September Tip of the Month: Damp Doll Rooms and Mouldy Old Dolls

I was browsing on the Australian Collectible Barbie Facebook page and came across a thread about protecting dolls from damp or humid conditions. I thought it was a very interesting subject and the members shared a few of the methods they used.

Parts of Australia are in the tropics and have a monsoon season so collectors in places like Darwin and far north Queensland are particularly concerned by this. However, cooler places can also be a problem. Geeveston, where I used to live had cold, wet winters and my old house suffered from “crying” windows and for a time I had a problem with damp walls which I think was caused by damaged guttering at the front of the house. The two front bedrooms started getting mould on the ceilings and walls. Luckily the dolls lived in another room which was not affected. Of course the first thing was to fix the problem outside but then I had to do something about the mould.

At that time there was no company in southern Tasmania that dealt with mould removal so I had to look into DIY methods. I found a local lady who was familiar with the problem and did my ceilings for me and I cleaned the walls myself. We used a 5:1 vinegar water solution for the cleaning and added a few drops of oil of cloves. I kept an eye on the walls after that but the mold never came back.

As I said though, I was lucky that the dolls were not affected but both Naomi and I have had some small issues with marks on dolls. Some years ago Naomi had a Blaine doll who got marks on his face and then a fairly new Ken that she had just recently deboxed got a spot as well. I treated both of these with Remove Zit and they were fine.

Ideally though we’d like to prevent dolls that are displayed in cabinets or stored from getting mouldy or musty in the first place. It’s a good idea to open the doors of doll cabinets regularly to air the space and to open windows or doors in a closed off room as it will help to avoid that musty smell.

The most common suggestion on the Facebook page was to put silica gel packets and humidity indicator cards on each shelf. I think most of us are familiar with these little packets that often come with new electrical items. You can buy them in bulk from eBay and other sellers and they are relatively inexpensive. I gather there are a couple of different grades of these and the collectors who used these said that they did not need food grade packets.

Silica gel packet

You can buy reusable packs that can be dried out when they get too wet. Some people even make their own. The silica is used in flower drying so you can buy it in craft stores and make your own little cloth bags.

I also use hessian bags filled with charcoal around the house and while these are not doll sized they could be placed in the doll area. Like the silica gel you just put them out in the sun every month or as required to dry out.

humidity indicator cards

Humidity indicator cards are small paper strips that are used to monitor relative humidity levels. In dry conditions they are blue but turn pink when moisture is present. I’m definitely going to get some of these as even though I don’t have any dolls in closed cabinets it would be handy to leave them on shelves and monitor whether the room is too damp or if the silica gel packs need to be replaced. They can measure relative humidity between 30-50%. Another way to do this would be with a hygrometer.

 When looking for a weather meter that measures relative humidity, you may find yourself asking “what is a hygrometer?”  The true hygrometer definition is an instrument which measures the water vapor of the atmosphere.  This is also referred to as the “relative humidity” in the environment.  All weather meters that measure relative humidity are also known as hygrometers.

After I had the mould problem at Geeveston I bought a dehumidifier which I used in the bedrooms and bathroom to take moisture out of the air. Mine is full sized but you can buy smaller ones and that would also be a good idea for keeping in your doll room or where dolls are stored, especially if they live in a basement. Do remember if you are using Oil of Cloves to pay attention to the safety warnings as it can be nasty if ingested causing all sorts of health issues.

I know that most of this post has not really been about cleaning dolls but prevention is better than cure so if we look after the environment our dolls are kept in we can spend more time enjoying them and less cleaning up smelly, dangerous mould. However, I have included links to a couple of articles about cleaning mould from Barbie dolls rubber dolls and hard plastic dolls. I’m pretty sure that it has been covered on “1,000 Splendid Dolls”. The girls are sadly are still taking a break from YouTube but there is bound to be a video about it as they are all still accessible.




  1. Very useful, don’t have basements here in earthquake country but every time it rains the humidity is crazy. As I rotate displays I will check how things look/smell. ALL ideas are good ones in this old house. Maybe I’ll try the silica one next time I get a musty smelling doll on E-bay. Great blog, I can’t wait to check the links.


  2. Thanks for all the useful info on mould removal. It’s a problem everywhere there is damp and humidity and in the UK we have suffered one of our dampest summers this year. The Autumn is feeling quite damp. Nothing to do about it but try to keep on top of it, and hope next year is better in all ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for a wonderful post with helpful hints and links. Too much humidity is certainly a problem for people as well as dolls. It’s the worst part of summer for me.

    Liked by 1 person

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