How to Remove Ballpoint Ink from a Doll (Using a Surprising Secret Ingredient!)

How to Remove Ballpoint Ink Stains from a Doll (Using a Secret Ingredient!)

(Note: I did this project and took these photos last year, long before Felix was born. Then things got a little crazy and I forgot about it. But Lydia recently re-adopted this baby and has been taking care of it as a surrogate brother since Felix has been in isolation. Now I’m really glad I was able to fix the doll when I did! I thought I’d share it with you.)

Lydia received this little doll as a gift for her first birthday. It’s not really the kind of thing I would buy for her (a cheap product made in China and sold for $10 at Wal-Mart), but she has been fairly fond of it ever since.

After all these years, of course the inevitable happened one day: she took a ballpoint pen to it.

How to remove ink from a doll

How to remove ink from a doll (head)

How to remove ink from a doll (side)

How to remove ink from a doll (hand)

At first I was relieved — finally, I can toss this cheap piece of junk — but then I thought that probably wasn’t the most responsible approach. Some poor, underpaid woman in a Chinese sweatshop already made the doll — I ought to honour her work and take good care of it, even if they weren’t the ideal conditions in which the doll came to me. It was still in great shape other than the pen marks. I decided to hang onto it for a while longer. I decided I should probably do my best to restore it, in the hopes that it would get many more years of use.

I tried a few easy, popular methods to remove the ink stains (soaking cotton pads in rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover and leaving them against the stains overnight) but they didn’t do much of anything. (In fact, my “before” pictures above are taken after these attempts.) I waited several months before doing anything else. So those ink stains were good and set.

Then I happened to come across this post on Pinterest. (I honestly wasn’t even looking, it just showed up in my feed.) The author uses a very surprising secret ingredient to remove ink stains: acne cream! Benzoyl peroxide, to be exact. I remembered using that stuff as a teenager for my acne to no avail . . . but it sure did bleach the family towels!

I was intrigued. The next time I was at my parents’ house, I peeked in their medicine cabinet. (Kids have lifelong free access to their parents’ medicine cabinets, right?). Sure enough, there was still an unopened tube of benzoyl peroxide that had expired five years ago in there. Bingo. I asked my mom if I could take it home for an experiment.

benzoyl peroxide - the secret ingredient to removing ink stains from vinyl(“Clears blemishes” . . . LIES.)

benzoyl peroxide - the secret ingredient to remove ink from doll skin(Active ingredient: 10% benzoyl peroxide. Perfect. You can get this from a dollar store in the US)

Here’s what you do:

Generously apply 10% benzoyl peroxide cream to the ink marks.

How to remove ink from a doll with this secret ingredient

Then, you put the doll out in the sunshine for a few hours. This is key. Try to face the areas with the pen markings towards the sun.

I first tried this on a slightly overcast day near evening and it didn’t do much. I tried again on a really sunny day in the afternoon, and that’s when the magic happened.

So benzoyl peroxide + bright sunshine = the magic formula.

Then simply rinse off the cream with water.

Take a look at the results!

How to Remove Ink Stains from a DollHow to Remove Ink Stains from a Doll 4

How to Remove Ink Stains from a Doll 2

OHow to Remove Ink Stains from a Doll 5

The ink is totally gone! And I definitely didn’t touch up the photos because I have no idea how.

The only places where ink remains are deep in the crevices where either the cream or the sunshine didn’t reach. (Also on the eyes which are made of a hard plastic). If I’d really loved the doll and wanted it to be perfect, I could have done this treatment a second time, being sure to get these areas. But for a cheapo doll I didn’t really care for in the first place, I was satisfied.

Note: you may notice that the doll is now missing an eyebrow. This treatment also removes the doll’s original painted accents. So be careful with these. In our case, my daughter had scribbled right over the eyebrow so I didn’t have much choice.

There you have it! A simple, inexpensive way to get rid of ink marks on your doll. IF ONLY I had known about this when I was a little girl and my sister had scribbled all over my precious dolly!

Warning: please use caution using this method on a really special or expensive doll. You might want to test a small patch in a hidden area before slathering acne cream all over your precious vintage doll. I can’t guarantee you’ll have the same results I had, or that it won’t damage your doll in some way!

Thanks to Baby Toolkit for the idea!

doll FelixLydia taking care of “her Felix,” now restored.

What I’m Into: June 2015

felix 7 months

June was a very mixed bag.

Parts of it were beautiful. We’ve finally settled into home life with Felix. We spent some lovely days with our sweet and challenging Lydia. Some days felt gloriously normal.

Ben and I spent one day away where I shopped for some new clothes and we finally watched The Avengers. I pretty much smiled the entire day.

Other days were spent sobbing in fear over the future. We spent a lot of time on the road to various terrifying appointments, including one in Toronto, which was a six-hour drive for us. We had to have lots of long, serious talks about the risks involved in the therapy we’re pursuing for Felix. We had to come face-to-face with the reality that our son could die. We had to engage hospital politics and differences in medical opinions. We’re desperately clinging to hope.

So tiring.

We are preparing to leave for Los Angeles (i.e. we’re making a cross-continental flight with our immune-deficient baby) in a few short days, where we will pursue an experimental therapy for our son’s life-threatening disease. So much ahead of us.

In the meantime, this is what I’ve been into.


hair cut

This might not seem like a big deal to most people, but it is for me. This is by far the shortest I have ever had my hair in my life. I have ALWAYS ALWAYS had long hair. In fact, growing up I was not allowed to cut my hair — Old Colony Mennonites believe hair length is a moral issue that God cares a lot about, on account of that one thing Paul says to the Corinthian church. (Poor teenaged me struggled with this sooo much. I dreamed of having a stylish cut!) And after I moved out, I continued to keep my hair long, in part to placate my family, in part because it was familiar and I liked it.

I finally decided to get it chopped. With all this life upheaval, a change just felt right. I’m a different person. I’ve been through so much. I wanted something that felt kinda badass, cuz I’m kinda badass. I give injections. I argue with doctors. I dance on the edge of life and death.

Another thing that excites me about this cut? Texture!! I have pin-straight hair, but with these razor-cut layers I can experiment with homemade texture spray and dry-curling to get some of the waves I’ve always wanted. Yay!



The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo — LOVED this book. I want to do a separate, full review yet. But let me just say, learning how to fold properly was worth the admission alone. So far I have only tackled my clothes using the method, and it completely transformed our bedroom. I have so much more room now! Can’t wait to move on to the next step!

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer – I’m interested in getting familiar with the various educational philosophies before we start formal education with Lydia. (Which, for the record, we’re not planning on doing until she’s at least five.) So far, I’m not too sold on Classical. It just hasn’t captured my heart the way others have. I do, however, like the emphasis on history and world literature, and would like to incorporate these elements into our schooling.

PS – I need to put in a plug for an e-cookbook featuring one of my recipes. It’s called Anti-Inflammatory Herbs And Spices: 30 Delicious Recipes To Reduce Inflammation And Pain and it’s only $0.99! Check it out!!

Kids’ Books

Kids' Books

Ah, heaven — we’re back to taking stacks of books home from the library and reading them together whenever Lydia visits. Just like old days. These books are all great for an almost-four-year-old.

The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman – absolutely fabulous. Delightful illustrations, funny story, excellent writing (terrific rhyming!). We all love this book. (Thanks to Molly for recommending it!)

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney — not as awesome as Llama Llama Red Pajama, but still great. Lydia really likes it. A fun read, though it likely won’t be relevant to Lydia since we plan to home school.

Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown. What’s with the rhymes in this one? I can’t get the rhythm down no matter how many times I read it. That makes it less fun to read. I expected better from the writer of Goodnight Moon (which is brilliant). Lydia still likes it, though. All the cute animals.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole – Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. This award-winning pair has teamed up again for another gem. I bask in their genius.


Like I mentioned, we finally saw Avengers: Age of Ultron. It goes without saying that I LOVE LOVE LOVED it. I will eat up everything Marvel ever puts out. I don’t care how unoriginal I am.


I basically only add this category to my What I’m Into posts whenever Walk off the Earth comes out with a new album. Sing It All Away does not disappoint!!! Far and away my favourite band. If you love whimsical, upbeat, folksy rock music you can dance to, buy this album!!


Since Felix can’t leave his room, I’m always trying to find ways to stimulate him and enhance his environment. Ben and I worked together to make this mobile for him (from this tutorial). I’m quite pleased:

modern wooden mobile

Essential Oils

I finally signed up with DoTerra as a “Wellness Advocate” (<–LOL. That’s a pretty grandiose title for someone who just wanted the wholesale prices). I think I’m on the road to becoming a Crazy Essential Oils Lady. Only time will tell.

If you get into essential oils, DO get a diffuser. I got one just a few days ago and it changes everything.

Also? DoTerra’s Serenity and Elevation blends are spectacular.

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Linking up with Leigh Kramer!


What is Gene Therapy?

Felix 7 mos

As regular readers know, we’ve enrolled Felix in a research trial for something called gene therapy, to treat the life-threatening disease called ADA-SCID. Gene therapy is a cutting-edge medical therapy still in the experimental phase, though outcomes are looking really good so far. Although it’s terrifying to enroll your child in an experimental therapy, it’s by far his best chance at survival.

We are leaving for California in ten days (!!!), so I thought I’d give a better explanation of gene therapy, from my understanding. (Obviously I am not a doctor; this is just the way I understand it, from the explanations I’ve received.)

To begin, you might need a bit of a better understanding about Felix’s condition.

Felix’s Condition

Felix was born with something called adenosine deanimase (ADA) deficiency. It is a genetic disorder of the immune system caused by abnormalities of a specific gene in the body.

The ADA gene is responsible for producing an enzyme called adenosine deanimase. The absence of this enzyme causes the body to accumulate certain toxic waste products, which kill off certain cells of the immune system called T lymphocytes. (T lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell which are necessary to fight infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi.) Without T lymphocytes, Felix has no immune system, which is called severe combined immune deficiency (SCID). (There are many different kinds of SCID: ADA-deficiency is just one of them.)

If untreated, SCID results in death from infection, usually within the first year of life. There are also various other symptoms associated with ADA deficiency which vary from patient to patient. In Felix’s case, his breathing was impaired so that he needed oxygen support, and his liver was slightly inflamed. Other symptoms may have manifested over time.

Ways to Treat ADA Deficiency

In order to treat ADA deficiency, doctors have been trying to find the best way to replace that missing enzyme.

One way to treat ADA deficiency is to simply inject the patient with the missing enzyme (which is harvested from cows). Felix has been receiving this treatment since he was a month old – he gets two injections a week. It very quickly and dramatically improved his health, so that he was able to come off of oxygen, his liver enzymes went down, and he was eventually able to fight off a virus (CMV) that he acquired in his first weeks of life (and that nearly killed him). He has been fairly well for the last few months, though we’ve had to keep him in strict isolation to prevent any new infections.

The trouble with ADA injections is that its effectiveness slowly wears down over the first few years. Moreover, it is incredibly expensive (we’re talking $200,000 a year, for the rest of his life). It’s also not a perfect solution since it’s not human ADA and it’s not being made by the body. So we are still looking for a long-term solution.

Another way doctors have attempted to cure SCID (including ADA-SCID) is through a bone marrow transplant.

Bone marrow contains “stem cells” which make all of the blood cells in the body, including T lymphocytes. So if the patient had his bone marrow replaced with someone else’s that didn’t have the abnormal gene, he should be able to rebuild an immune system.

This has worked with varying success among many SCID patients. The best results come from a matched sibling donor, but you may remember that Lydia turned out not to be a match.

There are many problems related to bone marrow transplants, though, all of which tend to be more severe in patients with ADA deficiency. The major problem is something called graft-versus-host disease, wherein the donor cells attack the patient’s body.

So researchers came up with an idea that could get around the graft-versus-host problem: use the patient’s own bone marrow!

felix playing

Gene Therapy

That’s the idea behind gene therapy: a bone marrow transplant using the patient’s own bone marrow stem cells that have been corrected.

If we could insert the normal gene for the missing ADA enzyme into the stem cells which make T lymphocytes, then theoretically these T lymphocytes would no longer be destroyed by the toxic waste products, and the immune system could be restored. That’s gene therapy in a nutshell.

Different forms of gene therapy have been tried in a few different places in the world – Milan, Italy; London, England; and Los Angeles. Felix is enrolled in the most recent trial in Los Angeles. Here’s how it works.

How It Works

First you harvest the patient’s bone marrow.

Felix will be placed asleep under general anesthesia for the bone marrow harvest. Two needles go into the hip bones to remove about half a cupful of bone marrow, some for backup in case anything goes wrong.

The bone marrow cells then get taken to a lab where they will be treated with the normal ADA gene.

To get the ADA gene into the stem cells, they use an altered virus called a vector. In this particular trial, they are using an altered HIV virus, also called a lentivirus. Yes, that’s right: we will be purposely exposing Felix’s bone marrow cells to an altered HIV virus, because they’re so effective at getting into cells. (The virus has been altered so that it cannot reproduce itself and all the HIV genes have been removed.) We will essentially be “infecting” his cells with the corrected gene! (Yes, I get freaked out every time I think about it.)

The bone marrow cells will be grown in the lab for two days. Once the ADA gene is in a cell, it is permanent, and the cell will pass the ADA gene on to all blood cells made from that cell, including the T lymphocytes that need to gene to function properly.

Meanwhile, Felix will get treated with chemo to kill some of the stem cells in his bone marrow, to “make space” for the gene-modified cells he will get back. Fortunately, the type of chemo he will get is some of the least harmful kind, and he will get a much lower dose than most transplant patients. He shouldn’t suffer too many side-effects (no hair-loss, minimal nausea, etc.). It takes a week or two for  the chemo to really wipe out his cells.

If everything goes well, two days later he will have the corrected stem cells infused back into his body. This just works like a normal IV. After that, it’s a matter of waiting for the corrected cells to multiply and take over.

Watching and Waiting After Gene Therapy

We will be in LA for  the span of about a week, if all goes well. Then we hop onto a plan (yes, a regular commercial flight — remember, it takes a week or two for the chemo to take effect) and head back for Ontario, where we will be admitted in the hospital. Felix needs to be closely monitored in hospital for at least a month to watch for infection, since the chemo will have wiped out much of his little immune system.

Once he has some of his white blood cells back, he can hopefully go home. We will then remain in isolation at home for many months (anywhere from 4-12) as we wait for his new immune system to build up.

Our biggest fear in all of this comes from his CMV (cytomegalo virus). It is currently undetectable in his blood stream, but will probably come back at some point after the chemo has wiped out his immune system. It is a very serious virus for immune-suppressed people and could pose a threat to his life. Felix is one of the first patients with CMV to be treated with gene therapy, so no one knows exactly what to expect. The hope is that his immune system will be able to reconstitute itself fast enough and strong enough to beat it, as it has before.

Felix sleeping - batbaby

Prayer Request

  • Please pray that Felix continues to be in good health until we make it to L.A. (He’s made it this far thanks to your prayers!!). We are traveling by commercial flight, after all!
  • Pray that there are no complications in gene therapy, and that it works!
  • Pray that through the right medications and a quickly-reconstituted immune system, his CMV stays down and doesn’t damage his organs or put his life in danger

Thanks so much for your support!