the hole but hold on to the wipe.
  • Maybe leave it inside for a day or so.
  • You might try sprinkling baby/talcum power inside the hole.

Here is a link to history of Horsman (not Horseman) dolls from the 1950's but I did not see your doll.

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February 23, 2010

I bought two old dolls. They have glass eyes and there is a white powder on them. They open and close and have eye lashes. How do I clean them without damaging them? They were made in the 30's.

By Sharon from AR


February 26, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

I am a doll collector. Wash the dolls eyes with dish soap and water. Then, put sewing machine oil on the eyes. When you put the doll away to store, put her face down, to protect her eyes. I have learned this from antique doll dealers.

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February 3, 2019

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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February 3, 20191 found this helpful

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

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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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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April 12, 2019

Old plastic dolls will get grimy over time and need careful cleaning to avoid damage. This is a page about cleaning a vintage doll.

A cleaned up brown haired doll dressed in blue jeans.


ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

August 31, 2009

I have a 30 year old doll that was my moms and she passed a few months ago. The doll's face is real sticky and blotchy and there are some on her hands.


February 23, 2010

I have ball point pen on a vintage doll's face. How do I remove it?

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