One of life’s great joys is finding and having a vintage doll for your home collection. Old dolls from another era somehow connect us to that time, and make us feel like we’re handling treasure that was cherished long ago, and still is, today. We want our dolls to look great, don’t we? But we know they’re delicate because they’re old. We don’t want to upset their beauty by messing them up in anyway, and that goes for cleaning them.
Obviously we can’t just put old doll clothes into a washing machine. We must inspect the clothing to see what has happened to it over the years, and then proceed with caution to essentially make it better.
Things That Dirty Doll Clothing
Some of the things that can damage doll clothing over the years include dust, oil, and exposure to sunlight. When kept in storage, doll clothing can also suffer from getting wet. Mold and mildew become chief concerns. Then there’s the issue of insects or rodents getting at the clothes. Now, in some cases, clothing might have brownish rust spots– and this, of all things, can be a good thing. It might actually enhance the doll’s value since it’s the one way the doll looks especially antique. Who knew: rust spots are a good thing with doll clothing?! Yep.
Vintage Doll Cleaning Tips
Now back to the subject at hand: we need to be gentle with vintage doll clothing. Remove any accessories if possible, including bows, ties and flowers. Brush off mildew. Lay the clothing outside in the fresh air to help get rid of odors and/or to dry it out. And then figure out which detergent will work best to truly clean the clothes.
For cotton clothing, use a soft cloth with Dreft’s Laundry Stain Remover on it. For stubborn stains, you might try OxiClean. You can soak the clothing in a bucket or jar with 1 tablespoon of gentle detergent/solution per gallon of cold water. Gently pat dry the clothing and then lay it flat on a towel to dry.
Should your doll clothing be made from silk or satin, try a light steaming or just gently dust it. It’s best to avoid using water on silk. And with satin, washing it tends to wrinkle it and makes it lose its shine. To gently clean silk with a detergent, use the kind used on baby clothes, like ECOS or Seventh Generation.
Wool clothing can be cleaned using Woolite and cold water.
Finally, to dust off the clothing, here’s a novel idea: use a can of computer air spray! Or you can wipe off dust with a soft toothbrush.
You might want to do some online research before attempting to clean your vintage doll clothing. Keep in mind, Gigi’s Doll’s offers doll restoration services that could help.