Choka Blocka Washa!

Lego en masse

Faced with a jumbled-up mountain of dusty and miss-matched Lego, Duplo, matchbox cars and other miniature kids toy donations from a recent house declutter/downsize, I needed a plan.  Everything needed a thorough clean and sort into sets, before I could find them new homes.  It’s a good thing that sorting, patience and cracking puzzles are some of the skills I possess.  Here’s how to clean and sort Lego, and my approach to this project.  I hope you find it useful.

Firstly, I transported this haul in large black rubbish bags, so that the tiny pieces wouldn’t be lost.
It’s important to wash Lego and other toys properly to remove germs and allergens before re-gifting.  The best way is a give everything a good rinse and soapy wash.  To do this, I set up what can loosely be described as a ‘processing plant’, aka my bathroom, then spare bedroom.  Read my tips for cleaning and sorting below.
Everything looked a bit chaotic at the start of the process and it’s been a huge jobs.  There have been ‘roadblocks’, excuse the pun, but I am always up for a challenge.  It’s very satisfying to be able to get these packed up and to kids/families that can have years of pleasure out of them.

Along the way, I discovered the joys of creating a Lego scene of myself working in the bathroom, minus a few thousand pieces of Lego and how the bathroom looked in reality.

A Lego portrait of me cleaning and sorting Lego

It was fun making up this Lego portrait of myself cleaning Lego in my bathroom. My husband looks on in disbelief from the door.

How to Clean & Sort Lego:


1. Sort and set aside any pieces that are delicate, valuable or have paper or plastic transfers on them, as these can come off if you soak them.  These pieces may need to be individually cleaned using a dry or very slightly dampened cloth and dried quickly.
2. Separate any blocks of blocks, so you can clean properly.  You can keep any constructed pieces like spaceships and vehicles etc as a completed unit, but wash them separately.
3. Put a quantity of pieces/items into a colander or sieve, or anything with holes in the bottom that they can’t fall through.  In the bathtub or sink, run cold or warm water through the container to rinse off lose dust/dirt etc.
Then place your container down and fill the tub, sink or bucket to just under the height of the container with warm water and mild dishwashing detergent.  Leave the container in the water for an hour or more.  Then use your hand to gently agitate the pieces.  Use a soft toothbrush for any dust or dirt caught in or between the connections.  Cotton-tipped ear buds are great for getting in and around the round holes on the underside of Lego and for drying these.
4. Remove the containers from the soapy water soak, and rinse thoroughly through with clean water.
5. Shake out excess water and remove to spread out to dry on a towel to dry.
6. Quickly flip any pieces, so that the connecting side is down.  This helps the water in the holes to drain out.

7. Once completely dry, spread out a light-coloured sheet or towel as it’s easier to see the small pieces.  Set up plastic containers, flat bottomed paper bags, large zip lock bags and start sorting into kinds i.e. mini figures, parts and accessories, blocks into colours and types, wheels, and speciality items etc.
8. If you have a lot of mixed up pieces (as I did), you can research sets using various websites (see below links).  If you have original boxes, then look for the set number and find the picture and inventory component list to help sort into a set.  When researching, use the most identifiable items such as mini figures, animals or vehicles and use them as your starting point.   I worked out the era of these pieces as being the 1990’s due the estimated age of the household’s children.   Use key words such as ‘pirate’, ‘shark’ etc, to work out sets.  This helped me identify the actual set number. You might need to put your detective hat on to find some sets.  Using search engine searches/images is also helpful.  You can visually match your items or find set cover images with items you have, then go to the following sites for a full inventory using the number or simply search as described above.

Useful site links for sets, inventory lists and instructions:

9. Once you have a set or even pieces – pop into a large zip lock bag with the picture on the front and add a link to the website instructions and you are ready to gift.

Here’s to hours of fun.

The ‘processing plant’ aka bathroom. Minnie the cat doing some sorting as  well!

Washing Lego in colanders, in a soapy bath.

Sort the mini figures into types, then you’ll need to ensure that they are correctly kitted up i.e. hats, bodies, faces and accessories match the original sets.

Sort similar or pieces from sets into bags and containers.

Lego set bagged up ready to go, with the set image on the front, inventory list inside with instruction download website information.