Doll Hair and Doll Care, a manual to help you keep your kid's dolls clean

This page refers to modern dolls in general and answers the most common doll care questions. These tips are not meant to cover antique or collectible dolls:

How do I clean my doll?

Can I clean my dolls?

How do I get the mold out of bathtub toys?

How do I clean a stuffed animal or plush doll?

Are dolls bad for kids with allergies?

Can my child get Head Lice from a doll? 

How do I untangle my doll's hair?

General Doll Care Tips

  • For a general cleaning, using a soft cloth and a mild dish washing liquid soap, gently wash the surface of the doll.
  • For more embedded dirt, most vinyl doll's 'skin' can be cleaned by making a paste from baking soda and water and gently cleaning with a damp cloth. Be gentle, and don't scrub!
How to clean cloth body with vinyl combination dolls:
  • First check the package, almost all modern baby doll manufacturer's soft bodied baby dolls can be machine washed. 
  • If you can't find it either written or with a symbol on the box, or if the doll is used, contact the manufacturer. 
  • It is always recommended though, that dolls be washed tied into a towel or tee shirt.
    How to clean Rag Dolls and How to clean stuffed animals:
    • If your child has allergies, or sticks their dolls and lovies in their mouths, or just in general 'drags them through the house,' you are going to want to clean them frequently.
    • Most all manufacturers recommend "surface wash only" with gentle detergents as a 'cover their butts' precaution, but almost all well made plush dolls, rag dolls and stuffed animals can be machine washed (cold water, gentle cycle). The secret is to tie the doll or stuffed animal into a tee shirt or pillow case and use the gentle or delicate cycle. You may have to redo a few stitches here and there, but the dolls do come much cleaner, which is important if your child has allergies.
    • Use the same detergents to wash dolls that you already use to wash their clothes. (Usually dye and perfume free, right?) 
    • After washing we generally recommend that you wrap the doll in an absorbent towel and gently squeeze out as much water as you can, and then let the remainder air dry.
    • Few cloth dolls or teddy bears are made to be 'colorfast,' so there is always the risk that the colors may run, blend or fade. YOU need to decide which is more important, to keep as much as possible the pristine 'look,' or the soft well-washed, well-worn and played with doll that is better for your children's health.
    Can a doll make my kid sick?
    Dust Mites and other Household Allergens:
    • It is extremely rare that children exhibit allergic reactions to the dolls themselves. Most dolls today are made from BTA and Pthalate free plastics and are screened for lead, mercury and other hazards. Cloth dolls are usually made from polyester fabrics; better dolls may also be made with cotton, linen or wool. But all fabrics can pick up allergens and mites from your home environment..
    • One exception is scented dolls. The fragrances used to 'scent' dolls, when fresh out of the box may be too strong at first for some children's preferences. Let them air out, or if it is a machine washable doll, wash it.   
    • Some doll companies make 'allergy free cloth dolls,' which can be washed more frequently and with hotter water. They use heavier duty threads, and smoother cloth that is less likely to invite dust or house mites. They are also made to stand up to more frequent hot water washings.
    • But all cloth dolls can be inserted into a plastic bag and then put in the household freezer. Freezing kills most house mites.
    • Dolls that are not played with, but left out, can be dusted with a can of compressed air to blow the dust off.  
    • Can my child get head lice from a doll? Unfortunately, Yes. Head lice can't survive on a doll's head or in doll hair for long, but they can be transferred from a child with lice to the doll, and then transferred from the doll to your child. Use the same lice prevention precautions you would normally use: Don't share brushes and don't share hats!

      How to prevent mold in dolls: Inner cleaning of Aquini or other drink wet dolls.

      • Draining and drying is the best preventative to mold build up in hollow toys.
      • After feeding or bathing the doll it is important to wash the inside of the doll. The inside of the doll can become contaminated and may lead to mold formation if not cleaned.
      • To clean the inside of the doll fill the little bottle with lukewarm water and some dish soap and fill the doll. Then rinse several times until clean. The doll should then be left upright on the potty for ½ an hour allowing all fluid to drain.
      • Do not allow your child to 'feed' his or her 'drink - wet' doll with anything other than water. 
      • Once a week fill the doll with a mold and mildew cleaner and thoroughly shake and drain. Then, clean as normal.
      • On floating dolls or toys like rubber duckies or drink/wet dolls you might consider using a hot melt glue gun to seal the holes. 
      • Many bath dolls and water babies are machine washable and use plastic pellets instead of fiberfill for the insides.  

      Doll Hair Care:

      Doll Hair is generally a synthetic hair made out of plastics and glued or knotted into holes on the doll's head. The doll manufacturers generally refer to this as 'rooted' hair.

      On older dolls and antique dolls the hair was often animal or human hair made into a doll's wig, which was then glued to the doll's head. Some dolls today do have synthetic hair wigs.

      For these tips we are referring to modern synthetic doll's hair only.

      • The best way to prevent those awful tangled doll hair messes is to teach your daughter or granddaughter about Doll Hair Care.

        Brushing Doll Hair

        Your daughter knows what it's like to have her hair brushed and washed, so it's easy for her to understand that her doll's hair also needs to be brushed 'to look pretty.' She gets that. 

        • Give her a brush that is for her dolls hair only. We don't need her transferring the natural hair oil from her hair to the doll's.
        • If you can give her a doll's hair brush, that's best, but almost any small hair brush that looks like this will do.

          • Along with the brush she should have a small mister or sprayer. We need to keep the hair slightly damp while brushing to help ease the strands apart. 
          • Lightly mist the doll's hair with the mister. Just a little. It doesn't have to be too wet.
          • Pick a section of her head, start near the ends, and using short, gentle strokes work your way up from the ends, gently brushing out any tangles.
          • Continue to the next section. 
          • If she is going to style her doll's hair, clip aside the finished sections until all of the hair is brushed out.
          • You can use plastic butterfly clips or barrettes, or cloth covered scrunchies.
          • Tip to Prevent Doll Hair Damage: Put long haired doll's hair into a ponytail before changing her outfits. Many doll dresses and blouses have a velcro seam in the back, and velcro 'eats' doll hair! 

          Washing Doll Hair

          • Get a big bowl and fill it half way with cool water. Do not use warm or hot water because the heat can relax curls.
          • Add ¼ teaspoon of baby shampoo.
          • Cover the doll's body with a plastic bag to keep it dry.
          • Turn the doll upside down, swirl it around until her hair is completely wet.
          • Gently work the shampoo into her hair. Try not to twist, pull or break it. 
          • Then put her back getting as much of the doll's hair in the bowl as you can and let sit for 10 minutes.
          • Refill and rinse with cool clean water three times.
          • You can also use a spray bottle to rinse off the shampoo. 
          • Hold the doll upside down and gently shake out the rinse water.
          • Wrap the hair in a soft absorbent cloth and gently squeeze out the water. 
          • Brush out her hair when most of the water is gone and while it is still damp.
          • Do not brush wet hair and do not brush dry hair. Only brush damp hair. Do not wring or twist the hair - it can break.
          • Tip to Prevent Doll Hair Damage: Air Dry only! Hair Dryers can melt and curl the doll's hair.

          Untangling Doll Hair

           Tangles are a problem. But if you do get tangles, here are a few tricks we've learned:

          • For minor tangles use baby Detangle Sprays. Spray a bit on and then gently brush out using the instructions for 'Brushing your dolls hair.'
          • If the doll's hair is badly tangled you can try a fabric softener soak: Put three cap-fulls of fabric softener into a large bowl half-full with water and follow the same process as above to wash and brush out your doll's hair.
          • If it works, it might also straighten the doll's hair - even if it was curly to begin with. You may need to re-set, curl and style the doll's hair. 
          • If a beloved doll's hair is hopelessly damaged, there are many sources of doll's wigs available on the internet. 
          Tip to Prevent Doll Hair Damage: Do not use metal hair clips or rubber bands in your doll's hair, both will break pretend hair.
          • Every so often you can recondition doll hair with baby oil to restore it's shine. Put a drop or two on your thumb and 1st finger and gently rub it into your dolls hair. Too much oil will make the hair sticky for dirt. Use just enough oil to make the hair shiny again.

            These are generic tips and advice based on our years in the doll business and may not apply to your particular doll. We do not assume responsibility or accept liability for damages to your doll by your using these tips. (Sorry, but our lawyers insisted!)