(Written by Andy Taylor)
How to Make Your LEGO Windows, Cockpits, Canopies and Other Clear LEGO Pieces Really Pop, Shine and Sparkle!
Hello, all! I am a fairly new member of the AFOL community, having worked through my “Dark Ages” via an assortment of similarly crafty hobbies such as model-railroading and plastic model-building. While none of these have brought me quite that same level of pure Zen-like peace that working through a LEGO MOC can (and without spilling paint all over the office carpet – a bonus!) They have all given me a fairly broad spread of modeling skills. While most of these tricks and techniques are something of an anathema or simply a pure opposite of everything that LEGO is (so no comparisons on glues or paints, etc). There are a few very basic tricks that seem to work well for LEGO-building, without violating any perceived rules of purity. 🙄
The most basic of these is a simple trick that the airplane-model builders have used for years. As we are all well aware, clear LEGO pieces are made of a different type of plastic than the regular colored bricks. The clear LEGO bricks are slightly more brittle. As a result, over time – or even sitting in a bag or box with other parts – the clear LEGO pieces will slowly develop micro-scratches that make them seem duller or more foggy. When it comes out of the box, the clear plastic canopy of a LEGO starfighter looks like a child’s toy. While this is in most cases appropriate to what it is, with a very simple trick, you can have it looking like a real glass canopy or window. Or turn colored translucent LEGO pieces into real gem-like shining jewels.
The secret is this. These clear LEGO pieces are made of an acrylic plastic. The fogging or dullness and loss of shine comes from minor scratches. The way to fix these scratches is to give the piece a quick dip in a bath of liquid acrylic. In short; all you need is a bottle of classic Future Floor Polish (now being marketed as Pledge With Future Shine). It is the uncolored, unscented version of the cleaning product. In the hobby-world this stuff is liquid gold! 😀
Use of it is simple. Pour out some Future in a small bowl. Dip the clear LEGO pieces in the polish, making sure that the LEGO piece is fully covered. Then set the LEGO pieces aside to fully dry (I recommend setting them on baking parchment-paper). The liquid acrylic floor-polish is self-leveling and will fill any micro-scratches or minor flaws in the LEGO piece. Once fully dry you can lightly polish the LEGO piece with a soft cloth. (Really only needed for large flat pieces). Other than a light polish no special handling is needed once dry.
The end result? The parts will be crystal-clear. Canopies will look like glass. Jedi Light-sabers will seem to glow. Windows will be sharp enough to see minifigs through and cast a reflection. Gems and jewels will sparkle as the tempting loot that they are meant to be.
I hope somebody finds this trick useful. If you have any questions or comments, or secrets of your own, please share them below. Thanks for reading my first post here! 🙂
You may also want to check out the Care & Feed of LEGO section for other tips on taking care of your LEGO, or a follow these links:
60 bucks no way
I’m guessing that is for a full case of the stuff. A normal bottle costs $6 and lasts for years.
What exactly is liquid acrylic?
Nicolas, I asked Andy to come on and answer questions, and hopefully he will do so soon. In the meantime, I would just say that my understanding is that liquid acrylic is nothing more than a thin layer of warnish or polish. I know you are on your phone, so you can’t see the Amazon listings I have put in the post, but if you can click on the product-name it will take you to Amazon where you can see the polish Andy uses and read the details. 🙂
Liquid acrylic is basically a clear very dilute acrylic medium based floor polish used primarily on no wax floors such as linoleum. The main name it is known by in the states is Future floor polish. (I know it has a different name in the uk and Europe. ) it is a colorless perfectly clear liquid normally in a clear colorless bottle. It should say somewhere on it that it is an acrylic floor polish.
If you have ever seen a tv commercial for the special kits to repair scratched glasses or cd’s it’s the same stuff just repackaged at 1000% markup.
As far as what it is? It is the clear liquid base used in the manufacture of acrylic paints. The fact that it is essentially the same stuff as what is used in the manufacture of clear plastics allows it to work unbelievably as a filler to repair micro scratches.
I can’t completely explain the stuff. But I can vouch that it is fantastic for use on clear plastic injection molded pieces such as model airplane canopies or lego’s.
Not that this really applies to Lego, but it also airbrushes well straight from the bottle. Many modelers use it as a final protective coating for a finished project.
Now you tell me after I sold off all of my LEGO© 5 years ago on Bricklink.
Very nice post. Welcome to the Brickblogger! I’m very impressed by this method!
are you kidding me?? I’m buying some of this on my way home.
For years I’ve kept a bag of all my old scratched cockpits and I’ve always wanted a way to fix them but never thought one existed so I never looked.
You’ve just become the best Lego blog in my eyes. Congratulations.
Mike, yeah, Andy’s suggestion is great! BTW, I LOVE your airship! Incredible design! Oh, and I have to steal your LEGO building space! 😆
Oh wow! That airship is fantastic!
I had 2 thoughts when I saw your airship HOLY……
Thanks, this is great! I have quite a few scratched older pieces, and I’m looking forward to trying this!
I am normally a strict purist, but I think I may try this. Two quick questions though: will this affect the way the part fits with other parts?(ie, is the part more likely to get stuck/ not fit where it normally would?) and when drying, does it “pool” or build up if the part is uneven?
Just dip it and let it self dry. It should be self leveling and is so micro thin that I have never noticed any fit issues. Just don’t let the part sit in a coagulating pool of the stuff. I normally lay out dipped parts on a piece of baking parchment. But a paper towel can work. Any irregularities can easily be buffed away.
Oh one other important point. When I said “dry” above, what I probably should have said is “cure”. Once dipped let the pieces cure, or fully and completely dry (chemically out gas). Not simply dry to the touch. Liquid acrylic is among other things the base medium for acrylic paints. Once it cures it is essentially platic. It cannot be chemically softened once cured, but will clean up or wash away with soap and warm water until that occurs.
In other words, let the parts sit for about 2 days to cure. (less if you have a drying booth/food dehydrator, but that’s another whole subject with probably few Lego applications).
Thanks. I was curious how long it would have to set up for. I have some bricks that I have had since the mid nineties, and since I was a kid, I was not too nice to them. One final question: For parts that are composed of two different elements, one clear one ABS (the old submarine windows) that are difficult to remove, would it be better to try to apply it with a cotton ear swab, lens paper, or better to avoid trying it out at all?
I would use a swab or a paintbrush and then buff it with those. This method will fix the micro scratches that cause the piece to dull, fog and seem more plasticky. It will also repair or reduce minor scratches. Major deep scratches from long time rough play or outright cracks will not completely disappear.
Actual drying time will vary with temperature, humidity etc. At a minimum I would let it set overnight. To be completely safe give it two nights. Unless you have a dehydrator to use (Thank you Ronco!) in which case it only takes a few hours.
For weirdly uneven parts where possible go a little thinner and shake/knock off excess as much as possible to avoid anything pooling. This normally isn’t an issue with simple injection molded parts. The basic way the molds work almost always insures that there is a very obvious “down” side to let a part dry and drain. (normally the edges). I don’t think Lego uses any of the complicated 3+ part molding tech, at least not for clear parts?
Please note this is for clear acrylic pieces. Using it on colored abs bricks while not damaging will probably just result in a brick that feels like it has been floor polished.
Gotta try this on some bionicle heads!
Does this like only work on the panes and glasses for the cars and buildings,or does it work on bricks and other lego too?
Clear plastic only. So the clear portion of the windows, but where possible separate it from the frames.
Lego is made mainly from 2 different types of plastic. ABS for the bricks and acrylic plastic for the clear parts ( ok technically you also get some styrene in minifigs and some vinyl in special heads and torso pieces).
This trick works to repair acrylic plastic. The way it works is you are essentially painting a new micro thin layer of that same substance so it bonds to the original. This is further helped by the floor polish variant having a very low surface tension, which lets it spread out, fill and self level.
Whereas ABS plastic’s most distinctive property is being virtually indestructable and very impregnable chemically. In other words paint or similar substances tend not to stick to it. You can apply acrylic to ABS, but it may not fully dry and will quickly wear off. At best you have just coated the part in a shell that isn’t bonded to the part (think like an M&M candy) at worst you have a slightly sticky part.
Clear acrylic can be used on printed Lego canopies. The printing is just acrylic paint to begin with. Although I would recommend testing it in a limited manner first to insure that no unwanted color shifts occur.
One other warning or provision. Be cautious where the dreaded stickers are involved. In cases where you will be applying stickers to canopies, such as the newer version of the Star Wars ARC 170 Starfighter, dip the canopies and let fully dry before stickering wherever possible. I have not tested how well Lego stickers hold up under submersion.
I play with lego in my tubby, they work fine!
LOL! I am mainly concerned with what happens if the floor polish seeps under some of the transparent plastic stickers. It may work out fine. It’s just not something that I ever had cause to experiment with. It might actually make the stickers more waterproof.
Thanks for these tips, they really work, if you use them on bionicle heads they really shine! People like to buy shiny heads y’know! =)
This is a great post! I have a couple of old pieces that could use some polishing.
One last addendum if you will. CLEAN THE PARTS FIRST IF THEY ARE DIRTY!!! You don’t want to effectively laminate decades worth of crud onto the piece.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I dropped by to check out the latest posts. I feel like I’ve won the lotto (well almost). I have bags and bags of old acrylic canopies, cockpits, windows, etc. that I had thought were pretty useless (not even good enough to sell on eBay). That is, until I read this post. In the past I’ve tried all sorts of technics to try and bring back the shine and luster to clear pieces — most of them involving trying to polish them with varying degrees of abrasive polishes (as recommended in countless other postings I’ve read on-line elsewhere). Never once did I find or had it occurred to me to try a liquid acrylic polish. THANK YOU Andy Taylor — You’ve just made my year!, because nothing else could possibly top this fabulous trick. This is an even better trick then being able to restore yellowing LEGO (imho). I’ll be picking up some liquid polish first thing tomorrow.
P.S.: Still waiting for the day when someone will announce they’ve discovered a way to do the same thing to ABS pieces. I know that it’s possible in some way because TLG uses something similar to spray on to their Miniland displays at Legoland.
While I have never tried this, or experimented with it myself. I have long suspected that the stuff they use on the professional “display case” Lego presentations to give them that gleaming shine and polish, is something not to far removed from a very dilute “Armor All” type product used on vinyl plastics and car interiors. The same sorts of stuff used to super detail the plastic and rubber elements of show cars.
It might be worth sacrificing some old pieces to figure it out.
It might be worth experimenting with on some older Lego’s.
ahhh love these little “helpful hints”
this is cool
Does this also work on printed cockpits?
In short yes. It should not harm the acrylic paints used for most of them. I would do a small test on a piece with Large printed area firs t, such as the Jedi Interceptor cockpit, just to make sure it doesn’t darken or color shift. But it should not otherwise harm the printing. It is actually the preferred protective sealant used by professional modelers. They spray it over all kinds of paint and decaling.
Please note this applies to stuff printed directly on the plastic. Glue based stickers, especially paper backed ones are altogether different.
How do you leave a piece to dry? Can you just leave it on an old newspaper or will it stick to the paper? Would it be better with some kind of sift or a dish rack? It might not be so complicated, but it’d be nice with an answer.
Hakan, I just spread them out on a towel, and direct a portable fan on them. They dry quite fast. 😉
Thanks, it wasn’t that difficult, apparently.
Hi Håkan, I know it’s been years since you posted this, but do you remember where you bought the liquid acrylic? I live in Belgium and it seems I cannot find anything like this product in the EU. 😟
Jan, let direct Hakan to your question. He probably won’t see it here.
Sorry, I’ve only read about the tip, I haven’t tested it myself.
It could also depend on where you live, I guess. You should probably try asking again somewhere else.
Also, it wasn’t me posting the article, but Andy Taylor. And there seems to be some Amazon links in the article which might help.
Can I do this to a brand new gem I unboxed today to make it sparkle, or is it just for damaged pieces ? I want to say yes, but not sure..
Sarah, this method is to bring LEGO gems to their original condition. I guess you can try to see if you can make them shinier, but plastic will only have a certain shine. It won’t ever sparkle like real gems. 😉
Thanks for the fast reply ! I was divided and kept thinking along the lines of “yes, no.. but how could it.. maybe..?”. 😉
Yeah, no harm in trying, maybe you will discover something interesting! 🙂
Will this fix large scratches in the Galidor TDN’s cockpit?
I would say if it is the same plastic as what LEGO uses for its clear pieces, then yes.
Please,please help, urgent! I finished a very long,laborious and expensive project and I used gorilla super glue to attach the bricks. One day later I saw this “dust” appearing on the bricks which irreparably “stained” them, I have a feeling it came from the superglue evaporating. Now the luster of the bricks is gone (the bricks are laid flat so that the pegs are exposed), I tried to clean them but a few hours later the dust reappeared!!! I am asking if anybody knows a way to polish the bricks so that they may regain their luster and shine. I am afraid of using wax or anything else that may accumulate between the pegs, should I try a varnish? I really appreciate your help, I could send jpegs of the problematic areas so that you may see better of what I’m talking about…
Stephan, so sorry to hear about your experience. Unfortunately any super-glue like product is going to damage LEGO. The white haze you see on the bricks is the damage done by the glue. It is not possible to clean it. If the damage is not too deep you may be able to sand it off with Brasso (yes, the brass polish). Brasso is often used to remove printing from LEGO elements and also to give them back their shine. You just pour some on a piece of cloth and buff up the LEGO element. Make sure you wash it off very well afterwards.
Again, this will ONLY work if the damage done by the glue is just on the surface. If it went deeper within the plastic, the damage is permanent and you won’t be able to buff it off without shaving off quite a bit of the brick. Even if you are able to buff off some of the damaged sections expect that the brick will be much more prone to further damage and breaking. Basically the integrity of the plastic was destroyed by the super-glue. This is not something that can be fixed.
May I ask why you were gluing LEGO in the first place? LEGO is meant to be attached and taken apart. Unless you are building a large public display where safety and liability can be an issue, LEGO elements should not be glued. If you do need to glue something, just use simple white school-glue. It will keep the LEGO elements together sufficiently, will dry clear so it is not visible, and won’t demage either your LEGO bricks or your healt. Many LEGO sculptors use it as a safe alternative to harsher methods that require training to handle and protective gear.
This looks great.
Does anybody know what this product is called in Australia and where it can be purchased? Thanks…
Allie, I wish I would know for sure, but this is what I read on Wikipedia: Pledge is a cleaning product made by S. C. Johnson & Son. In other countries it is known as Pronto, Pliz, and Blem. I hope that helps because this method really works. I have just recently tried it myself and I was amazed by the result!
Awesome tip! Thanks!
we need the lego pieces
Nooo… Transparent lego pieces are made out of PC polycarbonate…
If they were made out of acrylic they would blow to pieces lika glass if you crush them..
Andy mentioned acrylic plastic in his article, not pure acrylic, but you are right, the more technical term is PC polycarbonate for the clear LEGO elements. The point though, is that the method Andy describes, does work. I tried it myself on a number of clear pieces, and it works amazingly well. I was very surprised with the result when I first tried it on some heavily scratched and clouded elements. So he may have not used the right term, but his hack is solid. 😉
Interesting.. I didn’t know that. 😉
does this also clear off the yellowing on trans-clear pieces?
if not, any ideas?
No, I wouldn’t think so. This is basically a clear liquid that fills the scratches and other imperfections. It fuses together with the original surface, making it smooth and shiny again. I have also used it successfully to return the shine of scratched up solid color elements. However it can’t change the color of the element. And while I do know of a method to restore yellowed solid color pieces, I have never heard of a way to fix yellowed trans-clear pieces. You might be better off just replacing them with new ones – if the price is not too prohibitive.
I use a well known metal cleaner (famous amongst customisers of the world) to remove print from the Minifig body parts but the parts come out looking a bit dull as I can’t get the surface I like as it tires me quickly will this trick with ordinary Lego bricks figs parts?
Dave, I assume you are referring to using Brasso for removing print. When you use Brasso, you have to work in light, circular motion, using a soft cloth or cotton ball. If you go too fast, in one direction only, or use more abrasive cloth, you can damage the surface of the plastic, which makes it appear dull.
I personally rarely use Brasso because I hate the smell, and it takes forever to remove print. Instead I now use Eucalyptus oil, which removes the print much faster and it doesn’t require much rubbing. Plus it smells good. However Brasso can be still useful for removing small sections of a print because it is creamy and easier to control than Eucalyptus oil, which is liquid. (I found Q-tips are the best when using either Brasso or Eucalyptus oil for removing just portions of a print, as you have more control – sort of like working with an eraser.)
Anyhow, I did have one large DUPLO piece that got dull after I used Brasso on it a bit too vigorously (I was getting impatient, and this was a softer plastic piece). Because the piece is black, the damage was very noticeable after I finally removed the print. After looking at the piece unhappily for weeks, I decided to try the method mentioned in the article, and I was amazed by the result. I just rubbed on some Pledge with a piece of cotton, and the damage was gone! Now the piece is beautiful, shiny, with absolutely no sign of the previous damage. I was very pleased. Also, I have done this a few years ago, and the piece still looks the same, so the repair is permanent.
So I would say, give it a try. It can’t hurt, and your minifig might look as good as new. 🙂
Thanks I’ll give it a go I agree Brasso isn’t very nice the US version has that ammonia smell to it and the UK version has a very smelly fuel smell to it (like at petrol stations) I think the print is getting harder to remove I sometimes use a bit of water and sand paper the smooth stuff.
Dave, sounds good. Let me know how it works for you. Always happy to talk with other LEGO customizers. 🙂
Personally I would avoid using sandpaper, even with water. It is okay for smoothing down edges and stuff, but on flat surfaces like a minifig’s torso, the scratches caused by the sandpaper can be very noticeable.
I really recommend you try Eucalyptus oil for removing prints. It works delightfully well. You can get a small bottle at any health-food store, Asian stores, hippy shops, etc. It’s not expensive, and a small bottle will last a long time. You just soak a piece of cotton in it, and just plop the wet cotton on the print you want to remove. Come back five minutes later and most of the print will be already gone. The rest you can just rub off with a bit more oil, and you are done.
Purchased this off of eBay will this do the job it was only £1.65
Sweet! Looks like it is 100% pure, so yeah, that should work. 🙂
Hi Admin I tried the Eucalyptis oil it works but there is quite a bit of rubbing involved and it left the outline of the missing print behind so when you hold it to the light it shows where the outline was?
Dave, awesome! What I do is take a piece of cotton, soak it in Eucalyptus oil, put it on the printed part, and let it sit for 5-15 minutes. After that most of the print will just wipe off. If there is any little print left, I will do a bit of rubbing until it completely comes off. The key is to let the print soak for a while in the oil.
It is true however that some colors are more persistent that others. So it that case I take my piece of cotton, soak it again, and place it back on the piece. Or take a Q-tip, soak it in the oil, and do a bit of rubbing on the remaining print. If you let the piece soak long enough, it shouldn’t require much rubbing.
The outline is just some remaining print that didn’t yet come off. Soak it again, let it sit, rub it a bit with a Q-tip. That should take care of it.
If you are consistently having trouble, and you are giving the oil enough time to work, it is possible that the oil you got is actually not 100% pure, but watered down. Pure Eucalyptus oil works like a paint-stripper. I do repairs on artwork and regularly use it for stripping paint. On smooth LEGO surfaces (like a minifig torso), it should work without much rubbing. If the surface is porous (like some of the weapons, or the big sail piece I told you about that I needed to repair), then the oil may not be enough.
Thanks Admin I used a bit of cotton wool and soaked it, then laid and wrapped the torso in it I probably did it wrong did I?
That sounds about right. It’s possible that you might have not used enough oil, or didn’t wait long enough. Those are the two things that can happen (if you are using real 100% Eucalyptus oil). From my experience it shouldn’t take much rubbing at all if you use the right oil and let the piece soak long enough. 🙂
I’ll give it another try thanks
Hi Admin do you think Non acetone nail polish remover would work for cleaning torsos?
Dave, I don’t know. I never tried. You may try on an old piece you don’t care about and see how it goes. Whatever substance you use it is important to wash off the piece with soap and water afterwards as ABS plastic is very much prone to getting damaged by chemicals.
Yes I wash them afterwards on whatever method I try thanks.
Hi all! i’m new to legos so i’m not sure what kind of canopy you are talking about. I recently purchased a 2nd hand lego UCS slave-1 75060. its transparent canopy have some scratches and quite foggy so i can’t see boba fett through it sitting on the driver seat. will this PLEDGE product work on my problem? thanks! hope to get some answers. 🙂
Kim, yes, this method works on all clear LEGO canopies. I’m sure you will be very pleased by the result. I was, when I first tried it. 🙂
Hi, the pledge floor polish you recommended isn’t available at the moment. Can you recommend another product?
Slangivar, this is the only product like this that I’m aware of. I don’t know where you live, but it is readily available on Amazon (see link in the article above), and also at local stores. I bought mine at Wal-Mart.
How about just scuffs on normal colored blocks. Does a light polishing with this product help at all?
Jay, this is my experience with using Pledge on non-clear pieces.
I have removed some printing from some large pieces and they visibly lost their shine due to micro scratching. They were black pieces and now they looked dull, almost gray where the printing was removed. I was pretty disappointed, so I figured I try Pledge as a last resort. And it worked! The pieces are now beautifully smooth and shiny again with no sign of damage. I was super happy with the result.
One thing I would add is to remember that what Pledge does is that it fills up micro scratches and give plastic back its shine, but it is a clear liquid. So whatever piece you are using it on, make sure it is absolutely clean. Pledge can hide micro scratches, but it can’t hide discoloration, grime, etc.
Hope this helps some. If you have any other questions just let me know.
Recently for Christmas I got set number 21313. It’s a figure of a small boat inside of a bottle all completely made out of Lego. It quickly became my favorite Lego set of all time. However, since the bottle is made completely out of clear pieces the small scratches tend to stand out. I want it to stay nice looking so thanks for all the helpful advice.
I was wondering if anyone here knows of a similar product available in the European Union in general or even Belgium more specifically. I cannot seem to find an odorless and colourless acrylic cleaning fluid.
Hm… that’s a tough one as this is a unique product. You can’t order it via Amazon or something?
The link in the text keeps redirecting me to Amazon.fr (France) which does not carry it. On Amazon.co.uk I can find it, but it can’t be shipped to Belgium.
Hm… yeah, that’s a feature of Amazon. It automatically recognizes your country and will try to redirect you to the nearest Amazon site. I’m not familiar of how to get around that or if it is even possible to ship from the US. Do you have a friend or family who can get it for you?
Oh, yeah. Now I realize you live in Belgium. Hm, my impression is that shipping from USA to Europe has been more expensive and difficult with Trump’s economic policies…
Hi, very late to the party here. How would this work with a window part with a sticker. More specifically the curved windows to the Breeze Cafe set. Should I try and remove the vintage stickers which are in good condition the reapply post-dip? Or can the stickers be dipped too?
Nate, the idea with the liquid is that it fills up all the scratches and knicks in the plastic making it look blemish-free again. If the window behind the plastic is also damaged, I would just remove the sticker and get a replacement via BrickLink. If the window is not damaged behind the plastic, you could potentially just treat the other sections of the window. However, it is possible that the material of the sticker (or the glue of the sticker) would interact with the liquid and damage it. You could possibly tape over the sticker with masking tape or something similar to protect it during the process, but I would not dip it directly. Hope this helps a bit.