Washing LEGO

This is how I wash LEGO parts… how do you do it?

I’ve tried a few approaches.  The laundry washing machine (in a mesh bag) worked fairly well, but I think a few bits got loose and got in the drain so I stopped doing that.  The dishwasher (mesh bag in the top rack) also works OK, but I think it gets too hot in there – I had some warped bricks from the heat.  Handwashing seems the safest, to ensure I don’t lose any parts down the drain or have them melted.  If the water is cool enough to not damage my hands, it’s cool enough to not damage the bricks.

I always wash used bricks when I get them, and also any model that has been on display for any length of time tends to gather dust.  I’m very allergic to dust, and I live with someone who’s very allergic to animal dander, so I need to keep my collection clean.

Anyway, here’s the four step process I use to wash bricks.  Please post in the comments if you’ve found a better way or have any war stories about dirty bricks….

1. Soak in soapy water.  I use All Free/Clear laundry soap – I figure if it’s good for synthetic fabrics it should be good for plastic bricks.

2. Transfer to mesh bag and rinse in bathtub.  I had to do this in three batches, I had so many dirty bricks.

3. Use laundry basket, lined with towel, to carry to living room.

4. Dump out on towels on living room floor, with fan blowing on them.  Luckily I live in coastal California, so the humidity is low and they actually get dry this way.  I’ll stir them periodically, but they’ll be dry enough to sort and put away in a day or two.

Anyone want to come over and help me sort?  I’ll give you free pizza!

24 Comments on Washing LEGO

  1. Sounds like the standard in washing there. I’ve heard people use the dishwasher and turn off the heat then just spread them out with a fan to dry. I just do it by hand. Being in a small San Francisco apartment, I don’t have the luxury of a dishwasher or a large area to spread out to dry. I typically do what you do, just in smaller batches. For really nasty bricks I use an old toothbrush with soap to scrub them. I also found that the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser works well to get rid of marks. Though it can leave tiny scratches if you do it too hard.

  2. I wouldn’t’ve thought to use the Magic Eraser – thanks, I’ll try that! I have some seemingly intractably marked bricks that might benefit from it.

  3. I had an accident with a chimney that wasn’t properly blocked up, a *big* chunk of soot came down one night over three large tubs of Lego. It was carnage! Soot is horrible and oily and sticky, took three washes (using a similar method to yours, in the bath with lots of washing up liquid) to clean it all. Even now it vaguely smells of soot. Disgusting.

  4. I wash batches of Lego in the bathtub with dish washing soap. I scoop them up with a colander and rinse a small batch at a time. Then I transfer them to a salad spinner and give them a spin. Sheds a lot of the water this way. Cuts down the drying time to an hour. No fan. I lay them out on a sheet in the living room. Washing takes a day, sorting takes another day.

    Bosch made a dishwasher with a Lego setting on it. My dream is to own one.

  5. on the cover of the new blue baseplate it says to wash it at 40 degrees celcius and 104 degrees fahrenheit

  6. Steve: Oh man, that soot accident sounds awful! That “vaguely smells of soot” phenomenon is why I try not to buy LEGO from smokers…

    Polywen: I’ve dune the salad spinner thing in the past, but it’s more work than I wanted to do. I just dump them out on the floor and leave them alone. I love the idea of a dishwasher with a LEGO setting though!

    Bourbonbrick: Yeah, I think that’s the standard for all LEGO. I didn’t measure the temperature, but based on my experience with hottubs, that sounds about right.

  7. Personally, I start by soaking all my newly acquired bricks overnight in a bleach/water solution to kill any cooties, germs, etc. 1 cap full of bleach (about 1Tbs) to 1 gallon water. This has never affected the color, transparency, or screenprinting on any parts. Then I drain the water, squirt in some dish soap, refill with hot tap water, and swish them all around for a while. Then I drain, refill with clean water, and repeat until my bricks aren’t soapy or the new water doesn’t make bubbles when I pour it in. Next I drain them and wrap them in a beach towel and shake them to get as much water off as possible. Lastly I lay out some beach towels on the kitchen floor and spread the bricks out to dry over night

  8. I’ve always been so paranoid about discoloration with bleach that I never even considered using it on LEGO. I think my mother must have traumatized me as a child when I tried to help with laundry or something. That’s a good idea when you get used bricks from questionable sources, and I’m glad to hear it hasn’t caused you problems with discoloration.

  9. Awesome info! Thanks everyone for posting. I’m not an adult Lego fan but my nephew loves thems and I can’t wait for my son to be able (fine motor skilled enough) to play with them.

  10. Hi, thanks for writing about this. My son has severe dust allergies too, and I am trying to figure out how to live with it! My kids (I have 2, and they are 4) have SO many toys with little tiny parts, I cannot figure out how to clean them all as frequently as they really need it to keep the allergies under control. How often do you do this bathtub routine??

  11. I only do it when I acquire new stuff, or when something’s been on display so long it has become dusty sometimes. When we do train shows with the club those models just go into storage, and eventually I tear them down and reuse the parts – at that point I will wash them if they have become dusty. But I’m not a young kid, so I keep my stuff pretty clean when I am building with it…

  12. Hi! We just washed a bunch of old legos that had become dusty. We washed them in soap and water, but it seemed as though their parts got looser afterwards (e.g. minifigures slump over at the waist instead of standing up!). I thought they would tighten up when they dried but doesn’t seem to have happened. Anyone have this experience? Any advice? Thanks!

  13. Wow, I’ve never had anything like that happen! What kind of soap did you use? You’re not talking about Mega Blox or other cheap knockoff brands are you?

  14. A few years ago I acquired a small lego brick collection from my cousin. My aunt is a smoker and the bricks smelled awful. After doing the standard soap and water process twice they still stunk. I ended up putting them (dry) into a plastic storage bin sealed with plastic wrap. Of course I put a dozen scented dryer sheets inside the bins. After a 2 months I opened the bins up. Worked like a charm. The bricks do have a slight scent now. It’s pleasant. However, I think the next time I have to do this I will try unscented dryer sheets. They should absorb the stench of cigarette smoke. Hope this helps. Thanks for reading my comment.

  15. Thank you for all of the helpful tips! I just got in a lot of Lego, and was quite upset to find the bottom layer had pieces covered in cat urine (yuck!). I will be attempting an enzyme remover on some basic bricks tonight (nothing i’m unwilling to lose). I can’t tell you how thankful I am for the salad spinner idea. I do not have the time or space to wait a few days for them to dry on their own.

    I just wanted to submit my personal experience for removing smoke smell (we’ve all been burned once).
    Wash and dry your lego first in your preferred way. Get a sealable container and pour clean cat litter along the bottom. Next, place some Lego on a newspaper, and roll the newspaper around the lego, sealing it off the best you can. Place the bundle inside the bin with the kitty litter. Continue this for as many bundles as you need to do. I know it’s a lot of work, but it’s better than being stuck with Lego that wreaks of cigarette smell. Seal the container and put it aside for a week. After a week, check the lego for smell. If it still smells, roll it in new newspaper, and seal the bin for another week. Repeat until the smell is gone. The newspaper draws out the smell, and the kitty litter absorbs it. I have had great luck doing this.

  16. Hi.
    I recently purchased a huge lot of Legos from a garage sale for a steal.
    Unfortunately a lot of them were dirty from outdoor play.
    I’ve been washing them in the bathtub, but found that they required
    scrubbing to get the gunk off. Is there any chemical you would
    suggest for removing this gunk, or is this the best way? I ask because
    There are so many and it’s taking me forever to wash each piece

  17. I use a special mixture of Simple Green cleaner (To disinfect and get rid of the smell), water, and 1/2 a cap of Clorox bleach (For disinfecting). I fill a bathtub with this mixture (enough to cover the LEGO bricks), then use a sheet with NO holes, filled with the bricks, and tie it at the top. I then let it sit in the bathtub for pretty much a whole day. Once they’re finished soaking, I drain the bathtub, untie the sheet, and let the bricks sit for a few hours. Once they’re mostly dry, I spread the sheet out in an open area (such as the living room), and, with fans all around, let the bricks dry. Works extremely well!

  18. You don’t think it’s necessary to agitate the mix? When I soak in the bathtub I always make sure to stir it often. And you don’t really address the issue of rinsing either….

  19. Sarah, did the enzyme cleaner work? If so what was it? I’m dealing with cat pee on my kids’ Legos. Apparently one of their uncovered LEGO storage bins was the exact same shape and size as the litter box 😫. 1 tbsp bleach with 1 gallon water didn’t work, nor did a 1:1 vinegar/water overnight soak.

  20. A great thing forgetting rid of the smell on anything is activated charcoal(the kind you use in fish tank filters).

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