Top 10 Tips to Protect and Preserve Your Collectible Dolls

Low Light and Moisture Are the First Steps

Old dolls
Rebeca Mello / Getty Images

Doll collections are an investment in money, time, and love. Since you have so much invested in your dolls, you need to take care of them. Although collectors generally think of preservation when they think of antique and vintage dolls, modern dolls are also very susceptible to damage from time and the elements. So, here is a crash course on the preservation of your dolls, in ten quick tips.

1. Avoid Natural Light

Nothing fades doll costumes as quickly as natural sunlight.

Natural sunlight also fades some vinyl dolls and cloth dolls. Try to avoid storing dolls in rooms with bright natural sunlight, and if you must store dolls in a bright room, at least keep direct sunlight off the dolls.

2. Avoid Fluorescent Light

Even if you knew that bright natural light is bad for your dolls, you may not realize that fluorescent lighting can also be damaging to dolls. This is especially the case with certain vinyl dolls which can turn greenish over time if exposed to close fluorescent lights. Your best lighting bet is incandescent lighting, but not too close to the dolls because of the heat such lights throw.

3. No Smoking

 Dolls and their costumes absorb the odor of smoke, and the odor is very hard to remove. Many people won't consider buying a doll if it smells of smoke, and the chemicals in smoke are also damaging to dolls and their outfits. So, don't smoke anywhere near your dolls, and don't let others smoke near them, either.

4. Don't Let Dust Accumulate

Dust can yellow costumes and form a hard-to-remove layer of dirt on dolls. If you can't store your dolls in an enclosed cabinet, be sure to remove the dust on a regular basis.

5. Keep Pets Away

You may love Fluffy and Fido as much or more than your dolls, but pets are often the cause of serious damage to dolls and other collectibles.

Fluffy the cat might think doll wigs are perfect mouse-like toys, and Fluffy could well jump up and knock a doll off a shelf. Fido, of course, might also think your prized Barbie is the perfect chew toy. So if possible, keep your pets and your dolls apart.

6. Keep Bugs Away

Moths can be drawn to wool, and handling your dolls with dirty hands can encourage moths, carpet beetles, and many other types of destructive insects. Bugs can eat holes in costumes and cloth dolls, they can infest mohair wigs, and they can bore into wood dolls. Inspect your dolls regularly for bugs, wear gloves when handling valuable dolls, and consider using moth repellent in cabinets where you keep your dolls.

7. Keep Your Dolls in Closed Cabinets

Whenever possible, keep your dolls in closed cabinets. This will do more to preserve your dolls than almost any other precaution. A closed cabinet will keep your dolls away from dust, some light, pets, and some bugs; a closed cabinet with humidity control is an even better bet.

8. Avoid Extremes of Hot and Cold

Extreme temperatures degrade dolls. Heat degrades plastics and can damage composition; very cold temperatures can craze or crack papier mache and composition. Your dolls should be kept at temperatures that you are comfortable with, in a temperature-controlled part of your home.

Never keep valuable collectibles in an attic or garage.

9. Keep Dolls Away From Acidic Chemicals

Acids in woods (in cabinets) and cardboard (doll boxes) can damage dolls and costumes. Where possible, use acid-free tissue to wrap dolls placed in boxes, and avoid placing dolls and costumes in direct contact with varnished woods.

10. Don't Enclose Your Dolls in Air-tight Plastic

You might be tempted to wrap your dolls in air-tight plastic bags or boxes, but you should avoid this method of storage at all costs. If there is any moisture in the bag or box, mold can form on the dolls. If you must store in plastic, make sure that there is ventilation so that air circulates into the bag or box.