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.
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 (e.g. 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.
Here’s what you do:
Generously apply 10% benzoyl peroxide cream to the ink marks.
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!
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!
*[Updated to add: a few readers have pointed out how ungrateful I sound for the gift, and I apologize. They’re right. My objection to the doll is not the price nor the idea our family is “too good” for it. My objection to cheaply-made products from Wal-Mart is that they are almost certainly made via slave labour to keep costs down. I generally try to seek out ethically-sourced gifts when I can, knowing that this means fewer — but better quality — toys in the home. I am also averse to clutter, so I am often overly-eager to get rid of excess toys. The first to go are always the cheap ones.]