Previously I've used toothbrushes but maybe these would eventually scratch the surface. What have you used? And was it easy?
As well as cleaning, what about drying and buffing? Has anyone tried polishing LEGO bricks?
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LEGO recommends using a mild detergent in water to clean your bricks, or a mild bleach:
We recommend that you clean or wash your LEGO parts only by hand at max. 40°C or 104 degrees (F) Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures may affect the quality of the LEGO parts. You can add a mild detergent to the water, followed by rinsing with clear water. Please don't put your bricks in the washing machine or dishwasher or attempt to dry them in ovens, microwaves or with hair dryers. Any electrical parts, such as cables, motors, battery compartments, can only be wiped off with alcohol. Air-dry parts at room temperature. For disinfecting please use mild bleach.
According to the LEGO Customer Service (click "Customer Service > Help Topics > Bricks & Building > Brick Facts > Cleaning your LEGO® bricks"):
We recommend that you clean your LEGO® parts by hand using water no hotter than 104°F / 40°C and a soft cloth or sponge. Higher temperatures may affect the quality of the parts. You can add a mild detergent to the water - please rinse them well with clear water afterwards and you're done!
Please don't put your LEGO® pieces in the washing machine or dishwasher, and don't try to dry them in the oven, the microwave or with a hair dryer. When the bricks get really hot they may change shape, which means they won't work anymore!
So the best way to wash all your bricks at once, is to put them into a big bowl, a sink or your bathtub. Add warm water (< 40°C), soap/mild detergent and wash them by hand. Rinse in another bowl of clear water. Spread the bricks on a towel and let them air dry.
This should be enough to remove dust and loose dirt. For harder grime like stickers or glue-rests there already is another question that might also be helpful:
- pure alcohol or
- glass cleaner
- cheap hairspray (spray 2-3 seconds from very close distance and then rub of with a piece of cloth) sometimes also does a good job
Compressed air, commonly used for electronic equipment. Sold in cans at office and electronic stores, used to blow away dust and other small particles away. A paint brush is cheaper but can clear dust from a more localised area. It helps to have a brand new brush that has never been used.
I use compressed air and paint brushes interchangeably when taking pictures of Lego at Minifigure eye-level where dust is more prominent.
I have polished Lego to restore the shine. Bite marks cannot be removed, so don't bother. Most scratches can either be removed or made much less noticable. Be careful not to be too vigourous in your polishing as the sharp, crisp clean edges of a pristine brick can easily be rounded by an over-zealous polisher. I use a simple buffing wheel w/ a felt (or is it cotton?) wheel,as well as buffing compound.
Increasingly I have done only a light polishing, as I find an overly aggressive approach only results in an unrealistic looking shine that is no longer authentic.
Whatever you do, don't put them in a bath along with small children. It could be that the bathplug gets lifted and then a piece gets sucked into the plug hole. With that piece blocking your ability to put the plug back in the hole, more pieces will be sucked in. Panic will ensue. Small pieces will be swept down the drain, large pieces will continue blocking the hole, water will continue rushing out. Blocking the hole with your hands and fingers won't work. While sweeping the blocking pieces away, new blocking pieces will be sucked in. Those small pieces may be a large number of extremely rare and valuable minifig hands, weapons and utensils. They will not be caught in the S-bend, not with that kind of water velocity.
True story. Just happened tonight.
You could try blocking the hole with a towel or something, to stop the rushing water. That's what I should have done.
I use an ultrasonic cleaner, with either just water or a little washing up liquid. I have also used dishwasher tablets, but this can leave residue on the elements which kinda defeats the purpose of the exercise. I use cold water because the ultrasonic bath heats the water anyway. The benefit of the cleaner is it can clean all nooks and crannies without special tools and it does a very good job. The downside is most ultrasonic cleaners are small so you can't clean large amounts quickly..
Some years ago I picked up some second hand LEGO and DUPLO bricks for the kids that was very dirty and grubby and in a general condition that you would not want your kids playing with. The best method I found was to put the items in the bathtub (With the exception of very small pieces that will disappear down the plughole - Put them in a bowl) and spray them with Cif (Jif) lemon bathroom Mouse or similar. Leave for about 10 minutes then Brush using a nylon washing up brush, nail brush or similar. You will be surprised what comes off! Then simply hose off with the showerhead. Then transfer the bricks onto a bathroom towel and dry leave to dry overnight in the airing cupboard, or drape the towel over a radiator and place the bricks on the towel.Biro pen marks can be removed by wiping with methylated spirits and a tissue. Sticky tape residue can be removed with WD40, but then the wd40 need to be remove with a detergent. Hope this helps someone!
I've tried and tested cleaning techniques for different levels of dirt/discoloration.
For dusty and grimny bricks: wash bricks using a non-soap cleaner, use a soft bristle brush to reach stud edges.
If bricks are discolored, follow the steps in the link below. It does work but care is needed so as not to let the bricks return to its discolored state.
My wife and I have been cleaning up my son's LEGO collection since last week, we clean a small box every noon, since it's a boring task :). We just use a pair of used toothbrushes, pour LEGO parts into a big tub of water mixed with a little dish washing liquid. Then put all them into a washing bag and hang somewhere until they're dry, of course, keep them out of sunlight.
A toothbrush and a cleaning product that has micro-particles (I use a product called Jif), then to really brighten things up and restore the original color I put in a tub of water with some hydrogen peroxide (can buy from chemists, check directions for dilution) and leave in the sun for 3 hours (cloud is ok too), then rinse. My 1970s yellowing bricks and baseplates look amazing after this.
The way I've been washing my Duplo and regular Lego blocks is to fill a clean kitchen sink (or dishpan, storage tub, whatever) with a 50/50ish mixture of hot water (hottest the tap can provide) and white vinegar, then add the blocks. I mix the really hot water and the vinegar together before adding the Legos because that guarantees that the temperature won't be above 104F. If anything is particularly soiled, I use the soft (ie non-scrub-pad) side of a clean sponge to give the blocks a gentle scrubbing as they soak in the warm vinegar water; for anything stuck in difficult-to-clean crevices, I use a baby bottle brush and/or q-tips.
I soak them for a few hours or possibly overnight, then scoop them into a large salad spinner, rinse them thoroughly with warm-to-hot water using the spinner as a colander, spin as much water as I can out and then lay them out on towels to dry (inside, with a box fan blowing across them, flipping them over every few hours until they're totally dry).
Vinegar cleans and disinfects, plus it removes odors (for example, if you buy used Legos online that arrive smelling like cigarette smoke) and it doesn't leave a residue. On top of that, it's 100% kid safe (and pet safe, for any weirdos out there like me who build Lego and/or Duplo creations for small animals :P).