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Cleaning an Old Doll

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Before you try to clean your old doll you will want to first determine the doll's composition. That information will help determine the best cleaners to use to prevent damage. This is a page about cleaning an old doll.


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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?


April 9, 20181 found this helpful
Best Answer

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.


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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February 3, 20191 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.

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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 mom's and she passed a few months ago. The doll's face is real sticky and blotchy and there are some spots on her hands. Please help me clean it.



Cleaning an Old Doll

The doll is probably rubber. You can use something like 409, and then rinse it off. Rubbing alcohol takes off ink, also. (09/15/2005)


Cleaning an Old Doll

Contact a doll collector's club. They should know, or be able to find out, about your doll and its composition (what it's made of). Best of all they should be able to tell you how to clean and restore it without ruining it. Best of luck with your special treasure. (09/16/2005)

By kidsNclutter

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February 23, 2010

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

By Christine from Alberta


Cleaning an Old Doll

I just read and noted the following. I believe it was on this site. To remove ink from vinyl dolls, spread acne cream on the ink and put it the sun. The ink will vanish. I hope it works for you. (09/01/2009)

By Gailya Illsley

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