Say you found the last piece to round out your collection from a swap meet, a garage sale, or a second-hand store — it’s perfect, except for some dust and grime in nooks and crannies. How do you bring your newfound treasures back to their original window box shine? Here are a few tips.
Determine the type of plastic that makes up your toy.
Different kinds of plastic require different treatment. Polystone and coldcast will survive a hard scrubbing, but be careful not to drop the item during handling as they will break very easily.
ABC can withstand pretty much anything — including harsh cleaning fluids and plenty of water, as long as the water temperature stays cool.
PVC is the most sensitive kind of plastic — it warps in even low heat and the paint rubs off it with scrubbing, so items made with PVC must be cleaned with care.
Fabric and leather parts such as clothing and accessories should be handled with care as well. Leather must be cleaned with a specialty leather-cleaning fluid, while clothing must be laundered carefully by hand with a gentle liquid detergent such as Perwoll.
Dust with an electrostatic duster or a can of compressed air.
To get started, clean off all visible dust with an eletrostatic duster (those dusters that look like fine cable optic fibers) or a can of compressed air. You can also use a hairdryer, as long as you leave it on the coolest setting — any warmer and you might warp the plastic.
Use lukewarm water and a gentle dishwashing detergent.
Depending on the size of the toy, grab a bucket deep enough to submerge it in water. Carefully pour in lukewarm to cool water until the item is covered. Dissolve several capfuls of dishwashing liquid in the water — use the grease-cutting kind and not the hand-moisturizing kind, you don’t want to leave a greasy film on your toys.
Brush or scrub with a clean used toothbrush or nailbrush. Don’t forget to get the smaller spaces in between. Also, do not scrub too hard — especially with PVC, as the paint might come off.
Dry the item thoroughly before storing a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
After rinsing your toy at least two times with cool, fresh water pat it dry with paper towels or a clean old towel. Again, do not forget to get the spaces in between. Lastly, let it air-dry for a good two or three hours before putting it away for storage — you don’t want mold and other nasty stuff growing in the toy’s crevices.
If the toy also needs some first aid, now is the time to do it. You can get rid of ink stains by rubbing at the stained spot with a cotton bud dipped in isopropyl alcohol, and then covering up the bald spot with a color marker the same shade as the paint. Wax stains need to be chipped at patiently with a fingernail — anything harder like a nailfile or chisel might ruin the toy for good.
You can also glue in bits and pieces that fell off with miniscule amounts of super glue. Just dab a small amount of glue on one side of the joint, afix the second side, and carefully clamp with a bull clip. Remember, do NOT use super glue on PVC toys — the glue will dissolve the PVC leaving you with a bigger mess than before.
Consider investing in an glass or acrylic display case.
Prevention is the best form of cure. Instead of displaying your toys on open shelves, vulnerable to dust and the elements, invest in a display cabinet or acrylic shelving. If you already have one, do not forget to periodically dust the interior — dirt has a way of sneaking into display cabinets when you’re not looking.
However, keep your display cabs away from sunlight and moisture — like windows or air conditioning units for example, as temperature extremes may cause plastic toys to disintegrate.