The subject of the best way to clean train track sure does ruffle some feathers. Everyone, it seems, has their favorite elixir to swab down their tracks and some favorite material to wipe it back up with.
When it comes to Lionel, Marx, and American Flyer track, all of which is tin plated, it’s best to avoid anything abrasive if at all possible. Steel wool is absolutely out, sandpaper is bad news, and even a Scotch Brite-type pad is best to avoid. Scratches attract more dirt, which causes the track to get dirty faster, and eventually the abrasiveness rubs through the tin plating, taking your rust prevention with it.
If the track has already rusted a little, a Scotch Brite pad is about the best bet. But if not, the January 2014 Classic Toy Trains has the best answer I’ve seen yet: microfiber cloth.Microfiber is adept at removing dirt and oil from delicate surfaces without scratching them–they’re what you’re supposed to use to clean LCD screens, glasses, phones, and tablets. The same stuff accumulates on train track. If it won’t scratch your tablet, it won’t scratch your track.
Wrap a cloth around a block of wood, give your track a rubdown, and you can clean it without using any fluid whatsoever. If you need fluid, Walthers Scenemaster Track Cleaner (formerly Life-Like) is the best, as it inhibits arcing, which inhibits dirt buildup.
Between those two things, you can clean your track, confident you are doing no harm whatsoever to it.