Caring for LEGO products
Modern LEGO Bricks are made from ABS plastic, a strong, hard-wearing material. The ABS lasts just about forever, but taking good care of LEGO products prevents bricks from getting faded, dirty, and scratched. In addition to being great toys or being a creative toolkit, LEGO bricks can be a valuable investment.
Preventing and Dealing with Fading
LEGO elements will fade or change color when exposed to sunlight. This is the result of a chemical process called polymer photodegredation. Long-time LEGO fans often have many examples of white and light gray pieces that have yellowed over time.
Once a part has faded, there is little that can be done to restore its appearance. LEGOLAND parks sandblast the surfaces of their creations to restore colors, but this is both messy and prohibitively expensive for most fans. It has also been suggested, but not comprehensively demonstrated, that bleach works at reducing the yellowed appearance of white bricks.
To prevent fading and yellowing, LEGO elements are best stored away from windows that let in sunlight. Similarly, assembled creations should not be displayed in sunlight.
Washing LEGO Elements
LEGO elements and models left out will inevitably collect dust, and collections often contaminated by spilled food and drinks, sand, modelling clay and other matter.
The LEGO Company provides very specific guidelines for how to wash LEGO bricks. To wash bricks, use luke-warm water no hotter than 40 degrees Celsius / 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Use only mild detergent, such as dish soap. Air dry clean LEGO. Never use a hair-dryer, microwave, or oven to dry LEGO.LG
While soaking is a good approach for most elements, try to avoid soaking elements that have stickers on them, as the water invariably will ruin the sticker or cause it to lift off. For stickered elements, the recommended approach is simply to wipe with a damp cloth. Electric or electronic elements should not be cleaned with water.
To clean encrustments off of bricks: scrubbing with a toothbrush with a very small amount of white vinegar.
Many fans have had success putting pieces in a washbag and using a washing machine set on warm water and a regular cycle, and using laundry soap. A dishwasher set similarly is reported to be equally effective.IL
Smoke and Sunlight
Smoke from tobacco products or other burning materials (ie. from a house fire) can infuse LEGO elements with a distinct, unpleasant odour and even some discolouration. Sunlight causes a noticeable yellowing especially of white elements as noted above. Elements thus affected are usually less attractive to collectors and builders and thus sell for less money on reseller sites such as Bricklink. Washing these elements is more difficult than simply removing dust or surface markings as above.
Some fans have had good results in both reversing yellowingyel and removing smoke damagedis with a product called Oxyclean but great care should be taken as the active ingredient is hydrogen peroxide.
Non-ABS elements made of cloth pose a very different cleaning problem. The majority of larger cloth elements are sails for Pirate ships and boats. Given that most of these are older, washing should only be attempted with great caution to prevent damage to the material. This is one reason sails are often replaced with custom reproductions.
- See: Cleaning: restore your Lego Sails in links below.
Storing LEGO Elements
Properly storing your LEGO elements can prevent them both from collecting dust and from fading or yellowing. When not using your LEGO elements, they should be stores in covered containers, such as plastic storage bins or the lidded boxes some LEGO sets come in. Store these containers somewhere away from extremes of temperature and light, such as a closet.
If you have a lot of LEGO product, sorting your elements into smaller containers can have additional benefits. Sorted elements make building new creations easier, and can minimize scratching by limiting the amount of digging required to find a particular piece. Scratching most often occurs in impacts between LEGO bricks, so smaller volumes of bricks in each container will reduce the surface damage to bricks. This is especially important to translucent ("clear") pieces.
- IG - IndyLUG forum "cleaning"
- yel - LEGO Whitening by John Tooker.
- dis - Brick Discoloration Due to Sunlight/Smoking and Methods to Restore discussion on Brickset
- How do you wash your LEGO... Seriously? discussion on Eurobricks
- Cleaning: restore your Lego Sails video on YouTube - German with English subtitles.