Last week after dinner Buttercup and I went for a drive through old Little Elm.
We didn’t know what to expect. We have lived here for 20 years. And my wife not only grew up here but she’s the third generation to do so.
And while Little Elm has (if you believe City Hall marketing) the most extensive lake shoreline of any city in the state, we rarely venture into the town.
We live south of the city center. I work further south. And all of the movie theaters, (most) restaurants and shopping are south or east of the downtown.
Little Elm has historically just been a bedroom community. So we never had a reason to venture into this neighborhood. And yet here we were.
So we drove down a tree-lined street. Until my wife said “Wow.”
There was a brand new million dollar mansion sitting on this street surrounded on either side by old, small homes. Most of which looked to like they were manufactured housing.
I should take a moment and mention that having a fancy home here in Little Elm, isn’t that shocking. There’s a community right on the lake full of wealthy people’s homes. Including some celebrities.
What was shocking was that they would be on this street. But I’m sure they got a heck of a deal on the land. And while they look like a million dollars, they were built for a lot less than that.
Then two minutes later we laughed. Because there was a home that looked like the set from the classic TV show “Sanford and Son.” Junked car parts. An old refrigerator with its door open. And more and more junk.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s a hoarder’s house. Or perhaps they resell the metal. Or perhaps it’s a hipster’s art display.
Anyway, that got me thinking about Lego. And how an effective way to buy Lego on the cheap is to buy it pre-owned in bulk.
But when you do that, the bricks often have to be cleaned.
And even if you buy new and put your sets on display, they can end up collecting dust. Which can be tricky to make sparkle because of studs and tiny parts.
So I put together this article to assist people in learning how to properly dust and clean up their Lego brick sets.
According to one site it said that a single Lego brick could hold over 950 pounds of weight before it will deform.
That’s why they’re so painful when you step on them with a barefoot.
And this is why they make a great toy. Kids (or adults) can play rough with them. And they will hold up to all of the beatings we put into our childhood playthings.
It’s also why you can do things like building an 26-foot long Titanic replica.
Unfortunately, while the bricks are hard to crush, there are other ways they can be harmed.
PHOTON BATTLES For example, sunlight is the enemy. The light from the sun carries these tiny little particles we call photons. Without photons, there’s no light (in simple terms).
These photons travel with so much energy; they can break up the molecules that create color in the plastic.
Over time, more and more of those molecules are destroyed by the photons (feel free to pause for a moment & imagine a science fiction battle scene, I know I did). And thus there are simply fewer chemicals in the plastic that display color. And the result is what we call fading.
You can read a more about the science behind this phenomonon here.
Another enemy of our favorite studs is temperature. In particular, heat. While I doubt you will ever get your house warm enough to cause damage, it is possible to get the bricks too warm when you clean them.
We will explain this later in this article.
But with the studs and plastic, they are dust magnets. In particular, if you have the sets out for display.
And if you buy Lego pieces off eBay or Bricklink or Facebook Marketplace, they may come to you looking like they were dipped in a mud bath before they were packed up.
So a typical question is how do you keep your Lego sets and minifigures clean.
From GC says “Put in an air-tight box or container.”
But let’s first understand our enemy - dust.
WHAT IS DUST AND WHAT IS IT MADE OF?
Dust is primarily made up of small particles that are floating in the air and land on surfaces. These particles can be fibers, hair, sand or just about any material - as long as they are light enough to float. Dust in the home is mostly made up of biological matter such as human skin as well as man-made materials like fibers from fabrics.
The human body is always shedding cells that are removed and float free into the air due to contact. The same applies to fabrics and other materials. These particles alone do not present that much of a health hazard but the parasites and microorganisms (like dust mites, bacteria, and mold) that feed on these particles, especially the skin cells, can be problematic.
These organisms also contribute to the dust problem. Of course, dirt and debris blown or brought in from the outside can also cause dust in your home.
Climate is another contributing factor to large amounts of dust. Dryer climates tend to be dustier than humid climates. This is because a higher moisture content in the air prevents smaller particles from becoming airborne.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MINIMIZE DUST?
Apart from cleaning your home regularly, some additional personal hygiene can reduce the number of skin cells and hair from forming part of your dust problem. Scrub and exfoliate your skin regularly (about once a week) and flush the dead cells down the drain. Moisturizing your skin can also help.
Keeping pets clean and healthy is also essential. Regular brushing (once a day is optimal but as often as possible) and a bath with a moisturizing pet shampoo will help.
Clean out the ventilation or air conditioning system and have these serviced regularly. Opt for a unit that can extract and filter dust from the air.
Always clean with a static or damp cloth to prevent dust particles from re-entering the air and merely settling again right after washing.
Invest in an air filtering vacuum cleaner which will trap dust from carpets and floor inside the unit rather than expelling it into the air.
If you live in a dry climate, get a humidifier. This will release moisture into the air reducing your dust problem. However, for it to be fully effective, you need to buy at least one for each room or use a system to change your indoor environment to a more humid climate. Remember that your AC can create a dry environment in your home even if you live in an area with a humid climate.
Although dust can contribute to some health conditions, especially those of a respiratory nature, applying the above cleaning and care tips will provide additional health benefits in your home.
Here are 3 quick tips.
And none of them require doing anything extreme like sending them into outer space as one person suggested in a Lego Facebook group.
1 - Put In Airtight Display Cases
When I was young, I was a huge baseball fan. And my favorite player was Johnny Bench. One time I went to watch him play here in Texas. But he didn’t play. Because he was old and close to retiring.
But I didn’t know that. I was too young to understand. I cried. And cried. My uncle who took me to the game hated that. So he wrote Johnny. And Johnny sent me back a signed baseball and photograph.
To keep the ball in tip top shape, my dad put the ball in a plastic cube. And it sits on my desk now.
You should do the same thing for your figures that you care the most about.
If you are keeping them around to re-use in displays. Or to play with (no judging. I play with my Lego regularly. I call it “visual storytelling” to impress friends at cocktail parties). Then a simple play case they make for children is cool.
But if you want to show them off, in particular, prized collectibles then go hunting for cases that are meant for display. I would look in Etsy and Amazon Handmade for artistic ones rather than mass-produced.
2 - Soap and Water
If you buy pre-owned Lego sets this tip is for you.
In particular when you buy in bulk.
These are often parents selling off their kids collections after the kids have moved onto college. And entered what we Lego folk call the “dark ages”. The time between when you stop playing with Lego and rediscover them.
Because these have been used by kids. And then dumped in boxes. They are often dirty.
You might be thinking “A little soap and hot water never hurt anything, right?.” Not so fast. When it comes to cleaning Lego, the company itself has some recommendations for you. First, the soap is not necessary. However, if you do prefer to use soap, you want to use a mild detergent. That is the best and only cleaning solution that is recommended, aside from water.
When it comes to the water, the temperature of the water doesn’t need to be more than 104 degrees. If you use water that exceeds a temperature of 104 degrees, then you could compromise the Lego bricks and their functionality. As you well know, one Lego that doesn’t fit properly suddenly throws an entire creation out of whack. It might as well be lost in the carpet somewhere. In all seriousness, you have to watch out for that, too.
You have the mild detergent, and you have the water at the right temperature. The next thing you need to know is what to use to do the scrubbing. Before you go and grab any old scrubber or metal scouring pad, you should know that what you need is just a soft sponge or a washcloth. That’s it! No heavy duty scrubbing is involved.
Furthermore, if you are going to use the mild detergent, you naturally want to rinse the Lego bricks off well once you have cleaned them.
Now let’s go back to that water temperature for a moment. By now, you realize that it is best to wash Lego pieces by hand. Based on the instructions and the warning about the water temperature, one thing you don’t want to do is stick them in the dishwasher.
Another reason why you don’t want to stick them in the dishwasher is that you don’t want them flying around inside there and ruining the appliance. You are going to have to take care of this job the old-fashioned way. In the meantime, with your constructed creations, you can also dust them lightly with a feather duster of sorts.
The day will come when you might want to take them apart to clean them, or you can clean them as they are. One thing about it, if you take them apart, you have to put them back together. Constructing with Lego is fun, but no one wants to dismantle a creation and put it back together again. On second thought, that could be quite fun in the right situation.
Let’s say you have a Lego creation that you put together years ago. It might be time to clean it with mild detergent and water. You could dismantle the creation, clean the pieces, dry them and then put them back together again, brand new. Now you know how to clean the Lego individually.
It sure does sound meticulous, but hey, those Lego displays are worth it. Remember to keep the water temperature under 104 degrees. That is the max, so you’re just trying not to use water that is too hot. You don’t have to take the water temperature or anything.
3 - Makeup Brushes
Speaking of brushes, a common tip I’ve found online for dusting your Lego displays is makeup brushes.
They are great because they come in a variety of sizes. Thus can fit into all of the tiniest spots in your sets. In particular, the large Creator sets. And they are soft so that you don’t have to worry about damaging them.
Make sure you use new brushes. And don’t recycle the brushes that have already been used. Mascara isn’t very becoming on your Lego displays.
If you want to look at displays but don’t want to clean them, then I have a solution for you.
And that’s to buy a print of my Lego displays.
Or you can see our favorite Lego City sets.