I love the antique blonde mohair wigs! Unfortunately, some of them are quite dirty, causing the curls to have an ashen appearance. Have you been tempted to wash your antique doll's mohair wig? The results are not very pretty, to say the least! Mohair, the glossy, silky hair of the Angora or Tibetan goat is a fragile "wool" which not only tangles, but shrinks, when washed. One CAN carefully hand wash a mohair wig, but I will not be discussing that method of cleaning at this time.
A simple, inexpensive, but very effective method of cleaning your antique bebe's wig (once it has been removed from her head) is to dry clean it! During Victorian times the favorite method of dry cleaning mohair was to use gasoline or turpentine. Unfortunately, these two substances leave an oily residue on the fibers. My favorite method, which I have used with great success for over 15 years, is to use lacquer thinner.
For the lacquer thinner dry cleaning method you will need the following:
- One 32 oz. can (or larger) of lacquer thinner
- Rubber Gloves
- Large glass wide mouth jar (must be glass, not plastic), at least 16 oz. size
- Hair nets
- Wig block or styrofoam ball which is the same size as the doll's head (this item is optional)
Place a hair net over the wig and tie it in a knot to hold it in place over the wig. The hair net should be tight enough to support the curls without crushing them. While wearing rubber gloves, pour the lacquer thinner into the wide mouth glass jar, filling the jar halfway or with a sufficient amount to completely cover the wig. Gently immerse the wig in the cleaning solution and let it stand covered for 5 minutes. Then slowly agitate it to ensure the solution reaches deep into the mohair. Let it stand for another 5 minutes, then remove the wig from the cleaning solution and cover the jar.
If the wig is very dirty, you will notice the lacquer thinner has become dark and discolored. You may need to repeat the cleaning process, using another jar containing fresh lacquer thinner. I have repeated this process as many as 5 times on one wig! (Do not discard the dirty lacquer thinner; instead, let it stand overnight until the dirt has settled on the bottom of the jar. The next day, carefully (usuing gloves) pour the solution into a clean container while filtering it through several layers of cheesecloth. You will now have clean solution for your next dry cleaning job!)
Once your wig is clean, gently remove it from the hair net; you can either pin it on a wig block or styrofoam ball, or sit it on top of a water bottle or jar (which is what I usually do) to dry. Keep it out of the wind to avoid tangling. Lacquer thinner evaporates quite rapidly, and the wig will be dry in about 20-30 minutes. Lacquer thinner will leave a temporary odor in the wig, but this disappears after 24 hours.
You will be pleased with the results and your doll's wig will look wonderful. As an added benefit, cleaning your wig with this method will eliminate any insect infestation!
WORDS OF CAUTION: Lacquer Thinner is extremely flammable and the vapors are quite harmful. If you must do this inside, please do so in a well ventilated area with NO pets or small children around you. Please wear gloves, since lacquer thinner will not only irritate your skin, but will also be absorbed through your skin into the body.
Dingy, dirty Jumeau wig desparately in need of dry cleaning! Note the "ashen" appearance of the curls due to dirt.
I dry cleaned my Bru's original mohair wig 6 years ago; it was much dirtier than the Jumeau wig above. I had to repeat the process 5 times to obtain the results seen below, but it was well worth it! I am very pleased with these results!