Thank goodness for Pinterest. About a month ago I pinned a picture of a homemade doll hair detangler. I was hoping it worked, since my daughter's Target brand "American Girl" doll had some seriously tangled hair, and it was making her seriously sad! I am happy to announce that it worked! Because the blog where I originally pinned the recipe from is now removed, I will repost it here.
Basically you will need a spray bottle, liquid fabric softener, water, and a wire brush or wide tooth comb. Fill a spray bottle with 2 tablespoons liquid fabric softener, and then fill the rest with water. Shake to mix well. The first time I worked on the doll, I used a wire brush, but later for the Barbies I just used a wide-tooth comb and it was fine.
I wish I had taken "before" pics of my oldest daughter's doll. Let's just say it was an unmanageable ball of tangles, that could not be tamed into ANY style, not even a ponytail. My daughter got two new outfits for Christmas, and couldn't use the hair accessories for either of them because Sunny's hair was so mangy. Here is Sunny now. One thing I will say is that Sunny lost a LOT of hair in the process. Like, several handfuls. But I figured it was better to have less hair that my daughter could actually style than more hair in a big tangly ball. For my younger daughter's doll and the Barbies, they lost hardly any hair at all, so I think the key here is to detangle early and often!
I worked on some Barbies while I was at it. Here are their nice smooth manes.
So try it out! Let me know if you have any other helpful tips!