Most figures are made from the same types of plastics so the following also applies to other dolls such as other types of action figures and Barbie dolls.
Bodyparts made from ABS are not likely to pick up stains as long as the surface of the ABS plastic is undamaged. If ABS is scratched or sanded it will pick up dye from clothing as can be seen on the next picture. The seams on the legs shown on the picture had been sanded smooth, within a years time the sanded areas had picked up dye from black pantyhose.
The stains are only on the surface of the ABS, so these can be removed with some more careful sanding. To prevent sanded ABS from picking up stains it needs to be sealed with a coat of solvent or paint. 'Car Bumper Primer' is a clear colorless paint often sold in spray cans that is suitable for this. ABS parts can also be sealed with a thin coat of liquid plastic cement or a suitable clear varnish (preferably one that is UV resistant).
Soft PVC parts such as headsculpts and hands do pick up stains when put into contact with sources of dyes such as fabrics or PVC clothing. As a rule of thumb: the more flexible the PVC part is, the easier it will pick up stains.
Two main sources of stains are dyes from clothing and pigments from incompatible paints.
|To deal with the stain, first remove the source of the dye.
In case of contact between a piece of clothing and a part of the figure, putting a piece of clear polythene or saran wrap ('cling film') between the clothing and the figure is usually sufficient.
If the stained part is very flexible (a headsculpt for instance) time might be the best cure to get rid of the stain as the following sets of pictures illustrate:
|Using a piece of clear polythene to protect this head from getting stained by the black pleather collar.|
|ZC Eve bodice out of softened PVC with multiple stains from factory clothing|
|Same bodice four years later, only some faint purple stains remain visible|
The plasticisers that cause the material to be flexible also make it easy for dye molecules to migrate through the material.
The dye molecules strive to spread evenly throughout the material, resulting over time in an even color.
In case of a ZC Eve bodice, the PVC is softened but not by as much as a headsculpt so it will take longer for the dye molecules to spread.
Although I'm not keen on using chemicals on plastics, persistent stains can be removed with substances containing small amounts of peroxide such as zit-creams or Remove-zit.
Main drawback is that peroxides will alter the composition of the plastic (it breaks down plasticizers and long molecule chains), making it change color (often more pale) and leaving the plastic more prone to cracking.
PVC hand with stain caused by sleeve cuff, the PVC of the hand is not as soft so dye molecules will not migrate as fast as with softer PVC.
Left on its own a stain on material like this will remain visible for years, to remove it a chemical substance such as a zit-cream is needed.
Note that this particular hand is coated with flat varnish, the varnish will be damaged by the zit-cream as well !
Pleather consists of a very thin layer of PVC applied to a woven fabric material (often polyester).
If there are any metal objects close to deteriorating PVC these will become corroded by the acidic vapours, often even before the PVC starts looking deteriorated.
|Example of corroded brass details caused by acidic vapours of pleather deteriorating. In this case the figure was kept in the box for too long.|
The metal can be carefully polished, further deterioration of the pleather can be slowed down with proper ventilation.
Since pleather contains plasticizers, it needs to be kept away from painted surfaces and types of plastics that are sensitive to plasticizers.
I made this mistake myself by leaving Patty, dressed in black pleather pants, sitting on the seat of a motorbike model for some time. The seat was made out of polystyrene, which is sensitive to plasticizers. The plasticizers from the pleather melted the surface of the seat, now the pleather is firmly stuck to the seat.
Apart from transferring plasticizers, pleather can also transfer dye to other plastics, for example black pleather clothes will stain a pleather covered couch.
So better keep contact between pleather and plastics like polystyrene or softened PVC limited to a few hours.
Putting a piece of saran wrap ('cling film') between the pleather and the other plastics will stop the transfer of dye and plasticizers.
Pleather can also pick up dye from other sources such as clothing, the boots on the picture got stained by dye from the black pantyhose inside. This also can be prevented by wrapping the pantyhose inside the boots in saran wrap.
A lot of the knowledge of preserving plastics and insight in how plastics behave when deteriorating comes from this book:
"Plastics, collecting and conserving", Anita Quye and Colin Williamson, NMS Publishing Ltd., ISBN 1-901663-12-4.