Collectible Storage Guide: Dolls
Whether a beloved playmate or a rare collectible, dolls require special care to preserve them. Here is your collectible storage guide for dolls.
Please make sure to check out our other Collectible Guides for:
Clean with Care
Before you store dolls, you should clean them. First, research what type of material the doll is made of. Porcelain or bisque dolls are delicate and should be handled with literal white gloves.
Oils from your bare hands can stain both the doll and the clothing, so wash your hands and then wear a pair of clean white cotton gloves.
Dust them gently with a feather duster or large soft cloth. Before you wash the clothes, check to see if they are safe to wash, and always hand wash them using a laundry soap for delicate items and hang them to dry. Don’t put them in the dryer since the clothes could shrink.
Since the original clothing, shoes and accessories add value to your doll, it’s worth the effort to care for them properly.
Many antique dolls have hair made of mohair or human hair, and they can attract pests. If your doll has curly hair, never brush it because you can pull the curl out.
Be cautious about using cleaning solutions, too, and make sure it’s diluted with plenty of water. Check-in an inconspicuous spot on the doll. Be careful around the face since you don’t want to wipe off the makeup trying to fix a stain.
Vinyl fashion dolls aren’t as delicate as porcelain or bisque dolls but still need some TLC. A gentle baby soap that has been diluted works well, and baby shampoo and a fabric softener can wash and detangle a fashion doll’s hair.
You can set the hair with pipe cleaners or bobby pins. Use the same care tricks for fashion doll clothes that you use for other vintage doll clothes, and never put the clothes in the dryer. Let them line dry, and touch them up with a cool iron if you need to.
Porcelain and bisque dolls are susceptible to direct sunlight and even fluorescent light. Even while preparing them for storage, you should stay in dim or low light, out of direct sunlight. Sunlight can turn vinyl dolls green so low light is best.
Here are some supplies to obtain:
- Acid-free packing paper
- Acid-free storage boxes that are large enough for the doll, but not so large the doll could shift around
- White cotton gloves so you don’t get any oils from your hands on the dolls or the clothing
- Unbleached 100% cotton muslin is a safe alternative if you cannot find acid-free packing paper
Gently wrap each doll with acid-free paper or unbleached muslin. Wrap it securely, but leave some room for it to breathe. Pack the doll carefully in the acid-free storage box. If you are packing more than one doll, wrap each doll individually, and place a piece of unbleached muslin between the dolls.
Padding the sleeves and bodice of doll clothes with acid-free paper or unbleached muslin can minimize wrinkles. Store the clothing flat.
Label each box, and include an inventory so you can quickly locate the doll without having to unwrap each one.
Do not stack anything heavy on top of the boxes holding the dolls. Place them in a location where they are less likely to topple, or have something topple onto them. Dresser drawers, an old trunk or elevated wire shelves are good options.
Some specialty shipping companies have expertise in packing collectibles. While it could be expensive, sometimes special expertise is best. Porcelain and bisque dolls also need time to acclimatize before you unpack them for display. It can take a couple of days to allow the doll to adjust to the new location.
Important: Never use plastic boxes, bags or bins to store vintage dolls or clothing. They can trap moisture and encourage mould or mildew, which could ruin your dolls, clothing or accessories.
Humidity and temperature are the enemies of dolls, and extremes or either can damage your treasures. A temperature-controlled location in your home, such as a closet, a trunk or a dresser in a room in your home is ideal.
The attic, basement or garage are not. Not only are the temperature fluctuations more significant, but you run the risk of water, pests or insects damaging your dolls.
Another option is a climate-controlled self-storage unit. For more, see: 3 Reasons You Might Need a Climate-Controlled Storage Unit
Do’s and Don'ts of Collectible Doll Storage
- Take time to learn what material your dolls are made of. There are lots of doll museums and collectors who are happy to help, and there are many reference books available at your local library.
- Work in dim light. Direct sunlight, fluorescent light and bright light can damage your dolls.
- Protect your hands by wearing white cotton gloves. The oil from your hands can leave stains on porcelain or bisque dolls and antique clothing.
- Invest in proper storage materials to protect your dolls.
- Keep your dolls in a temperature-controlled location.
- Use plastic boxes, bins or bags to store dolls, accessories or clothing. The plastic can hold moisture which can lead to mildew or mold.
- Keep your dolls in a location that is prone to extreme temperature, humidity or moisture fluctuations. A temperature-controlled environment is best.
- Use harsh cleaning materials to clean your dolls. Do some research before you start cleaning.
- Put vintage or antique doll clothes in the washer or dryer. The delicate fabrics could fall apart.
- Wrap your dolls in a newspaper. The acid and ink can damage your dolls or stain the clothing.
- Display your dolls in an area with bright or direct sunlight.
Dolls can be a snapshot of a time gone by, a keeper of secrets and memories or a valuable collectible. Taking time to care for them properly is an investment worth making.