Health and Hygiene
Cleaning: Spray her with Formula 409 All Purpose Cleaner, let it set for a few minutes, then gently scrub all over with a toothbrush, as DuFresne does. Wipe her off, then shine her with a little Armor All. The American Girl company suggests cleaning their dolls’ vinyl parts with a paste of baking soda and water. If a doll’s hair is a glued-on wig (not rooted through the scalp like Barbie’s), skip the shampoo. Lightly dampen the hair, then loosen tangles from the bottom up with a wire dog comb.
Major mess: As with Barbie, use benzoyl peroxide to help bleach out pen marks (test a small area first). Jill Alvord of the Jack and Jill Doll Hospital, in Omaha, Nebraska, also swears by nail-polish remover.
Broken limbs: Choosing what to tackle at home depends on how skilled—and brave—you are. “If the doll is still being made, contact the manufacturer and see if there’s a replacement limb,” says Alvord. (And check out the slightly macabre YouTube videos of resourceful tweens tightening floppy American Girl limbs with elastic bands.) Most major surgery, however, should be left to a pro.