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 the Taggerty Doll Clinic

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Hard Plastic Disease: Lets Find A Cure


There are two major odors you need to be watching for. The first is the most commonly found---that sour milk, vomit, stinky cheese, odor. The second is a vinegar type odor. The vinegar odor appears to be associated with European made dolls. The vomit odor is especially associated with Toni and Mary Hoyer dolls but can be found on any dolls produced from 1940s to the present. This information is about hard plastic dolls with the vomit (Butyricic Acid) problem.

The vomit odor is a very distinct odor given off (gasses) from plastics made with the chemical Butyrate. This plastic is stable until it comes into contact with water! Once the Butyrate comes in contact with water, the molecules interact and a chemical process starts. The combination of the two chemicals at the molecular level produce Butyric Acid. When the acid forms the gases produce the vomit odor.

What does this mean for your dolls?

  1. The condition is not by itself contagious to your other dolls. the process has to have water to start and the plastic HAS to be Butyrate based.

  2. Common sense tells you that if you put an onion or cigarette smoke... anything with a strong odor near your dolls, especially in a closed case, it will eventually pick up the odor, right? That's what can happen with a doll that is breaking down, giving off odorous gases.

  3. You will want to keep your dolls away from water AND WATER BASED PRODUCTS!


  1. In most cases, YOU ARE NOT DEALING WITH BACTERIA! (You are dealing with a breakdown of the plastic; a chemical reaction.
  2. At this time, there is NO CURE for this chemical breakdown, but some chemists recommend storing dolls in a controlled low humidity environment and airing them outdoors on a dry sunny day when there is a slight breeze.
  3. Although there is no evidence that this will help retard the chemical reaction, some have recommended placing the little packets found inside packages of electronics or shoes, etc. inside your dolls to absorb any moisture.


The researchers of Hard Plastic Disease welcomes anyone questioning the findings/methods, but in a civil exchange of ideas. Researchers don't believe there is a single answer to ANYTHING in this world! The more opinions the researchers hears, the better the search will be!


H.P.D. is the chemical breakdown of a Cellulose Acetate mixture found in early 20th century plastics, often found today in hard plastic Pedigree, Rosebud, BND, Roddy, Palitoy dolls ect, produced in the late 1930s to the early 1950s. Hard plastic disease is also known as Vinegar Syndrome. Occasionally we are finding some late 1950s dolls with HPD, this gives rise to the theory that it could be possible for the disease to spread from one doll to another. Some highly collectable dolls have been found with the dreaded disease over the last few years. It is advisable NEVER to use parts from a diseased doll as spare/replacement parts for other hard plastic dolls. ......................................................................

To Detect whether a doll has the dreaded hard plastic disease can be quite difficult, especially when the disease is in it's early stages. This is where a good sense of smell is needed. The early stages of the disease will have a very slight acid/vinegary smell to the plastic. Check the palms and the backs of each hand, legs, face and nose. The disease often begins on the hands and the bridge of the nose. A simple trick is to put the doll in a secure box, after 2 month's (dont be tempted to lift the lid before the months are up), if the doll does have hard plastic disease there's a very good chance you will smell it right away. Of course, if you are buying from On Line Auctions or Toy Fair's this is not possible to do. So, if you are able to look at and handle the doll, the next step is to sniff the plastic for any acid odours ( most people do think we're mad but who cares) check for any distortion of the plastic and any slight discoloration around fingers, palms, back of hands, bridge of the nose and also cheeks. As the disease progresses, the smell will usually become stronger, but this is not always the case. I have come across the disease where the plastic has deteriorated with only a very slight acid smell. As the plastic begins to break down it will weep either a greeny yellow or a browny yellow liquid usually from the hands first, as the plastic drys out, it will crack between the fingers with the cracks running through the backs and palms of each hand. The bridge of the nose will darken and become browny yellow, eye sockets will distort and become sunken and the whole head will become misshapen, cracks usually appear on the chin and the rest of the face will develope cracks as the plastic begins to dry out and disintegrate.. Sadly, there is no cure and I have recently come across a late 1940s, 21" black Pedigree closed mouth walker with hard plastic disease. If you buy a doll and suspect it has hard plastic disease, Isolate her from your collection, the disease may contaminate other dolls if in close contact. If there is only a slight smell, don't do anything drastic like binning her just yet. Keep her well away from other dolls and enjoy her while you can. Hard plastic disease is a very slow process which does'nt happen over night ..................................................

How To Slow Down The Deterioration Process (Theory) ........... Wash and Disinfect the doll inside and out using a mild antiseptic which does not contain any harsh ingredients (including any metal parts). Dry thoroughly. Another theory is to also spray the inside of the doll with clear varnish. These are not easy tasks and if the doll is still damp inside, then any metal parts will soon rust and may contribute to the hard plastic disease spreading more quickly. I have not seen a doll treated in this way and do wonder whether the varnish might cause a reaction with the plastic over time. .......................................................................................................... 

There are many experienced and trustworthy Dollie Dealers on Ebay, who would never sell a diseased doll and will state in their listing, no hard plastic odours, funny smells ect. Unfortunately, there are some inexperienced sellers, who would'nt purposely sell a diseased doll with out highlighting the fact, but, through no fault of their own have no idea that there can be a problem and when informed they are genuinely concerned, but it also has to be said, speaking from experience, that there are one or two unscrupulous dealers who really don't care, So please make sure you ask all the right questions before you bid. ........ eg. Does dollie have any strange acid or vinegary smells to the plastic, are there any cracks or splits in the plastic, any discoloration on the bridge of the nose ect. Request extra photographs, especially if the photo's listed are not clear or the seller has not been able to put a close up photograph of the dolls face on their listing.

If you are unfortunate enough to have handled a diseased doll, it's always a good idea to wash hands thoroughly to prevent any skin irritations and also before you handle other hard plastic dolls. ................. Check the photographs below, you can see how the disease distortes the entire doll as it slowley progresses through each stage. Picture number five looks like something out of Star Wars, but infact was once a lovely 15/16" Pedigree baby. The head is completely distorted and the plastic is cracking as it drys out. ........

Pedigree and Rosebud hard plastic dolls will always be my favourite as so with many collectors, to be honest I love all makes from the 40s 50s and early 60s and I know they will still be sort after and cherished for generations to come. ............ I would like to thank dollydaydreams55 and also Rebecca

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