Eliminate Smoking Odors from LEGO® Bricks & Manuals

Eliminate smoking odors in LEGO

Recently, I have been enjoying a new branch of the LEGO® hobby. I’ve been scouring garage sale sites for retired LEGO® sets and bulk lots. I particularly like the bulk lots because you have to try to figure out what sets are included if there are no manuals. However, sometimes, you open up your new bin or bag and the nasty smell of cigarettes and secondhand smoke wafts out. Sorry to all the smokers out there, but it is gross. My whole LEGO® room stinks after one of those. Incidentally, I recently acquired the Toys R Us Truck (7848) from 2010. It smelled to high heaven when I opened up the Ziplock bags containing the set. The smell was ingrained in everything, the bricks, stickers, and manuals. Consequently, I faced with the problem of how to eliminate smoking odors from my secondhand set?

STEP 01: Soak that Stench

Eliminate smoking odors from LEGO bricks by soaking them in hot water with dish soap.
Eliminate smoking odors in most bricks by soaking them in hot water with dish soap.

First, I dumped every brick without a sticker on it into a bucket full of hot water and dish soap. I let them soak in the bucket while I more carefully scrubbed the pieces with stickers in a separate container. I used a toothbrush to scrub the bricks. This procedure worked fine for bricks with small stickers. Additionally, the sticker-less bricks lost their stench after simply soaking them in the soapy water.

STEP 02: Drain & Scrub

Drain and rinse the bricks in a colander. Scrub with a toothbrush if tougher grime remains.

After soaking the bricks for about 15 minutes, I drained the bricks out using a colander. Be careful here, smaller bricks may slip through gaps in the colander if the gaps are large. Place a net or filter of some kind in your sink drain first. Subsequently, I rinsed the bricks in the colander with water. If I noticed residual grime, I used the toothbrush to scrub it off. Finally, I placed all the bricks on a towel to dry overnight.

STEP 03: Bring on the Baking Soda

To eliminate smoking odors in stickers, bury bricks in baking soda for a few days.

The Toys R Us Truck includes two large stickers. These stickers hung onto the cigarette stench despite scrubbing with a toothbrush. So, I grabbed a small storage container with a lid and dumped some baking soda in. Next, I placed the bricks in, and then sprinkled a thin layer of baking soda over them. Finally, I put on the lid and left the bricks overnight. When I opened the container the next day, they still smelled. I was worried the smell would never leave. I ended up leaving the bricks in the container for four days. On the fourth day, I no longer detected the smell.

STEP 04: More Baking Soda

Eliminate smoking odors in manuals with baking soda in a ziplock bag.

The manuals posed another problem. They smelled as bad as the bricks and stickers. Obviously, I could not soak the manuals. Consequently, I placed baking soda in a Ziplock bag. Next, I placed the bottom edge of the manuals in a paper towel envelope. Finally, I sealed the two manuals and paper towel in the Ziplock with the baking soda. Interestingly, the manuals lost their odor faster than the stickers. After two days, the top half of the manuals no longer smelled. The bottoms in the paper towel hung onto the odor. So, I flipped the manuals around and left them for another two days. Subsequently, the smell was gone.

STEP 05: Build

I can tell you from experience, if you don’t treat smelly bricks quickly, the stench of secondhand smoke will linger for a long time. We are talking MONTHS here. A quick soak for most bricks is enough. Stickers and manuals need a few days of baking soda treatment. However, in the end, you have clean, odor-free bricks and manuals to enjoy. Hopefully this quick guide will help you eliminate smoking odors from your own secondhand purchases in the future! Do you have any stories, tips, or tricks to share? Let us know in the comments below or reach out on social media.

Until next time,

-Tom

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4 comments

  • I haven’t had to deal with second hand smoke smells, but I’ve had other unpleasant experiences with buying stuff second hand. It’s made me reluctant to buy things, even if it’s a good deal, unless it either comes directly from Lego or from a reputable shop on Brick Link.

    • I had a lot of unpleasant experiences early on that made me very reluctant as well. There was a massive gaps of years between my first few marketplace purchases and my next… But, I am learning what to look for in the photos and descriptions. There are still some surprises though…

  • I have bought a lot of sets online locally. No smoke but dirty. The first set I sorted through and had to eliminate all the fake bricks. That was frustrating but I got a lot of pieces out of it and a little set from Cars which I am going to keep for my grandson. The second pile was really old bricks and discoloured. I was so frustrated that in the end I picked over what was unusual and donated the rest to my local hospital thrift shop. The last set I bought that was full of Friends pieces and I was so excited had a peculiar odour, a cross between a solvent and nasty perfume. At first it was so cool and then I realized that a lot of the pieces were disintegrating. I was really frustrated and angry and messaged the person. I did not expect a reply and told her it was own fault and from now on I would looking through assortments before I exchanged money. I was not going to spend the time trying to get any old bricks back to looking better but soaking them for cleaning grime is okay. Half of the fun is sorting. My new adventure is getting as much of the pieces for the Fishing Store. My next step is to look on Brick Owl to finish that set.

    • I’ve had my own adventures with getting off-brand bricks… Wasn’t too happy about it myself. Can’t say I’ve ever gotten disintegrated bricks before. I’ve had the perfume as well though… Gross. Glad you’ve enjoyed the sorting though! Good luck with the fishing store, I love that set!