A question asked today on the MCF Facebook page made think of this article that I wrote some years ago and it is possibly one of the more important aspects to be covered, so now I thought it time that I revive this old article so we can discuss just what to do when you find yourself needing to clean that diecast collection you have. We might not want too but you must admit that no matter how good the environment you keep your collection in eventually it will need some cleaning, unless of course you are keeping your diecast collection in a hermetically sealed room. I am guessing you’re not, so cleaning will be required and these tips also apply not just to your collection but to any little treasure that you pick up along the way to add to that ever increasing diecast collection.
There are a lot of ways people clean their diecast collection, some use warm soapy water, others just plain water. Then there are those that use car polishes to get that additional shine and protection to each of their diecast models, but I prefer to use a dry method of cleaning. I will however outline both a wet and a dry method and then you can be the judge as to which is the best way to protect your diecast collection. The first thing, regardless of the method chosen and it goes without saying that no matter what diecast you are cleaning you need to be very careful in your handling of it. You need to be as careful with a $2 car from Matchbox or Hot Wheels as you do if you were cleaning a highly collectible and valuable Minichamps model because any damage no matter how small can ruin the value or more importantly the look of the vehicle. So for me this means holding the car on either side of the roof, being extra vigilant not to bump any wing mirrors or other accessories that may protrude from the vehicle. I place my thumb on one side of the roof and my forefinger on the other, this allows a nice firm grip on the car without touching it everywhere. Remember no matter how clean your hands are, they will still have natural oils on them that will leave fingerprints on your clean diecast model.
So first up we will look at the wet method. Start by slowly but carefully dunking the car up and down in a sink full of warm soapy water, I find that slightly higher than lukewarm is sufficient in heat and just one or two drops of dish washing liquid to aid with the cleaning. Of course we are trying to clean yet avoid damaging the car so its best to avoid a side to side motion when washing it as the force of the water may be enough to break off smaller pieces of your diecast vehicle, such as the antenna or wing mirrors. Of course with the smaller cheaper models like Matchbox, Welly, Siku, Majorette or Hot Wheels this is not so much of a problem as they are designed not as collectibles but as toys for children so have little to no small parts that can break off.
Now that your car is clean I suggest you run some warm water straight from the tap at a gentle force to rinse away and residual dust, dirt or soapy residue. Don’t forgot the interior will also have had the soapy water in it so you will need to rinse this out as well. Once this has been done get yourself a soft dry lint free cloth to begin the drying process. It is best not to wipe the car clean but to gently blot the car paying close attention so that you do not snag any small protruding parts of the car. Once the car is fully dried on the outside its time to ensure the interior is just as dry and of course that is not as easy, particularly on the smaller scale diecast vehicles like Siku, Majorette or Welly. Place the car onto the soft lint free cloth on your table and then using a blow dryer set on a very low setting carefully blow dry the remainder of the car, paying particular attention to the areas the cloth cant get to like the interior.
So that is the wet method and of course that will get your car nice and clean, now for my collection I prefer to use the dry method of cleaning, my reasons for this preference is simply because I do not trust myself to remove every bit of water from every tiny little crack in the diecast model and of course if you don’t thoroughly dry the car then you will be doing more harm than good by introducing rust and corrosion to your precious little cars. Also some of the higher end diecast models like those of Minicahmps, AUTOart and others have material components on the interior like cloth seats or carpets. The other reason is that I am not 100% confident that using even a small amount of detergent will not eventually damage the car, they are not designed like dishes and of course are mostly metal so again the chemicals used may introduce problems, so for me rather than risk my collection to water and chemicals I prefer to use a totally chemical free and water free way of cleaning my diecast collection and I use this dry method on all my collection no matter what the scale or value of the model, if it needs cleaning then this is the way for me, but you be the judge.
For the dry method you will need three items, a soft lint free fluffy cloth, a cloth used for cleaning reading glasses and a soft bristled brush (a small paint brush is good for this). Once you have your cleaning utensils, its time to get to work. Firstly give the car a good wipe down with the soft fluffy cloth, this will remove the majority of dust and dirt from the car. Remember to be gentle, we don’t want to break anything off the car, the cloth itself and the fluff on it will do all the work for you, just gently slide the cloth over all the panels of the model for best effect. Now that the major cleaning is done it is on to the detailed cleaning.
Next I like to use the brush to get into all those tiny little nooks and crannies that the cloth has missed. A gentle brushing along the panel joins and any other small detailed area will come up a treat with the brush, after all its just dust not caked on mud like a real car so it will come off very easily, again be very careful not to break any of the small protruding parts of your diecast model like the antenna or wing mirrors. Finally one you have finished the brushing, break out the glasses cloth and use this across the entire model. As the cloth is very fine and of course designed for cleaning reading glasses you will find it the perfect tool for removing any fingerprints and other fine dirt marks on your model in just mere seconds. Remember that you may need to exhale some air onto the model just you would if you were cleaning glasses to get the best effect from this cloth.
Now we need to get to the interior, again I remind you to be gentle so as not to break anything, but take the glasses cloth and put it inside the model via the windows or the doors, just pack it in there in a crunched up fashion, don’t be neat, then gently move the cloth around the interior to clean it of any dust as well. This method can be used for the engine bay and other parts of the car as well. After doing all this if there is still a small amount of dust, particularly in those hard to reach places like the corners of the body and the windscreen, then the small soft bristled paint brush should do the trick to get them clean.
So there you have it, two very different methods of cleaning your diecast collection, both very effective, easy to do and will have you and visitors to your house really admiring the beauty of those little diecast vehicles that you love so much.