As an avid doll collector, I have bought "tons" of dolls on eBay. I am amazed at the condition of many of the dolls, Very few dolls are cleaned before being put up for auction and some dolls are downright filthy! I've had the unpleasant experience of discovering roach eggs in the dolls hair and attached to the clothing; mold, mildew,cloudy eyes, and an accumulation of decades of dirt..Many times the photo does not capture the dirt, mold and mildew and the doll looks fine in the pictures.
When I unpack a doll, the first thing I do is clean her up. It's not that hard folks. All you need is an old toothbrush and some all purpose household cleaner.
For vinyl and rubber dolls - Spray the cleaner on the doll's body, avoiding the face. Scrub the entire body with the toothbrush, paying special attention to the hands, fingers, and toes. Spray the cleaner on a clean white cloth and clean the face. Take care round the eyebrows and lips. Use the toothbrush on the nose, paying special attention to the nostrils. Spray the ears and scrub with the toothbrush. Use baby shampoo on the hair and rise thoroughly. After hair is rinsed clean, follow with a final rinse of laundry softener. Let the hair air dry. To detangle, use detangling solution for babies. Work in small sections, combing from the bottom toward the top.
For marks imbedded in the vinyl or rubber, such as ink, permanent marker, or where dark clothing has left stains, apply an acne medication. I use "Clear ZIT" found at the dollar store for $1.00 and it works great. It may take several applications, but the results are fantastic.
If the doll's eyes are cloudy, pull out your hair dryer and blow directly into the eyes. They clear up like magic.If the eyes are simply dirty, dampen a Q-tip with the cleaner and gently clean the eyes. .
For hard plastic dolls, you can use the same procedures as shown above, but please take care with the dolls hair. Many of the old HP dolls have mohair or glued on wigs. NEVER wet mohair. If the wig is glued on, you will have to remove the wig to clean it, but I've never had the courage to try and yank off an old wig. I gently clean them with wig cleaner found at the local beauty supply shop.
Composition dolls are fragile and should always be handled with care. Never wash a composition doll! I have found a product called "Cabinet Magic". The can states that it is "for natural wood, laminated and painted surfaces....removes grease and food stains, hides scratches." I tried it on several absolutely filthy composition dolls and it removed the dirt and grime without harming the face paint. This stuff is GREAT! I use it to clean and polish all my composition dolls and have never had any problems with it.
If the doll comes with clothing, you may find that the clothes are dingy and stained. I have a quart sized pickle jar which I use as a washing machine for doll clothes. Fill the jar with warm water and add some oxygenated cleaner. Put the clothing in the jar and let soak for up to an hour. Then shake the jar (with the lid on, of course) several times. Remove the clothing and gently squeeze out excess moisture. Thoroughly rinse and place on a towel and, applying pressure, roll the clothes in the towel and press down. Unroll the towel and using white tissue paper, stuff the paper into the sleeves and skirt and let dry.
It is rewarding to take a poor, bedraggled old doll and transform her to her former glory.