How To Do The Downy Dunk

Your doll may not need a dunk. Here's what you need to know: this is a DRASTIC MEASURE. This is for OLD OLD OLD dolls who have very very brittle, dry hair (think straw or hay). It's also for dolls who have dirtier hair, possibly dirtied by the use of brushes or hair ties that were used on humans first. This can also be used to bring back a doll with very severe tangles or mats in their wig if you're gentle.

If your doll just has slightly dry hair, or she's less than about five or six years old with no severe wig problems, don't worry with any of this. There are easier ways to care for her hair. If you're just worried about the dryness of your doll's hair, try braid spray instead. Way cheaper, easier and quicker.

I wouldn't do this on any doll with very curly hair -- I'm thinking AGTs 21, 26, or Nicki. You'll take the curls straight out, and they're going to be next to impossible to get back in right.

Keep in mind that if you do this to Felicity or Elizabeth, you run the risk of losing their pincurls.

Let's go over what you'll need:

Time -- A lot of it. Probably a fair bit of a weekend. To that end, other people are optional, but really nice to have around.
Stuff to keep your doll dry -- Towels, cotton, and a lot of masking tape. There are places that your doll can get wet and places she can't. Most importantly, do not let her eyes get wet. Moisture can cause the inner workings of the eye to rust, meaning they won't open or close any more. Also, for the body, that Glad Press and Seal wrap works really nicely.
Wig shampoo -- Yes, you need this. Don't look at me like that. Don't try to do this without shampoo, unless you just want to burn a bunch of crud in your doll's hair. You can find wig shampoo at a beauty supply place. If you really honestly can't find it, baby shampoo will work okay.
Downy -- Duh. A bottle of the unscented will do nicely.
Various Containers -- Really, anything to hold your doll while she's soaking in whatever potion you've got her in. Lots of people use painter's trays. I didn't. Whatever makes you happy.
Some sort of ladle, spoon ... -- Something to scoop Downy. I used a paper cup.
A ceramic straightener -- Don't use one with metal plates! It has to be ceramic or it will burn your doll's hair and do permanent damage. I honestly think I got the best one for the job -- it's a Conair with 25 heat settings. You'll see a picture below.
A brush -- Well, duh, if we're working with hair.

Okay. Let's dunk.

Here's our two patients for today -- my dearest Kirsten and Sara dolls. Kirsten is from 1995 and Sara is from 1996. When I was a kid, I didn't know any better, so Kirsten got combed with my plastic combs all the time. By the time Sara came to my house, I was a good bit smarter about doll hair, but she's still fairly dry feeling.

And, since I'll get asked, yes Sara is holding her blue hair. It's really a hair clip.

To protect the bodies, I wrapped each doll in a towel, and then coated her with Press and Seal Wrap. (You don't want the cloth bodies soaking up water and molding or something nasty-tastic.)

More important than the bodies is the eyes.

Underneath that washcloth, I have cotton balls, but I learned later that lots and lots of wash cloth is more important than cotton balls. Whatever you've got, get it down SECURE. You can't be fiddling around with the doll's eye protection while you've got her upside down in the sink.

At this point, your dolls will look hilarious and your newer dolls will take the time to point this out.

Follow the directions on the wig shampoo to wash your doll's hair. My wig shampoo had me turn my dolls upside down and swirl their hair in the sink.

Exactly as hard as it looks. Go slow, be thorough, and don't drop anyone.

Lay your dolls so their hair can hang dry, and brush it out carefully. They'll have to hang to dry for a while, so feel free to employ your other dolls to keep them entertained. (You may consider removing the stuff around their eyes -- if it happened to get wet when you were washing their hair, it would be good to remove the moisture so it doesn't seep down into the eyes.

If your doll's hair was dirty, you may notice a color change. When I was a kid, Kirsten and Sara went on lots of trips to the back yard, so I'm not surprised that I noticed one. Kirsten's hair lightened up some, but what was most notable was Sara -- her hair went from a sort-of-not-really brownesque color to actual copper penny red. It was impressive!

When they're dry, we'll move onto the most tedious step -- the actual dunk.

If your dolls need it, wrap their eyes up again. (This time around, I used the Press and Seal wrap around their eyeballs as well.)

Now, this next step requires some engineering on your part. Fill some sort of basin full of your downy, then figure out a way to have your doll lay only her hair in the bowl. Most people use a painter's try for this part. I just used a regular tupperware pan ...

I've had people tell me the downy dunk doesn't work for whatever reason ... I honestly think these are the two keys to getting this process to work.

Spoon Downy over their hair every hour!

I think that people who can't get it to work only left the dolls for an hour or two, honestly. But you need to do both of these things.

Pouring Downy over the hair in addition to soaking is really important. You can use anything you have at hand -- like an old measuring cup or some sort of ladle. I used a paper cup because I'm cheap.

Mostly, this is just so that parts that aren't directly in the Downy still get some, but this does have a secondary purpose. Depending on how dry the doll's hair is, you'll notice that they'll soak up the moisture quick. Pouring fresh Downy over the hair will keep it moist so it can keep soaking it up. You'll notice that the hair will soak up Downy very quickly for quite a while, and then as time passes, they'll soak it up slower and stay moist longer. I would check on Kirsten and Sara every hour, and for the first six hours or so, I'd notice that the parts of their hair not directly in the downy would be almost completely dry.

You don't need to be a total slave to this schedule -- for example, if you need to sleep, then for Heaven's sake, go sleep. But in general, make sure to check back on them every hour as much as you can. The important thing is they stay in for a whole day. Don't take short cuts here!

Also, if you have some fantastically understanding family and friends, you can always give them a shift.

After this, rinse your doll's hair out in cold water. Rinse it really really well. Think it needs another rinse? Give it two.

Let the doll's hair dry, then get out your ceramic straightener. Set it on the LOWEST setting. As promised, here's a photo of mine:

It's a Conair with 25 heat settings, as mentioned above. The lowest setting on this baby won't even take the kinks out of your doll's hair. It's perfect.

Some of you are going to want to know if the hair straightener is really needed. Yes. It's what sets the new shine and softness in your doll's hair. Don't believe me? Do you wish you could you could see a side to side comparison on a strip of doll hair?

Lucky you, I happen to keep extra doll hair around! I tested my straightener on Sara's blue hair clip. Here's half of it after straightening:

See the difference? Of course you do.

Straighten your doll's hair using the straightener. If she has bangs, I'd avoid doing them ... you'll almost certainly get one side longer than the other, and then everything will look funky. But yes, do the back.

I wish I had better 'after' photos then this, but here it is. Kirsten:


Really, this will have more effect on your doll's hair texture than her looks. Chances are that your doll now has softer hair, and, more importantly, stronger hair. It's possible her hair may feel nicer than when you first bought her.

You do NOT have to keep doing the Downy dunk if you care for your doll's hair correctly. In fact, do it up right and you'll probably never have to do this again. About once a month, spray some braid spray in her hair and work it in with your fingers, then let it set for forty minutes to an hour. That will keep her hair looking nice for quite a while. (My friend Nethilia told me about the braid spray, so please don't credit me for it.)

There you have it! Enjoy your doll's new hair!