how to clean a cabbage patch doll

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.

In this article I’m going to teach you how to clean a Cabbage Patch doll so that she/he comes out spotless and spiffy.

But beware. Dunking a highly 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.

how to clean a cabbage patch doll

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 Xavier Roberts starting in the late 1970’s I was shocked to learn that those dolls can sell today for up to $40,000!

[Promo: Check out this fun and easy Cabbage Patch Mermaid Outfit Course]

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.)

Don’t forget to check out my How To Clean A Cabbage Patch video HERE:

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 how to clean a Cabbage Patch Kid SAFELY. I’ve developed these gems of wisdom as a result of having spiffed up well over a hundred of these beauties to date (and having screwed up a couple – sniff).

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’d 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.

how to clean a cabbage patch doll
Parents line up at a store in 1983 to buy a Cabbage Patch Kid doll. (Image courtesy of

Still, I picked up a couple of sorry-looking critters at a yard sale a few years ago and brought them home. I did some research and cleaned them up and made them some cute clothes.

Next, I joined some Facebook groups and began collecting vintage Cabbage Patch Kid dolls. Then I started a national therapy doll movement. . .well, you get the idea.

how to clean a cabbage patch doll

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 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.

how to clean a cabbage patch doll before and after pics

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.

how to clean a cabbage patch doll

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.

how to clean a cabbage patch 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.

how to clean ink stains from a cabbage patch doll

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.

Unless a complete disaster has happened this is actually easier than it sounds, and in my next post – How To Fix A Cabbage Patch Doll’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? What were some of the challenged you faced? Feel free to post questions in the comments below.

Thanks for stopping by!

Mandy Wildman


P.S. I should mention that I have tried these cleaning strategies on other dolls besides Cabbage Patch Kids, including American GirlOur GenerationMy Life AsBerengeur Babies and more.

P. P.S. I recently discovered this AWESOME cleaning product that I ADORE! I will NEVER be without it because I use it to clean spots off vintage clothing as well as Cabbage Patch dolls. You can find it here.

P.P.P.S. Why not transform your rescued Cabbie into a fabulous Sassy Cabbie Mermaid?

P.P.P.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

Join the Vibrant Crafter tribe and get some free goodies HERE.

40 Responses

  1. Have you ever had a baby with spots inside its head? I pulled my original Cabbage Patch sooo out from the 80’s to pass down to my daughter and he has spots on the inside. I’m assuming some moisture got in there. Any tips? Or know of anywhere I can send him? Thanks!

    1. Hi Abbi,

      That’s a great question! Some of the Cabbage Patch Kids get what’s fondly known as “pox” which is a discoloration of the skin. This is due to a manufacturing anomaly – not all the Cabbage Patch Kids get that. I would recommend that you first try putting the zit cream on the spots and leaving him out in the sun as I suggest for markers and ink stains. Try that first and maybe you can reduce the spots to make them less noticeable. If that doesn’t do the trick then I would try joining some Facebook groups to find an expert who can help – they are out there. You just have to find someone who has a lot of recommendations, as she is going to have to take your Cabbage Patch Kid’s head off – so you want someone experienced! Hope this helps.

      Mandy 🙂

  2. I have seen where some people wrap the face in saran wrap over the areas where you put the cream. Is this step necessary? or is it just as affective without wrapping it?

  3. Hi Rhonda – great question! I have never used any kind of plastic wrap on my Cabbies’ faces. I just put the dot of cream on the “bruise” and leave them in the sunshine. It may take a couple of days but the spots will fade or vanish and you can then wash it off. 🙂

  4. I’m from Canada and Justin’s gang won’t let us buy the 10% Benzoyl peroxide. I hope if I order it from here I will receive the 10% and not 5%. I tried 5% and it was ineffective. 🙁

    1. Hi Nancy – that SUCKS! Let us know if you managed to get the 10%. These are CABBIES we’re talking about, people! 😉

      1. HI! Long time no see! Yes, I managed to get the 10% and it was mostly effective-just a faint spot left. I Now, I need to re-root a couple of kids but not sure of which yarn/wool to get Is there a suggested type? I have tons.. LOL! I forgot to mention.. where I live we get strong sun in the summer. Fall and winter, not so much. Is there another way to speed up the ink removal process?

        1. I would try just a regular, good quality yarn for your Cabbie’s hair. Try it and see. As regards the sun – try putting her under a lamp if it’s not sunny outside. But check on her frequently! Don’t want to burn your baby!

  5. Hello, my husband and I just bought our first home and I found 6 Cabbage Patch Dolls in an old cardboard box in our garage (whole house was a nasty mess). So I asked friends on Facebook how should I go about cleaning them since they are yucky. They said to wash them in the washing machine. Now I understand stuffed animals and such being washed in a machine but we are talking Cabbage Patch Dolls!!! LOL! so glad I went with my gut and found your page!

    1. There are some people who will throw their Cabbies in the washing machine, and for being over 35 years old in some cases, Cabbage Patch Kids are amazingly hardy. However, I would never wash them in a machine because they are old and the wear and tear can do damage, such as wear out their face paint or rip their seams. I would love to see a pic of your Cabbies when you are done prettying them up. 🙂

  6. I have 3 dolls, 1 from 1978 and two from 1979 – all signed. Interested to see where to figure a value.

    My son, when he was 8… found the adoption papers for “Edward Grant” and he came to us thinking he was adopted. so cute.. but we set him straight— it was just the doll we adopted.

    I told him if he didn’t have an Xavier on his butt he was good.

    Appreciate it


    1. Hi David,

      That’s a funny story!
      To help you at all I would need to see clear pics of the Cabbies you have, back and front. 🙂
      Thanks for sharing! Mandy

      1. I cleaned mine with dishwashing soap. It looked great until it dried then all the stains came back, so I put it in a sink of warm water and poured Mr. Clean on it. Then I scrubbed it with a toothbrush and all the stains came out. I rinsed and rinsed it and let it lay in the sun to dry and it is just like new!

        1. I am so happy that worked for you and that your Cabbage Patch doll is clean and good as new now! 🙂

  7. Hi Mandy

    Will acne gel work on the soft material of the cabbie for stubborn stains?

    Also I didn’t realise there were Facebook groups out there, might have a look to see if I can join a couple!

    I have 7 cabbies 5 being vintage and 2 newer dolls. I picked one up yesterday at a thrift store for only $10AUD but she needs a bit of help, I am not sure how to attach photos but I have managed to clean her face with a gentle soapy water scrub but she has quite a few stubborn stains one on her arm being pen, which is why I was wondering if I could use an acne gel treatment on that material.

    1. Hi there – thanks for reaching out! No, I would not use acne cream on the soft fabric to clean their bodies. Instead I would use a gentle stain remover like Grandma’s Secret (you can get it on Amazon) or some kind of Oxy cleaning product, then gently scrub the stubborn stain with a soft nail brush and the stains should come right out. As for a Facebook group? Come on over and join us, honey!

  8. I have just bought a Cabbage Patch dated 86 on her bottom. She came with a certificate and she is called Virginia Petrina and she was born 1st Oct. She is a bit smellywith a few mouldy spots on her legs. Apart from that she is just grubby. She is blond with blue eyes. I always wanted a cabbage patch baby and now at 71 I have one. She cost me $10.00 and I’m happy! Just need to make her perfect again, any advice appreciated.

    1. Oh, what a wonderful find, Sue! I am so glad for you. Really, these dolls are quite hardy considering that they are over 30 years old! just give her a lovely relaxing bath, and follow the steps in my tutorial and she will come out looking lovely. Find some clothing for her and just give her the love that you both deserve! 🙂

  9. My doll is on fantastic condition but the shoes have become tacky or sticky, like a grease build up. They have always been kept in a bedroom or closet. Any thoughts on how to fix this?

    1. Hi Eileen. I have encountered that sticky weirdness on old plasticky rubbery dolls and accessories before. Try these ideas: 1) make a paste with baking soda and give the shoes a good going over. If that doesn’t work try 2) Goo Gone. 3) You can also try rubbing alcohol. Rinse with mild soap and water afterwards. Let me know how that works for you. 🙂

  10. Right now I have a mildly grubby cabbage patch doll up for sale on eBay. I thought the nail polish she has on her little fingers was all part of her original look. There’s a potential buyer asking me if I think the nail polish can be cleaned off. I SWEAR it looks like she came with this polish, it is so uniformly done. Any thoughts on this? Any ideas about removal products to try? Thanks in advance. (The doll will likely be sold by the time anyone reads this—-but I am still curious to know if any of the dolls ever had painted nails.) Thank you in advance for any and all replies.

    1. Hi there!

      I really don’t think any of the Cabbage Patch Kid dolls came with painted fingernails. I could be wrong, and I hope someone will jump in and comment if I am, but I am pretty sure none of them came with painted nails. 🙂

  11. Do you have any suggestions just get the musty attic smell out? Airing them outside in the sun maybe?

    1. Hi Amy,
      Great question! Well if it was a bad smell, I would give the doll the full Cabbage Patch spa treatment. But if it wasn’t too bad or you were in a hurry you could give her a quick rub over with a scented dryer sheet, or if the weather is nice, then airing your Cabbie out in the sunshine would be a great way to go.

      Hope this help! Mandy 🙂

  12. Thank you. Not sure when I’ll embark upon this adventure, but at least now I know what to do. ?

    1. Yes, it is a bit of an adventure, cleaning and fixing up a Cabbage Patch doll. Oh, but it’s so much fun! 🙂

  13. Mandy

    Do you know where I can get a new body for a cabbage patch doll I bought at a thrift shop? She is very stained and has some small holes on the back of her neck. I am going to try to clean her but was wondering if bodies are available. Thanks Sandra

    1. Hi Sandra,
      You have two options. One would be to find (or swap with a fellow collector) a Cabbie with a good body but a bad head and do a transplant. That has worked for me on a number of occasions. The other option is that you can sometimes find “make it yourself” kits from the early 80’s on Ebay. These are not quite the same, but they will do in a pinch. You can’t have your precious Cabbage Patch dolls going around headless, right? 😉

  14. I am so thrilled to have found your post! Today while rummaging through my grandmother’s attic, I found an entire bag full of my Cabbage Patch Kids from when I was a child. I was born in 1983 – the year the Coleco version was released – and grew up requesting one for each birthday and Christmas. I had amassed quite a collection by my teens and thought they had all been lost when I went away to college. I’m so excited to take them all and restore them for my 3-year-old daughter. Most of them are in naked, filthy, and have tiny braids from where I practiced on them. I don’t remember the names of most of them, but my oldest one – Jazzella Maude – is in the bag and she was always my favorite. I can’t wait to get them cleaned up and give them to my daughter for Christmas! I wish I had time to make some clothes myself, but I don’t think I can swing that before Christmas. Do you have recommendations on where I could find some good clothing?

    1. Hi Crystal,
      What an absolutely awesome find – how exciting! Hmmm – I would look for Cabbie clothing on Ebay if I was in a hurry. Or, if you have a couple of hours to spare one day you could make a very sweet outfit by joining my online Cabbage Patch Mermaid Outfit course HERE.

      Best of luck!
      Mandy 🙂

  15. I am desperate! I have a second hand Crimp and Curl Cabbie from the 90’s and I don’t know what to do with her hair!

    These dolls came with pre waxed hair to help style it without heat and over the years it has become disgusting. Her hair literally stands straight up and feels so gross.

    Can you help me find a way to get the wax out? Or should I just re root?

    I’ve tried all the tried and true methods on the net and nothing seems to work 🙁