WASHING SYNTHETIC DOLL WIGS
+ clean, thick hand towel (don't use your mom's favorite one if you are doing the vinegar soak; it may potentially leave a stain)
+ mild shampoo (or dish detergent); do not use conditioner or conditioning shampoo
+ wig brush (wire bristles are best; otherwise, a plastic comb is okay)
+ clean sink
+ optional : bowl and distilled white vinegar; wig conditioner
Why should I wash my wig?: Sometimes wigs get dirty. If your wig is getting a bit frizzy and tired looking, washing can also help restore the original look. Also, if you have a wig with a dark cap, it may stain your doll's head! Washing can help remove "loose" dye from black or other dark caps so that dye doesn't come off on your doll's noggin. I highly recommend washing LeeKe wigs with dark caps as there is extensive evidence they will leave marks; I have more on these issues below. If your wig is a straight style, washing will most certainly not harm it, so better safe than sorry.
Minor disclaimer: These washing instructions apply for synthetic wigs with straight styles, and are compiled from manufacturer instructions on my human wigs and personal experience. I have not washed waffle curl wigs, or wet styled wigs; washing may damage the style. The same instructions should apply for human hair wigs but I recommend you research washing human-size human hair wigs before you try to wash them. I do not know if mohair wigs are washable.
1. Flip your wig inside-out and get it wet. Use lukewarm or cool water; make sure the water is NOT hot as it can damage the fibers or style. Plastic does not like heat. Set it aside.
1B. If this is a first wash to remove loose dye from the wig cap, then you should have soaked your wig for 15-30 minutes in a bowl with 1/2 water and 1/2 distilled white vinegar before this step. Rinse it well; don't worry, the vinegar smell will go away once it's washed.
2. Put a small amount of shampoo in your hand; around the size of a small jellybean will do.
3. Rub your hands together to work up a lather. It's easier to do it this way than to do it on the wig (as you would if you were washing your own hair). It will save some wear-and-tear on your wig and is faster.
4. Work the lather into the wig. I start with the cap and then work it down the fibers on longer wigs. Because the wig cap is porous, you will be getting shampoo on the "outside" of the wig as well. Using a back and forth motion seems to work best. If you are washing the wig to remove excess dye from the cap, focus your efforts especially on the edges of the cap (I found the front edge was the most likely to stain).
5. Rinse and repeat. I found it helpful to flip the wig right side out and then inside out again to make sure that I got all the shampoo out. When you're sure you've gotten it all, rinse it a little bit more just to be safe.
6. You should have your wig inside out again. Very gently squeeze the cap and any longer fibers to coax some of the excess water out.
7. Lay your wig on one half of the hand towel and fold the other half over the top. Now all you have to do is wait for it to dry. ^^ Once the wig is most of the way dry, you can flip it right side out again (drying inside out helps preserve the style). Always AIR DRY your wigs; don't use a hairdryer! Synthetic wig fibers are essentially plastic, and exposure to high heat can melt them. Using heat on synthetic wigs is risky business; it's better to just be patient and let them dry on their own.
8. I found with my wigs all they needed after drying was a bit of a shake and maybe a finger-combing. If you want to brush your wig, make sure it is completely dry before you do so. You should never brush a wig while it is wet! You can also use a wig conditioning spray intended for synthetic wigs if you wish (I believe Volks makes one, too). For that, just spritz the wig from around 6 inches away, flip it inside out and massage, then flip it right side out and give it a brushing.
SOME MORE ON WIG CAP STAINING
Some wig caps have been known to leave marks on a doll's head from regular wearing. There does not seem to be a consensus on which companies or which colors will stain; I would guess that it may vary based on the dye batch. My personal experience jives pretty well with popular opinion; black LeeKe caps are likely to leave marks, as are certain of the medium/light brown Volks caps. The only wig caps I would say pretty much for sure will NOT stain are the blonde/flesh colored ones, as I have never heard of problems with those. "Stain" is perhaps not the best word; the Volks "Pikatto kirei" sponge or a Mr. Clean sponge should remove any marks left by a wig cap. Scrubbing with the Volks sponge, however, WILL eventually remove MSC and the faceup; be aware of this if you have bad stains. Light washing with the sponge will not damage the coating; but it will for certain remove unsealed paint if you work at it and I believe that it can get through MSC eventually. The best thing to do is check your doll's head periodically and clean off any marks as soon as you find them, before they get darker and harder to remove.
There is a popular recommendation that a vinegar soak can "set" dyes. I did some research on this. It may work on some types of dyes generally used on natural fibers (direct and acid dyes). So, a vinegar soak could help with dye staining from doll clothing like jeans. But, it's unlikely that these dyes are used in synthetic wig caps. HOWEVER, I found (experimentally) that the wigs which I had soaked in the vinegar left a faint grayish-blue stain where they had been laid to dry! I have to concede, then, that it must have loosened the excess black dye in those caps. While I can't say for sure that it will help with staining, vinegar will definitely not harm your doll's wig. I would recommend a 15-30 minute soak in 1/2 water, 1/2 white distilled vinegar before you wash your wig. You only need enough to immerse the wig cap itself; the wig fibers themselves cannot lose dye anyway. For multiple wigs, you should be able to re-use your soaking bowl.