Antique porcelain dolls are collectibles, and therefore, valuable. Cleaning them regularly becomes utmost important to keep them in a good condition. This HomeQuicks article provides the tricks of the trade by telling you how to clean antique porcelain dolls.
Before using any cleaning solutions, test it on a small spot on the porcelain doll to check if it does any damage to the color.
Porcelain dolls were at the peak of their popularity between the 1800s to 1900s. These dolls were made with either glazed or unglazed porcelain. Not every doll was made wholly out of porcelain, except for a few parts. In such cases, cloth or leather material was used to make a torso. To make the doll, ceramic body parts were created by firing up raw material in shaped molds. Features were painted by hand. These dolls usually wore wings made from either human hair or mohair. Sometimes, hair were painted by hand on a doll like any other feature. Dolls were fitted with glass eyes, which gave them that life-like look.
Earlier, the dolls were produced as children’s toy. However, nowadays, these dolls are considered as collectibles. People like to collect dolls from different times, showcasing different styles, hair, eye colors, etc. Such collections are definitely valuable and worth a fortune. Therefore, utmost care should be taken in the restoration of antique porcelain dolls. Here are some useful tips that will help you in porcelain doll repair and cleaning:
► Choose a flat surface to clean your dolls. See to it that the surface is not disturbed or shaky while you are doing your job.
► Place a clean towel on a flat surface. It will keep the doll safe and clean (in case of dust) from the hard, flat surface.
► Always wash your hands thoroughly or wear gloves before you handle antique dolls.
► Before cleaning, take the doll’s clothes and accessories off. Put them aside for safekeeping.
► Cleaning the Doll
◆ Dust the dolls from top to bottom with a makeup brush. Its soft bristles will not scrape off the paint off the doll.
◆ Like a makeup brush, you can use a fresh white bread slice. Remove the crust of the slice. Roll it into a ball shape and rub it on the doll. It erases dirt and grime from the doll without damaging the porcelain surface.
◆ You can take dust off the doll with a hair dryer as well. Set the dryer on a cool setting and direct the air towards the doll. It will help you dust off the top layer of dust.
◆ Dip a clean cloth in water. Remove the excess water. Gently dab a small section of the doll’s face to see if water damages the color of porcelain. If not, wipe the whole doll with the wet cloth. Rub the wet cloth in a circular motion with a little pressure. It will help you remove the grit that is stuck to the surface. You can add a mild dish soap in water while cleaning the doll.
◆ You can use rubbing alcohol to remove any grit and grime that is hard to remove with a brush. Pour a little bit of rubbing alcohol in a dish. Dab a piece of cotton or a cotton swab in it. Remove the excess alcohol from the cotton swab by squeezing it a bit. Then, clean areas such as the corner of doll’s eyes, ears, and mouth which are usually difficult to clean. Usually, most of the dirt accumulates in such areas. Using a cotton swab will help you clean these areas thoroughly.
◆ You can repeat the process of cleaning till you are satisfied that your antique doll looks good as new.
◆ Always pat dry the doll after you are done with cleaning.
► Cleaning Hair
◆ If the doll’s hair are painted on, they can be cleaned like any other porcelain body parts. If your doll has a wig, it will need a different cleaning process.
◆ Use a flea brush or any fine-toothed brush to comb the doll’s hair from top to bottom. This will take dust off the doll’s hair and keep it tangle-free.
◆ You can use air fresheners to eliminate the odor from the hair. Lightly apply the air freshener on the comb before you comb the doll’s hair.
◆ For more intensive cleaning, you will need to take the wig off the doll. However, do not use any sharp tools as they might damage the porcelain surface. Instead, use your fingers to pry the wig off the doll’s head.
◆ Clean the wig with window cleaner, detergent, or fabric softener under cold water. Do not use a shampoo. Pat dry the wig after washing.
◆ It is best to let the wig dry on its own. Keep it on a dry towel to let it dry completely.
◆ Use a small amount of white glue to paste the wig back on the doll’s head. Carefully place the wig on the glue-covered head and hold it there for some time. Keep the doll aside till the glue dries.
► Cleaning the Clothes
◆ Take off the doll’s clothes in the beginning for cleaning purposes. Turn them inside out for washing. It will keep the colors bright.
◆ Place the clothes in a mesh bag to avoid the stitches from fraying.
◆ Wash the clothes in cold water.
◆ Ideally the cloths should be hand-washed. However, you can wash them in a washing machine by keeping it on a gentle mode.
◆ Let the clothes air dry. Place them on a dry towel to dry and so that wrinkles don’t remain, give the clothes a gentle jerk.
◆ You can clean the clothes in a dryer for around 10 minutes.
► Repairing the Doll
◆ If your porcelain doll is not entirely made of porcelain, it will be a better idea to separate the parts and reattach them again with a new thread. The parts will have holes through which the thread runs. Cut the thread to separate the parts. Clean them properly. Sew them together with a new thread running through the holes. See to it that the parts sewed together aren’t lopsided.
◆ If you have cracked porcelain, use glue to stick the parts together. Dispose a tiny amount of a craft glue on a paintbrush. Brush the glue on the edges of the broken pieces. Press the pieces together and hold them firmly. Leave the glue to dry for almost 24 hours.
◆ You can cover the bald patches of the doll’s hair with a new wig. However, you will need to remove the original wig before you could place the new one. Pry over the wig gently with your hands. However, if the glue is too strong, trim the wig hair such that it is very thin. Apply the craft glue all over the doll’s head. Place the new wig, gently starting from the crown to the back. Pat and adjust the wig, and leave it to dry.
With proper care and technique, you can easily clean and restore your antique porcelain dolls. However, if the doll is on the expensive side and you fear causing it damage, it is a better idea to take it to a professional doll repair shop.