[personal profile] hat_plays_dolls
If you've bought Mattel dolls in the last ten years or so, you may have noticed that while dolls made in China are pretty much what they always were, dolls from Mattel's Indonesia factory have the insides of their heads coated with a glue made from pine sap resin. Frequently, this glue softens up and seeps out through the rooting holes in the vinyl heads, coating the dolls' hair with sticky, pine-scented goop that collects dust and dirt, makes the hair look greasy, and makes the rooting look sparse (as instead of spreading out and blending, the individual plugs stick together). Brushing cornstarch or an absorbent powder through the hair, then brushing it out, has been used as a stopgap measure; I tend to wash my Indonesian dolls with hot water and clarifying shampoo, which has always worked pretty well on new dolls, fresh out of the box.

Recently, and I blame Creamodreamo on tumblr just as I blame Creamo for the fic I posted a couple days ago, I got myself a Signature Toralei on eBay who was missing a shoe, a tail, and her and Sweet Fang's scarves, and who was in need of a bit of TLC. I like to think I'm pretty good at rehabbing dolls who don't have MAJOR structural issues and I've been managing minor Indonesian glue seepage on my other dolls with nothing but the usual clarifying shampoo and dye and fragrance free fabric softener, so I wasn't at all intimidated. I washed Toralei's hair.

And I washed Toralei's hair.

And I washed Toralei's hair.

And it got better, but mostly I was just cleaning dirt out of the pine resin that was saturating it from root to tip. Eventually I said "I'll come back to this," and took care of the black staining on her nose and ear, which was a lot easier when her waxy-sticky hair stuck to itself and stayed out of the way. I picked up the Fearleading Trio to give her a body with a tail (and get some uniforms, and offer Fearleading Toralei's head to a friend of mine), and let her alone.

As I was wiping the store-brand Clearasil off her face after two days in a warm spot, I said to myself, I said, "Don't the resin doll people say to wash your hands before handling your doll because oil breaks down resin over time?"

Now, Toralei wasn't perfect. For $35, I was fine with her not being perfect. I had her outfit, her purse, her kitty, her diary, her hands-- I figured, if I ruined her head, the Fearleading Trio is a shelfwarmer at my Toys R Us and it's not like I couldn't use a full team's worth of uniforms.

So I coated her head inside and out with baby oil. I worked that stuff into her hair, I squirted it inside her head and smooshed it around, I was terribly thorough before I started washing it out with clarifying shampoo.

As I was rinsing the inside of her head (fill with hot water, squish a little, squirt out into sink, repeat), I noticed that there was this... gunk coming out of it. This pale yellow slime that was thicker than water or baby oil, that required some work to rinse down the drain.

The resin glue inside her head was dissolving.

I rinsed and washed and rinsed and washed and finally decided I was done messing with her for the night, so I let her dry to see if her hair would end up tacky or if I'd worked a miracle.

When she dried, there wasn't a hint of that waxy tackiness in her hair, but it was greasy as hell from all the baby oil. Turns out my old standby of clarifying shampoo doesn't work really well at removing inorganic oil. (Part of the problem could have been that my hands were coated in baby oil, too.)

Tonight, I tried hot hot water and plain old Dawn dish soap. They use Dawn to wash off animals that've been in oil spills; if it'll clean up crude oil I figured it'd clean up baby oil (the main ingredient is white petrolatum). I scrubbed her hair (gently, but I got all the way down to the roots), I soaped up and rinsed out the inside of her head again, and then I filled a tupperware bowl with hot dish-soapy water and let Toralei set for ten or fifteen minutes.

Pulled her out, washed again, conditioned with fabric softener (comb through hair thoroughly, let set for a few minutes, rinse thoroughly), and let her dry.

She's not perfect; her stripes bled enough (before I got her) and washed out enough (after I got her) that I know full well she's never going to be perfect. But her hair is soft and clean and not sticky, clumpy, or greasy at all. It has volume, where before it was totally flat unless you wooled it up, and then it kind of just stayed there.

I've got a couple other bait dolls with glue seepage issues-- only Dawn of the Dance Clawdeen's is half as bad as poor Toralei's, and she's got oil setting in her hair as I type-- and I'll keep experimenting and reporting back. (I'll also report back if Toralei's head melts from the inside out, but I don't think it will.) Please please please if you decide to experiment with your own dolls, remember that:

1. I don't know how safe this is long-term (I'm pretty sure it's okay or I wouldn't have done it, but don't trust your expensive dolls to the 'pretty sure' of some internet weirdo).
2. I do not think baby oil would be remotely good for flocking. Don't try this on a doll you can't finger-scrub the hell out of.
3. HOT water. Hot as you can stand from your faucet.
4. Grease-cutting soap. Clarifying shampoo (which I ordinarily swear by because it takes factory oil out of brand-new saran) doesn't seem to cut baby oil.
5. If you need to soak the doll in soapy water, use hot water and let her sit totally submerged for at least ten minutes.
6. If the doll's hair doesn't squeak when you're rinsing it, it's still got baby oil in it.
7. If you attack the inside of the doll's head with baby oil to dissolve the glue, wash and rinse and wash and rinse until no suds at all squirt out of the neck hole, earring holes, or rooting holes.
8. Please don't use this on a rare or expensive doll. Use a cheap doll, use a bait doll, use a doll you don't care about, use a doll who's destined for a re-root if her hair can't be saved. Do as I say, not as I mad science in my bathroom.

And naturally, I didn't take half as many pictures as I should have done, but here's as much of the story as I can tell in images:

Toralei as she was when I bought her. You can see the dullness from the old glue.

Baby oiled up-- no more dullness, her hair is very shiny, but at this point it was greasy and stuck together. Very sleek, but not remotely clean. For some reason, my camera decided to focus on Fearleading Toralei, instead.

And here she is tonight, fresh as a daisy and smelling like clean dishes (Fearleading Toralei has been beheaded in preparation for a trip to Texas to live on Catastrophe's body). Her stripes look REALLY washed-out, but while some of that is from the million times I've washed her since she arrived, a lot of it is because her hair is fluffy and soft, and the stripes will darken up once I gel them together for some unity. (They're never gonna be perfect and I'm okay with that. I kind of wish I knew what I could use to touch them up, but from the purple cast it looks like the original stripes were just permanent marker or something.)

Cat Spit: Because You're Worth It. Toralei demonstrating that her hair is soft now, and will bend even with her itty bitty hands in it, instead of just shoving up straight in wild clumps.

Date: 2016-06-24 10:25 pm (UTC)
harpers_child: melaka fray reading from "Tales of the Slayers". (Default)
From: [personal profile] harpers_child
I have seven dolls with sticky gluey heads. All older dolls you can't find anymore. I've tried every other "fix" I've run across, let's see if I can duplicate your results.


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