How do you take care of action figures? Collectibles are pretty durable, but that doesn’t mean they’re indestructible. The ravages of time cause chipped paint, loose joints, and lost decals. Fortunately action figure upkeep is pretty simple. Just follow these simple rules and you’ll enjoy your collection for years to come.

Prevention is Key

Like personal health and robot uprisings, prevention is key to action figure upkeep. Your collection needs to be protected from heat, sunlight, humidity, dust, and grime. Direct sunlight fades plastic very quickly, so when choosing a display area for your figures, set them up away from windows that let in lots of light.

Heat damage is also a problem with direct sunlight, causing paint to peel and—in extreme cases—melting plastic and leaving all your figures looking like a Nazi in an Indiana Jones movie. Heat can also be a problem when storing collectibles: store figures in a cool, dry location.

Excess humidity brings its own problems, including chipped, peeling paint. Decals exposed to humidity may fall off, and articulated joints can loosen, making it difficult to pose your action figure in any position other than as a rag doll (ProTip: Darth Vader’s pose should never, ever be reminiscent of Raggedy Ann). As with sunlight and heat, the best defense against humidity is to store and display collectibles in a dry location at a comfortable room temperature.

Dust will build up on any exposed figure over time, affecting the figure’s appearance. More damaging are the oils from our own fingers, which mix with dust to form a sticky grime. Don’t handle collectibles more than you have to. For valuable figures, you may even want to consider wearing gloves.

Collectors who keep figures in mint condition, unopened in their original packages, face their own challenges. Packaging is even more susceptible to heat, humidity, and sunlight than the collectible itself. If you store your collection—in box or not—seal each figure in a zip-lock freezer bag before placing them in a solid plastic container with a sealable lid. Avoid cardboard boxes, which do not protect against humidity and contain acids that can damage plastic and unopened packaging.

Cleaning Action Figures

Once you know how to take care of action figures, the process is easy. Set aside one day a month as “cleaning day.” Wash dust off most figures by soaking them in warm soapy water and then using a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub away grime. Note we said most figures. Some collectibles may have special cleaning instructions on the box.

Some people use forced air propellants to clean action figures. Used to clean electronics and blow nacho crumbs out of keyboards, these cans can be effective dust-removers. Remember the air is very cold when it leaves the can, and may cause damage if the can’s held too close to the collectible during cleaning.