An Unusual Eye Repair

Amy, Before and After
Yesterday I got a big box of dolls to repair. These came from a grandmother who hired me to restore her daughter's old dolls so she can give them to her granddaughters. I am honored to be chosen for such a task! I love the idea of passing down a doll collection. Over the years they become heirlooms!

The entire collection
Most of the dolls in this lot just needed restringing and minor cleaning up and hair styling. Amy, from the the Little Women series, had a bad eye, however. Her eye was all milky from soap scum. Evidently in the past someone gave her a bath and got soap in her eyes. Amy is a vinyl doll with pocket eyes, so there is usually no way to clean the eyes out. The moving eye is encased in a metal closed case and that is contained inside a vinyl pocket. I thought I would have to remove the eyes and replace them.

The bad eye
Eye removal is always a pain when you have one of the dolls with a wooden or metal neck plate inside the head. These disks, meant to stabilize the neck, are extremely difficult to remove. You have to heat the vinyl, either with a hair dryer or with boiling water, to soften it so you can pull the disk out of the neck. Then you have to heat the head again to re-insert it.

The stabilizer disk

Normally I remove the eyes by opening the eye socket and removing and inserting eyes from the inside of the head. In this case, however, I decided since I had to heat the head already I would use the boil method of eye removal and insertion. The boil method is where you place part or all of the head in boiling water until the vinyl is soft. Then you squeeze the head to pop the eyes out and pop new ones in from the front. I placed just the doll's face in the water because I didn't want to wet the hair. This type of synthetic hair will not be harmed by water but it is set with heat, so the style would come out. Please note, the boiling water can sometimes remove the doll's face paint and ruin the eyes, so only try this if you are already sure you need to replace the eyes and feel like you can repaint the eyelashes and lips and stuff if necessary.

Softening the face using the boil method.

In this case, I was stunned when I pulled the head out of the water to remove the eyes to see that the eye was all clear! Many times putting the eyes in water can make them cloudy, but in the case of soap scum it appears the boiling water scrubs all the soap from the eye! The eyes are still rather "sticky", that is slow to open and close or sticking open or closed. That is a particular issue with this face mold, called the "Nancy Drew" or "Pamela" face. The wide, round eyes, which are so indicative of their 1960s and 1970s origin when the "Big Eyes" paintings and dolls were popular, tend to stick for some reason. Dolls are always worth more when they are entirely original and these are collector dolls, clearly never play dolls, so I decided it is better to leave the original eyes. These are the type of dolls that mostly sit on a shelf, so their eyes are almost always open anyway. And, I can save my client the cost of replacing the eyes with new ones.

So this is a new, super-easy method of repair you can try if you think you are going to have to replace a doll's eyes. You can try this method and possibly save yourself a lot of time and money! I offer doll repairs in my doll hospital and also sell doll repair kits with tutorials to teach you to repair your dolls yourself. You can request a repair estimate or link to my shops to order repair kits and supplies from

The repaired eye


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