How to Clean and Restore Christmas Blow Molds
These nostalgic outdoor decorations—with repaired paint and cracks—are built to withstand the winter weather.
If you love decorating your home's exterior for the holidays, then chances are you're a fan of blow molds. Equal parts festive and nostalgic, blow molds are the plastic, light-up figures and ornaments—think Santa Claus, reindeer, and candy canes—commonly used to brighten up lawns, porches, and sometimes roofs during the holidays. "Blow molds are works of art and collectible, and the plastic construction make them long lasting," says Fred Vannucci, owner of Christmas Lights Creations. "They are a part of Americana and have been used in holiday decorating for more than 50 years."
Whether you have a vintage blow mold you inherited from a family member or a brand-new style, knowing how to clean, repair, and care for it properly is key to its longevity. "Holiday blow molds are unique in that they are amazingly durable," says Carrie Polales Sansing of the Golden Glow of Christmas Past and Blow Mold Nation. "They can handle hot, cold, snow, ice, wind, and rain with little to no damage to the blow mold itself, although they can sometimes crack, pieces can break off, and the paint can be scratched or fade."
Curious about how you can spruce up a holiday blow mold so it shines brightly outside all season long? We asked Sansing and Vannucci to share their advice and this is what they had to say.
Only use gentle cleaners.
Vannucci says you can easily clean a dirty blow mold by using baby wipes, paper towels, or a soft cloth. "You want to be gentle when you're cleaning the painted areas because the paint is water based, so rubbing too hard might remove it," he explains. "Never use chemical-based cleaners because that will damage the paint. For tougher stains on the unpainted parts of a blow mold you can use dish soap and a brush, but remember to stay away from the paint or the brush will scratch it."
Consider LEDs when replacing light bulbs.
According to Sansing, replacing the light bulb in a blow mold is easy. "If your blow mold uses a C7 size (like a nightlight bulb), they are generally on a single light cord with a clip. Unclip the cord, extract the socket and screw in a new light bulb," Sansing says. "If the blow mold uses a larger base size light, remove the screws that hold the light kit (socket) in place, remove it and screw in a new bulb, but never use more than a 40W bulb." She also recommends using LED light bulbs instead of traditional incandescent ones. "LEDs last longer, require much less power, and they do not get hot," she explains.
Repair cracks with clear epoxy adhesive.
Depending on the size of the crack or split (and assuming that no part of the plastic is missing), Sansing says you can fix a crack or split in a blow mold with the help of an adhesive, like J-B Weld Clearweld Clear Epoxy Adhesive ($4.84, amazon.com). "A simple crack can be reinforced from the inside, using a strip of plastic (cut from a milk jug) and applied to the inner surface, like a Band-Aid, using clear drying epoxy for plastic," she explains. "If there is excess glue on the mold, you can scrape this away with your knife or use a small file."
Replace missing pieces of plastic with a fabricated patch.
Sansing says that larger holes or missing pieces of plastic on your blow mold can also be repaired, but it will take a little more time and patience. "Small missing sections of plastic can be fabricated from sacrificial broken blow molds, milk jugs, and other plastic containers as a patch," she says. "Using a clear-drying adhesive (on the underside of the patch), apply the patch, and tape it down. When you are certain the adhesive has dried, very carefully remove the tape. If any edges come up, repeat the process on those edges only, tape, and wait until adhesive is set and dry."
Freshen up faded colors with spray paint.
If the paint on your blow mold appears faded or scratched, Sansing says you can freshen it up with plastic-friendly spray paint, such as Fusion All-in-One by Krylon ($5, amazon.com). "First, use masking tape and a precision knife to cover the sections of the mold you don't want to paint," she advises. "Then, apply the paint using a steady side to side sweeping motion. You want to apply a thin even coat of coverage, so you'll need to spray the paint fairly quickly and move each sweep at the same rate of speed."