Once in a while I get a letter by a customer asking me how to clean and care for their clothdoll. So I thought I'd put a sample letter I wrote in response to these questions on my blog. It may help to answer some questions you may have about caring for your doll.
I am glad the doll I made is so well-loved by your child. Here are some tips on Waldorf doll care and how to bathe and clean your child's best friend.
So you have purchased this precious cloth doll and are really worried because it got a stain on it. Or even worse: it fell in a pond by the park. Yes, believe me it has happened to people... Don't fret it can be remedied! Contrary to what most people believe: Waldorf style cloth dolls are quite sturdy and can be bathed/fully immersed in water.
I give my daughter's dolls a bath every now and then when they need it. Since my German Dolls are stuffed with sheep's wool it is okay to fully soak them in water and give them a complete bath! They will NOT loose their loft because wool stays fluffy. Wool stuffed toys will not flatten or flake like poly filled ones. So you can do MORE than just spot clean.
Your child could even help with the cleaning of the doll. Your child and the doll could take a bath together. I recommend using a mild soap. Any mild soap used for humans - provided it does not have color in it - is okay to use on my wool stuffed dolls. If you just want to wash the doll by itself in the sink - I would use a mild wool detergent such as Woolite. You can find it at the grocery store. Add a fair amount of it to some lukewarm water and wash the doll with it. Just make sure the water is not too hot! You would not use hot water on your baby in the bathtub.
It is okay to gently massage areas where the doll is very dirty with the mild soap. Give the doll a good rinse after you feel you got her cleaned up with the soapy suds. After rinsing, squeeze the doll gently like you would when washing a wool sweater by hand. Try to get a lot of the water out by gently squeezing each limb and the tummy. Be gentle with the head. After the bath let the doll drip-dry on a towel. You could fold the towel or use more than one if the doll is still very wet. It is be best to do this on a nice sunny day. Depending on the heat and humidity it will take a couple of hours to dry completely. If you live in a very humid climate it may take longer (maybe even a day or two) to completely dry out.
In the winter time I dry my dolls laying down on our radiators. But I think sunlight works best! If you set the doll out in the sun - midday sun - you may even be able to get some extra bleaching action from the sun! I always hang my white laundry in the midday sun. You'd be surprised what miracles the sun can do on stains...
If your doll has long hair please don't brush it! The hair must be washed and treated very gently. Please fingercomb only! If it should ever get totally messed up and you are not happy with it you could sew on some new hair! Or send your doll on a spa vacation to my house where she can recieve a new wig or hairdo.
If the blush on the cheeks has faded, a wee bit of red beeswax crayon can be applied. If you don't have that use a non-toxic red pencil to gently rub some new blush on the cheeks. Don't overdo it though! But also don't be afraid. I believe the true beauty of these dolls lies in the fact that they can take some loving and still be adorable.
My daughter has thisHispanic doll, her absolute favorite, whose hair is so matted and she got some spots from "eating strawberries" but she would not have me change a thing about her. I'll never forget the trauma when her American girl doll lost an arm last year. How do you put a plastic arm back on? My clothdolls have never lost a limb...
My sister in Germany sticks all her Waldorf dolls in pillow cases, throws them in the washer, and machine washes them... I have never tried that. I would feel bad doing that to my babies. But I believe my dolls are pretty sturdily made and I have never had report from sis' that one fell apart in the washer.
I would not use any harsh stain removers though!I hope my long missive helps. Let me know how it goes!
Your German Dollmaker