Getting out of a Sticky Situation: Tips for a Quick Refresh of Old Barbie Dolls

Recently in doing some cleaning out and reorganizing, I discovered five old Barbie dolls which I recognized as having originally belonged to my younger daughter when she was a preteen. Unfortunately, their legs and hair had become sticky with age. I was planning on giving them to her but thought, “Ugh! Will she even want them with this stickiness on them?” 

I had a fleeting thought of throwing them out. But what about their beautiful clothes? I had paid a local seamstress to outfit them with blue and white UK (University of Kentucky) cheerleader uniforms. Google search engine —or actually in my case, Firefox search engine—to the rescue!

Lady Barbies need shoes. Golden hair bands need to be switched out for white. But Daughter can do that!

I researched online, reading various postings and watching a couple of YouTube videos. What I found online were serious “doll people.” They disrobed and pulled off doll body parts to do a thorough job. I did not have the time, or the inclination required. I sifted through the information and decided I was going to give one of the suggestions a try. I hoped it would work. But I also wanted to get myself out of this ‘sticky situation’ as quickly as possible.

Number one, I was not going to take off the girls’ body suits. Do you remember how long it takes to undress and redress a Barbie doll?

Here’s what seems to have worked for me. So, these suggestions might prove successful for you, too. By the way, I had three work stations: my dinette table which has a glass top, my kitchen sink, and my bathroom sink. All are in close proximity. And I gave my attention to one doll at a time.

  1. At Work Station One (for me, my dinette table with a plastic washbowl) – Wipe the sticky legs with white vinegar. The uniforms of these dolls are made of double knit polyester which isn’t damaged by an accidental drop of the solution. However, if your doll clothes are made of a delicate fabric, you will need to undress the doll first. Next, pour white vinegar over the doll’s sticky hair.
  2. At Work Station Two – Hold the legs under running water maybe at your kitchen sink, as I did, and wipe them dry.
  3. Still at Work Station Two – Hold the hair under running water. And work a little liquid dish detergent through the hair with your fingers. Then hold it under running water again to rinse. Pat the hair partially dry.
  4. At Work Station Three – Another sink is ideal as it is easy to clean up. For me, I took the doll to the bathroom sink. Sprinkle the doll’s legs and hair with baby (talc) powder. Rub the powder into the surface of the legs with your hands. Comb baby powder through the damp hair. Then pull it back and secure it in place with a decorative pony tail holder.

One other piece of information I got was to store the dolls in a cool open-air container. Evidently, being boxed in a closed container contributes to the break-down of the vinyl material of the Barbie dolls. So, I’m packing them in a cardboard facial tissue container in a semi-standing position. And I’m enclosing a 100% cotton open-weave tea towel which can be placed over them to keep off dust when they are not on display.

I tucked in another doll and gave her a vintage (but easy-on, easy-off) dress
Classic lady has shoes to match her fancy dress

When I told my daughter about these U.K. cheerleader dolls from her past, she was intrigued. In fact, she’s on her way today to pick them up!

Arts and Crafts Tips: Getting Rid of Stickiness on Old Barbie Dolls
Connie Carlisle Polley, 2022

Memory-stimulating Rhymes | Beautiful Illustrations | Fun Activities
For Pre-Readers through Age 8

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