We love saving American Girls that were either well-loved or not taken care of. These dolls are so well put together that with a little bit of practice, you can update their style or breathe new life into them.
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Today I want to show you how to Fix American Girl doll eyes. We will remove, fix, and return the eye to doll's head. Eyes are easy to remove if you have patience.
There are a few reasons you would want to remove eyes. Maybe you just don't like the current eye color and want to replace it, or the eye could have a defect like the weight came unglued, the eye has started to silver or the eye just won't open and close anymore.
First things first, never get an eye wet. The eye is made up of 4 parts.
Fix American Girl doll eyes.
The eye is made up of 4 parts.
The front of the eye makes up everything you can see when the doll is assembled. The skin color eyelid, eye color, and white. This piece has 2 metal brackets that hold the eye in the casing
There is a metal weight that is glued to this first piece. Newer weights fit into brackets in front of the eyepiece. Older weights just sit on the rim. Weight can come unglued in older dolls, that's why I mention this as a piece. If your doll's eye only opens and closes on occasion, you feel something in the way when you manually open and close the eye, or you can hear noise when you shake the doll then the weight is off and it's an easy fix.
The back casing is black
All these pieces fit into a metal housing. This is why eyes should never get wet. For one, it will dampen glue that holds weight, for two it will rust the metal housing and prongs that let the eye move.
How to Fix American Girl Doll Eyes, step by step.
So let's fix American Girl doll eyes. We will remove an eye to reglue the weight.
I have a Truly Me #22. Her eye only opens or closes occasionally. I manually opened and closed her eyes a bunch of times by tilting her up and down and I can feel something in the way of eye opening and closing. I also shook her and listened for the telltale rattle of a loose weight in the eyeball.
Take off doll's head. Just untie the strings on the neck and loosen them. The head will come right out. If your doll has a zip tie neck then you will have to cut this zip tie and be prepared to replace the zip tie. Zip ties are very inexpensive and easy to find at Walmart or hardware store. Have a 9" zip tie on hand to replace.
Once the doll's head is off, cover the head in a clean towel. We are going to pour boiling water in her head and we don't want to get her eyes wet on the outside.
Place her head upside down in a bowl. This is just to hold her steady. I recommend putting this bowl in the sink for stability.
4. Boil clean water on the stove. Once that water is bubbling, it's ready.
5. Pour this water directly into her neck hole. This water will soften vinyl so it's pliable and can stretch to remove the eye. Don't be afraid, your dolly is ok! Just make sure to not spill water on the front of her face.
6. Leave the water for 2 minutes!! I literally have to set a timer because I'm impatient.
7. I set the stove timer for 2 minutes and walk away.
8. After 2 minutes, carefully dump water out of the head. The water is still hot so use caution to avoid burns.
9. Now the work! Use the handle of a wooden spoon or something long. Stick it in the neck hole and push eye out. You're going to want to put one hand on the forehead or cheeks and pry with the other hand. This eye will come out with a little bit of work so keep trying. If the head cools or you have tons of trouble, then reboil water and return to step 5.
10. Hurray! The eye is out. This feeling is both gratifying and scary. Now what? We're going to inspect the eye pieces and reglue that weight.
11. Use tweezers to remove any old, remaining glue first. Remove glue from the weight and eye. These eyes are quite precise so we don't have a lot of room in the casing for extra layers of glue.
12. Use E6000 to carefully apply a fine line of glue to the eye here.
13. Use tweezers to place the weight back in the eye. Newer eye styles have brackets to click the weight into, older eye styles just have weight sit on the edge.
14. Allow the glue to dry for 1 hr at least. E6000 is a quick set glue and will be hard enough to use within an hour, but completely dry in 24.
15. Put back onto the eye by lining up the flat pieces of the black casing up and down. In other words, one of the flat sides will be directly above the eyelashes.
16. Place this assembly into the metal housing. A dot of glue is added to keep everything together.
17. We have arrived at the hardest part, but we're almost done. We need to put eye back in.
18. Put that doll's head back in the towel, in a bowl in the sink.
19. Boil water and put in the neck hole for 3 minutes this time. We need to be extra soft for this one.
20. Put the spoon handle back in the neck hole for leverage and push the eye back into socket. This may feel impossible, but it's possible. You may have the best luck pinching the socket open with one hand and pushing the eye in the bottom first. Push the eye down toward the lips until it pops in.
21. Eye is in there but definitely crooked! This is normal. Use pliers to grab the metal rim of the eye and twist until the eye is straight.
22. Turn the doll up and down to make sure the eye is now working correctly.
23. This poor doll needs some rest. After the eye is reinserted and straight, allow doll to cool. Bonus points if she gets a hospital gown or lays down in her bed to rest. The vinyl is soft and the glue is soft set so she'll want to chill for about 24 hrs.
This tutorial is great for regluing weight, replacing eyes, or just opening the eye casing and seeing what's wrong. It only took me about 30 minutes and some glue to fix American Girl doll eyes.
Here is Miss Royal Indigo when we rescued her and when she was feeling better.
I am glad every time I save an American Girl doll and bring her back to the world of play. These dolls are built for durability and will last years if well taken care of.
Every time I find one that is destroyed I think about how much play and fun she must have brought to a little girl or boy.
With a little TLC these dolls can have their heads or limbs replaced, wigs replaced, and new makeup on their faces and now we know how to Fix American Girl doll eyes.