Cleaning LEGO can be a time-consuming task if not tackled in a smart way. After doing a lot of research on the subject, I decided to collect all the different advice I have been able to find on how to clean LEGO, so it can be found in one single article.
The best way to clean LEGO is by hand, placing all the LEGO pieces inside a laundry bag and putting that inside a big bucket with water and mild soap. Then, you rinse them well in another big bucket with only water and, lastly, you let them air dry by placing them on a towel.
We consider this the best way because it is quite fast and effortless while at the same time almost risk-free. Let’s have a look at this system in a bit more detail. After that, we will talk about the different alternatives you might want to consider that are also feasible but that might be a bit riskier or a bit more time-consuming.
Cleaning LEGO by hand done fast and without risk
So, the best way to clean LEGO is to clean them by hand. This avoids or at least minimizes the risk of damaging your LEGO parts in the process of cleaning. This is also the advice that LEGO offers on its website. But, the official system does not take too much into consideration how time-consuming it would be to clean all your pieces one by one if you have thousands of them. So, with the system we are proposing here, you are keeping the risk of damage low while making the process faster and more efficient.
In order to do the cleaning efficiently, we need to have the following products:
- Laundry bag with mesh and zip
- Two big buckets where you can comfortably fit the laundry bag
- A towel big enough to lay all the LEGO parts that will be inside the laundry bag
- A flat surface where you can work (like a table)
- Mild detergent
- New toothbrush (optional)
- Cotton swabs (optional)
Step 1 – Fill the laundry bag with LEGO parts
The first step for cleaning your LEGO parts is to put them inside the laundry bag. Do not stuff the laundry bag full because you need to be able to move the LEGO parts around a bit once you put them into the water. So, you can fill it up so you can minimize the number of times you will need to do the whole process, but not too full so the parts cannot move freely inside the laundry bag.
Once you have filled the laundry bag, it is time to close it with the zip to make sure that all the pieces stay inside while you are cleaning them.
Step 2 – Clean the LEGO parts
After you have fit the LEGO parts inside the laundry bag, it is time to clean them. To do that, start with filling one of the buckets with cold water and a bit of mild detergent, so the water gets filled with bubbles from the detergent. Once that is done, you want to put the laundry bag with your LEGO parts inside that bucket of water.
You need to move the pieces around to make sure they all go underwater and get soaked. Then, you let them sit there for a while. Anything between ten minutes and a few hours is fine. If there is something else you need to do around the house, you can do that and come back later.
Step 3 – Rinse the LEGO parts
After you have left the LEGO parts in the water with soap for a while, it is time to rinse them to get rid of the soap. The easier way to do this is to fill another bucket with cold water and put your LEGO parts inside this second basket. Do the same exercise as you did in the previous step, making sure all the LEGO pieces get soaked with water so you can rinse off any rest of soap that might be there.
Another way to do this is by putting the laundry bag under the tap and just running the water for a while. However, this is not my preferred option because you will waste more water this way.
If you are putting them in the bucket, leave them for a few minutes or hours so all the soap goes away from the pieces. You might want to shuffle the pieces around a bit to make sure that there is no soap in a place where the water is not reaching.
If you are rinsing them under the tap, just do it for a few minutes while making sure that all the parts are rinsed with the water coming from the tap.
Step 4 – Clean any rest that might have stayed after the first three steps
To do this, just put a towel on a flat surface and spread all the LEGO parts evenly on the towel so you can see them properly. Look for rests of dirt that have escaped the first clean.
In this case, you want to use a clean toothbrush to scrape the dirt out. In some instances, you might need to use cotton swabs if the part that is dirty is difficult to reach with the toothbrush. Feel free to soak the specific part in the water again to make this even easier.
Step 5 – Let the LEGO air dry
The next and last step is to let the LEGO parts air dry. It is very important not to try to speed up this step by using a hairdryer or the microwave or the oven. One of the few things that can destroy your LEGO is temperatures over 104°F / 40°C, so just let them air dry and you will be fine.
To do this, just let them in the towel you have already placed them in the previous step, making sure that they are evenly spread throughout the towel so that they can dry as fast as possible. This can easily take a few hours, so just be patient and do something else in the meantime.
If you want to speed up the process, there are several things you can do. First, you could put another towel on top and actively dry the LEGO pieces with that. This action will take most of the water out and speed up the process of air drying.
Second, you could put one fan nearby, so that the air moves faster. This way, the pieces will dry also faster without you having to actively dry them out. So, if you have a fan around, feel free to put it on to speed things up a little bit.
Once the LEGO parts are dry, you are done!
Are there any other ways to clean my LEGO?
Yes, there are other ways to clean your LEGO. Some of them are faster or more convenient than the preferred system we have talked about. However, they come with a risk of damaging your bricks. In any case, I have summarized them below for your convenience.
You can wash your LEGO in the washing machine
Even though LEGO does not recommend doing this on its official website, it is a common practice within the LEGO community, and, if done correctly, it will do the trick with much less work involved for you.
However, there are many more risks involved so, if you decide to go with this system, be mindful that you might damage your LEGO. The most obvious danger is scratching your LEGO parts. Because of the moving inside the washing machine, LEGO parts can easily scratch each other. That being said, this is the process to follow.
Step 1 – Put your LEGO in a laundry bag and put that inside a pillowcase
So, the first step is the same that we did to clean them manually, but with the addition of adding a pillowcase around the laundry bag. This is in order to soften the impact of the LEGO bricks. Both your LEGO and your washing machine will appreciate this.
Step 2 – Choose the right program to avoid damaging your LEGO
This is the most important step because choosing the wrong program can easily destroy your LEGO. So, you need to use the most delicate program your washing machine has. This will obviously depend on the washing machine you have, but usually hand-wash, delicates, or gentle are the most delicate ones.
In addition to that, make sure that the water comes out cold. As I mentioned at the beginning, temperatures over 104°F / 40°C will destroy your LEGO, so keep it safe and clean this with cold water. Also, if your washing machine allows it, take out the spin part of the program. This will reduce the risk of damaging your LEGO parts a lot.
As the last point on this step, never use powder detergent for LEGO because it could also damage the pieces. Either clean the LEGO only with water, with a mild liquid detergent or with vinegar.
Step 3 – Let the LEGO air dry
Once the washing machine is finished, it is time to let the pieces air dry. The same procedure that I mentioned in the handwashing is applicable here. Just put a towel on a flat surface and spread the LEGO evenly so they can air dry.
You can wash your LEGO in the dishwasher
The last system to clean your LEGO is also the least recommended because most dishwashers will not have the needed settings to perform this in a way that will not destroy your LEGO.
So, if you want to use your dishwasher, make sure you can set it up to have cold water or at least water that is less than 104°F / 40°C degrees. Also, make sure you can set it up to air dry, so the dishwasher does not dry the LEGO parts with warm temperature as it is usually done when you clean the dishes. If either of these things is not programmable, I would strongly advise against trying this system.
So, if your dishwasher has these functions, that is how to go about with it.
Step 1 – Put your LEGO in a laundry bag and place that in the top rack
Same procedure as when you manually clean them, just make sure that the zip is well closed and that all the LEGO pieces will stay inside.
Put the bag in the top rack of your dishwasher, spreading it as much as possible.
Step 2 – Choose the right settings to get your dishwasher going
Once you have placed the laundry bag on the top rack, pick the right settings to clean your LEGO parts. As we said, use cold water (as cold as possible) and disallow the drying cycle so that the dishwasher does not dry the LEGO parts with warm air. That would destroy them.
As a detergent, be sure not to use any powder detergent since it could damage your LEGO. Either do not put any detergent so it will be cleaned only with water, or put a bit of vinegar.
Step 3- Let the LEGO air dry
Once the dishwasher is finished, use the same procedure I explained in the handwashing system. Simply spread your LEGO evenly on a towel and let them air dry there for a few hours. To speed up the process, either put a fan or actively dry them with another towel.
How do I clean the assembled LEGO sets?
What if you want to clean assembled LEGO sets and not just LEGO pieces? Well, this is a very different story. In this case, you obviously don’t want to disassemble everything just to clean it and the type of cleaning that we will be after is mostly dust, which will eventually settle on your assembled sets.
So, in order to clean the assembled LEGO sets, there are four different products we can use. Which one you use will depend on how much money you want to spend, how much you care about your LEGO sets, and basically what you have available around the house. Let’s have a look at the four options.
Product 1 – Use a feather duster
This is the most traditional option and one that does not require any additional purchase if you have already one feather duster at home.
The idea is pretty straightforward here. Just use the feather duster to gently remove the dust from the LEGO sets. The disadvantage is that, depending on how big the feather duster is or how small the LEGO set is, it might be difficult to reach certain spots of the LEGO set with a feather duster.
Product 2 – Use a (new) make-up brush
The second option, a bit less traditional, is to use a make-up brush. Obviously, you want the make-up brush to be unused so that you do not make the LEGO sets dirty with make-up that is still in the brush.
As with the feather duster, this is pretty straight forward. Gently remove the dust from the LEGO sets by swiping the surface with the make-up brush.
Product 3 – Compressed air duster
We are getting a bit more serious and professional with this third product. Compressed air dusters are more specialized products and will do a great job in hard to reach areas where a feather duster or a make-up brush cannot reach.
The downside of this suggestion is the price, which is much higher than the first two products. That being said, this is the preferred option for LEGO enthusiasts.
You can find this product on Amazon by following this link.
Product 4 – Vacuum cleaner with a filter
The last product is much less traditional, but I found out in this video and I thought it was very interesting. So, in this case, you can use your vacuum cleaner, taking out the head so you have the hose.
However, if you were to use it like that, there is a high risk of slightly loose parts going into the vacuum cleaner, which we want to avoid. How do you avoid that? You set up a filter that lets the dust pass but that would block any LEGO pieces from going through.
A very interesting suggestion is to make the filter out of a used pantyhose. You cut one of the legs and wrap the end of the leg ( the foot) around the vacuum cleaner hose. In order to keep it in place, you can fix it with a rubber band.
Once this is set, you simply switch on the vacuum cleaner and you pass it around your sets. The vacuum effect will take out the dust very effectively while the filter will avoid any loose pieces from going into the vacuum cleaner. A great option!
And with this, we have arrived at the end of this post. If your LEGO has become yellow through the years, you may want to check our post “Tips To Restoring Discolored LEGO” before trying any of the above ideas. Most likely, your LEGO is not dirty but has been discolored, so you can follow the process I highlighted in the post above and get the color of your LEGO back.
If you are interested, here is a link to the entire Lego section found on Amazon.