How NOT to clean your American Girl Doll!

How NOT to clean your American Girl Doll, or any 18-inch doll! Lessons learned from a mom who failed! 



I have 3 beautiful little girls. They’re all spunky and fun and I’d do pretty much anything for them! Including trying to clean their dolls

We were cleaning out our basement (AKA…the toy room) before Christmas, and I wanted to donate the girls’ 18-inch dolls to the DI, Utah’s version of Good Will, or a thrift store. The girls never play with them, and since I was on a rampage, I was sure these would be one of the first things to go. But, as always, the girls became instantly attached to the dolls and told me they would love to play with them and they wanted to start by doing their hair…

Okay…What now? I never played with dolls as a young girl, so I had no idea what to do! Like any Pinterest-loving mama, I started searching the interwebs… I stumbled across a few blogs that were suggesting that you use fabric softener to get the doll’s hair detangled.

“Hold the phone!” I thought. “I have some of that in my laundry room! I never use it for laundry, so this is perfect!” 


I’m not sure what went wrong, but this is a cautionary tale… Don’t try this at home folks…

I mixed my (OLD) laundry softener (maybe that was the problem?) and some warm water in bowls and dipped the dolls in. I just KNEW this was going to be awesome…

I let them sit for a few hours because the longer the better…(haha, I’m such a fool!) Then I pulled them out and started working on getting the knots out. It seemed to be going well. I sectioned the hair out, started at the bottom of each section, and worked my way up until it was smooth. All seemed well, so I rinsed the hair out and started rolling the doll hair into those foam roller things. I thought I was totally rocking it!

The problem started the next morning, I took the rollers out to discover that the doll’s hair was GREASY and sticky. NO good my friends, oh no, this will not do! 

I was still determined at this point though, so I did some more Pinterest research! Pinterest never fails me!

I read somewhere else that you could use normal shampoo and conditioner, so I tried it. Guess what?! It didn’t even come close to getting that dang detergent out! SO I went back to the drawing board!

Another blog suggested that boiling water was perfect for getting the doll hair smooth, and I thought it couldn’t hurt to dip the dolls in boiling water. I mean, at this point they were basically ruined if I didn’t get it out, so I had nothing to lose, except my pride, which I was not about to do! 

Fast forward to 1 whole week later! Every SINGLE day I worked on those stupid dolls! Dipping them in hot water, using Dawn on their hair to try and get the greasy out, back in the boiling water, and finally in hot water with laundry detergent…3 separate times. Only to discover the next morning that the hair was STILL greasy!

This was no easy task, but I had worked my butt off and I wasn’t about to stop now! My husband was beginning to realize just how crazy I was… I think he was worried for my mental health! 

Every night I was brushing that dang hair out, and I was so hopeful that I had conquered it, that I kept taking the time to roll the dang hair into those rollers!!! WHY!?!? Every morning, I would discover that the hair was still greasy! 

I guess you could say I’m determined, you could also say I’m insane! Call it what you will but I was not about to quit! I was at war with that stupid doll hair; which was dumb because the girls had basically forgotten about them at this point!!! For some reason though, I felt like the stupid dolls were mocking me!  To top things off I had bought the girls some nightgowns that came with miniature nightgowns for their dolls for Christmas Eve, so I was determined for them to have their dolls ready to go! 

Anyway, after literally a week of consistently working on these dumb dolls, their hair was finally free of that stupid fabric softener. The problem now was that their hair wasn’t super shiny anymore. And the bigger problem was that I had literally wasted a week of my life. 

Not sure where I went wrong, but I would definitely NOT use fabric softener again! I think the boiling water technique seemed most hopeful, had it not been for the fabric softener… 

One thing that DID work was the Magic Eraser on the skin. It took all the dark spots and dirt right off.  One doll even had a stain on her arm that looked like ink, and that literally wiped right off! 

What did I do wrong? Do you have some tips for other parents that want to restore their kids’ dolls? 

Here are the older kids on Christmas Eve with their dolls… I think I won this battle (insert evil maniacal hackle)!

Did I mention that the dolls haven’t been played with since Christmas Eve?!I think I need more hobbies in my life…or mental help…


8 thoughts on “How NOT to clean your American Girl Doll!”

  1. so my daughter is OBSESSED with babies…. they get so nasty!! Glad I read this… I have been trying to figure out how to clean them… when I actually could steal them away from her for a day haha

  2. Aww man! That sounds like such a frustrating ordeal! My sisters and I all had American girl dolls, but our parents gave them to us when we were preteens, so we were in the stage of “keep all toys in pristine condition” haha! I still have my Samantha packed in a box somewhere, but if I’m given a daughter, I think I would let her play with it a lot younger, and not worry about pristine condition anymore, haha!

  3. As someone who had American Girl dolls growing up, I feel like my mom can relate to your struggle! We took my doll’s hair out of her braids and it was never the same. Ever. Kudos on sticking with it!

  4. The head of my granddaughter’s doll came off when she was brushing her hair. My question is how to put the head back on and have it stay on. Thank you.

  5. Way late to the party, BUT: I am pretty confident that the 18” dolls pictured are Madam Alexander and not American Girl. The body on AGD is full cloth, and that chest plate is used on Madam A. They are equally lovely and nice dolls, but there are some notable differences in how they are made. First, look at the doll’s tag. Madam A dolls have a warning not to get their hair wet. The hair type used in these dolls is not the same as the hair in AGD. I believe it is made of kanekalon, which is a type of doll hair that used to be pretty widespread. It requires different care than an AGD wig.

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