February Tip of the Month: Smells & Stains Part One


I was inspired to write this months post after reading a post in a Facebook group from someone who had bought four dolls online only to find that two of them were mouldy when they arrived. There was plenty of discussion about whether the dolls could be cleaned or if she should even keep them as she has COPD.

There is no question that mould can be very dangerous to your health. If you do have respiratory issues you should not have anything to do with mouldy dolls. Even if you don’t and are going to attempt to clean them I recommend wearing a mask and doing it out of doors or in a well ventilated area.

Having said that I decided to do some online research on how to clean mouldy or smelly dolls.

This month I’ll share some information I have discovered about cleaning mould from dolls. In future posts I’ll write about the other two main problem areas, cigarette smoke and urine.

The first thing to decide is if the cleaning process will damage the doll? Are you prepared for that? If it is a valuable doll it may be better to seek professional advice.  If you are trying out a method for the first time use a doll that you are prepared to lose if things don’t work out. There are many types of plastic and vinyl and what works on one doll may be damaging to another. Harsh products or too much scrubbing can damage face paint and hair.

Vinyl/Plastic dolls eg. Barbie

Method1: Ingredients – Bi Carb Soda, liquid soap/dish washing liquid, Vinegar.

This is not a lot different to cleaning dirty dolls.

  • Fill a bowl or sink with lukewarm water.
  • In a separate container mix a small amount of Bi-Carbonate of Soda (Baking Soda) with liquid baby soap or a similar product. I usually use Fairy Platinum Dish Washing Liquid as I can’t get Dawn here. Any good quality dishwashing liquid should be fine though.
  • Add a teaspoon of vinegar.
  • Scrub the doll with an old, soft toothbrush dipped in the mixture. Work the mixture into the stains thoroughly.
  • Rinse the soap mixture off and shake off excess water. Set the doll to dry on a towel for several hours to allow all the moisture to drain out.

Method 2: Ingredients – colour safe bleach, baby shampoo

I had not heard of this method before and have never used it but I am including it for those who want to try it. It is important to use oxygen bleach rather than chlorine bleach which contains sodium hypochlorite and is a nasty chemical.  The main ingredient in oxygen bleach is sodium percarbonate which is what you find in Napisan and similar products. I’ve included an article about cleaning mould with bleach at the end of this post.

  • Fill a bowl or sink with lukewarm water adding 1/4 cup colour safe bleach for every 3.7 litres (1 gallon). This is the minimum amount considered necessary to sanitise toys.
  • Submerge the dolls and soak for about two minutes. You may want to remove the heads and clean them separately rather than dunk them in bleach.
  • Wearing rubber gloves scrub the dolls with a cloth scrubbing pad. I have a Norex kitchen/bathroom cloth I like to use to clean dolls with.
  • Rinse well to remove all traces of bleach. Wash the dolls’ hair with baby shampoo or whatever you normally use if you have left the heads on.
  • Dry the dolls and leave on a towel overnight or for 12 hours.

Fabric Dolls


I’ve washed quite a lot of modern cloth bodied dolls in the washing machine. I generally put them inside a wash bag like the ones used for lingerie or knitwear. A pillowcase pinned closed can also work. A normal wash cycle followed by drying in the sun may get rid of the mould on mildly stained dolls. I’d probably put a half scoop of Napisan in with the detergent and I’d add about a quarter cup of vinegar to the rinse water. Of course, if the dolls are interactive and have battery compartments or wires you can’t wash them in this way. In that case, you could try applying the bleach solution to the stain directly with a cotton bud. Make sure the doll body is dry or the solution will spread to other parts of the doll.

Lemon Juice and Salt

Another method is to make up a solution of 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of salt.

  • Apply it to the stain rubbing in a circular motion. The old toothbrush might come in handy
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water and leave to dry.


I’m a big fan of “A Thousand Splendid Dolls” so I have included a video the girls made on how they clean mouldy dolls. Shelley did use bleach to clean the dolls in this video but I don’t think she said what type. I would still stick to oxygen bleach. I just can’t imagine dunking dolls in chlorine bleach even if it is diluted.

Cleaning mouldy dolls tutorial – A Thousand Splendid Dolls.


  1. great ideas/i’ll be reviewing this a lot I’m sure as I continue to box/bin & put dolls in cases. W/ the new dolls I tend to dry coat the hard plastic in corn starch before using baking soda and water,or baking soda and vinegar. if it’s just loose dirt or dust. i love that you added shelly’s stuff and more links.meant to ask how Naomi is doing after your move.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The cornstarch (can never decide if that is the same as our cornflour) is a good idea. Always worth trying a solution that doesn’t involve wetting things first. Naomi is one week away from a month’s holiday from work so she will be coming to Sisters Beach for a couple of weeks and bringing some of her stuff so she can start de cluttering her house and getting ready to sell it.


  2. Awesome! I use cornstarch to get some doll clothing on/off dolls with thick arms/legs, it doesn’t seem to harm them, just like I often air out or store cigarette smelling dolls on my covered porch. I did use a scented body spray on one/duplicate to see how that might work, (and a scented lotion)in a quick wipe on wipe off application. The hair was tangled so just soaked the head in fabric softener and water I have in an applicator from when I rinse out the bottle before recycling. I sometimes use something called hair polisher. Just one drop in the palm of my hands helps w/ fly-a-ways, w/o having to re-wash, if I’m un binning something for a touch-up.Sally beauty supply has it and it literally last me years.


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