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I've unpacked a few of my models after moving home some time ago, these models have been in a cardboard boxes for several months and need cleaning:

A dusty build

I've tried compressed air, which only makes some of the dust airborne. I've also tried cotton buds but the process is tedious and they end up looking like this after several stokes.

I'd also like to be able to clean my models without going through the tedius process of taking them apart, washing, drying and building them again.

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Anything wrong with a quick submerge in water? You shouldn't have to take them apart if you only care about surface dust. –  Pubby Jun 29 '12 at 14:42
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@Pubby Drying models can take a long time and damage stickers. I find it doesn't get rid of the deeply ingrained dirt. –  Ambo100 Jun 29 '12 at 21:22

8 Answers 8

When cleaning dust from scale models, sculptures, figurines or LEGO models I use an artist 'Fan' brush. This is the best method I've found to clean dust rapidly without damaging models.

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The fan brush's long hairs combined with the thin spread enables you to dust 'any shapes and surfaces without risk of damage. For example, it would clean a LEGO antenna (1 stud attachment only) without making it fall. You can can really push the brush into the bumps and cracks and the long hairs will bend and reach around the features.
Also, when dusting a big piece, I also set an electric fan a low power to blow air across my work table. This prevents the dust from just going up and settling back down on the model.

A huge advantage, learned after cleaning model boats, is that it is also perfect for dusting ropes (small cables). This worked like a charm on my LEGO Technic crane with all the complex cable system. It is also good on cloth, so it would work for the minifigures capes.

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Have you tried one of the smaller portable vacuum cleaners? I've had a few of the battery operated "Keyboard Cleaner" type of thing, which usually come with a brush nozzle and work quite well.

Unlike firing compressed air and scattering dust/crumbs/contaminants everywhere, they are designed to catch most of it.

Battery Operated Vacuum Cleaner

Faster than doing it by hand with a tooth brush or cotton bud.

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Would be nice to have some tool which combine both compressed air and vacuuming –  Joubarc Jun 29 '12 at 6:19
    
@Joubarc You might be onto something there! –  Ric Jun 29 '12 at 7:44
    
Some of the more advanced ones can reverse the flow of air to generate that sort of effect. Alternatively just reverse the batteries ;) –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Jun 29 '12 at 8:06
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I've tried a handheld car hoover but it doesn't have enough suction power. Instead I've been using a Dyson Animal vacuum to get rid of most of the dust. –  Ambo100 Jun 29 '12 at 21:19

I've successfully used a paint brush to clean my dust-covered MOCs.

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Try the cyberputty gunk that picks up dust. it's basically silly putty but it does what it says it does. I use it for random things like this all the time. Radioshack has it for $1.99 last I saw.

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I couldn't find a link for the one sold at RadioShack, but Cyber Clean looks like what you describe - and it does indeed look like it could be a good solution for LEGO too. If I can find some, I'll definitely try it. Read also this thread on fbtb, people who tried it there seem to find it useful too. –  Joubarc Jul 11 '12 at 7:34
    
I did try it since then, and for that kind of usage (built model which you don't want to take apart), I would tend to say it's very good - just press it on the model around, and it captures (most of) the dirt. The only downsize I see if the limited life of the stuff, so you'll need to replace it after a while, sooner if your models are very dirty. –  Joubarc Oct 27 '13 at 14:47

A soft toothbrush can do a good job on an assembled model. Just make sure the bristles aren't too stiff. They could scratch the elements. It's still tedious, but easier than cotton swabs.

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I'd recommend using a paint brush - larger, and ca, be very soft too. –  Joubarc Jun 29 '12 at 6:18
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I'd considered that option but felt there was still a danger of floating dust... –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Jun 29 '12 at 8:08

I use a static duster for dusting models. They use soft polyester filaments that won't scratch, and which attract dust using static charge. It may take a few passes to get all the dust if it is thick, but they work well.

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Most of the answers here use various combinations of air and brushes to get rid of dust. This works fairly well; I used to dust my model airplanes with the same paintbrushes I used for painting them. I second the tiny portable vacuum cleaner too.

However, my go-to option for dusting models that have been standing around too long is soapy water. I recently partially disassembled the 4483 Lego AT-AT that's been standing on my desk for years. Pop the legs off, the head off, and the panels off the top, etc; it comes apart into, say, 10-15 large modules. Dunk them in soapy water then rinse in warm clear water, and let it dry. It takes a while to dry but when it's done, it's clean. Much cleaner than the dusting approach.

I've washed individual pieces this way too, by putting them in a mesh bag (like the kind for washing delicates in a clothes-washing machine) first, then dunking the whole bag of parts into the water. It takes a while to dry though.

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I have never tried these, but I came across them recently on ebay:

Duster attachment for Dremel-like tools

See the manufacturer's website for more information.

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Looks nice, but you'd have to be picky about quality and brush material to make sure you don't scratch your bricks (same as a bad carwash would scratch your car) –  Joubarc Jul 11 '12 at 7:14
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The link in the answer is broken. –  Ambo100 Oct 7 '12 at 16:54
    
and that's why link-only answers are so awful. –  Mσᶎ Jul 8 at 8:54

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