Cleaning and Restoring Your Vintage Star Wars Collection

October 5, 2014 – So you’ve finally brought home a missing action figure or vehicle to add to your vintage Star Wars collection (1978-1985), whether from online, a flea market or some other vendor. You eagerly unwrap/unbox the item, ready to inspect and admire it further when – HORRORS! – you notice for the first time how filthy and sticky it is.

There are many reasons why the plastics are dirty or tacky to the touch:

● Foremost, there is a 99% chance your new find has never been washed, scrubbed and cleaned over the decades.

● Exposure to air contaminants, such as cigarette smoke and vaporized cooking grease, will cause discoloration and grime build-up to adhere to the plastic.

● Improper storage, such as a damp basement or hot, unventilated attic, can cause your action figures to literally smell moldy (mold spores are in every home).

● Chemical decomposition: Regrettably, the chemical compounds in your plastic figures are breaking down and the plastic is literally melting ever so slowly. You notice this in the thinner plastic segments, such as light saber tips and “bendy” parts, which are deformed from their original shape. You also notice color discoloration in the previously all-white storm troopers, Taun Taun and Wampa snow creature.

The good news is that much of this neglect and decay (except for the chemical color discoloration) can be reversed with a thorough soapy cleaning and drying, followed by application of a restorer. (CAUTION: Look for a premium water-based protectant. Other “protectants” are petroleum-based and can cause long-term degradation.)

TIP: Can’t tell the difference? Water-based formulas are milky in color. Petroleum-based solvents tend to be clear. They may also have one or both of the following written on the bottles: “Contains Petroleum Distillates” and “Flammable”.

Some examples of water-based protectants include:

● 303 Aerospace Protectant (for plastic, vinyl, plexiglass, rubber)
● Mothers Preserves Protectant (for plastic, vinyl, rubber, fiberglass)
● Vinylex (for plastic, vinyl and rubber)
● Meguiars #40 (for vinyl and rubber)

The following video offers some helpful tips on how to thoroughly clean and restore your priceless figures and vehicles:

If your vintage plastic toys are exceptionally dirty – or if the stickers are peeling off here and there – watch the following video for some great tips:

NOTE: This article was updated 16 June 2015 to remove text references to Black Magic Pro Shine, which is petroleum-based and which, some argue, can be harmful to your plastic toys.


6 thoughts on “Cleaning and Restoring Your Vintage Star Wars Collection

  1. So you mention above that Petroleum based “protectants” can cause long term degradation but Black Magic Pro Shine is petroleum based. Is there another water based one that you recommend?

  2. Well of course Plexus will contend that their product works and using other petroleum-based distillates can cause damage. I’ve been using Black Magic Pro Shine for years on my toys with no visible long-term adverse effects and has provided good UV protection. The first article is a load of FUD. How about posting a video showing figures that were actually damaged by using petroleum distillates? I’m sure the guy who made the youtube video recommending Pro-Shine hasn’t had any problems with his toys years later or he’s have updated it himself.

  3. Thanks for explaining that an unventilated attic can cause action figures to smell moldy when kept in improper storage. Star Wars is my son’s favorite franchise, and I am helping him build a collection of toys, and I’ll be getting him a Star Wars pop culture 12 pc pack online for the holidays. By keeping toys in storage that avoids mold spores, I hope to help my son keep his toys nice for a long time to come.

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