How To: Cleaning Doll Clothes

Written on September 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm by Michelle
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Disclaimer: I do not hold any responsibility for any damage that may occur to your dolls’ clothing from what you learn from this post. This is what works for me and my doll clothing, which is why I’m writing this. Please don’t get angry at me for ruined dolly clothing and remember to TEST detergents and other cleaning solutions on small (hopefully hidden) patches first before dousing an entire pricey little dress in it.

Photo by user marekwo.

I clean all thrifted doll clothing, or at least try to (especially if it smells or has a visible but removable stain). The problem is that generally doll clothes don’t have a care tag label or even a label telling you what kind of fabric it is. The good thing is that most things can be washed.

First thing first: Is the fabric colour-fast? If you have dark or very bright clothing, you might want to check of the material is colour fast first. Just get the fabric a little bit wet and blot it with a paper towel. If the colour comes out, it is not colour-fast (and you most definitely do not want to put it on your doll). Blythe bodies get stained very easily so you’ll want to avoid all fabrics that are not colour-fast.

Hand washing is recommended for doll clothing, mostly due to their small nature. If you’re not wanting to use laundry detergents, you still have options:

  • Wash with water only
  • Wash with water and mild soap
  • Wash with water and vinegar (50/50 solution)

I tend to wash my doll clothes in the sink, if I need to. The clothing is laid flat to dry after I’m done cleaning them. I would avoid bleach, especially with vintage clothing items.

Washing machines can also get the job done. They are less gentle on doll clothing than hand washing is, but it takes less of a time commitment from you. What you’ll need to do is:

  • Separate your lights and darks (please check to see if fabrics are colour-fast before putting them in the washing machine!)
  • Put the dolly clothing into a lingerie/laundry bag or into a zippered pillowcase. Make sure to zip it close.
  • Put the bag in with similarly coloured (human) laundry. Put it on the delicate cycle.
  • Lay doll clothing flat to dry.

What about things made with yarn? If the item in question was knit or crocheted in acrylics or superwash wool – you can go ahead with washing it without any problems. If the item was made with mohair, non-superwash wool or any other animal-fibre, take care not to shock the fibres! But never fear, you can still wash them if they get a bit dingy.

  • Hand wash only!
  • Use cold water – not warm or hot water (warm/hot water will agitate the fibres and cause your doll clothing to shrink!)
  • You can use detergents specially made for wool/animal fibres or a very mild baby shampoo.
  • Lay dolly clothing flat to dry (much like you would a human-sized sweater).

What tips do you have for cleaning doll clothing?

9 Responses to “How To: Cleaning Doll Clothes”

  1. Sioux AKA @thesurfindead

    Thanks so much for this Michelle! It was really helpful.. I had a few things made of yarn I needed to wash but wasn’t sure how to.

  2. Meg says:

    Great article! One side note though, hot water is FINE for non-superwash wools AS LONG AS YOU DON’T AGITATE. Just fill the sink, add the detergent, toss the stuff in…and walk away for 20 minutes. If you deal with wooly stuff anyway, they make nice cleansers that actually require no rinsing. Since I am highly lazy, this is how I block/wash ALL of my wool stuff.

    • Michelle AKA @blythelifecom

      I’ve never had good luck with hot water and non-superwash wools, even without squeezing or swishing things around. (Seriously ended up shrinking a doll dress by a half-cm around the entire edge… which made it non-wearable after that.)

      What brand of cleanser do you use?

  3. Nancy says:

    I knit a lot of non-superwash sweaters for real people as well as doll people. I always hand wash everything in the sink with warm water and either regular shampoo or liquid hand soap like Ivory. I gently swish the items around a bit, then let them soak for 5 minutes or so. Then I rinse under the tap, gently squeeze the excess water out and lay it flat on towels to dry. I have heard that some supposed “wool” detergents like Woolite actually cause some items to felt regardless of the water temp. I would also never use laundry soap for woolens because it is actually a weak acid designed to eat proteins (i.e. food stains)!

    As far as fabric clothes go, I follow much the same routine but I usually add a bit of white vinegar to the wash if the item is a strong color like red or black. You can also add vinegar to your woolen wash with absolutely no harmful effects if you are concerned about color staining.

  4. Hyperballad says:

    Hi there,

    May I kindly ask what your thoughts are about washing stock clothes? I have a Mandy Cotton Candy that is partially stained from her top, and I was thinking of just gently washing her clothing. However, I wasn’t sure about things like shrinkage etc. I was thinking that doing so would cut out some of the staining factor of all that black fabric.

    Her outfit is too awesome not to use.

    Additionally, do you wash new non-stock clothing? You mentioned that you wash second hand clothing, but I was curious about new stuff.

    Cheers 🙂

    • Michelle AKA @blythelifecom

      I don’t typically wash stock clothing, because they tend to be new for me (I’ve bough a lot of brand new Blythes, so the clothing is new). I would wash in water with vinegar though, it helps with setting the dye (at least that’s how it works for yarn).

      • Hyperballad says:

        Hi Michelle,

        Thanks for taking the time to write back. I was thinking about the vinegar stuff, but I wasn’t sure if the acid in the vinegar would affect the printed T-shirt part?

        Anyway, best wishes :)!

      • Michelle AKA @blythelifecom

        I really couldn’t tell you about the vinegar would affect the printed part on a t-shirt, since there’s so many different methods of doing prints/screen-prints/image transfers. The best way for you to tell is to do a spot test on a part that you wouldn’t be terribly heartbroken if it got smudged.

      • Hyperballad says:

        Thanks for all the advice 🙂 Have a nice day

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