How to Remove “Green Ear” from Vintage Barbie Dolls

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Denise asked: How do I clean the discoloration off of older Barbie dolls which have had their earrings left in too long? The plastic is discolored with the same color as the earrings. I have several 1960s Barbie dolls that had the earrings left in during storage. Unfortunately, the color has gone into the molded plastic. I want to remove this discoloration in order to improve the appearance and of course, this may influence the value.

Vintage Barbie dolls commonly wore earrings. If earrings were not removed, they cause a discoloration of the ear area and side of the head known as “green ear.” This is from a chemical reaction between the metal in the earrings and the plastic. Fortunately, it can be removed or drastically lessened. Prior to treatment, ensure that your doll is vintage, usually they had ponytails or “bubble” haircuts. Modern Barbie dolls are not made of the same materials as vintage dolls and the plastic will become bleached and/or damaged if these methods are used.

You Will Need:

  • Remove-Zit or Oxy 10 facial cleanser
  • CLR
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton balls
  • Cotton swabs
  • Soft cloths
  • Water
  • Thin wooden sticks
  • Fine needle
  • Thread
  • Soft towels

Steps to Remove the Discoloration:

  1. Begin by removing the doll head from the body. It is most effective to treat both the inside and outside of the head. Removing the head will give you access to the inside.
  2. Use a cotton swab or wooden stick to apply one of the facial cleansers to the stained area. Avoid getting it on the make-up areas or any part this is not stained as it can remove the color from those areas as well.
  3. Set it to the side and allow the cleanser to dry on the surface. Apply it to the inside of the head as well if there is staining present there.
  4. When the cleanser has dried and is opaque in color, remove it.
  5. Repeat with a new application of the cleanser until the staining is gone.
  6. This method can be lengthy, taking several months to remove the color completely. Persistence is key to successful removal.
  7. A much quicker method involves the use of CLR (Calcium, Lime and Rust remover). This cleaner is readily available at most supermarkets, hardware and home improvement stores.
  8. Use a cotton swab to apply the CLR to the interior of the head piece.
  9. Next, moisten a piece of thread with the cleaner and use a very fine needle to pull the thread through the earring holes. The thread will apply CLR to the inside of the earring holes to clean them as well.
  10. Moisten a cotton ball with CLR and place it on top of the ear area to cover the stain.
  11. Allow this to set until the stain is removed. Reapply a newly moistened cotton ball to the ear each day and use a cotton swab to add more cleaner to the interior of the head.
  12. This method may remove the stain in as little as a week, but sometimes will take longer.
  13. When the stain is removed, it is no longer necessary to apply the moistened cotton balls or swab the inside of the head.
  14. Rinse the interior and exterior with rubbing alcohol and then with water.
  15. Dry completely with a soft cloth.
  16. Return the head to the top of the doll.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • If the above methods are used on mod dolls, the skin area with have to be repainted to match the original hue.
  • Do not place the old earrings back in the doll’s ears. Instead, find a nice alternative that at a local craft store that will not cause discoloration.
  • Removing green ear not only makes the doll look better, it increases the value.
  • Now that your doll is cleaned, it’s ready to be showcased!

Comments

  1. Me says:

    I have heard CLR can help at first, but eventually turn the doll’s head brown and eat up the plastic over time. I would stay away from the CLR method.

  2. M. Meeker says:

    Does painting the vintage earrings with clear nail polish prevent this from happening?

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