I got my LEGO from storage from when I was a kid (1980s) and while almost all bricks are in good condition, the Technic axles are in a pretty bad shape. They seem to have corroded(?). Please see the attached picture. This has happened to almost all the axles but with different degrees of severity. None of the other bricks, technic or not, black or not, has suffered this.

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Any idea what might have happened and how to prevent this?

EDIT: They were stored in plastic bags sorted by color (one bag per color) inside a larger canvas bag in a non-lit, dry environment (garage). All other bricks seem to be fine, regardless their color. Stickers that had been applied survived very well (bright colors) and still hold strongly. Once I got the collection back I mixed the bricks and ran them under warm tap water and let them dry on a towel on the floor for a day. These were the only bricks that were affected.

  • 3
    That's very sad :( I must say I've not noticed my old ones doing that yet - when you say "storage" what were they stored in, where were they stored and what sort of conditions have they been under? Feb 5, 2012 at 17:56
  • Take a close look at your Technic bricks from this collection; is there any indication of that kind of "corrosion" on the inside of any of the holes?
    – retracile
    Feb 16, 2012 at 4:51

5 Answers 5


It appears from the photo that there may be some "blooming" where the axles have changed color? You say you rinsed them, but I wonder if you noticed whether the axles felt oily or sticky at all beforehand?

This would be consistent with the kind of deterioration that is common with Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), a kind of plastic that was once common in toy manufacturing. I don't know for certain that these early axles were made from PVC, but I do know that LEGO did formerly use PVC for some non-brick pieces, and I have seen similar deterioration on other PVC items. This is a known problem with Barbie dolls, for example.

PVC typically has a plasticiser added to it to make it flexible, usually dibutyl phthalate. This plasticiser gradually "leaks" out of the plastic, leaving it discolored and vulnerable to deterioration and creating gasses (like hydrogen chloride) that will attack other PVC and hasten the process. Heat and light will accelerate the breakdown, and you indicate that these were stored together in a plastic bag. That might have contributed, as the gasses and plasticiser were trapped in contact with the pieces.

Phthalates are toxic and are now regulated in the US, EU, and many other countries. LEGO no longer uses PVC except in some limited applications like the insulation for electrical wiring. LEGO was one of the first companies to begin phasing out the use of PVC, in the 1990s.

To slow the deterioration of PVC, keeping it away from heat and light will help, as will keeping it ventilated to remove the harmful gasses produced by the plasticiser.


That would not happen naturally. I have Technic (actually, Expert Builder, to give you an idea of how old they are) axles that are probably 25-30 years old and look like they were purchased yesterday. At times they have been stored in a hot, humid attic in New York City, reaching temperatures over 120 degrees F.

What maybe happened here is some oil or other non-plastic-safe lubricant was applied to the axle in whatever model it had been made into, and perhaps cleaned off but not entirely, and over time, the lubricant destroyed the plastic.


Technic axles aren't known to naturally deteriorate as described. The most probable cause for corrosion would be influenced by the way it's been stored. The bricks may have been subjected to a powerful chemical (perhaps used for cleaning?).

  • They were stored in the same conditions as the other bricks and were washed together with the rest of my collection. (more details on this edited into the question)
    – greye
    Feb 6, 2012 at 18:52

Where do you live and how the bricks were stored?

I see 2 hypothesises.

  1. Chemicals affecting the axle plastic. If they are made of a different recipe than the usual ABS, it could explain why only them were affected.
  2. On high enough temperature (in a car, on a summer sunny day would be enough to affect lego bricks). If the bricks were exposed to light. it could explain why black axle were affected? Maybe they are small enough to warp while other bricks aren't. I would check if the other brick still fit, you might be in for some surprise?

Let us know..

  • 2
    Well here I would tend to say that axles are not ABS, which may explain why they are affected differently. Not sure what material they are, though, or how to prevent this.
    – Joubarc
    Feb 6, 2012 at 5:35
  • Ah, yes I remember reading another recipe is used for flexible pieces such as axles.
    – jfyelle
    Feb 6, 2012 at 13:18
  • What is amusing is that this was written by you :).
    – jfyelle
    Feb 6, 2012 at 13:25
  • I would dismiss #2. They were stored for +-15 years in plastic bags with other bricks (sorted by color) in a garage. I don't know about #1 if the plastic bags themselves could carry these chemicals (what would they be?)...
    – greye
    Feb 6, 2012 at 19:00

Do you remember having put oil or other kind of lubricant on the axes when you were a child? The "corrosion" seems to be in very localized parts of the axes, and oil can penetrate plastic easily (to make an idea: it's similar to the way hands cream penetrates into our hand's skin).

  • I don't remember doing that at all. I remember playing a lot with these, building a bunch of mechanisms with gears.
    – greye
    Feb 7, 2012 at 10:49

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