(Written by Karl Crismond)
I read an article here from a couple of years ago about the gradual yellowing of white LEGO elements and how to deal with them (see: Restoring Discolored LEGO Bricks). I got inspired to send an email (read below) to the LEGO Group to see what they say about the subject. I’m sure they are always researching and developing their plastic formulas, and I was hoping that they can shine some light on why this is happening and what to do about it. I was also hoping that their answer will benefit the LEGO fan community. After a few days, I got a response, which I’m enclosing below as well.
The LEGO Group,
I love your products and have been a loyal customer for decades. I have a question regarding white bricks, and how they yellow and discolor over time, even if kept away from sunlight. “Only the best is good enough” is the slogan for the LEGO Group and the high standards with which LEGO bricks are produced is why LEGO bricks produced decades ago are still compatible with ones produced today. In short; the world’s BEST toy!
I am in need of advice for the yellowing of my white LEGO bricks (as well as other colors – some are affected more than others). It must be the chemical composition, as I have researched across the Internet, various Adult Fan of LEGO (AFOL) websites, and forums. I know that a bath of Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) and sunlight or concentrated UV light will restore the color to white (from my understanding, the chemical/molecular bonds break down in the composition of LEGO bricks as they age and yellowing is the result), but this does not last. I am not looking for any proprietary or trade secrets, but want to keep my LEGO pristine.
What if anything can I do to keep parts from discoloring? Does fluorescent lighting also discolor bricks? I have seen colored paper fade over time exposed to fluorescent lights, but the pigments and composition of colored paper are much weaker I would imagine. TLG is always researching ways to improve the product (Plants from Plants initiative, etc.) Has any thought been given to add a UV protection of some kind to the blend for LEGO bricks? I am not a chemical/molecular engineer, but it seems possible. Or I am forever going to have to give my pieces a bath in H2O2? If so, what concentration of H2O2 should I use? Can I just request replacement bricks? (Even if feasible, it would be time consuming to list and replace all the discolored parts.) Any insight would be appreciated.
A dedicated and loyal AFOL,
I have done the H2O2 bath for my LEGO elements that I mentioned in my email to the LEGO Group. It worked indeed, but only for a while. After I dried the pieces, I stored them in a bin in a cool, dark room, away from even fluorescent light. Yet, when I came back to them after a while, they were yellowed again. I also find it strange that pieces seem to yellow at a different rate. Some yellow fast, some slow, some gets slightly dark, some very dark, and some don’t yellow at all.
As expensive as LEGO sets are, I was hoping that they company will offer a solution. Sure, I have seen some cool LEGO creations build with yellowed bricks, but when you’re looking for crisp pristine white pieces, yellowing is very disappointing. Below is the response I got back from LEGO Customer Service.
Thanks for getting in touch with us. I am so happy to hear that you are a passionate LEGO fan and that you have much fun with our products. I absolutely understand that you want to keep your sets as pristine as possible and it is amazing that you have done so much research on how to clean your bricks. You truly are a LEGO fan!
The materials we use to make LEGO bricks have evolved over the past almost seventy years as a natural process of making even better toys and play experiences for children. New materials have been introduced, others changed, or phased out. We use more than 20 different types of plastic, and we continually introduce new materials and phase out other material. Because “only the best is good enough”, we are constantly researching new ways to make our bricks eco-friendly without compromising quality and color.
Our quality team found out that exposure to direct sunlight, temperature variations and extremes, and exposure to cigarette smoke are some of the reasons why our super LEGO bricks can change color slightly over time. To help our fans take care of their bricks and incredible constructions, we have put together a Cleaning Guide on our website. For more information about this, please click here.
I have passed on your email to our Quality Team to help them in the search for alternative ways of finding colors as vibrant as possible. We want to make sure we’re doing a good job for you, so you’ll always find the link to a four-question survey in our emails. Please tell us how we did today. And please let us know if you need anything else.
Have a bricktastic day!
LEGO Customer Service
What do you think? Do you have issues with yellowed and discolored LEGO bricks? Did you find a solution? And what do you think of LEGO’s response to my questions? Thanks for reading! And feel free to share your thoughts and own experiences in the comment section below!
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That seems a mostly canned response. They didn’t say anything about replacing yellowed bricks or why is it that different parts yellow differently. I have yellowed elements that were never exposed to the sun and I don’t smoke. But this is an interesting topic for sure.
What I find intriguing is that different bricks don’t yellow with the same intensity. There could be two pieces next to each other, and one turns yellow while the other remains mostly white. Are they made in different factories? With different composition? Or on different dates? Why can’t they make them consistent?
Thanks for the info. As Martin said, this seems like a mostly canned response. By the way, white plastic turning yellow with age is common. So lego is not the only product that has this issue.
Sanitizing and washing Lego is not the same as getting rid of the discoloration. Also, I head that if you do the sunlight hydrogen peroxide treatment, the bricks will still turn yellow again. And may also become brittle. I tend to avoid white sets like the Taj Mahal because of these reasons.
I use discolored pieces as fillers, or sometimes to mimic decay. Might as well make good use of them!
Nofakebrick, while I like your idea of using the discolored bricks as filler, there are a number of sets where that’s not very feasible. The Saturn V and Taj Mahal and two of my biggest sets that would be a pain to continue to change or wash.
So true. Some sets are mostly white, and sometimes the white parts don’t even yellow evenly and the set gets ugly. I don’t know why they are not addressing the real question in the response. Karl’s question was pretty clear and on point.
I have some sets that have 4-5 different shades of discoloration on different white blocks, so it clearly isn’t just UV light or whatever excuse; it’s the kind of plastic used for particular pieces.