Hyun

Can LEGO be damaged by heat/cold extremes?

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I am getting to the point where I need to store some LEGO sets (opened/assembled, and unopened) in a storage shed. Although I live in a fairly temperate spot (SoCal), the temperature in the shed typically ranges from about low 50s to high 90s degree fahrenheit (10 degree Celsius to about 32 degree) from, say, April through October.

What kind of effect can this have on the LEGO bricks and other components? I'd imagine some parts are more susceptible to heat damage than others (for example, the elastic bands and sticker adhesives). I'd appreciate any comments and experiences. Thank you.

Edited by Fugazi
changed title to create a reference thread

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I am getting to the point where I need to store some LEGO sets (opened/assembled, and unopened) in a storage shed. Although I live in a fairly temperate spot (SoCal), the temperature in the shed typically ranges from about low 50s to high 90s degree fahrenheit (10 degree Celsius to about 32 degree) from, say, April through October.

What kind of effect can this have on the LEGO bricks and other components? I'd imagine some parts are more susceptible to heat damage than others (for example, the elastic bands and sticker adhesives). I'd appreciate any comments and experiences. Thank you.

I would not worry about the components at all, at that temperature range. Moisture will harm the boxes but hardly the content. What really harm bricks are sunshine (UV rays).

Front

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I stored a Mega Bloks set in my attic and the elastic tubes became brittle and broke but I do not know what will happen to ABS plastic.

(Do not worry. I have realized my error and shunned clone brands.)

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I'm no expert on the chemical properties of ABS, but from experience I'd expect very little change. I stored my legos in the attic of my parent's house for 10 years or more and noticed very little change. About the only differences were that the pieces don't fit as tightly together as fresh out of the box ones do. The longer the pieces were there(ie ones from childhood waiting for 20 years) the more noticeable the change in grip.

2 things about how I stored them to keep in mind. First, I'd separate bricks if at all possible so they aren't connected to anything. The bricks with the weakest hold were ones that had been left together with other bricks. Ones left loose are as strong as ever. Secondly, I live in North Carolina where we hit high 90s in the summer and teens in the winter. In an attic the summer heat is almost unbearable. With milder temperatures you might see almost no defects.

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It would help lessen the moisture factor coming from the ground up if you elevate your collection by using wooden pallets (if you can get some). For extra protection (and if you have the funds to spend), store your Lego's on rubbermaid or sterlite containers (use the clear ones so you can see what's inside) that can be bought at either Target or WalMart. Never use cardboard boxes as moisture can easily sip inside, get trapped when temperature rises and damage the Lego boxes. Finally, if you're not going to touch it for some time (several months to a couple of years), once you have stacked the rubbermaid or sterlite containers on top of each other, 'wrap' it with wide saranwrap-like plastic that can be bought at office depot or any big office supply store. This will hold moisture out and keep your collection extra dry. Hope this helps!

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How warm does it get in the shed itself when it's 30 degrees centigrade outside? I think you should consider that. When you park a car in the sun for a while, in the car it usually becomes warmer than it is outside. It all depends on how well your shed is insulated.

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During my Dark Ages, most of my childhood Lego was for a while stored in my grandmother's attic, which is not heated and poorly insulated. Alltogether I'd estimate some five years in temperatures ranging from approx -30 to +30 Celsius (-22 to 86 Fahrenheit).

And the result? All the City and Technic sets seem ok, but the few Fabuland figures I had now have awfully loose joints. I can't seem to make them stand up anymore. :look:

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I was wondering if anyone knows if LEGO can be damaged by cold?

The reason I ask is because I'm in the middle of moving to a new house and I have a few large unopened sets in the trunk of my car. The weather has been pretty cold here lately ( below freezing) and I'm a little worried if my LEGO is going to be ok. It's been sitting in there a few days and I'm going to have to keep it there for another few days to a week more.

Thanks.

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Well it's not like I really know anything so you should wait for someone with some actual knowledge to make a desicion but: I would ahve thought nothing would happen, the bricks are of high quality and besides plastic isn't normally prone to cold is it?

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I haven't ever heard of LEGO being damaged by heat or cold within the range of the weather. I know when LEGO gets in excess of 150 degrees or so, it might start to deform (somewhere between 150 and boiling temperature of water). But cold? I haven't ever heard of it happening.

The two things that I've heard of affecting LEGO are humidity and sunlight. If your LEGO was in very humid air, and THEN went below freezing, that could be disastrous. But typically, it's not very humid, so you shouldn't have to worry about it. I guess the real test would be to put a LEGO brick in a freezer for a few days and find out, but I don't think I've ever actually done that...

DaveE

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I guess the real test would be to put a LEGO brick in a freezer for a few days and find out, but I don't think I've ever actually done that...

A fair few people have done that in the past for MOC's and as far as I know the bricks have been perfectly fine afterwards, then again it really needs to be tested on a longer time scale to be proven either way but I still stand by my judgement that the bricks should be fine.

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A quick wikipedia search gives the operating temperature of ABS plastic as between −25 and 60 °C (-13 and 140 °F). I am no expert about the properties of plastics, nor do I know what kind of temperatures you are getting in your part of the world, but I would have thought -25°C is quite extreme cold.

Edited by mikey

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A quick wikipedia search gives the operating temperature of ABS plastic as between −25 and 60 °C (-13 and 140 °F). I am no expert about the properties of plastics, nor do I know what kind of temperatures you are getting in your part of the world, but I would have thought -25°C is quite extreme cold.

Well with the wind it's apparently -25 outside right now where I am [Toronto], but inside the trunk it'd obviously be ignoring the wind. Still, it can get -30 around here, and I'm sure I'm not in the coldest place among some folks on here.

However, seeing as how the pieces are in box and not assembled, I can't see how the plastic shrinking due to temperature [which I'm assuming is what would happen] could be dangerous for the pieces, really. Unless some other mysterious process occurs. I'm hardly a scientist, afterall.

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Within those above-mentioned temperatures, if the ABS itself isn't affected, the only thing I can think of is if the change causes any stickers to change shape, since they're made of a different materiel and would contract at a different rate. KielDaMan is a professional chemist, he c ould probably help you more than I can.

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i ordered some lego online a couple of weeks ago and when it came in it was sitting outside my house in around -30C and my sets were not dameged at all, i almost broke a minifig hand because it was frozen, but if you let them warm up for about 5-10 minutes they will be ok.

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In the BIONICLE fan community a lot of people liked to freeze sets, masks, etc. in blocks of ice. From what I've heard, none of the sets were harmed. While obviously people never tried with stickered parts (there were very few stickered parts in the BIONICLE theme whatsoever), and I don't remember seeing anyone try with painted, printed, or specially-treated (chrome, etc.) pieces, I can pretty much confirm that a short time in extremely cold conditions shouldn't do any lasting harm to the physical material of regular LEGO-- that includes not just the firmer ABS material but also softer materials like the rubbery plastic used for some specialized parts.

Why don't you ask Front about this? Being a part designer, I'm sure he knows something about the heat/cold tolerances of LEGO pieces. He probably knows a lot about this that I don't.

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A fair few people have done that in the past for MOC's and as far as I know the bricks have been perfectly fine afterwards, then again it really needs to be tested on a longer time scale to be proven either way but I still stand by my judgement that the bricks should be fine.

Hang on, why would you need to freeze bricks to make an MOC?

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Your unbuilt sets will be fine in the cold weather. As others have stated, if they were put together, there is the (albeit) slight potential that differing CTE values between trans and non-trans bricks might cause some cracking...but I seriously doubt it. Exposing the bricks themselves to cold weather will do nothing to the ABS provided you do not load/deflect the bricks at all. At low temperatures, the strain to failure of plastic materials decreases significantly so the amount you can "flex" the pieces before they break decreases. If they are just sitting outside, you will be fine.

FYI, my day job is as an engineer for a thermoplastics company in Minnesota. :grin:

-Davey

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Thanks for this reply Davey! I had the same question as the original poster, but in my case the LEGO are sitting outside in the Wisconsin cold (only a bit warmer than the MN cold) so that the kids don't find their Christmas presents in advance. They generally don't stay out there long, just until the kids go to bed, but this week our temps have been in the negative degrees Fahrenheit, so I was somewhat worried that it wouldn't be good for the bricks.

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i would only worry if you have some power functions or similar sets sitting out there, i dont know if the cold will do anything to the metal inside, but be careful when warming them up

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I've had my bricks in storage for a few years (unfortunately), I had them on my parents attic which is uninsulated. That means the bricks have been enduring long periods of "extreme" colds and heat. Not sure what the actual temperatures have been but likely somewhere between down to -20°C in winter and up to +50°C in summer (heat accumulates under the roof in summer, it's terrible to go up there).

Now I have taken the bricks home again (yay!) and have not noticed anything unusual about them, nor did I expect to. Lot's of different bricks including 9V, pneumatic Technic wheels etc. etc..

Why would it be worse for the bricks if they had to endure humid air before they got cold? Naturally the paper items would not like humid air, but the bricks?

Also, wind chill only means things get cooled down faster - they don't get colder than the actual temperature (if they did, so would the thermometer). Wind chill is only important if you intend to stay warmer than the surrounding temperature...

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I love this place, where else can you inquire about a problem and have a thermoplastic engineer conveniently stroll by and give you a solution? :laugh:

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Hang on, why would you need to freeze bricks to make an MOC?

12 011

lego-harry-potter-silver-doe.jpg

Sorry that these arn't the best examples but I cant be bothered to look for any more, you generally see the bricks under the ice or covered in sheets of it.

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Why would it be worse for the bricks if they had to endure humid air before they got cold? Naturally the paper items would not like humid air, but the bricks?

Moisture can condense in scratches on the surface of bricks. Unlike most liquids, water expands under normal freezing conditions. This puts stress on the plastic when it is cold and in a very fragile state. This alone usually isn't enough to cause damage unless the environment undergoes a lot of hot and cold temperature cycles.

One of the factors is the speed of the temperature change. Fast changes in temperature creates more stress on any material because the core will expand/contract slower than the surface. That's why when you drop ice cubes in a glass of warm water, the ice cubes will sometimes crack due to a rapid temperature change. It is best to warm up pieces that have been out in the cold slowly.

New, unopened sets are in little danger because they haven't been handled very much (no scratches) and are still in their sealed polybags (factory humidity). The air in the polybags also act as insulation, slowing down temperature changes with the bricks. The polybags play a part in making sure the pieces don't get damaged on the long trip from the factory to the retail stores. TLG can't afford to use temperature and humidity controlled shipping services.

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I would be very VERY surprised if water pooled in scratches could hurt a brick when frozen. Even if frozen rapidly with let's say liquid nitrogen.

If you get a lot of water inside a up-side-down-brick I suppose it can happen (for instance in a Technic brick), but I don't see that happening from air humidity alone.

Also, stored in the back of a car there will be a lot of temperature "sluggishness" so any rapid changes is highly unlikely.

Edit: If we get another cold day here I might do some test to prove it, bummer I don't have access to liquid nitrogen! :laugh:

Edited by Tobbe Arnesson

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