Advanced Vinyl Care ~ Stain Removal


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Dolls can get stains on their vinyl a number of ways: dye bleeding from their clothes, a four year old with a magic marker, mildew, being put on a wet newspaper, being fed Cool-Aid, and so on. One common victim of dye transfer staining is Stardust Classics Alissa. Here is my daughter's Alissa showing the stains on her back from the black netting in her starter dress:

Fortunately, it's almost always possible to get the marks out. If you've used the techniques in the "Basic Cleaning" article without success, the next thing to try is some benzoil peroxide. Yes, benzoil peroxide, the stuff in acne cream. You can either head to your local drugstore and pick up some Clearasil or Oxy-10 or you can order a cream called Remove-Zit from Twin Pines of Maine that is specially formulated for vinyl dolls.  If you go with the drugstore creams, make sure you get the kind that's not tinted and that is maximum strength (10%). The Remove-Zit cream has additives that help it penetrate the vinyl better.

With either type of cream the procedure is the same:

bulletWash the area first using the "Basic Cleaning" techniques to remove grime and dirt.
bulletIf you're worried about bleaching the vinyl, try it on an out-of-the way place first, like the back of the neck. I've never had a problem with American Girl, Magic Attic or any other modern play dolls but other types of dolls with different kinds of vinyl/plastic may react differently.
bulletApply a thin layer of the cream over the stains. Don't put the cream on painted areas, like cheeks or freckles! You can use a toothpick to spread the cream right up to them.
bulletLet it sit overnight or longer undisturbed.
bulletWipe the cream off with a soft, damp cloth and check if the stain is still there.
bulletRepeat as needed until the stain is completely gone.
bulletWash the area with soap and water, or better yet, Formula 9-1-1 (also from Twin Pines) to remove the residual cream.

Some people like to put the doll under a light or in a sunny window to speed up the process. If you do this, please cover the doll with a towel. Ultraviolet light is particularly bad for doll hair.

Here is Alissa sunbathing with her cream on. As a non-scientific test, I put Remove-Zit on the left side of her body and Oxy-10 on the right side.

After 24 hours I wiped the cream off. The Remove-Zit side was considerably lighter and the Oxy-10 side was (possibly) slightly lighter. I decided to finish the job with Remove-Zit, so I used Forumula 9-1-1 to clean off the creams. (I used Formula 9-1-1 because I wanted to be absolutely sure I got all the Oxy-10 off so I wasn't mixing chemicals.) After repeating the process with Remove-Zit two more times (so four days elapsed in total), all the stains were gone.

One important thing to remember when using this method of stain removal is DON'T BE IMPATIENT! Sometimes, it can take a week or more for the process to work. One time I wiped the cream off a doll after a few days of repeated applications and was disappointed to see the stains still there. I didn't have time to re-apply the cream, so I put her back in her box in a closet and forgot about her. When I finally got around to finishing the job several weeks later, the stains were gone! Enough of the cream must have been left on for it to keep on working.

Dye and ink stains seem to respond particularly well to this treatment. However, the pink stains (origin unknown) on my rescue Molly are still there after many days of treatment. My jar of Remove-Zit is older than a year (its official shelf life), so I ordered a fresh jar and I will try again.

Note: Be careful not to get the cream on your doll's cloth body! Wash your hands after applying the cream or you may end up with lighter fingerprints on your doll's body because it will remove the color from fabric as well.

Hopefully, your doll is as stain free now as the lovely Alissa.

Some people use and recommend Tarnex to remove stains from dolls, particularly the "green ear" stains dolls get from earrings. While it may work, Tarnex is made to get stains off of metal, not plastic. The benzoil peroxide products are likely safer in the long term.

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Copyright 2004 Maria Greene All Rights Reserved

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This page was last updated 08/09/06