SPRING, TX (KTRK) --If you have a child that loves Barbie or American Girl dolls, then you know it only takes a few days of play until they need a makeover.
"We see little kids where the doll's arm has fallen off or a dog has eaten the hand off. Little children where that's their favorite thing, and they can't live without it," said Mary Anne Pizzola at the Doll Hospital.
With nearly 30 years of experience, experts at the Doll Hospital in Old Town Spring have seen it all.
"Our job is instant gratification, as in when we start, it looks like something you wouldn't even put in the garage sale. When we are done, we hope you are proud enough to display it in your home," Pizzola said.
She says flooding causes the most damage to dolls and stuffed animals. No matter how clean they look, the stuffing should always be replaced because of mold.
When it comes to teddy bears, Pizzola says the most common mistakes parents make is throwing it into a top loading washing machine to clean it.
"If it's a stuffed doll, they don't get dry and they will get mold inside them," Pizzola said.
Instead, put it in a pillow case and use a side loading washer to prevent damage and minimize saturation.
After you have washed it, avoid the dryer. Pizzola says it can do more harm than good.
"A lot of the synthetics you can't put any heat to it. People will try to use heat rollers or a hair dryer and they will burn it," Pizzola said.
She says the best drying method is to let it air dry, but avoid leaving it in direct sunlight or the colors could fade.
When it comes to dolls with matted hair, do your research before detangling.
"Two things you don't want to do with synthetic hair - you don't want to get wet it before you work on it, and you need to know if it is rooted or a wig," Pizzola said.
To achieve the best results, you will need a skinny comb called a rat tail and a wire brush.
"You start at the bottom and work the knots out. You brush it, and you pick it, and you brush it, and you pick it.And this applies to any doll hair, Barbie, American Girl, and so forth," Pizzola said.
While it may take a little time, regular brushing and cleaning can keep your dolls as good as new for years to come.