How to Preserve Porcelain Dolls

How to Preserve Porcelain Dolls

Porcelain dolls are the epitome of delicate but enduring beauty: They’re undeniably fragile, but if treated well they’ll last forever. They’re also a good investment, with some antique dolls selling for thousands of dollars. Whether you’re keeping porcelain dolls for sentimental reasons or as collector’s items, here’s how to keep them looking their very best.

Handling Porcelain Dolls

Nobody expects a little girl to wear gloves when she handles her best friend — but once a porcelain doll turns the corner to becoming a collectible, you should always wear white cotton gloves when handling it. This keep the oils from your skin from staining the doll or its clothing, or accumulating on its surface and attracting dust.

Here’s another good precaution: Any time you clean, dress or otherwise do anything more to a porcelain doll than just pick it up, use a thick towel or plastic tub as your work surface. This gives you a little extra protection against accidental nicks and cracks.

Storing Your Precious Dolls

Store your porcelain dolls in the original box or a well-ventilated container, out of direct sunlight and away from extremes of heat and cold. If you have the original tags or inserts, store them with the doll as well. There is one exception to the ventilation rule: If you smoke, storing your dolls in an airtight box will protect them from stains.

Cleaning Porcelain Dolls

If you dust your porcelain dolls regularly with a feather duster or a large, soft paintbrush, they may never need a deep cleaning. For stubborn dust, wrap the doll in a nylon stocking and vacuum it through the stocking.

If your doll has smudges or stains on it, start with the gentlest cleaner of them all: A soft cloth barely dampened in water. Q-tips work well for cleaning nooks and crannies. If the stain persists, your next best option is a gentle detergent diluted in water; if that doesn’t work, try a damp cloth dipped in baking soda. Avoid harsh chemicals like bleach.

Always test each cleaner, even water, on a hidden part of the doll before you use it. Be especially careful with the baking soda because although it does a great job of removing acidic stains like coffee, it’s also a gentle abrasive — if you aren’t careful, you might scrub the doll’s painted skin right off!

If you use any liquid around the doll’s eyes, place the doll face-down on a towel for several hours until you’re sure it is completely dry.

Caring for Doll Wigs

Your doll’s wig is best maintained by frequent dusting and carefully picking any tangles out with a hair pick. Keep the hairline dry, as water will weaken the glue holding the hair in place.

If your doll’s wig needs a deeper cleaning, use your fingers — and a little water if need be — to gently peel it off the doll’s head.

For synthetic hair, dampen the wig with water, then work a glass cleaner like Windex through the hair and rinse. Wigs made of human hair can be soaked in a gentle detergent like Woolite, then pressed to remove excess water. Let the wig dry before you attach it to your doll’s head again using white glue.

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