Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Doll Makeovers -Transforming Op-Shop Castoff Dolls to be as Good as New

Before doll restoration

After restoration

As part of the team at a child care centre,  I need economical ways to entertain the kids. New toys are wonderful but expensive in the quantities required. 

I have discovered a low-cost way to restore worn out dolls sourced from op-shops to be as good as new. The dolls I have used here are Barbie dolls but the techniques work equally well for other plastic dolls with hair.


  • Barbie type dolls - my eight dolls pictured cost $22 from local op-shops clothed
  • Glycerine
  • Pantene Intense Smoothening leave in Conditioner
  • Baby Shampoo
  • Soap and water, sponge
  • Doll brush and fine tooth comb
  • Sharp scissors


Undress the dolls and hand wash all clothing separately. Remove any hair bands from the dolls hair.  They made need to be cut loose carefully from the hair.

Wash the dolls in warm water using soap and a sponge.  Do not submerge the doll as this will fill the doll with water and make the drying process very long.

Wash the dolls hair using baby shampoo in cool running water until clean. Don't use hot water on the doll as this can damage the plastic.

Dry dolls on a towel and pat dry hair.  leave the dolls to dry for a couple of hours.

Clean dolls ready for hair restoration
 After drying, wipe the dolls over with a little glycerine on their plastic surfaces.  This will restore the shine and the suppleness to the plastic and make them last longer.

To restore the hair, apply a small but generous amount of Pantene Intense Smoothening Conditioner to the dolls hair.  Work the conditioner into the hair using your fingers.

Using a small doll brush start brushing the hair. Work from the tips of the hair up about 5 cm to start and as this frees from knots work further up the hair strands.  Don't panic too much about some hair being caught in the brush, as dolls are normally very generously supplied with hair. Don't pull too hard as this can stretch the hair.  Many short strokes are better.  After brushing the top of the hair, turn the doll and brush fully the underside of the hair.

Before brushing
After brushing
After Brushing
Before brushing

After brushing
Before brushing
After brushing

After completely brushing the hair, repeat using a fine tooth comb.  If there are any stray lengths, carefully trim the ends of the doll hair.  Use scissors sparingly as dolls hair won't regrow :).

The combination of both brush then comb will restore the dolls hair.  It should now be shiny and clean.  Style as needed using small bands (I used tiny cheap clear ones from a bargain shop).

After the clothes are fully dry, return to the dolls and let the kids enjoy low cost fun.

From this...

...to this

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