Customizing and Repairing

Tips and Hints

How to start


These tips are meant to be helpful. Never start learning these techniques on a doll that is irreplacable or that a mistake would greatly affect her value. These are suggestions only and should not be taken as the only way to do any particular technique. This is what works for me.

Identifying your doll

Knowing what doll you have is the single most important step in this entire process. Many of the techniques listed below can be used on most Barbies. But the Barbies vinyl has varied vastly over the years and some cleaning solutions can be used on some and NOT on others.

List of Tools

General cleaning the body

Begin by washing body, arms and legs with a mild cleanser with warm water and a cotton ball. Depending on how dirty and what era doll - other more aggressive cleansers can be used. Special care should be taken over the face paint. On vintage Barbies over the face paint, only a mild cleanser should be used and lightly touching the Qtip over the paint. I use a wooden tooth pick where I have softened the sharp tip by crushing in on a hard surface - then use this tip to get at tight areas such as the area between the nose and eyes.

Stubborn stains - some stains will come up with rubbing alcohol but on the really tough ones - I do attempt a small amount of Acetone Nail Polisher remover. Use extreme caution when using. This can eat older vintage hair fibers and wipe out face paint. Never leave the bottle uncapped where it can be accidently knocked over.

Washing the hair

Most Barbie doll hair is a fiber called Saran. It is not human hair but closer to fabric fibers.

Shampoo: use regular hair shampoo or a mild clear detergent like Dove

For normal conditioning: use Magic Mane - conditioning formula for horse's tails

For extremly bad cases: use Conditioners with Lanolin in them - needs to be a noncolored gel. This will make the hair very greasy. To get the greasiness out of the hair: using very hot water, keep soaping up the hair then rinsing in hot water. If you dry it and it is still greasy, repeat the hot water and soaping until it is no longer

FOR GREASY OLDER BARBIE HAIR: for extreme cases I used GooGone and then washed it in Dove- smelled like oranges for awhile but it was not greasy anymore!

A letter from the net to help THE FRIZZYS

Hi ,

I found some dolls at a garage sale about a month ago. Not only did they have frizzys they had the worst matting I have ever seen. Kind of reminded me of dreadlocks. They now look great. Here is what I did:

I used a dog brush thats called a slicker, it has alot of short metal teeth that are bent and have some give to them. I used a dog comb with the teeth close together but not as close as a flea comb. I used fabric softener.

First thing I did was dump the head and hair into full strength fabric softener. I let it soak for about 1/2 hour to make sure it soaked into those matts. I took one section of the hair at a time and I started combing and brushing from the tips of the hair and worked my way up to the roots. I kept the hair seperated by what was combed and what wasnt. Just before I would work on a new section I would redip that section into the softener so it was real goopy when I tried to brush it out. Once I had all the sections combed out then I would comb/brush them all togetherto make sure I didnt leave any tangles where the sections meet.

The next thing I did was rinse as much of the softener out by running the head under the faucet. Dont rub the hair otherwise you will end up with the frizzys again. Then use dishsoap and squeeze it thru the hair trying not to rub the hair. Rinse again under the faucet. Use a towel to squeeze the excess water then comb/brush again but make sure the comb or brush is clean.

The hair is now ready to be styled but I dont know how to do this yet. Maybe with the next box of garage dolls I will venture into restyling.

For greasy body parts I have used Formula409 with great results. If I have to do any scrubbing then I sprinkle baking soday on a washcloth and use that after I have sprayed the doll with Formula409. So far so good. Be carefull when scrubbing near face paint or polish.



Method #1 Put the Barbie head in curlers in the boiling water for a few seconds and then take it out and then pour ice water over it and then let is sit for about 15 minutes and then take the curlers out. ******

What to use:

#1 Take a small bobby pins put a small rubber band on the curved end. then use it like a perm rod.

#2 Take regular straws. Cut to 1 to .5 inch in length. Using setting gel, roll hair onto straw. Use a straight pin to set it into place.

#3 Pipe cleaners - cut pipe cleaner in two. Fold in thirds - using saran wrap cut to the right size, use as end papers. Roll hair

#4 Using HI-C drink box straws and cut them about an inch or inch and a quarter long, thread the twisty tie through and then roll Barbie's hair and fastened the twisty tie.

#5 Use Bobbypins for making tight ringletts - Using two for each curl. Take a section of hair and put the bobby pin at the top and then pull the bobby pin towards the end of the hair and then curl it up from the bottom and the use another to hold it in place. Special tip- keep a little Barbie brush or comb near by and a cup of water to dip the brush/ comb into. Making the hair a little damb helps when wrapping it around those tiny bobby pins.


All the buzz over Orthodonotic Rubber Bands is they are made out of a type of rubber that does not disintegrate easily... for a simply restyling on a modern Barbie - I buy the rubber bands for small braids...someone pointed out that Mattel shipped some in the tye die outfits .

Finding the right size is not the problem -

When I am retying a Vintage Ponytail swirl - that rubber band is going to be in there a LONG Time. I want a type of rubber band that is heat resistant and will last and NOT create further damage to the hair.

Believe me the cheap braid tying rubbers do and WILL disintegrate - I know from unhappy experience !!!

More on tips on the Net

Lynn Smith's Customizing tips

Krista's Doll Restorations

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Back to Sherri's Introduction

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