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Repairing American Girl Dolls

Updated on May 14, 2014

Do I have to send my American Girl doll to the American Girl Hospital?

In a word, no! Keep reading to discover some simple remedies for fixing up your beautiful doll without spending an arm and a fix that arm or leg! Granted, some things cannot be fixed at home, such as pet bites, burns or cuts to the doll vinyl. However, I have found some great tricks that can restore the doll to almost new radiance. Best of all, you only need common household items and some time. It's rewarding to go from "Scary Mary" to Sweet Sue once you've dolled up your American Girl! Be sure and read all the way down the page so you don't miss any tips!

You should know, however, that the hospital takes great care of your American Girl doll. Probably the biggest drawback to using the hospital besides the cost, is having to wait to see your treasure again! See if these tips can't help you out and prevent you from spending time away from your loved friend.

Plastic protects the dolls soft body.
Plastic protects the dolls soft body.

My doll's hair is a tangled mess!

How do I fix it?

All dolls can get loved to the point of scary hair. When your doll's hair is so tangled you can't get a brush or comb through it to fix it, it's time to pull out the big guns. A girlfriend shared this tip with me, and you might not believe it. Hair conditioner! Undress your doll, and using a dry towel to protect her cloth body and yourself, rinse her hair to 'just wet' under the sink. Use a large dollop of your favorite conditioner, and massage all over the doll's synthetic hair. Using a wide-tooth comb or vent brush, comb out hair while the conditioner is still in. This takes patience and some time; if you pull too hard, you might uproot some of the doll's hair, and it won't grow back! Once you have combed out the biggest tangles, then rinse the conditioner out. Use the towel to absorb extra water, and continue combing out your doll's hair. I also used my hair dryer to dry the hair more quickly. The conditioner makes the hair heavier, so if the doll had poofs, you will have to tease them back up. You will be pleasantly surprised to see your doll's hair much more manageable now.

This is the kind of stuff I used to fix up the dolls - Cleaning Up Your Dolls

Some useful items to get your doll back to her old self. Treat her to a new pair of jammies after her Spa day!

Image courtesy Google images
Image courtesy Google images

My Daughter Tried to Put Nail Polish on Her American Girl Doll!

What do I do?

Use nail polish remover to remove unwanted nail polish on your doll's vinyl skin. Simply get a cotton swab and a bottle of regular nail polish remover. I tested it on a hidden spot to make sure it wouldn't discolor the skin. Using the swab, I gently rubbed the spots of nail polish off of the doll. She had marks on her face, arms and legs. (Don't ask.) For the most part, the bright fuchsia polish came entirely off. There was a hint of pink left on the doll's chin, but it was barely noticeable. You will be very pleased with the results of your newer looking doll. Just put the nail polish on a higher shelf, okay?

Although some doll owners actually put nail polish on their dolls' nails on purpose, to dress them up. I do not have experience to know if long term nail polish use and nail polish remover damages the vinyl skin or not. Comment below if you know about this!

Nail Polish Remover - Just be sure to test a hidden area first!

I haven't seen skin discoloration when I've used nail polish remover, but I would check just to be sure.

Q-tips Cotton Swabs, 170 ct
Q-tips Cotton Swabs, 170 ct

...and some cotton swabs should do the trick.


My Doll's Skin is Really Dirty and Marked Up

What do I do?

If you haven't already discovered the new household cleaner that is called an need to get out more. I picked up the drug store brand of this "erasing sponge" with the intention of cleaning up two American Girl dolls. Again, I tested it on a hidden spot first. I wet the sponge and wrung out the excess water. Then I stroked downward on the legs and arms of the dolls. The sponge immediately collected icky grayish brownish dirt! Scuff marks and ground in dirt from years of play came off with only a couple strokes. I used a clean rag to wipe away the dirty water that ran down the doll limbs. Using the corner of the sponge, I got into the crevices of the ears, mouths and toes. I wiped them dry with the clean rag. Using the erasing sponge restored the dolls' skin to like new. You should try the sponge to clean other old toys and dolls too; it works great and kids are excited to see their little ponies or dollies or people looking like new.

You Need This Mister - You Won't Believe How New Her Skin Looks Now!

A damp Magic Eraser lifts scuffs, crayon, some pen, and dust and dirt. It really does an amazing job.

Before and After Shots!

I offered to clean up the neighbor girls' dolls.

I didn't know what I was in for! I didn't realize their limbs were completely OFF! But I told them I would see what I could do. I thought I could at least fix their hair and clean up the general dirtiness and dinginess of these well-loved dolls. Once I cleaned up their hair, conditioned it, and combed it out nice, then I used the Magic Eraser to clean off the grime. Then I took a deep breath and tried to figure out how in the world I was going to get those limbs back on!

I had to examine the arm and leg sockets. There is a metal clip that holds the ends of the doll string in place. In all of the cases, that metal clip had broken off. In one case, I was able to pull the doll string through the plastic joint hole, tie a good knot in it, and voila! Her leg was back in. Not as good as before...but now she can at least wear pants. The arms were a completely different story. The doll string had frayed and broken. Knotting was not going to be an option. I searched my house for things I could use to try to fix these dolls. Good old rubber bands came to the rescue. Now, professional doll-stringers would never use rubber bands. They degrade, and the fix is only temporary. But for a favor, I figured it would do. I used rubber bands by winding them around some plastic parts that sort of look like dumb bells. That would keep the rubber band on, and prevent it from slipping through the plastic joint hole. The arms snapped back into place and were good as new. I did need to use needle nose pliers to get the plastic joints out of the arm sockets, and to put them back in. If this makes any sense at all, and I hope it does, then you will be able to replace American Girl doll arms too! Good luck.

Do Your AG Dolls Look Loved?

These Gals Got a Lotta Love

A simple conditioning and brush-through will make these ladies look even more presentable. If your doll's limb comes off, keep everything you can find, and inspect the innards to see how they're put together. Then search your house for items that can work to get your limb back together.

My dd has discovered many online websites that teach DIY sewing for AG outfits. Most of them reuse the sleeves from child-size clothes or other skirts and dresses to sew down to AG size. Other websites have free printable patterns for T-shirts or swimsuits. Look around and find ways to dress up your doll.

Items to Use to Fix Up Your Well-Loved Doll - Take a walk through your house and find...

  • Scissors
  • Rubber bands, heavy duty like from the newspaper
  • Inch long bolt or plastic rod, preferably with bulbous ends
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Quilt batting or pillow stuffing
  • Nylon rope or twine, not more than 1/4 inch thick and at least four inches long or longer

I Found This on YouTube - This Lady Remade Molly; She's Gorgeous!

Here is a series of photographs that shows the transformation of a well-loved doll to a new glamorous beauty!

This is so inspiring. Makes me want to buy an older doll just to make her up!

Find the Suavetel - So Your Older Doll Can Be Sweet Smelling Again!

Suavitel 139107 Field Flower Fabric Softener, 150 oz Bottle
Suavitel 139107 Field Flower Fabric Softener, 150 oz Bottle

You only need a tiny bit to freshen up your doll.


Find a Used American Girl Doll - And Bring Her Back to Life with Your Newfound Tricks!

There's nothing like the feeling of restoring an older doll to her former glory! When you transform your doll from a messy ragamuffin with Scary Hair to a glowing beauty, you have an amazing sense of accomplishment.

Your doll looks and feels brand new, and you feel like you did something really worthwhile. Take any old dolls or toys around the house, clean them up, polish and shine, freshen in the laundry, and see if they don't make your whole house feel fresher and cleaner!

Restringing Kit - This will help you get those limbs back in shape

Believe it or not, you don't have to be an expert to fix your doll.

Washing Hair Tutorial from YouTube

She'll show you how to do it right

Doll of the Year 2013 - Time is Running Out!

Every year, American Girl comes out with a beautiful doll that has a story and a unique vision of what it means to be an American Girl. This year the Girl is Saige. She's befreckled with a long beautiful braid, and her passion is art! She brings the Southwest to life.

AG retires their dolls, and then it becomes super difficult to get your hands on the one that caught your eye. Don't let Saige get away from you!

This Girl Got Her Doll Back from the AG Hospital - She sounds breathless with excitement to get her doll back!

Three minutes long, watch as she gets her doll back from the AG hospital

Watch an American Girl Halloween Short Movie - An enterprising young girl produces these fun AG movies!

What happens when the American Girls decide to sleep over in a haunted house on Halloween night?

Almost five minutes of stop action AG fun!

From a Consignment Shop
From a Consignment Shop

I Can't Afford an American Girl Doll: What Do I Do?

American Girl Dolls Are Really Something, But Sometimes You Can't Afford Them

What do you do instead? My dd has found three 18 inch dolls at thrift stores or consignment shops in just the last year.

This little beauty has the sweetest expression and long lashes on her bright blue eyes. I'll include a photo later of her makeover! The back of her neck says Geoffrey, which leads me to believe it's a Toys R Us version of AG. But I haven't looked it up yet as I'm making this lens.

The thing we have learned is that if you spot an 18 inch doll at a thrift store or consignment shop, snatch them up right away! They do not last long.

18 inch dolls also sell pretty successfully on eBay, even if they are not the brand name American Girl. Of course they're not going to sell as much as a bonafide collector's AG doll, but they are a fun size to play with.

We're going to use the tricks mentioned above to clean this diamond in the rough up starting with her crazy locks! It's so fun to see the transformation from ugly duckling to beautiful swan. A little water, a little conditioner and a lot of TLC will have this doll looking tip top in no time. Come back later to check our progress.

Isabelle the dancer
Isabelle the dancer

American Girl Doll of the Year 2014 Announced!

Isabelle Palmer

Check out the AG site for more information about Isabelle!

She's a blonde bombshell dancer who aspires to learn more so she can keep up with her talented classmates!

Be the First to Own the Bella Isabelle Dancer of 2014! - She Has a Story of Her Own

Three books tell the tale of Isabelle and her trials at the Anna Hart School of the Arts.

To the Stars, Isabelle
To the Stars, Isabelle

This is Book 3. Get the entire set on Amazon!

Walking Cute Dogs is Fun
Walking Cute Dogs is Fun

How Can I Save Up to Buy an American Girl Doll?

Hard Work Will Yield Great Results!

Are you a young girl really dreaming to have an American Girl doll? They cost about one hundred dollars! That seems like so much money when you're only nine years old! What kinds of jobs could a girl do to earn enough money to buy the doll of your dreams?

Well, a hard-working and determined nine year old girl would make a great Mother's Helper. Have you ever heard of a Mother's Helper? A Mother's Helper is anyone who can help a busy mom take care of her kids and do housework, while the mom is still around the house. Maybe the mom has a sewing project that she would like to finish, but the baby wants to be held and rocked. That's when a Mother's Helper would come in really handy! A girl could charge just a dollar or two per hour to be a Mother's Helper.

Another idea is a dog-walker! Do you have a neighbor that works during the day, and their dog gets lonely and bored? A hard working girl could offer to walk the dog once or twice during the day to play with the dog, get his energy out and take a potty break. This is not a super difficult job, and you could charge a couple dollars for this chore.

Another idea is to find some eighteen inch dolls from a thrift store, clean them up really nice using the tips on this page, and then try to sell them for a higher price than you paid! These are just a few ideas of some things that a young girl could do to earn enough money to buy the doll of her dreams!

Combining Autism and American Girl! - This Woman's Labor of Love Serves a Dual Purpose

I found this story on Facebook and just had to include it here on my American Girl doll lens! As some of you might remember, I have a daughter with Autism and I've written some lenses about that.

How do you clean up your played with dolls?

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I would like to caution against using a Magic Eraser on your American Girl doll.

      The reason MEs work so well is that they are essentially cleaning agent-soaked blocks of very, very fine sandpaper! (Some of you may have experienced the way they seem to "crumble" when you've used the Eraser down to a thin layer. The general consensus amongst serious restorers is that Twin Pines of Maine makes the best (and most reasonably priced) products for doll hair, skin, and clothes (both for maintenance and for serious stains or marks).

      Additionally, regardless of whether anyone decides to use human shampoo (not recommended), or condition with wig products (decent solution), or even to do a Downy Dunk (dire cases only!) to rescue their doll's hair, PLEASE, as a lover of AG dolls, never get your Dolly's head near water without taping (first-aid cloth tape is best) cotton balls over her closed eyes, then wrapping her face with Saran Wrap (or a towel). Any amount of water in an American Girl's eyes is a quick path toward early degradation.

      One of the reasons to bother being so meticulous is to avoid the Doll Hospital at all costs! Now, you may not mind if you already have a Mattel American Girl, but if you have a PM/Pleasant Company doll, sending her to the DH will be a sad day indeed--any problems in the head (wig, eyes, etc.) will be corrected by giving the doll an entirely new head. Your PM collectible will be returned, for all intents and purposes, as a Mattel doll (with the neck stamp to prove it).

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Does anyone have any experience in removing the freckles on the AG dolls. My daughter is 5 and wants a look a like doll and the only one I found that comes close has freckles and she does not. I would like to remove them if possible before giving it to her. Any info greatly appreciated!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I can't find the answer to why some of my 1995 Pleasant Company glass eye mini dolls smell like crayon. They have not been in contact with crayons and the odor is all over and gets worse with time. What does it mean? Can the odor spread to other dolls? Do you know of a remedy? Any help would be wonderful. Thanks

    • VictoriaHolt profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @anonymous: That is super nice of you to say! I'm glad that little trick worked on your old dolls. Sometimes I am tempted to go to the thrift store and take a Magic Eraser with me...then clean up all the old dolls and toys there!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thank you sooo much! I thought I might have to throw my Trolley Dolls away because they are rare but would need a head replace meant. You trick worked like soap on my filthy little brother! Thank you again. Your Awesome and should own your own website!!!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      @anonymous: Well, yes. If your saying just a pencil eraser, that's not what u should be using. You should be using a "magic eraser" which is almost like a sponge.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      @VictoriaHolt: i tried an earaser 4 my doll is there a specail one i need to use?

    • VictoriaHolt profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi! No, you can use a 'magic eraser' that you have used on walls or whatever. You might get a little residual grime, but you can wipe that off with a clean damp cloth. Good luck!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      does theearser have 2 be new?

    • VictoriaHolt profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @malen75: Thanks for the clothes tip!

    • malen75 profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow, I never thought of magic eraser..i should try it later as my daughter's AG doll has black stains on one of her legs and i can't remove it.

      Also, If you want cheap 18 inch doll clothes, you can buy them at amazon rather than the ag website.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I use a magic eraser on my daughter's dolls. Gotta love those things! So many uses. I have also used Oxy10 on ink stains. Works like a charm when exposed to sunlight.

    • Gamganny profile image


      8 years ago

      Don't have dolls, have boys!! Great lens and information about repairing american girl dolls


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