ENVS 100 – Freezing Figures

The three focal figures from the
Simple Green and 409 experiment.

There is one aspect of M.U.S.C.L.E. that instantly transports collectors to their childhood – “The M.U.S.C.L.E. Smell.”

The M.U.S.C.L.E. smell is a unique odor. It was most pungent when a 10-pack of figures was opened. The smell is so unique that it is often used as a distinguishing characteristic to validate the authenticity of a figure. It is amazing that many M.U.S.C.L.E. figures have retained their unique smell since the mid-1980’s.

Nearly all collectors would agree that the intensity of a figure’s odor is not what defines the overall condition of a figure. Most collectors would also be just fine with figures having absolutely no odor. However there is one problem that causes many M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors to become very upset – M.U.S.C.L.E. figures that smell bad.

Prepping the figures for freezing.

The most common source of figures smelling bad is cigarette smoke. Collectors often experience this odor when figures are purchased from the home of a smoker. Even a smoking mailer carrier can impact the smell of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures (depending on how the figures were shipped).

M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors often have their own personal techniques, tips, and preference for cleaning figures and attempting to remove the smell. One, previously unmentioned, technique for attempting to remove the smell is freezing the figure.

Freezers not only keep food frozen, but can also extend the life of candles, remove wax from candlesticks, and help remove odors from objects.

The Simple Green and 409 experiment had yielded interesting results regarding removing the paint However, there was an unexpected outcome. The M.U.S.C.L.E. figures absorbed the Simple Green and 409 smells.

The figures enter the freezer.

The Simple Green smell is actually quite pleasant, but it seems possible that some collectors would not appreciate the odor. Figures #2 and #68 from the Simple Green experiment were selected for freezing. The #93 had absorbed a harsher “chemical” smell from the 409, it was also selected.

Two additional control M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were also selected for freezing. These figures were placed into the freezer in an effort to understand if clean M.U.S.C.L.E. figures would absorb any potential odors from a freezer.

One of the figures that had been submerged in the Simple Green solution was placed in a Ziploc bag. The remaining figures were place in glass bowls. All of the figures were placed in the freezer and remained there for seven days. At the end of the seven days the figures were removed from the freezer.

Initially it was hard to detect any odor on the figures – they smelled “frozen,” somewhat similar to the smell of a plastic ice cube tray. However, the next day the frozen smell was gone.

Immediately after seven days of freezing.

The freezing of the figures did not completely remove the smell of the Simple Green or 409 cleaning solution, but it did reduce the intensity of the smell. It is difficult to fully quantify or explain the reduced intensity of the odor. If a percentage decrease was to be assigned, then it would probably be a 25% reduction. The odors were still present, but slightly less intense than prior to freezing.

The control M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were not altered in any way.

This cleaning method may be effective in removing or reducing some odors from M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. Further experimentation may be useful in discovering when freezing figures is most effective.


  1. #1 by stoneyface on May 9, 2011 - 4:42 pm

    perhaps you can try a very rapid freeze as well. instead of the usual method of freezer freezing, try a cooler with dry ice. put the muscles in their little bowls into the cooler and they should freeze much faster and maybe get more of the smell out?

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