Hot Water Dunk!

A lot of people want to rehab their American Girl doll’s hair. The best way to do it is to follow the instructions on the American Girl web site. Always use a wig brush that has not been used on human hair, brush carefully with water. and use soft rollers when needed to set the doll’s hair.

But – as a LAST RESORT before sending a doll in to the hospital for a new head – you can try a “Hot Water Dunk” to fix your doll’s hair.

Before you try it, make sure you do the following:

  1. Protect your doll’s eyes. Cover them to keep them dry while you’re working on your doll. I generally tape a paper towel over my doll’s eyes using painter’s tape.
  2. Try not to saturate the doll’s wig cap. You’re working on the hair, not the wig cap.
  3. It’s not critical to keep your doll dry, but to avoid water marks, cover the doll’s body with a plastic bag….or remove the doll’s head and work just on the hair. I find, though, that having the doll’s body attached makes it easier to work on the doll.

You might want to change your doll’s hair style by using a hot water dunk. Again, don’t do this unless you’re willing to replace the doll’s head if things go wrong. Just keep these things in mind:

  1. A hot water dunk will straighten your doll’s hair. If the wig has any curl in it at all, the curls will go away.
  2. Hot water on a wig with curlers sets the shape of the hair in the shape of the curler. Smaller curlers will give curlier hair. Larger curlers will give looser curls, or even just a wave.
  3. The thinner the doll’s hair, the larger the curlers you’ll need to get the curl you want. In contrast, if the doll’s hair is thick, smaller curlers might be needed to get the curl you want. Unfortunately, there’s no “hard and fast rule” about what size curlers to use.
  4. I’ve used everything from perm rods to sponge rollers. You actually have more control with the curl size by using perm rods, because they come in a variety of sizes.
  5. Using end papers on any kind of rollers will help ensure that the ends of the hair are also curled evenly.

So – now, the steps:

  1. Set your doll’s hair with rollers and end papers. If you just want straight hair, there’s no need to set her hair.
  2. Fill a large pot with water. Heat the water to where it just starts boiling.
  3. Let the water cool for about five minutes to be sure you don’t melt the doll’s hair.
  4. If you’re just going to straighten the hair, carefully hold the doll above the pot of hot water, and dunk the hair up to the wig cap, three or four times, pausing a few seconds between each dunk.
  5. For curls, fill a cup with hot water, and pour over each curler, one at a time, until all curlers have been soaked with hot water.
  6. Before doing anything else with the doll’s hair, let it cool off for maybe half an hour, until it’s fully cooled. It’s the hot water that changes the hair into straight hair, or into curls. Unlike human hair, leaving the curlers in until the hair is dry won’t make the curl hold any longer; but manipulating the hair while it’s still warm may keep the curl from setting.
  7. After you have straightened or curled the hair, and it’s cooled off, you can now wash and condition the hair. I have used products for synthetic wigs from, but you can use anything that’s intended for synthetic hair.
  8. Arrange the hair the way you’d like to see it. Let it dry that way, probaby for a day.
  9. Enjoy!

Pictures of the process:

Boil the water, and then let it cool for about 5 minutes.

Using end papers to control the ends of the hair, set the hair in rollers all over the doll’s head.

One by one, pour hot water over each curl, letting the water drain back into the pan. When finished, let the doll’s hair drip and cool over the sink for about half an hour. After it has cooled, remove the curlers and end papers. Wash and condition the doll’s hair using products made for synthetic wigs.

After the hair has been washed and conditioned, arrange the doll’s hair the way you’d like to see it when it’s dry. Let the hair dry for about a day, and then enjoy!


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