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    The Art of Cleaning LEGOs

    The Art Cleaning LEGOs

    Here's a topic we haven't seen here yet, and one that's near and dear to our heart... the Art of Cleaning LEGOs. After all, the difference between what looks clean, and what IS clean, isn't always black and white... but it is how parents keep their peace of mind.

    So, you found that awesome used LEGO set on eBay for a fraction of the cost. Good for you! But, you don't need to be a germ-a-phoebe to know that you probably have some other, very small visitors attached to them. These visitors are called pathogens and are anything that can cause disease. They come in the form of bacteria, viruses and the such. So then, what you really bought were vectors. Sure, you could just ignore this fact and build it the second it gets in your home; risking a cold, or flu. Or, you could wait a few hours and have a B E A Utiful set that looks much better, due to it being clean, and safer, due to the lack of pathogens.

    So, what are vectors? OK, I admit, actual vectors are normally DNA based molecules, like mosquitoes or flees, which help the pathogen multiply, mutate, etc, in addition to aiding in its spread. But for this specific example, we'll call your 'new to you' LEGOs vectors, since they do this last aspect quite well. Now that the technicalities are out of the way, lets discuss how can you can turn your vectors back into LEGOs?

    Sure you can use hot soapy water, but how hot, and which soap? I'm sure there's tons of you that have more experience than I on this topic, so we don't claim to be the all knowing expert, but over the past year, we've experimented numerous technics to look for the best option. We've tried cleaning them in the washer with a cloth bag, but the ones that let the water in, also let our small pieces out. And we think we've found what works best for us.

    So, in the immortal words of Khan: "Now, shall we begin?"


    What temperature? Most hot water heaters are set for about 110 to 120 degrees F, but can be set higher. Important! If you have kids, particularly young kids, do not take apart your garage to get to the water heater and change its thermostat. Keep your water heater set about 110 to 115. If you want your cleaning water hotter, add some boiling water to the cooler water to bring up its temp. Besides, maintaining that higher temp in your water heater will cost you dearly and put a needless scalding hazard into your home.


    So, you boiled your water and got your sink's water temp to 120-130 degrees F. This isn't really hot enough to kill all pathogens, but its about the hottest your hands will be able to take. So, you'll need to add some additional cleaners.

    You need a soap to clean and an anti pathogen ingredient, if not already in your soap. If it isn't, you could purchase some lavender oil, or boil some fresh lavender in your water if you have any growing around the house. You can also use a variety of other natural ingredients from citrus, herb, or other oils to achieve the same effect, but we suggest lavender due to its antibacterial, antiviral, and anti fungal properties.

    Another must have is white distilled vinegar. It also does the same as lavender, but adds in grease cutting abilities. In a single sink, we fill the sink half way with 120-130 degree F water, add one cup of white vinegar, 5 drops of lavender oil, and 1 tablespoon generic dish washing liquid.

    Time to clean.


    Important! Remember that LEGO is adding more and more electronic parts to their sets. Be sure that any electric brick or part is separated before cleaning. We recommend cleaning these with an antibacterial wipe, then removing the cleaner with a moist towel before drying.

    For cleaning, don't just throw your LEGOs in the sink. Keep them confined (except the really small tiles that always seem to find their way out) by using a plastic colander, or even better, an interior liner for a salad spinner. Make sure all pieces are submerged. If you have some dirty parts or large plates that like to collect dust, use a really soft brush, scrubbing in two perpendicular directions. Gently swish the pieces around the colander both in and out of the water. Then, using hot water, completely rinse all pieces, being sure to get both sides of the pieces.


    So they're clean... and wet. If you've ever cleaned LEGOs before, then you know how hard it is to get them completely dry. The little divots and crevasses underneath may increase its clutch power, but they also act like little sponge pores, trapping water for what seems like eternity.

    Remember when I said it was actually better to use a salad spinner liner than a colander? Reason is because now you can take your liner and spin those pieces of plastic plastic gold. We've discovered that its better to start slow and speed up gradually. This decreases your scratch potential as we'll as decreasing damage to your salad spinner. Remember, these weren't designed for spinning something as heavy duty as LEGOs, so you need to give the pieces time to find a good position. Just like your clothes washer, you want to make sure your pieces' weight is distributed equally, or you'll have a hard time spinning the pieces fast enough to get all the water off. Once you give a good starter spin, move the pieces around to get out water trapped from the previous spin. Just repeat until you're not getting out any more water.

    No salad spinner, no problem. You can also try some of these other methods:

    - Cup a few smaller pieces in your hands and shake like you would before you roll the dice.

    - Tap the larger pieces on their edge; hard enough to dislodge the water, but soft enough not to damage the LEGO or the surface you're tapping on.

    - for larger plate pieces, tap first as above, but rub the stud face in perpendicular directions on a thick towel

    Its important to get the water off your LEGOs as quickly as possible. First, residue from the water will dry in place, leaving spots on your clean LEGOs. Second, moisture is one of the biggest requirements for bacteria to reform on your bricks.

    If you remember anything from this article, just remember these three things:

    - If you have 'new to you' LEGOs, and kids to play with them, we implore you to clean any used LEGOs you buy.

    - Using natural ingredients can be a safe alternative to harsh chemicals that can leave your LEGOs almost as toxic as when you got them.

    - Lastly get the water off your LEGOs as quickly as you can to maintain cleaning's aesthetic and sanitarial benefits.

    Also, if you're selling a set of LEGOs, putting in your listing the fact that you cleaned them prior to packaging couldn't hurt your bottom line either, right? We've seen some nasty stuff come our way, and we know that this time wont be spent in vain. Let's make sure we keep LEGO the safest, best toy in history.


    Some great sites for other natural cleaning recipes:

    - http://www.macheesmo.com/2011/01/four-homemade-cleaners/

    - http://gogreenamericatv.com/the-blender-girls-top-natural-cleaning-uses-for-essential-oils/

    - http://www.herbsociety.org/resources/t4k/documents/LectureHerbalHousekeepingHandout.pdf

    - http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art50467.asp

    Note: We do not endorse, nor do we support any essential oil product. Whichever you choose will minimize the use of chemicals on the LEGOs.

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    Guest skfdlty


    Wow! Great article, EschDaddy!! Cleaning LEGO bricks is definitely one of the weaker subjects in the forums and in blogs, so it's great that you filled in that gap! 


    I know that several members have suggested putting your bricks in a laundry bag, then putting it through a load of laundry. Do you recommend this? It may take off the visible waste and bacteria, but there's ALWAYS that stuff that you can't see. 

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    Great question! We have tried this, but lost a bunch of pieces to to minor holes. Additional, those pieces can damage your machine, so its risky. I think it would work well for Duplo or other larger bricks, but its a rare set that doesn't have those smaller, susceptible pieces. Thanks for the comment!

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    Thanks for sharing!

    As for me:

    1. tab of water with Clorox, 1TBSP/gallon of water.  Soak bricks for about 15 min or more.

    2 tab of hot water with dishsoap (no more then 104F or just not too hot for my hand).  Soak for as long as it needed.

    3. rinse well.

    4.  put them to dry on the old towel.  Well, I live in dry climate, and it still takes 2 days.

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    I just put a bag of large grey pieces through the washing machine with mixed results.

    They came from a collection steeped in smoking and gasoline smells, and the wash removed the smells remarkably, however, I was still able to inspect several individual pieces and scrub some grime off with my fingers/toothbrush, so it doesn't seem to be a fool-proof method.

    Also, the tumbling action and sharpish corners of the bricks resulted in small tears in the net of the laundry bag, making it unusable for smaller sizes.

    They do make delicate laundry bags for the smaller pieces with smaller mesh, but I would still recommend washing some towels in there at the same to soften the blows.

    It would be nice if someone could design a lego-compatible laundry bag for us all to use safely. :)

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    How would you clean the sails of 4184 or 4195 ?

    I would just soak them in the solution, rinse, blot with a paper towel (don't scrub) and then let air dry. When I've cleaned fabric this way, its always stayed crisp. It also works well for minifig cloaks and all other Lego fabrics too.

    Good luck!


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    A "magic eraser" is the cleaning product of the gods.  No chemicals (just add water) and removes scuffs from almost anything.  Works especially well on light color legos like white and yellow. I use this on my shoes, on the walls, on my computer, almost anything.

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    Well I have always used this method, which is using an Ultrasonic Cleaner that you use for jewellery. I bought a cheap one of these a few years back now (from Ebay). Although it is not large you can still fit quite a lot of pieces in at a time and hey presto, it removes the majority of the dirt/dust for you. I use warm water with a little dish washing liquid then when they have finished in the Ultrasonic Cleaner rinse them under running water to remove all traces of detergent, dust etc. I just let the pieces air dry on a towel which doesn't take too long and this has worked well for me over many years. NOTE - To prove the cleaners do work, you should see the water left behind after a dirty model.. :-)

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