Cabbage Patch Treasures
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A few hints and tips on how to clean and restore rescued Coleco or Jesmar Cabbage Patch Kids!

*Click on pictures to see larger images

The magic of these little dolls is amazing. It's often said that you either love them or hate them! Well, that maybe true enough but there's no doubt about the magnetic attraction these little sweeties send out. You only have to see one at a car boot sale looking dirty, bedraggled and oh so lost and lonely and that cabbie magic kicks in every time. Walk on by if you can :) I've never managed to yet!

The original Coleco and Jesmar CPK's were so well made that even after more than thirty years they can be restored and given a whole new lease of life. For most of us, that cleaning and making better process is a big part of the Cabbage Patch appeal. Mint in box dolls are still to be found, but for me it's the little lost souls who need some love that pull at my heartstrings. Even the dirtiest and smelliest doll isn't beyond hope.
The girl seen in the picture here arrived a few days ago and was absolutely filthy, but I was aware of that when I bought her. I was looking forward to bringing her home and giving her back a little dignity and some renewed zest for life.

There are many Cabbage Patch collector sites that give information into every aspect of cleaning, restoring and even giving new heads of hair (re rooting) for these dollies. The hints and tips shown here are not aimed at expert CPK restorers who know all the tricks of the trade. These cleaning suggestions are aimed at people, who are trying to restore and clean up a Cabbage Patch Kid for the first time, either for personal enjoyment, or before passing the doll on to a child.
I enjoy cleaning up the latest mass market arrivals by hand rather than putting them into a washing machine. The washing machine has a role to play but with the smaller vinyl head CPK's I prefer to do the main job of work by hand. This is completely opposite to the large, all cloth soft sculpture Cabbage Patch XR Originals where the doll absorbs much more water and is really heavy to handle so jeopardising the integrity of the fibre fill to a much greater extent.

Cleaning Your New Arrival

Remove the head from the cloth body by snipping the plastic tie or cutting the cloth tie (as in the case of a Jesmar) The cutie shown in the pictures is a Jesmar who at some time in her life has had some alterations - maybe a 'body swap' but whoever did the work has fixed her head back with a plastic tie rather than a cord. Separating the two sections of the doll means you can pop the body into a 40 degree wash in the machine after getting most of the dirt out by hand. Add some fabric conditioner to last last rinse so your new arrival smells fresh and delicate after her bath.

Add a little bio washing powder to hand warm water. Immerse the body of the doll and let it soak for 10 minutes or so. Next gently squeeze the doll all over to make sure you've got all the fibre fill cleaned through. Rub any stubborn stains or dirty areas with a soft toothbrush or a nail brush. When the basic clean is completed, thread some fine string or strong yarn back through the neck opening, (a large eyed darning needle is ideal for this job) pull gently to close the opening and secure. This ensures the fibre fill will not come out during the machine wash. The body of the doll is now ready to go into the washing machine. Once spun, with all water removed, you can either dry the doll in the tumbler on low heat, or place in an airing cupboard.


Before cleaning the head, remove the plastic plug from the neck. Removing this plug allows all the water to come out of the head during the washing process. Then, using warm water with a mild liquid detergent (rather than a bio washing powder) gently clean the hair making sure to rinse thoroughly. Add a little fabric conditioner to the final rinse of the doll's hair.
A little Ciff bathroom cleaner dabbed onto a soft damp cloth and gently applied to the face will usually get most marks and dirt off the vinyl face. (To remove fibre pen marks see suggestions below) Clean the whole face rather than just dirty areas to make sure you don't get a blotchy complexion. Rinse the vinyl face really well with cold water.

Next wrap a thick duster or cloth of some kind around the vinyl face and head and secure with an elastic band or tie with string, anything will do as long as it keeps the cloth secure around the face and head area. You want to protect the vinyl from scuffs and damage during the spin cycle. The little nose tips are particularly prone to getting damaged. Keeping the yarn hair smoothed out and tidy helps to keep it from fraying and makes restyling much easier.

Your doll's hair and face should now be as clean as you can make it.
Once the yarn hair is properly dried you can trim off all the fuzzies, snip off any
rogue strands and free up all those loops so they are untangled and laying smoothly.

Leave the doll's head to dry in an airing cupboard or outside in the shade if the weather is good. Tumble drying a vinyl faced doll can be a little risky.
Trimming off any fuzzy bits from the yarn hair once it is dry will bring the hair up almost like new. Your patience will be rewarded :)

End Result!

One happy rescued CPK - I've attached her head to her body using a double strand of acrylic yarn.
She had a few broken stitches on the backs of her legs and on one foot. Those stitches have been replaced using cotton as close to the original thread used as I could find. It's a good idea to take the doll with you when you want to match the thread. Body fabric colours do vary slightly so one thread shade will not suit all CPK's
All her fuzzies have been removed and a couple of ribbons addded to make her feel pretty again.

Adding Extra Fibre Fill

Sometimes, when a doll has been played with and cuddled a lot, the fibre fill in the upper chest, neck area becomes very compressed leaving the doll's head sagging because there isn't enough support to hold the head in position.
The picture below, for example, shows a doll that has just been washed and had her final rinse. You can clearly see how the fibre fill has 'settled' leaving the dolls head unsupported and the fibre fill in the neck/torso area limp and lumpy. A full wash cycle would have made this infinitely worse. After over thirty years of play or being in store, you can expect some wear and tear signs but this particular problem is very easy to solve.
Adding extra fibre fill to the neck and chest area will make a vast difference to the whole posture of this little dolly.
Unless your Cabbage Patch Kid is a Jesmar (made in Spain) Kid, then the head will be attached to the body with a plastic tie. Jesmar Kids have the head attached by a cord.
To add extra fill, remove the head by either untying the thread or carefully snipping through the plastic tie. Once that is done and the head is removed you will be able to get in there and sort out that fibre fill by either adding more, or pulling out the existing fill and separating it, fluffing it out and replacing it and adding extra if you feel it's needed. Make sure you fill the cavity to just a little above the top of the neck opening - take the filling right across the chest and over toward each shoulder.
Once you are happy that the amount of filling is correct, replace the head and attach either with a new plastic tie or just use strong thread pulled tight enough to secure the head but with enough give for the head to be able to turn.

To Remove Marker Pen or Ink

Human Acne/pimple cream, Oxy for example, smoothed on to any marker pen or ink on the doll's cleaned face, and the doll then placed outside in direct sunlight will gradually see those marks fade. You may need to apply the cream a few times but it will work. Wipe off the old application of cream with a damp cloth each time you want to apply a new layer. In the absence of sunlight (the sunshine speeds up the bleaching process) pop dolly into a warm airing cupboard. You do need to be patient with this process it takes time but it's worth the effort. Any pimple/spot cream that contains benzoyl peroxide will do, it's the bleach in the cream that does the job and like I say, it's effect is speeded up by direct sunlight.

Restoring Cornsilk Hair

The easiest way to clean a Kid with cornsilk hair to to remove the head and treat as two separate projects. The body can be cleaned in the same way as a regular CPK as shown above. The hair can now be dealt with as a special cleaning task without fear of making greasy stains on the cloth body.

Cleaning Cornsilk hair takes a little longer than just washing yarn hair.
Here's the way I tackle tangled or messy cornsilk hair.

1) Using hand warm water - not too hot - wet the hair throughly. If hair is dirty use a small amount of human hair shampoo for dry / damaged hair. Make sure you rinse off till water runs clear.
2) Pat off excess water with an absorbent cloth or towel. Don't be tempted to rub the fibres dry, it'll make things worse!
3) Using a good quality, thick and creamy human hair conditioner, work the condition into the cornsilk fibres. You will feel the fibres 'relaxing' as you add the conditioner.
Leave the conditioner on the hair. Do not rinse off.
4) Take a poly food bag or length of cling film and wrap it around the dolls head. Try to wrap just the hair leaving the face clear. Wipe off any soap or conditioner from the dolls face leaving the poly wrapped aroung the head. Place the doll to one side ( an airing cupboard where there is a gentle warmth is ideal ) and leave her for a couple of days.
5) Next, using tepid water, rinse off all traces of conditioner, making sure that you tease through the strands of hair with your fingers as you rinse. Once again - pat hair dry (do not rub dry otherwise you will be back where you started!) remove as much excess water as you can with an absorbent cloth. The hair should now be ready to restyle. If you have some small, old fashioned rollers - the ones that don't need pins to hold them, then they are perfect for putting curls back. Or if the hair is a long style, gently smooth it out and tie into preferred style. Pop dolly back into the airing cupboard so the hair can dry off and set into the style you have created...




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