Sindy collectors in the Facebook community group Sindy Collectors Corner (and friends!) have been comparing notes on the best way to clean different items of Sindy clothing.
Advice ranges from 'never wash anything if you want to preserve it' to 'use Colour Catcher sheets' when drying.
One member suggested a crib sheet for easy future reference and I thought OK why not here on the blog where it's easy to post a comment, and the content is searchable outside of Facebook.
I'm sure a historian wouldn't dream of washing any antique or vintage item and would handle everything with white gloves and store in archival packing. So this article is aimed at collectors and enthusiasts who want to display, handle and play with their collection.
If you have any tips you can share, please comment below.
- To kill off any uninvited six legged friends that could be lurking in your newly acquired doll's clothes, I recommend putting them into the deep freeze for a few days.
The freezer needs to be at least -17˚C.
Place the clothes DRY, in a sealed bag and leave them in there for 4 days.
Avoid handling them when you first take them out of the freezer - just take the bag out and leave it for a short time to warm up.
- Once they're out of the freezer, you might want to remove any bits clinging onto the clothes such as cat or dog hairs. A plastic tray and a handheld vacuum cleaner are really useful - just pull off the detritus and vacuum it up.
Some doll clothes cannot be washed
- There are certain items that really do get completely ruined if you wash them. If you have specific experience of this for particular items of clothing, please describe in the comments section below.
- 60s and 70s synthetics seem very susceptible to fading. I found that Zing A Ding (1973) faded badly where I had scrubbed it to try and remove a stain - just made it much worse.
- Sindy Funtime swimsuit fades too.
- As does the deep blue Sweet Swimmer (1964).
- Vintage felt is not colour fast.
- Velvet will be ruined if washed - the pile will stick up in the wrong direction. An alternative is to steam clean with the steam setting on your iron. I have found I could iron cotton velvet on the highest setting.
- 1960s and 1970s pop fasteners can often rust and this rust can spread into the surround fabric and stain it. So you may prefer not to wash any clothing with these. Rust seems to develop with dampness though, so possibly this could be avoided by drying the item efficiently after washing.
- In 1985 a kind of 'painted' fabric came out and appeared in various doll outfits. It's impossible to wash and will be totally ruined if you try. I don't think this fabric can even be wiped down. You can see example of it in
Sindy's "Fashion Fun 1985" and "Barbie and the Rockers" 1985. It looks a bit like plastic or faux leather. It can feel slight tacky with age.
How to prewash
- For some white items with stubborn stains, a soak in water and white vinegar can really help shift the stain. If you soak in vinegar and place in the sun, this can actually disappear some stains (you may need to repeat a few times). Note that this treatment will degrade the fabric as acid from the vinegar is eating into the fabric as well as the stain.
How to wash
- Hand wash in cool water with a mild detergent.
I have a Candy washing machine, which has a 'machine hand wash' (if that makes sense) and for robust items I use that successfully. An exception to this can be if you have a really badly stained item that you'd consider useless if not washed. I had some success with a pretty pink 'Crown Colony' Sindy sized dress set which I ran through a 90˚ wash.
- Add special sheets to the wash.
A popular brand is Dylon Colour Catcher sheets.
According to Dylon these "act like a magnet, removing loose dyes and dirt during the washing process."
- Wash different colours separately - for example, all yellows together, all reds together.
- Use a special bag for delicates. Some people use a pillow case, but I bought a specially made delicates bag from Wilko which I like. I put anything with small buttons or parts which could come loose in one of these. They also help to protect the paint on pop studs.
- Remove trims and ribbons before washing if they are a different colour.
Ribbons can be much less dye fast than fabric, especially vintage 60s and 70s type.
RUST I have just read a tip from a person who successfully removed a rust stain from a purple and check, Sindy Fashion Girl dress.
Cut a lime in half. Put it in a plastic or crockery container of water and soak the item for a few days.
How to dry small items
- Do not use a tumble dryer - it could melt clothes or shrink them.
- Put out to dry immediately in an airy, warm place. This avoids any mouldiness and rusting of poppers.
- Dry flat.
I saw this 'flat shelf' drying stand the other day at a friend's house, which would work very well for drying doll clothes.
Place net fabric across each shelf to stop little clothes dropping through the gaps.
- Lay out clothes on special sheets which attract dirt and dyes.
A popular brand is Dylon Colour Catcher sheets.
- Be careful that dye is not 'sucked' out of the item by a anything absorbent underneath (which could be a downside of the sheets mentioned above). Avoid drying bright colours on tissue paper for example.
- Make sure no clothes of different colours touch each other.
How to iron and press fiddly small clothes
- Place the tip of your iron on a hidden area and test the heat. This will avoid unpleasant surprises. Delicate nylon, for example, will shrivel the moment your iron's temperature tips over its low melting point.
- I've found real wool can take a good bit of heat and even some steam, but still, test first.
- Rather than ironing 70s trousers flat on the front and back, fold them so that they have a crease down the front to create an authentic 70s look.
- Avoid creating a flat look when you iron skirts and the bottom of dresses. Open the skirt and place a firm surface onto the inside. Then iron and turn, so that you never create a fold in the fabric. This way they hang nicely.
- Press plastic items under heavy books, rather than trying to iron them. This works well for Sindy's "Shopping in the Rain" raincoat and headscarf.
You will need to leave them to press for some time though. I'm not sure what the minimum time would be, but I did this with a headscarf and left it for a few weeks.
I have managed to iron a plastic raincoat by placing a layer of thick paper towel over the top.
- Watch out for any printed, 'plasticy' imagery on the front of T-shirts. This applies more to later doll's clothes than vintage Sindy but good to know. Iron around the image otherwise it will melt off.
- Try a (human size) 'sleeve ironing board'. It is much smaller than a full size ironing board at around 10cm wide and great for doll's clothes. You can rest it on top of your regular ironing board.
We now have mini ironing boards available on the ShimmyShim eBay shop.
- Satin - sometimes a medium setting isn't high enough to get the creases out, but turning up the heat would scorch the fabric. In this case, use a damp cloth to wipe down the garment before ironing it.
- Awkard corners or pop stud lumps - push a wad of tissue or fabric inside the garment and smooth the tricky corner over the top. Then iron in place.
Mould, mildew and fungus
Thanks to Denise Major for her question about mould in the comments.
If any part of your doll collection shows any signs of mould at all (including a musty smell) you must take action. Mould can damage and eventually destroy your collection.
Placing items outside in - dry air - somewhere safe, and in the shade on a sunny day will help to destroy a certain amount of mould, especially if things just have a light musty smell. Direct sunlight can destroy some of it but can also damage your items.
Take care not to breath in the mould as it can be a health hazard.
For advice on how to tackle mould I found this article on the Smithsonian Conservation Institute very helpful.
Post wash and storage
- After washing, does your item still have a mouldy smell?
Take a large spoonful of cat litter, put it in a muslin bag and place the item of clothing in a sealed plastic bag, with the cat litter pouch. The cat litter is designed to absorb odours and will 'pull' the smell out of the clothing. It is a bit dusty so you might need to brush the clothes down later.
Sunshine can help, but too much can fade bright colours.
- Use moth balls or related products to protect from clothes moths. These days they don't have such a bad smell as they used to.
I recently discovered Rentokil Moth Papers which last for 6 months, don't smell and can be cut into smaller strips (to save on expense). They're really good for poking underneath clothing on dolls you want to display.
- To store, you can of course, hang your Sindy doll clothes inside one of her own wardrobes, or on a Sindy clothes rail.
- Many collectors like to put each outfit together in a sealed and labelled, airtight plastic bag.
- Store flat if bagged, to prevent them rumpling up.
- Keep out of direct sunlight.
- Keep away from damp.
Don't store in a cold or humid room, especially near a wall (as condensation can collect between the wall and the storage box). Even a regular indoor room or cupboard can be humid. I live in a an old Victorian terrace and the cupboards get rather humid and mould can suddenly appear. So I keep all the doll clothes in the airiest place in my home that I possibly can.
Comments (copied over)
NOVEMBER 4, 2018 AT 8:59 AM EDIT
Avoid washing sugar and spice. The pink runs like mad. Also the dark thread in the 60s camping shorts runs.
I had a ballet tutu with a really bad ink stain on it that vanish didn’t remove so I risked soaking in bleach. The ink stain came off and the purple wasn’t affected.
I’ve used acetone to help remove melt from ballet tutus but DO NOT use on any of the more synthetic fabrics (like the type of material zing a ding is made of or the lovely lively white shirt) as it’ll make it melt and go all stuff!!
Don’t soak later jersey items like tracksuits as they run.
NOVEMBER 4, 2018 AT 9:01 AM EDIT
Oops that’s meant to say ballet leotards with the acetone. I wouldn’t use on a tutu!
NOVEMBER 4, 2018 AT 10:39 AM EDIT
Lovely tips, thanks Vicky.
Hello I have a beautiful Starlight sindy with crimped hair. Do you know if I can wash her hair without losing the crimping?
Hi Charlotte, Thanks for your question and sorry for my late reply – I’ve only just checked up on my blog comments! For the ballet tights, I would soak them in a little vinegar and water, or lemon juice and water or some commercial whitening solution. Then I would give them a hand wash with some washing liquid, rinse them out thoroughly and put them out to dry. That should brighten them up a bit.
It’s a good question – I think it deserves a whole blog post really!
Congrats on finding a Gayle doll! Sorry to reply so late, I’ve only just gone in to check all my comments.
I usually wash the arms, legs and body with washing up liquid in water. Any stubborn parts I dab on a bit of ‘cream cleaner’ (such as Jif) and give them a rub. For the face, I use hand soap and a soft tooth brush, being careful not to push the eyelashes in. The hair, I wash with a little bit of shampoo and conditioner. Finally, I brush out the hair and style it. Sometimes with curlers, or hair clips to hold in place. If the hair was already nicely waved I just let it bounce back by itself as it dries without re-curling it. I dry the dolls out near a radiator (or in the sun in the Summer) and I make sure any water that has got inside the doll can evaporate out. For the dissolving plastic bits of plastic (called melt), you can carefully trim them away using a craft knife, being careful to leave as much ‘good’ plastic underneath as you can.
Hi I’m wondering what method you reccomend to clean ballet tights please . Thanks
I have an original Gayle which arrived in quite a dirty condition ?
How do I wash the doll and more importantly her hair ?
Her joints are quite deteriorated with extra plastic bits seemingly dissolving.