Cheap, Quick and Safe Track Cleaning

model railway track cleaning - wiping trackEvery so often it’s a good idea to give your model railway or train set track a quick clean to remove grease and dirt that naturally builds up. Here’s a quick, cheap and safe track cleaning tip that’ll get your rails up sparkling and your locos running smoothly.

Whether your railway sits on the floor, table or a baseboard, for your trains to run smoothly you’ll need to occasionally clean the track and remove the dirt. In fact, if you have a train set on the floor or table which is also used for other things it’s even more important to clean it regularly as it’ll attract grime from the carpet and table surface.

While you can buy dedicated track cleaning products, and even special trains to clean your tracks such as this highly recommended Hornby OO gauge train cleaning wagon, for quick regular cleans I use a few of my wife’s cleansing wipes – Ssshh! don’t tell her!

Actually, that’s a conceit

Mrs MRE uses alcohol free variety whereas for this tip you’ll want to get hold of some that contain alcohol. Many of the main brands of makeup remover and cleansing wipes have moved away from using alcohol so you’ll need to check but the big supermarkets still sell some varieties with an alcoholic element. I picked up a pack of 26 wipes for about £4 at the weekend.

(The alcohol content of the wipes is important as this will breakup the grease, oil and other muck on the rails so it can picked up by the wipe).

With the wipes acquired, simply run them over the rails a few times pressing the wipe firmly onto the railhead.

Model railway track cleaning dirt from railsAnd that’s pretty much it.

Give it a go, you’ll be surprised how much dirt gets picked up.

I wipe my rails down every six weeks and rarely have problems with my trains sticking due to dirty rails.

If you need to give your track a better clean – perhaps after it’s been left for some time or you’ve been ballasting try these 3 budget track cleaning techniques.

This is post is another in my series for my beginners guide on how to build a model railway which covers everything you need to know to get started.

> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.  
Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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