We have all been there, a box of doll clothes has been packed away for a while, possibly for years, and when you open the box the odor that wafts up to your nose brings back anything but pleasant memories. Depending on the length of time the items have been packed, the conditions under which the box was stored, even the composition of the box and packing materials, all can have a deleterious effect on the smell of the clothes upon unpacking them. Fortunately there are a few things you can do to make it better.
First things first; when packing away any items of clothing, for you or your doll, consider how they will be protected. Some items may fare better wrapped in tissue paper and stored in cardboard boxes. This is especially true if the storage period will be short, such as a season, or a move from one house to another. Sometimes a longer storage might require some plastic storage bins with tight fitting lids to keep out dust and "critters."
Unfortunately sometimes we are not in control of the packing and storage arrangements and must figure out how to correct the problem once we find it. This happened to me once when I bought a small collection of vintage dolls online. As soon as I opened the box I knew it was going to take a little effort to get rid of the musty smell of the dolls, their hair and their clothes.
At this point you must figure out, if possible, what the offending item is made from, whether it is the doll itself, its hair or its clothes. Many vintage items are very fragile and the best course of action is to seek professional assistance. If you think you can handle the problem, start by removing all items of clothing and set them aside. Give the doll a good sniff and see if the removal of clothes has helped. If not, determine if the doll is able to be bathed, both body and hair. If so start to GENTLY wash the doll. For hair care Look Here and Look Here.
As I mentioned above I had this problem and the dolls, while vintage, were by no means fragile, a good bath, hair care and a little time out doors in the fresh air solved the problem with the dolls.
For musty smelling clothes the first step is, again, to determine if the clothing is too fragile to wash, or made of materials that are not washable. Again, my best advice in this situation is to seek professional advice both to appraise and restore the items.
If you determine that the clothes are washable start very carefully. Use the gentlest cleaning agent you can to begin. You might try just warm water and a little baking soda in a seam allowance or the back of a hem. If the fabric tolerates it, soak the entire garment in the solution, swish gently, rinse thoroughly and place in the sun to dry. Actually, sun light by itself is also a good way to remove musty or moldy odors, but it can bleach color with just a short exposure, so watch carefully. If the clothes are sturdy enough for soap, try a few drops of baby shampoo or gentle dish detergent, rinse the soap out well and add a few drops of vinegar to a second rinse. Place the clothes outside in fresh air to dry, again with a little sun, but not too much.
As a last resort, if the clothes are too fragile to wash, place them outside in fresh air, out of direct sunlight and let them air out. Fortunately, my dolls and clothes all were none the worse for washing and airing outside,
I am happy to say!
Making and Dressing Cloth Dolls
Ebook with patterns and instructions to make 5 cloth dolls as well as chapters on general doll making techniques.The book includes 21 inch Lalena Doll, 21 inch David Doll, Bear Dolls, 9 inch Destiny Doll and 15 inch Annie Doll, all together in one handy book. 53 pages.Making and Dressing Cloth Dolls.