Ball jointed dolls can be quite pricey, but maintaining them does not have to be! Below are my favorite commonly available and cheap BJD supplies. All of them can be found at the local supermarket or drugstore, and some you may already have at home.
1. Magic Eraser (melamine foam)
“Magic” is the right word to use when describing this product! It is gets rid of dirt quickly and is safe to use on resin. It does a great job at removing dark wig and fabric stains. Although it is safe to use on unsealed resin, be very careful when using on blushed and face-upped parts because the sponge will damage the sealant and any customization under it. In fact, some hobbyists prefer to remove face-ups/blushing using this method.
Available in drugstores, supermarkets and various online retailers, such as Amazon. Generic melamine foam costs less, but the name brand stuff isn’t very expensive either. This is my favorite ball jointed doll maintenance tool and is a must have in any BJD care toolkit!
2. Hemostats (forceps)
This tool comes in very handy when restringing dolls. The locking mechanism helps keep the string clamped in place while you work on attaching the hands, feet or other appendages. Hemostats will allow you to restring a doll quickly and easily without asking someone else to assist. Available in hardware stores and, sometimes, drugstores.
When it comes to restringing dolls, string pullers are very helpful. When not available, however, ribbon and shoelaces are great alternatives! Both are flexible and, in most cases, long enough to help string the largest BJD in your collection. For smaller dolls especially I prefer a simple ribbon over a string puller, as string pullers that size are often too fragile and break after a couple of uses.
Do you like darker wigs or clothing for your dolls? I do as well! Unfortunately, most dark fibers leave unsightly stains on our resin beauties. While the Magic Eraser will take care of many stains, it is best to prevent them from happening in the first place. Using a water-vinegar solution to set dark fabric and wig dyes is a great way to do just that. For step-by-step instructions, check out my article on using vinegar to set colors and prevent dark fabric staining.
5. Silicone Earplugs
I’ve tried many types of eye putty over the years and the silicone earplugs are by far my favorite. They are soft, pliable and very easy to work with. My favorite brand is Mack’s Pillow Soft – I’ve used these for many years without adverse effects on the resin. In warmer climates, the silicone can be a little fiddly to remove due to getting too soft, but I have not experienced this myself. A word of caution – do not use them with silicone eyes, as over time, the earplugs will cause cloudiness and other abnormalities to appear. Silicone earplugs are available in practically every drugstore and are very affordable.
6. Dental Floss
Very tiny dolls, such as PukiFees and Lati Yellows, can be really frustrating to restring. No string puller fits them and, oftentimes, shoelaces and ribbons are simply too big to fit through the narrow channels. I found dental floss to be a very useful tool in such cases, as most brands are narrow and stiff. Make sure to protect your fingers during restringing, as dental floss can cause painful skin indentations.
7. Laundry Softener Sheets
Stray wig fibers can get very annoying, especially during a photoshoot. Some wigs in particular are very difficult to keep tame due to the extra soft fibers. To remedy this, use a laundry softener sheet to smooth down the wig. This will get rid of static and will keep the hair in place for a good amount of time. Softener sheets should only be used on wigs made from synthetic fibers.
8. Plastic Food Wrap
If you need a wig cap and need it fast, clear plastic food wrap is a great temporary solution. Simply mold it around the doll’s head and slide on the wig! This works especially well under mohair pelt wigs, which are generally made to fit very tightly and cannot be color set with the vinegar method. I use food wrap “wig caps” on all my dolls who wear dark mohair pelt wigs to prevent staining.
I found that the best synthetic fiber wig brush is actually a toothbrush. Combs are great at detangling wigs, but styling is best accomplished with a smaller, denser brush. For smaller wigs, children’s toothbrushes work great. For SD-sized wigs, you may prefer to use a bigger one. Additionally, if you use any wig styling products, a toothbrush is a great way to apply them evenly and thoroughly.
10. Isopropyl Alcohol
Found in drugstores and pharmacies, isopropyl alcohol is great for general bjd cleaning. It removes dirt and superficial stains quickly and safely. Additionally, it is great at removing old face-ups and blushing. I prefer using concentrations of 90% to 99%, as I found them to be quicker and more effective than 70% rubbing alcohol. A word of caution – do not soak resin in alcohol. This will make resin brittle and prone to chipping. Use applicators such as cotton pads and swabs instead.
And, a bonus item! I could not write this article without mentioning acetone, as I found it to be extremely useful in certain situations. However, it is a specialized item and should be used very carefully on resin. Do not use this if you are not sure how to do so safely!
Acetone is often the tool of last resort when taking care of ball jointed dolls. While very effective when it comes to several difficult doll-related tasks, such as removing magnets and stubborn face-ups, it must be used correctly in order to be safe for resin. Because of this, I wrote a separate article specifically about using acetone on ball jointed dolls.
What commonly available items are in your BJD maintenance toolkit?