Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning Old Cabbage Patch Dolls
If you’re anything like me, visiting local thrift stores on the hunt for neglected dolls to rescue is a thrilling treat. When you find some old beauties sorely in need of a spa treatment for just a couple of bucks it can make your heart sing.
But beware. Dunking a collectible vintage doll into hot, soapy water can be a disastrous mistake! Any damage done in the process can seriously take away from the value of the doll.
So my advice is to always, always, always check online to make sure the doll you’re about to rescue isn’t worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars in its UNwashed state!
For example, I recently visited Babyland General Hospital (the birthplace of Cabbage Patch Kids) in Cleveland, Georgia.
Yes, that’s me in my favorite chair EVER! The top I’m wearing is one of my own creations.
The photo is by my honey, Wayne-Face.
Looking at the display cases of original Cabbage Patch Kids that were hand-crafted by Javier Roberts starting in the late 1970’s I was shocked to learn that those dolls can sell today for up to $40,000!
From this I concluded two things:
1) NEVER dunk a doll until you’re certain of what it’s worth in its original condition, and
2) I definitely need to go to thrift stores more often in case I get lucky and find a valuable dolly treasure (Wayne-Face does not necessarily agree with this idea).
A Little Bit of Cabbage Patch History
When I first started getting interested in the Cabbage Patch dolls that were commercially sold in the 1980’s I was pleasantly surprised to discover how amazingly resilient these Kids are. I mean really – these dolls are over 30 years old and they clean up beautifully!
However, in order not to ruin your doll you do need to know what you’re doing so I’m going to give you my strategies for Cabbie cleaning that I’ve developed as a result of having spiffed up well over a hundred of these beauties to date.
I should mention here that being from England I was not exposed to the Cabbage Patch Kid craze that stormed America in the 1980’s. I had heard of them, but since I’d never owned one I didn’t have the passion or emotional attachment to them that many American women have.
Still, I picked up a couple of sorry-looking critters at a yard sale a few years ago and brought them home and did some research and cleaned them up and made them some clothes and joined some Facebook groups and began collecting them and started a national CPK therapy doll movement. . .well, you get the idea.
Today I am hopelessly hooked on these charming imps and I will most likely own many of them until the day I pass over to that great doll collector’s paradise in the sky.
How To Clean A Vintage Cabbage Patch Kid Doll
Many of the Cabbies I have come across have been – well – filthy. Let’s say they are well-loved and have often gone 30+ years without a bath. But even the grubbiest Cabbie can clean up fabulously with a little love and elbow grease.
First, you’ll need to give your Cabbie a nice bubble bath to get rid of the sticky-candy-doggie-kissy-smoky-yucky-stank. I like to use an earth-friendly dye-free dish soap, slightly diluted with water. Sometimes the doll is so dirty it takes 3 or 4 baths to get her clean.
For stubborn spots on the fabric body I spray on a little laundry spot remover (I prefer to use baby-safe organic products when I can) and then I scrub with a soft fingernail brush. I was pleased to discover that the fabric used for a Cabbage Patch body is very sturdy and handles scrubbing and stain removal very well.
Next, I wash the hair with a gentle baby shampoo, no matter if it’s the yarn or regular silky doll hair. It works fine for both.
After that I tackle the head/face, which is a hard, sturdy plastic. Often their faces and necks have stubborn stains on them so for those I use Soft Soap and a gentle scrubby sponge. Many of my fellow collectors swear by a Magic Eraser sponge which is fine if you like it. I personally don’t because little bits of it break off and clog my sink, which Wayne-Face does not appreciate.
Do your best. If the stain won’t go away with a little gentle scrubbing don’t worry, there’s a solution for that too. You don’t want to scrub your Cabbie’s face too hard because you might remove their eye or cheek paint and that is a challenge to fix.
Once you’ve done the best you can to remove all the stains and smells, it’s time to rinse your Cabbie very thoroughly and then gently squeeze out as much water as you can.
Drying Your Cabbage Patch Kid Doll After Its Bath
There are different schools of thought about how to dry your dripping wet Cabbie. Here’s mine.
So after you’ve squeezed out the excess water, I find the best way to start the drying process is to hang your Cabbie over a coat hanger outside or in the bathroom and let it drip-dry.
A lot of people are willing to tie a towel around its head with a rubber band and throw it in the dryer, but I don’t do that. After all, 30+ years is pretty old for a doll.
Once your Kid has stopped dripping completely you can air dry it near (not TOO near) a heater. The entire process can take 2 or 3 days, depending on the temperature and humidity where you live.
Fortunately, my family and friends are used to my house looking like a Cabbie flop-house most weekends.
Removing Stubborn Stains From Cabbage Patch Kid Skin
I do this step as needed after the Cabbie is all dry. It’s just easier to see the extent of the stain once they are otherwise clean. I learned this stain removal technique from my Cabbie collector friends in various Facebook groups and I am grateful to them for their knowledge, generosity and love for Cabbies.
For this you’ll need to buy some acne cream (yes, I said acne cream). Look for the active ingredients. You’re looking for a generous proportion of Benzoyl Peroxide. There are many good acne creams out there so you can choose which you prefer. I like to use this kind.
Dab it fairly generously on the offending stain and then leave the doll outside in direct sunlight for a day or two. Make sure you don’t forget it and leave it out in the rain. Been there, done that.
You’ll find that after a day or two the stain will have lightened considerably, if not completely disappeared. It’s pretty amazing (and scary) how powerful acne cream is. Rinse off the cream, and if the stain hasn’t completely disappeared to your satisfaction, repeat the process. You can see in the pics above that the ink stain came right off the face of the Little Angel Dress Up Girl I made a while ago.
Personally I don’t mind leaving some stubborn stains – I just pretend they are normal bruises or scratches that all kids get. One time I was making a custom Cabbage Patch Buffy The Vampire Slayer and she had some reddish marker stains on her neck that would just not come off. I just left them and pretended they were bite marks!
Once your Cabbie is all clean, dry and stain-free, your next fun task is to restore the hair to its former glory. Under normal circumstances this is actually easier than it sounds, and in my next post – How To Trim and Fix A Vintage Cabbage Patch Kid’s Hair – I’ll show you exactly how I do it.
How about you? Have you ever fixed up an old Cabbage Patch Kid doll? Feel free to post questions in the comments below.
Thanks for stopping by!
P.S. I know you know this, but in this post there are some affiliate links to products I use, like and trust. Doing that helps me to share my favorite projects with you for free. Enjoy. x0x0x0x0x