Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Clean Marks and Stains

Whether you’re restoring a doll or recently deboxed one— stains happen. Here’s how to fix the most common ones on vinyl dolls: acrylic and dye stains. Before you removing any stain, wipe your doll down with soap and warm water to remove oils and grime.

Note: This tutorial is not recommended for dolls made from non-vinyl materials such as resin or porcelain. Please note the IMPORTANT health and safety warnings in this article, and supervise children and/or pets at all times.

Acrylic Paint Stains
Acrylic paint stains can be flaws in the factory paint job, or result from dabbing acrylic paints on a doll’s body (i.e. fabric paints, nail polish.) Unlike dye stains, acrylic stains sit on top the vinyl, and are easily to remove. The following method should not be used on hard plastic areas (like Barbie’s torso), or on painted areas (like eyes and lips.) This method can easily remove freckles, beauty marks, or your doll's eyes!

You Will Need
  • Acetone* (nail polish remover with acetone)Alcahol
  • Baking soda
  • Bowl
  • Cloth
  • Gloves
  • Q-tip
  • Stained Doll
  • Tissue
  • Warm water

1. Safety first! Enter a well-ventilated outdoor area. If indoors, open a window or turn on the air conditioning. Put on your gloves, and wear a facial mask if you are regularly exposed to acetone. Do not breathe in or sniff acetone.

2. Dip a q-tip inside the alcahol bottle. Close the bottle, and gently dab alcahol on the stained area. Wipe the liquid away with the unused side of the q-tip. If the stain is gone, move on to step 4.

3. If the stain persists, dip a new q-tip into the acetone bottle. Only use a little bit of acetone, too much damages vinyl. Close the acetone to avoid inhaling fumes. Gently dab it on the stained area, rub gently. Wipe off the acetone with the clean end of the q-tip.

4. Clean your doll. Pour warm water into a bowl, add roughly a ½ table spoon of baking soda and stir. Fold a tissue and dip it inside, then wipe down the parts of your doll that touched the acetone. This removes most chemical residue and bad smells.

Since some residue might remain, please do not lick the doll or put it in your mouth… or give it to anyone who might *wink*.

5. Enjoy your new stain-free doll!

* IMPORTANT: Acetone is an active ingredient in nail polish remover and paint thinner. It's flammable, evaporates quickly, and is also a groundwater containment. Inhaling and touching it can irritate skin or your respiratory tract. Please do not pour it down the drain or leave the bottle open. Share your bottle with friends to reduce waste. For more information on acetone, see the National Health Institute's website.

Dye stains
Dye stains can result from leaving dolls in dark or strongly dyed fabrics—or after someone scribbles over it with pens and markers! Dye stains are annoying to remove, but can be eliminated with a little patience. This process bleaches the stain out of the vinyl, and might discolor it (be careful!)

You Will Need
  • Cloth (non-dyed)
  • Pimple Cream (with 10% Benzyl peroxide*)
  • Stained Doll
  • Sunlight

1. Smear a layer of pimple cream on the stained area of your doll. Do not rub it on unstrained areas.

2. Place your doll in direct sunlight to speed up the bleaching. Protect its hair and face from damage by covering them with a non-dyed cloth. If the stain is on the face, cover the unstrained potion with a cloth.

3. Sunlight is not a must. If you fear sunlight will damage your doll, or have no sunlight available, put your doll in a place where it will not be disturbed (such as in a box in the closet, or under your bed.) This takes longer, but is far less damaging.

4. When the pimple cream starts to turn white and flake off, wash it off with lukewarm water and re-apply. Repeat steps 1-3.

5. Depending on the age and severity of the stain, removal takes anywhere from weeks to months. Don’t give up! Severe stains –will- lighten with this process, but may not vanish entirely. Sunlight bleaches vinyl, and can damage some dolls. Do not leave your doll in humid environments, and please bring irreplaceable or high-value collectibles to a restoration expert.

* IMPORTANT: Benzyl peroxide is not derived from animals, although it is very difficult to find a benzyl peroxide pimple cream that isn’t tested on animals (Leaping Bunny, Caring Consumer, and the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database do not list any yet, but check back for updates!) For more health information on benzyl peroxide, please visit the National Health Institute's website.


  1. Great post. I've seen many vintage dolls (especially Barbies) with strange colored stains on them and just thought that some tyke had tried to apply make-up using magic markers. Now I know it could have been caused by something as innocent as a piece of dyed fabric. I'll pass this info on to my daughter as she has 2 little girls just under 11 years of age.

    My apologies to all little tykes out there whom I had so falsely accused. :)

    1. Almost Precious,

      Thank you so much for sharing this :D! I felt the same way about some of my older dolls, and it took a lot of trial-and-error to figure out the real cause behind stains that kept popping up on my dolls.

      Sadly, it's often the best-kept dolls who suffer the worst stains. Most collectors don't leave Barbies naked in body-piles, but sitting clothed in their boxes. The metal jewelry in old Barbies leaves "green ear" stains (falsely labeled "mold" in the 90s), and leave them dressed in colorful outfits for months at a time. The result: stains all over.

      What I love most about Barbies, though, is they are practically everything-proof. There are few problems with Barbies that cannot be restored! :)

  2. Your blog is wonderful!
    I discovered it yesterday and I couldn't help but to follow it :)
    I was planning on restoring my old Barbies, and your tutorials are really helpful.
    Thank you so much :D

    1. Bara,

      Thank you so much :)~! Your comment is one of the reasons I decided to add new content. I love my old Barbies, and am planning to add more Barbie-themed tutorials in the future :3

    2. I'll be looking forward to reading them (^.^)
      Meanwhile I'll be reading the new articles on BJD. I am gladly surprised to know you have such beautifull dolls. I have BJD too (and wishing to find a job to buy some more that are in my wishlist XD)

    3. Oooh, what is your doll's name :)? Are you going to post her on your blog?

      I used to have a huge wishlist, but after getting 5... it's too much XD! More dolls = more wigs, clothes, face-ups, etc. At first, I spent more time looking for clothes than playing with them XD! More dolls means you have less time to spend per doll. It also makes them stand out less: a single doll does not stand out in a crowd of dolls.

      Now I keep my collection small, so I can focus better on each doll. I envy people who have one "perfect" doll that they love a lot :).

    4. Yeah, you're right...
      Right now I have 6 dolls and sometimes I realize its been a month or more since I took pics or changed one doll's clothes (u_u)
      In fact now with the exams round the corner it's been I while since I've paid attention to any of them (T.T)

    5. Six :O! Wow! I don't know how you do it XD

      My 5 are always fighting for attention, lol. It's hard to divide it equally between them. And unlike my Bratz, it's harder to carry many large BJDs around at once.

      At first I only wanted 2, so they could be a cute couple :)! But none of them fit together, so I kept buying more hoping one might. Now I have 4 single man-dolls, and one angry YOSD (she's my frustrated cupid, lol.)

      After exams, why not pic-spam your dolls on your blog? I'd love to see them :)

    6. They certainly are hard to carry arround, but it's been at least twice I've carried my 3 SD to a meet-up XD

      In my collection I have a beautifull couple, a loving dad with his two kids (waiting for his 3th child and their mother to come) and a single man XDD

      Yeah, I should do a little pic-spam when I finish (^.~)

  3. this was a waste of time for me because i have Bratz dolls, not porcelain dolls. When i was little, i drew on my Bratz Passion for Fashion Sasha's face. i've searched all night for a solution and never found one. So when i came across this, i thought i was in luck. If anyone knows a solution to my problem, please make a video on YouTube because i can't access my email account.

    1. Anonymous,
      This article is not about porcelain dolls, but vinyl ones like Bratz and Barbie. It should work for your dolls :)!

      Since markers leave dye stains, check the section of this article titled "Dye Stains." Good luck :)!