How to Clean Your Action Figures: Cotton Swabs, Alcohol and More Cleansers

Is Spider-Man covered with cobwebs? Does Batman look like he’s been buried in the bat-cave? Perhaps G.I. Joe has been out in the field too long? Sometimes your action figures get dirty, either from neglect, use, or even disuse. If you want to keep them looking their best, you’ll need to clean them. Cleaning action figures isn’t like washing the dishes or mopping the floor. You’ll need to take some precautions if you want to avoid permanently damaging your collectibles.

If your figures have been sitting on a shelf for a few years, they’re probably a little dusty. Luckily this is the easiest type of dirt to clean. For the lightest dust, simply blowing on the items will work fine. You may need to use a can of pressurized air for deeper crevasses. If you use an electrostatic duster, usually made of synthetic material, it’ll help keep the dust off for a little while longer.

If you’ve got more than dust on your action figures, you’ll need stronger measures than simply blowing on them. In this case, you have two good choices. The first is simple soap and water. Dish soap or liquid hand soap will work just fine. Simply fill your sink with some soapy water and gently rub the dirt and debris off with your hands. Take off any rings and avoid using harsh materials in order to avoid damaging the item. Another good way to clean your dirty action figures is by using denture cleaning tablets, like Polident. Place the tablet in a glass of clean water and simply drop Boba Fett in for a nice bubble bath. These tablets are gentle enough to use on Grandma’s choppers so they’ll work just fine on your little bounty hunter. When the tablet has used itself up, just take out the figure and use a cotton swap or soft-bristle toothbrush to gently wipe away any remaining dirt. After that, rinse and dry the figure and you’re all set. As an added bonus, Boba Fett now has a fresh minty aroma! Keep in mind that either method of washing will damage or remove any decals or stickers. In this case, you’ll need to use the same cleaning materials but gently and carefully wipe around the stickers and pat the area dry immediately. The same idea applies to any figure that happens to use electronics.

If your action figure has more than just dust or dirt, you may need to take more drastic measures. For instance, if G.I. Joe has an ink stain, soak a cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol and rub the stain. You can use witch hazel as well, but it isn’t as strong. In either case, rinse and dry the item immediately after cleaning to help prevent damage.

Wax can be removed by freezing the figure for an hour or so and scraping the wax off with your fingernail. Be careful not to scratch the figure with your nail. You’ll probably still have some wax left on the item when you’re done. You can use the tiniest bit of lighter fluid on a cotton swab to remove the last of the wax. Again, with any chemical treatment, rinse and dry the action figure immediately after treatment. In either situation, you still run the risk of damaging your piece, so caution is a must.

One last bit of bad news. If your action figure has yellowed, there isn’t anything to fix that. Yellowing is a chemical transformation occurring inside your action figure and no amount of cleaning will remove it. Learn your lesson and keep your figures away from the sun in the future.

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