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How to Clean and Restore Doll Hair

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These days, dolls are no cheap investment. Many collector’s and high-end dolls, like American Girl, can run upwards of $100 (check out KCL’s post on how to save on American Girl dolls here). Even a doll from your local discount store can cost as much as $20, so no matter what kind of dolls you buy, you want to take the best care of them you can and see that they last. Taking good care of these dolls will not only extend their lives and keep them looking their best, but it will allow them to offer hour upon hour of fun playtime! So what do you do when your doll’s hair starts to look like she has just been through a hurricane? Do you toss her? Hide her away in the play chest? Cut her hair off? No way!

Instead, take a look at this simple and inexpensive way you can clean and manage your doll’s hair. Regardless if it is dull, dirty, tangled, or unkempt, this trick will have it shiny and new in no time.

The most common way to clean doll hair is known amongst collectors as “The Downy Dunk,” so called because the method involves fabric softener. You can use any fabric softener you wish and don’t have to use Downy or any other specific brand. Not only does this method restore luster and shine, but it can also remove pet and smoke odors as well!

Supplies needed:

  • A large, shallow dish or bowl
  • Ladle
  • Liquid fabric softener
  • A wide tooth comb
  • Fresh water
  • Towel


  1. Remove all clothing from your doll to avoid getting it wet or stained, and cover the eyes with tape so water does not get in and rust them.
  2. Fill your dish with a shallow amount of unconcentrated fabric softener. You will fill it 1/2 way full.
  3. The doll should then be laid next to the container so that the hair is soaking in the fabric softener.
  4. Ladle additional liquid over her head so as to absorb as much of the softener as possible and to cover the portion of hair not soaking in the bowl.
  5. Try to untangle any knots with your fingers at this time.
  6. Allow to soak for an additional 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the doll and rinse the hair completely with cool water. Towel dry.
  8. Use your comb to pick gently through the hair and remove any tangles. Smooth by hand.

Avoid using any heat products on the hair. Allow it to air dry, combing it occasionally. You can repeat this process if the hair is badly damaged and needs extra care. If you wish, you can finish with a detangling spray or shine spray to add extra shine and manageability. Avoid putting any rubber bands or hair accessories in for 24 hours, until the head is totally dry.

This method should do the trick and is the procedure doll collectors use before resorting to rewigging or tossing their dolls. Give it a try in your own home and give your dolls a fresh new look!

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