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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
    Here are some frequently asked questions about repairs and their answers.  Click on the question button (Click for Answer) to be taken down the page to the answer.  

QUESTIONS
          
Doll Limbs
Click for Answer My favourite old plastic doll has got an arm that seems to be "withering" and drying out, is there any way of repairing this?
Click for Answer I have a doll which has "elastic bands" keeping its arms and legs on.  These have stretched and broken.  
Click for Answer I have a doll that has lost a leg, is there any chance of finding a near match?
Click for Answer My doll has some missing fingers, can these be replaced?
Click for Answer My doll is made of hard plastic and it is badly cracked in places and the top of the leg is broken, can this be fixed?
Click for Answer I have a Tiny Tears doll who's arm has broken off.  It seems that a small plastic pin holding the arm on has sheared.  Is this repairable?
Click for Answer The arm and leg sockets on my doll are falling to pieces, is there anything that can be done?
          
Doll Hair
Click for Answer Can you please advise how I can go about getting the wig replaced on an old doll?
Click for Answer Can I get the rooted hair replaced on my old doll?
Click for Answer I have a porcelain doll who's hair is in good shape but it is knotted and tangled?
Click for Answer I have a plastic doll who's hair is in good shape but it is knotted and tangled?
          
Doll Heads
Click for Answer My doll has lost her eyelashes, can these be replaced?
Click for Answer My doll has lost one of her eyes, can these be replaced?
Click for Answer My doll's eyes are stuck and don't open and close any more, can this be fixed?
Click for Answer My doll's porcelain head has been smashed into many pieces, can something like that be fixed?
Click for Answer I have a walky-talky doll whose head has come off, leaving a bent metal rod coming out of the neck.  Can the head be fixed back on?
          
Doll Bodies
Click for Answer My doll used to say "Mama" but this no longer works, can it be repaired?
Click for Answer I have a doll that has a pull cord that you pull out of the back and she speaks.  This does not work.
          
Doll - General
Click for Answer Can damage to soft rubbery plastic dolls be repaired?
Click for Answer Is it possible to find replacement body parts or limbs for dolls?
Click for Answer My daughter has drawn on the face of her doll with ball-point and felt-tip pens.  I have tried everything to remove the stains, any ideas?
          
Teddy Limbs
Click for Answer My Teddy bear's jointed limbs are very loose, can they be tightened?
Click for Answer Our Teddy has got fabric pads on his paws and feet.  They have become so worn that the stuffing is coming out.  Can these be replaced?
          
Teddy Fur
Click for Answer My Teddy bear is very threadbare in places, is it possible to replace his fur?
          
Teddy Bodies
Click for Answer My Teddy has lost some of his stuffing and has gone all limp - can this be replaced?
          
Teddy - General
Click for Answer My Teddy used to growl, can his voice be mended?
          
Toys
Click for Answer My daughter has a loved-to-bits rag doll that is beyond repair, is it possible to make an identical copy?
Click for Answer My daughter's rag doll has a body that is frayed and split and the stuffing is coming out, can that be repaired?
          

ANSWERS

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Doll Limbs
My favourite old plastic doll has got an arm that seems to be "withering" and drying out, is there any way of repairing this?
          
This may be the sign of the dreaded Hard Plastic Disease or Plastic Doll Disease.  After the second world war the plastic used in doll production was not always stable.  The warning signs are a very strong smell of vinegar, the wrists go white and split (example) and the arms discolour, wither and shrink and give the appearance of being dry and brittle (example).  There are many tell-tale signs in the head.  The face often discolours and can show a faintly powdered surface, the nose can shrink inwards and begin to disintegrate, the head can distort and become more pointed at the top (example) and the head itself can split, often at the neck (example).  In severe cases the body itself can distort and split (example).  If you can catch the disease in its early stages it is worth treating - see example.

"Doll Magazine" had an excellent article about this disease in Issue 43 - May 2001 and they suggest treating the doll in the following way.  Unstring the doll and wash it in an antiseptic wash, something like Oxy10.  Let the doll dry completely for at least 2 or 3 days.  Talcum powder the doll inside and out (keep the talcum powder away from any eye mechanisms) and leave for another 2 or 3 days.  Remove the excess talc and spray the doll with a matt varnish inside and out.  This SHOULD hold back the disease but, to be safe, the doll should stay in isolation (away from other dolls) to prevent any danger of transmitting it to healthy dolls.

"Doll Magazine" has kindly given me permission to reproduce the article here (284Kb).

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I have a doll which has "elastic bands" keeping its arms and legs on.  These have stretched and broken.  
          
Your doll needs re-stringing, which is a silly term for needing new elastic. 

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I have a doll that has lost a leg, is there any chance of finding a near match?
          
This is very unlikely.  Manufacturers, even if they still exist, are unwilling to supply replacements.  The best thing to do is to scour local charity shops and boot sales for an old doll that you may be able to cannibalise, however you will be extremely lucky to find an exact match.  The best that can be hoped for is a near match and the hope that clothes will make the difference less noticeable.  If that fails you could try contacting the other hospitals on my Links page.

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My doll has some missing fingers, can these be replaced?
          
It is possible to replace fingers for hard plastic and composite dolls, but you must be aware that there will need to be some repainting involved.  It is often difficult to match exactly the paint of a hand and in these cases it is often necessary to paint the whole hand up to the wrist to blend in the repair. 

Replacement of fingers on soft plastic dolls is extremely difficult and often impossible due to the absence of materials which will reliably stick to these types of plastic.

Replacement of fingers on porcelain dolls also poses problems if the hands themselves are porcelain (often just the head is porcelain and the body and limbs are a composite material).  Drilling porcelain hands to provide adequate support for finger replacement is extremely difficult without expensive diamond-tipped drills which blunt quickly.  Fingers can be moulded and attached but the joint may not be as strong as the original.

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My doll is made of hard plastic and it is badly cracked in places and the top of the leg is broken, can this be fixed?
          
Hard plastic limbs can be repaired (and missing pieces reformed) but usually have to be repainted to disguise the repair and there may be a noticeable, but slight, difference in colour and finish.  The cost of repair to a broken limb depends on the amount of damage.

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I have a Tiny Tears doll who's arm has broken off.  It seems that a small plastic pin holding the arm on has sheared.  Is this repairable?
          
These very flexible joints are rather unusual, the joint is held together with a plastic pin with a ball on the end (example).  Replacement parts for these are very difficult to find and it may be necessary to make something that is a near approximation of the device.  In the latter case you may (not always) notice a slight difference in the feel of the joint.

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The arm and leg sockets on my doll are falling to pieces, is there anything that can be done?
          
Limb sockets on all types of dolls apart from rubbery plastic ones and thin waxy ones (example) are repairable.  Some repainting is usually necessary to disguise the repair but unless the damage has extended into the body of the doll, repainting can normally be restricted to the joint area and is not intrusive.

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Doll Hair
Can you please advise how I can go about getting the wig replaced on an old doll?
          
If your doll is a plastic, porcelain or composite doll that had a wig stuck to the top of its head (or of you want to fix a wig to a plastic doll with "moulded" hair) then this is not a problem.  The wigs are supplied by many doll shops and all you need to know is the circumference of the doll's head and the colour and style of the wig that you would like.

This is something that you can do yourself very easily and a quick search on the internet for doll's wigs should give you a list of suppliers.  Also check out the Hospital Links page or mail order companies that can supply wigs or check doll's magazines for a local stockist.  I have pictures of wigs available from the supplier I used - Ellies Doll Workshop.

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Can I get the rooted hair replaced on my old doll?
          
I am afraid that I know of only one person willing to take on this task for you, Lisa at the Sasha Hospital.

I have had contact with someone who managed to repair her doll using 'CURLY HAIR', tight little corkscrews of hair from Hobbycraft (http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk).  Apparently it was ok after the doll's hair was washed and conditioned in very hot water and combed until it was smooth and wavy.  

Try doing a web search for "re-rooting a Barbie doll" (even if your doll is not a Barbie) and you will find lots of help to DIY, particularly a Youtube video.

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I have a porcelain doll who's hair is in good shape but it is knotted and tangled?
          
There are hospitals who can help, but here is something you could try first.  First of all you have to take the wig off of the doll. It is easiest to start at the back of the head.  Peal the wig upwards towards the crown of the head gently easing any glued sections away from the porcelain head.

When you have removed the wig mix up some warm (not too hot) water with a gentle washing liquid like Woolite or Stergene.  Holding the wig by the fabric base, swish the hair around in the warm soapy water, gently squeezing the soap into the hair to get rid of any dirt etc.  When you have finished washing the wig then rinse it in clean warm water.  At this stage I have found that fabric conditioner - preferably an easy-iron type, the sort made by Comfort and Lenor - gently worked into the hair makes life a lot easier.

At this stage you can use a large toothed comb - afro type or something similar - to carefully comb the hair but do not pull it because you will pull it out of the wig. When you have combed out all of the tangles then, standing outside in the garden, hold the wig by the fabric base, swing it backwards and forwards - this will get rid of most of the excess moisture. Give it another gentle comb, style it if you want to, and then leave it over an upside-down tumbler in a warm place to dry off slowly.  The use of a hair dryer or heated rollers may damage the hair.

When the wig is dry you can stick it back onto the porcelain head. I usually use UHU glue to fix wigs in place.

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I have a plastic doll who's hair is in good shape but it is knotted and tangled, can you help?
          
There are hospitals who can help, but here is something you could try first.  I know that hair gets tangled and, in the past, I have found the best solution has been hair conditioner.  I start off with a shampoo which contains a conditioner - like Pantene - and I use a separate conditioner as well.  I then use a large toothed comb, like an afro comb, to smooth the hair down.  Sometimes this is not good enough so I use a fabric conditioner.  Let it dry naturally, the use of a hair dryer or heated rollers may damage the hair.  If this does not work (it usually does) then the only alternative is a wig after shaving off all the hair (leave some "stubble" to aid the gluing of the replacement wig, it is difficult to reliable stick a new wig directly to the vinyl head).  It is very drastic but sometimes there is no other course of action.

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Doll Heads
My doll has lost her eyelashes, can these be replaced?
          
Yes, but what can be done depends on the type of doll.  Individual eyes in plastic sockets (they can be opened and closed individually) in plastic dolls cannot be effectively repaired, the eyes can only be replaced.  It is almost impossible to match old eyes exactly so it is invariably necessary to replace both eyes (example).  However, easy (and correct) fixing assumes that the back of the eye socket has not been cut (more information).  We found that we could NOT replace (or even repair) eyes in Chicco dolls or First Love dolls.

If the eyes are locked together then they are part of a mechanism inside the head that can be removed and eyelashes fitted.  This assumes the mechanism can be easily removed, in some dolls it can be extremely difficult, if not impossible to get inside the head and remove the mechanism.

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My doll has lost one of her eyes, can these be replaced?
          
Probably,  but it all depends on the type of doll and the type of eyes.  All eyes are replaced as a pair because of the impossibility of matching old eyes.  Porcelain dolls can have either fixed or rocking eyes - see example.

Soft plastic dolls have individual eyes in plastic sockets.  Individual eyes (you can open or close them individually, they are not locked together) can only be replaced, not repaired, and are replaced as a pair - see example.  However, easy (and correct) fixing assumes that the back of the eye socket has not been cut (more information).  We found that we could NOT replace eyes in Chicco dolls or First Love dolls or dolls that have a voice box inside their head.

Composite dolls usually have an eye mechanism, like some hard plastic dolls.  These tend to rust up and seize, or are broken by enthusiastic children.  It is impossible to get spare parts for these and so it is necessary to make parts where possible - this is difficult to do with the eyeballs although many hospitals do carry a few "spares" obtained from old dolls in the past.   The cost will depend on how easy it is to remove the mechanism, whether new eyelashes are required, whether the eyelids need repainting or whether repairs/replacement parts are needed.

This assumes the mechanism can be easily removed, in some dolls it can be extremely difficult, if not impossible to get inside the head and remove the mechanism.

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My doll's eyes are stuck and don't open and close any more, can this be fixed?
          
See the answer to the above question. 

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My doll's porcelain head has been smashed into many pieces, can something like that be fixed?
          
This is not an easy repair and is only possible if the centre portion of the face (containing the features) remain.  It takes a lot of time to reassemble all the pieces, fill in the gaps caused by the tiny pieces and little slithers that get lost, strengthen it from the inside, resurface it on the outside and then repaint it.  The effect is not very satisfactory.  The doll's face will look different, it's painted surface will be easily damaged and it is far better to try and have a new head made (Ellie's Doll Workshop in Bournemouth may be able to help) or to find a similar sized and looking head on another damaged doll (say in a charity shop or boot sale) and swap them.

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I have a walky-talky doll whose head has come off, leaving a bent metal rod coming out of the neck.  Can the head be fixed back on?
          
This is possible as long as the bent metal rod can be removed from the doll OR at least detached from its position in the crutch of the doll (requiring repair afterwards).  The repair involves fixing a new plastic tube inside the head into which the rod fixes.  This cannot be done with any degree of certainty unless the rod is removed (or at least detached from the crutch and moved upwards) and can be viewed inside the head during repair.  Sometimes this bar is riveted together and these can be drilled out (through the doll arm-holes) and re-fixed after the repair.  It is also often possible to saw the bar in two through the arm sockets and re-join it after the repair, although finding a strong joint is difficult.

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Doll Bodies
My doll used to say "Mama" but this no longer works, can it be repaired?
          
The "mama" is a cylindrical unit (example) inside the back of the doll which usually cannot be repaired.  As long as the old one can be removed then a new one can be fitted.  Most dolls have an access panel on their back which allows easy removal/replacement of the mama, however, some dolls have mamas fitted during manufacture before the two halves of the body are welded together.  Unless you are lucky and the mama can be withdrawn through the leg socket then I am afraid that this type cannot be replaced without splitting the whole doll - something that carries risks.

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I have a doll that has a pull cord that you pull out of the back and she speaks.  This does not work.
          
It may be possible to repair.  It is impossible to get spare parts (apart from some spare drive belts available from America) and so it all depends on what has broken.  It usually is the drive belt but it can also be the main spring or the record itself can be worn beyond use.  It also depends whether the unit can be removed from the doll.  Older dolls had their bodies screwed together so the voice box could be removed.  However, some more recent dolls are welded together with the voice box inside.  The only access here is to split the seam surrounding the doll and this may be unwise when repair of the voice box is not certain.

I have seen some dolls that have had a voice box inside a soft vinyl head.  I have been unable to get these out of the head (without destroying the head) so it may be impossible to repair voice boxes installed in this manner.

Voice boxes in soft toys may also be repaired but there will usually be an extra charge to open up and then re-close the toy.

You may find it difficult to find someone to repair a pull-cord voice-box for you - if this is the case then contact me and I'll see if I can help further.

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Doll - General
Can damage to soft rubbery plastic dolls be repaired?
          
Soft rubbery plastic dolls can often be restrung and also the eyes can be replaced.  However, it is impossible to make repairs to broken, torn or missing parts such as fingers, limbs, bodies etc and also to thin waxy dolls (example).  The soft plastic defeats most repair materials and paint.

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Is it possible to find replacement body parts or limbs for dolls?
          
I am afraid that it is very difficult to find an exact matching part.  New replacement body and limb parts for dolls are impossible to find and, due to the huge variation in size, shape and colour it would be impossible for many hospitals to hold a meaningful stock even if they were easy to find.  However, that does not mean that a hospital cannot find something for you that is roughly the same shape, design and fitting.  However, you will be lucky to find something that is also the same colour so some re-painting may be necessary.

The other alternative I can suggest is to look in second-hand shops, charity shops or boot-sales to try and find a donor doll who could supply the missing part.

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My daughter has drawn on the face of her doll with ball-point and felt-tip pens.  I have tried everything to remove the stains, any ideas?
          
If the face is made of cloth then the answer is to replace it with a new face.  If the head is plastic then I am afraid this is a difficult problem.  I was recently asked the same thing by a chemist and his wife (who had a degree in physics) and they had come up with no solution to the marked plastic face of a doll.  Although cream cleaners and "Stain Devils" cleaners took some of the stain away, there was always a deep stubborn stain in the plastic that could not be removed.

Jenny Barritt wrote to say she had used an acne cream with a peroxide base on a soft plastic, baby born type doll marked by a felt tip pen.  She rubbed it on the stain then washed it off and after only 3 applications the stain had disappeared.   She reported that it seemed to continue working even after it had been washed off.

Pat Bonner from Australia recently kindly passed on the tip that Oxy10 (invisible acne cream) can work wonders on felt-tip pen stains, apply and leave.  It takes about 4 to 7 applications to reduce the stain.  This may work differently on different types of plastic so be very careful.  It would be best to try it on an unseen bit of body first just in case it bleaches the colour.

When I did it I applied it for about an hour then washed it off and dried it thoroughly but the stain was still there. I applied the cream again and left it for 4 hours this time, washed and dried it and it was definitely fainter so I did one more application this time leaving it for 24 hours, when I washed it the stain had gone and it was perfect. I've used it on a Tiny Tears, an ordinary vinyl doll and a white vinyl unicorn and it has worked perfectly every time.


A Tiny Tears arrived in the Hospital that had been wrapped in a brightly coloured supermarket plastic bag in transit and by the time it got here it looked permanently badly tattooed.  No amount of cream cleaner would shift the marks.  I applied Oxy10 cream and left it for a day and then rinsed it off, used a cream cleaner, rinsed that off and then left some more Oxy10 cream on for another day,  The treatment worked brilliantly and all the purple tattoos disappeared completely.  So this treatment took 48 hours.

If your local chemist is anything like mine you will get a lot of sarcastic comments referring to "you must be past the acne and zit stage by now" but you can shut them up by saying "its for a doll" and walking out quickly.


Patricia Seehaver wrote to tell me - I use an acne cream such as Clearasil on vinyl dolls but I put it by a light which aids in drying time - 8 to 10 inches away from the bulb depending on the doll.  I allow the Clearasil to dry between applications and remove the old before adding more.  Ink is gone many times with one application, marker might take more than one application but lightens with each application.  This does not appear to hurt the vinyl or even face paint but removes the unwanted stain.

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Teddy Limbs
My Teddy bear's jointed limbs are very loose, can they be tightened?
          
The older joints are usually wooden or hardboard washers held together with a metal cotter pin.  Over the years this cotter pin bends and breaks and the wooden washers distort so it is not possible to "tighten" this type.  Some types use split pins which are bent in a spiral to the correct "tension", and these can sometimes be tightened if the washers are plastic - the hardboard washers invariable bend and distort and this usually necessitates new joints.  Whilst the Teddy is receiving surgery and seams are open and stuffing temporarily removed (for access) it is usually a good idea to replace all of them to save the postal costs of a return visit (example).

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Our Teddy has got fabric pads on his paws and feet.  They have become so worn that the stuffing is coming out.  Can these be replaced?
          
Yes, these can usually be replaced using velvet or a suede-type cloth (example).

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Teddy Fur
My Teddy bear is very threadbare in places, is it possible to replace his fur?
          
Fur replacement on a Teddy is a problem.  Once the fur has gone there is not a lot that can be done apart from making a total new "skin" (therefore he would not look the same) because to match the "aged" fur (in terms of quality, fur length and colour) would be almost impossible.  Even humans lose their hair as they get older as do well loved Teddies!.  The only thing I can suggest is to give him a waistcoat or jacket to cover the bear (oops sorry, bare) patches. 

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Teddy Bodies
My Teddy has lost some of his stuffing and has gone all limp - can this be replaced?
          
Most old teddies are stuffed with wood shavings and over the years this breaks down and becomes less "bouncy".  Sometimes seams can come undone and the stuffing falls out.  Whether it is wood shavings, kapok, foam chips, polyester stuffing or plastic beans, these can be replaced (example).  The cost depends on the type and amount of stuffing required, the size of the bear and whether any repair work is required to seams etc.   I doubt if any hospital will replace foam chips - they break down over time to an orange dust which can then turn into a sticky mess depending on the type of foam. 

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Teddy - General
My Teddy used to growl, can his voice be mended?
          
The "growler" is a cylindrical unit inside the back of the teddy, these cannot be repaired.  A new one can be fitted by opening up the back seam.  There are two different sizes and they make different sounds, check them out on my website (Internet Explorer only - sorry) to see which is the nearest to your teddies original voice.

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Toys
My daughter has a loved-to-bits rag doll that is beyond repair, is it possible to make an identical copy?
          
I am sure there are hospitals that can help you.  Unfortunately fabric fashions change so they may not be able to get an exact match and you may have to compromise unless you fancy changing the doll's outfit (example).  

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My daughter's rag doll has a body that is frayed and split and the stuffing is coming out, can that be repaired?
          
I am sure there are hospitals that can make a new body only and sew it in place over the top of the old one. 

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