How to Clean Your Action Figures

Suitcase Full of Toys
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A Clean Action Figure Is a Happy Action Figure

Sometimes you find that rare action figure you've been looking for for years in a toy bin at a thrift store or at a garage sale or eBay, and although you got a great deal, you notice that this figure has seen better days. There's a little dirt and grime build-up on the joints, there's some mystery gunk stuck to the left foot and years of attic dust have made this action figure in serious need of a bath.

Not a problem! All you need are some basic household supplies and you're ready to go.

The first thing you'll need is a bowl of warm (not hot!) water. Hot water can cause the plastic to soften and become misshapen; lukewarm water will do just fine. The bowl should be large enough to completely submerge the figure.

What You'll Need

You'll need to find a soft-bristled toothbrush. A brand new one works best as it will be free of toothpaste residue, which can be abrasive and cause the paint to scratch off of the figure.

You'll also need some liquid soap, such as hand soap or dishwashing liquid that does not contain any moisturizers. Moisturizers will leave your figure greasy-feeling and can have adverse effects on the paint or plastic.

Also, grab a few paper towels, some to work on and some for later.

And don't forget your action figure! In this case, we'll be using a vintage 1978 Fisher Price Adventure People space alien.

Take a Good Look at Your Figure

Look over your figure very carefully, noting the biggest trouble spots. Notice how figures tend to get a lot of grime in and around their joints. Also, look for any problem areas, such as an old glob of peanut butter or a line of crayon.

Figures in "played with condition" mean that they have seen an adventurous life, usually in the hands of a young child, so you never know what you'll find.

If you spot any trouble areas, make sure you give them enough attention when cleaning.

A Nice Relaxing Soak

Soak the figure in the warm water for about 5 minutes. This will take off the majority of the dust and begin to break up any areas where dirt and other substances may have built up.

Scrub, Scrub, Scrub!

Put a small amount of soap on the toothbrush, just a small drop, and begin to give the figure, still wet from its soak, a gentle scrubbing. Do not use too much pressure, just enough to clean off the dirt and grime.

Using short, even strokes, scrub the figure from head to toe, making sure you get into the joints and any other hard to reach areas.

Soap It Up!

Once you've got the soap in all the nooks and crannies, let the figure sit on a paper towel for about 1 minute. This will give the soap's detergents even more time to break up any really stubborn spots that the figure may have.

Be sure not to leave it too long; you don't want the soap to dry on the figure.

The Final Scrub

Place the figure back into the bowl of warm water and use the toothbrush to give the figure a final scrub. This step should really get out the harder to clean gunky spots.

Again, make sure you use gentle, even pressure with the toothbrush.

Rinse Thoroughly

Taking the action figure to the kitchen or bathroom sink, run it under some warm water to wash off the excess soap and dirt. Turn the figure upside-down, sideways and every which way you can think of. This will make sure that every little area on the figure gets well rinsed, leaving no soap residue behind.

It's a good thing this little guy is wearing a helmet.

A Gentle Drying

With a paper towel, gently pat down the figure, soaking up as much of the excess water as you can. You want to be careful not to rub with the paper towel as this is just needless wear and tear on your figure's paint job, as some paper towels can be a little abrasive.

Do not use a hairdryer! It seems like a tempting time-saver, but it will ultimately ruin your figure, which is made of a plastic that is not designed to take that kind of heat.

Now for a Little Rest

Once you've gotten the figure mostly dry, you'll need to take another clean piece of paper towel and simply let the figure rest on it to dry further. There are many small areas on an action figure that the paper towel can't get to and you'll have to let good old fashioned evaporation do its work.

Store the figure on its towel in a safe place, out of direct sunlight (sunlight may help dry your hair, but it can destroy an action figure) and preferably where it won't get too dusty.

Let the figure sit for about 12 hours before putting back in your display.