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Cleaning dirty LEGO

by admin on December 2, 2010

in Taking Care of LEGO

Have you picked up a large tub of used LEGO at a garage sale? Did you find that some pieces were in need of some serious cleaning? Well, the good news is that LEGO is quite easy to clean and bring back to its original shine!

WASHING: in most cases you can just wash the dirt right off with warm water and a mild soap or detergent.  Make sure the water is not too hot (no more than 104 Fahrenheit or 40 Celsius) as this can damage plastic. If the water hurts your hand, it is too hot! This is the safest way to clean LEGO, and it is not difficult to do.

WARNING! Do not wash electric LEGO parts in water!

SOAKING: if pieces are very dirty, you can first soak them in the soapy solution overnight (or even longer) to loosen up the dirt and grime stuck to them. Then later use an old toothbrush to gently clean the little nooks between the studs, and crevices on the bottom where dirt can still hide.

RINSING: make sure you rinse off all LEGO pieces well so there is no residue left on the bricks from the cleaning solutions you used. Using a colander can really help in the process!

USING BLEACH: if you want to disinfect dirty LEGO parts you can ad a LITTLE bleach into the water solution. 1TBSP/gallon of water is safe and shouldn’t damage your LEGO bricks. Make sure you rinse them well!

USING ALCOHOL: for extremely dirty LEGO bricks you can use a bit of rubbing alcohol to wipe off grime. Keep the exposure to the alcohol brief (as longer exposure can fade the plastic), and make sure you rinse the pieces off fully when you’re done.

USING A DISHWASHER OR WASHING MACHINE: if you have lots of second-hand LEGO to clean, you may consider using a dishwasher or washing machine. Place you LEGO in a mesh-bag used for laundry delicates, and use the gentlest setting (otherwise you can seriously damage parts). If you are using a dishwasher, only use the top rack! Make sure the water is not too hot!  

WARNING! Do not use a clothes dryer or your dishwasher’s dry setting for LEGO as the heat can seriously warp them!

WARNING! Do not place electric LEGO parts, parts with batteries, or LEGO tires in the washing machine or dishwasher!

DRYING: Once your LEGO is clean spread them out well on a towel. Placing parts on their sides also helps so they don’t hold water. You may use an electric cooling fan to speed up the drying time. It may take a day or two for all your LEGO to fully dry.

You may also like to read these sections for further ideas:

Let your LEGO shine! :)

LEGO

LEGO Brand Retail

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Giza May 8, 2011 at 10:28 PM

He-he! Love the picture! Clever use of the minifig hands!

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admin May 9, 2011 at 3:09 PM

Thanks, Giza! 😛

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MorningCoffee May 16, 2011 at 4:53 PM

Great info, thanks! Especially useful if you get lots of second-hand legos!

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admin May 17, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Yes, second-hand LEGO often needs a lot of TLC! 😆

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Giza June 3, 2011 at 1:32 PM

Thanks for this! I’m just starting to go thru my childhood legos. This is going to help a lot! can’t wait to have some shiny legos!

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Tydroid Ninja of NINJAGONESS June 6, 2012 at 12:15 PM

I often forget to take lego pieces out of my pockets when i wash my clothes some times! oops! 😳 At least they are clean 😛

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Theo Ross July 6, 2012 at 12:49 PM

You can put a lot of the parts through your dish washer! They come out sparkling clean . I do it a lot with the second-hand ones I buy for my shop. :)

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Vicky February 28, 2013 at 6:12 AM

I have a salad spinner that would be perfect for helping with the drying process.

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admin February 28, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Vicky, yeah, that should work great! 😀

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K July 31, 2013 at 12:30 AM

This was very good, I can see a lot of people getting doubts cleared. You should do an index of your posts. Separate them in something like: LEGO 101:Cleaning, Finding, Shopping and then 102 ungluing, etc…XP

Great posts Sir.

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admin July 31, 2013 at 9:14 AM

K, all posts are categorized as much as a blogging platform allows it; in categories in the left-hand side-bar. I also link related categories and articles at the bottom of each post. Hope that helps. 😉

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Håkan September 4, 2013 at 4:03 PM

Any special tips about printed parts? I guess they would require some extra care?

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admin September 4, 2013 at 6:21 PM

Hakan, yeah, I would be extra super careful with printed parts. I would not put them in the washing-machine with other parts, but try to clean them separately. Just soaking them in warm water with a mild detergent should be fine, but I would not touch the print with any abresive or scrubby cleaning supplies. Maybe a little alcohol to remove dirt around the printing, and wash it off right away. It’s a tough one. If you really want printed elements in perfect condition, it is probably best to just get a replacement part in better condition off of BrickLink.

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Lou January 17, 2014 at 4:27 PM

I just finished washing about 40 pounds in the washing machine (not all at once!). I used the mesh bags, gentle cycle, and put a little bleach in with the soap to sanitize. They come out BEAUTIFUL! On to sorting!

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admin January 19, 2014 at 7:47 PM

Lou, yeah, that’s a great method for cleaning large amount of LEGO! Have fun sorting! 😉

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Maniac4Bricks October 5, 2014 at 2:10 PM

Thank you for this article! I’ll keep this in mind as I have some used LEGO I inherited recently that I want to wash.

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admin October 5, 2014 at 10:34 PM

You’re very welcome. :)

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Sam February 22, 2015 at 6:44 PM

I really like this website and I found some of these articles very helpful, but I still have a personal question about cleaning Lego, and I really hope someone can help me.

I have a large container of Lego that I wanted to clean because of all the large amounts of dust and dirt it has accumulated over the years and I wanted to do something with them. It’s almost an entire 15-20 gallon storage container full of them. Is there anything that I can use that will break down the large pieces of dust in it? Whenever I tried soaking them in hot water, the dust would just become soggy and nothing would happen. I also remember last time I tried cleaning, I thought I saw a small insect or two.

Will bleach be able to cure these? Will I have to clean small amounts of Lego at a time or is there a place I can pay to clean my Lego for me? I’m really looking to extreme measures here, I have so much good stuff in that storage container and so many good memories.

Would really like some help. I’m 17 and I’d like to either start building again or sell them, but I can do neither if they are as dirty as they are!

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admin February 22, 2015 at 7:44 PM

Sam, if you have a washing-machine, I would suggest to use that for cleaning such large amount of LEGO. You should be able to do the amount you have in 2-3 cycles. You can tie the LEGO elements into a pillow-case, mash-bag (that is used for washing delicate items), or something similar. Do not overfill the bags or the washing-machine. You can actually also put in some regular laundry (towels are especially good). This prevents the pieces to bang against the sides of the washing-machine. But still leave enough space to allow water to circulate around everything freely. Make sure you separate out any printed elements and anything with electric or metal parts. Set the washing-machine cycle to gentle, and do not use water that’s too hot! A medium setting should work.

If you do not have a washing-machine an other option is to use the bathtub. Fill it with enough LEGO elements to cover the bottom of the bathtub, and use the showerhead to forcefully spray water on them. If you have one of those removable shower heads, that’s actually the best. If you don’t, and you have a watering hose outside with a spray-head, that works really well too. The point is that you want to use the force of the spraying action to knock out all the dirt and grime from the elements.

With the amount of dust you seem to have you need to use water with some agitation – be that the washing machine or a water-hose or shower. Just putting dusty elements in water will simply make the dust soggy and stick on even more – as you have experienced already. Bleach is for disinfecting, it is not going to remove soggy dust. However you could add some mild soap into the washing machine or the bathtub (or whatever other large tub you are using) that can help to remove clogged on dust. But what you really need is agitation.

With the amount of LEGO you have you should be able to clean them all yourself. No need to do anything extreme. People do this all the time – especially those who resell used LEGO on a regular basis. If you want you can invite a couple of kids to help you. Water, kids and LEGO are a perfect combination, and kids really love to help with stuff like this. Hope this helps some. 😉

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Sam February 23, 2015 at 12:48 AM

First off, thanks for the fast reply and for your help.

Second, wouldn’t putting the Lego in a bag in the washing machine leave the dust in the bag after the cycle in over? I’ve used my mom’s spaghetti strainer before to try to keep Lego in and water out after washing them, but the huge clumps of dust would stay in there, so I’m assuming the same thing would happen with a mash bag, or a pillow case. I’ll probably use my bath tub anyway, to be honest.

Like I said, I remember seeing maybe a small insect or two last time I sorted through my Lego bin. Is there anything less toxic than bleach that I can soak the pieces in that don’t require special gloves and eyewear? I may begin to soak small amounts at a time every night in a solution to kill any tiny pests, and I don’t think latex gloves can withstand bleach (?) and water splashing on Lego wet with a water/bleach solution to clean it off the morning after isn’t exactly the safest thing to do if your body isn’t covered in a material that doesn’t react to bleach..

I’m sorry if I got any facts wrong here, just don’t want bleach burns. Thanks for your help so far.

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Sam February 23, 2015 at 12:51 AM

btw, pay no mind to the different avatar generation, i am on my iphone at the moment, the original post was from my desktop.

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admin February 23, 2015 at 8:55 AM

Sam, sounds like you are dealing with some enormous dust-bunnies! :roll:

Mesh laundry bags have holes. Dust or whatever should be able to go right through them. Personally I would not use bleach on LEGO. It is important when you have young children around and you got some second-hand LEGO that you want to disinfect, but other than that, I don’t see what would be the point of using bleach in your situation. And as you said, bleach is harmful to you, and it can also be harmful to your LEGO if not used properly.

What you need is pressure, not soaking. If the dust you are dealing with is in fact as huge as you make it sound like, first I would use air-pressure to get rid of most of the dust before washing everything. Most car-vacuums come with an option of either sucking or blowing air, so use the blow feature. If possible, do this outside and make sure you wear a mask or bandana over your nose and mouth. Once the majority of the dust is gone, dump the LEGO in a tub and use a hose or shower-head to knock off the rest.

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Sam February 24, 2015 at 1:14 AM

I realized mesh bags have holes, but like you stated, there are some huge clumps of dust. I didn’t think of using a vacuum to blow away the bigger dust first, though I guess I’ll have to be careful to keep smaller bricks from flying. I am going to start cleaning my Lego this weekend, Thanks for taking the time to help me, I really appreviate it. :)

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admin February 24, 2015 at 11:31 AM

Sam, have fun with your cleaning project! 😛

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Alyssa April 6, 2015 at 1:33 AM

Hi, I just bought a very large lot of Lego for my 2 boys and forgot to ask the previous owner about pets, specifically cats. Well, I have a pretty bad allergic reaction every time we sort or play with them. Is there anything I can do to fix this? Any of these cleaning methods that will work for pet dander? Thanks in advance!!

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admin April 6, 2015 at 9:24 AM

Alyssa, washing the lot you got in soapy water should work. You can just swoosh them around in the bathtub, or run them through the washing-machine. It is always a good idea to wash used lots. You never know what they have gone through.

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