How to fix yellowed plastics on old computers!
Have you ever had an old computer that the
plastic had turned yellow or brown? And you wanted to restore it to make it look new again?
Well, for years it was thought to be impossible. The culprit, of course, is ultraviolet light.
The more UV light that the computer or the plastic is exposed to, the more yellow or
brown it’s going to look. Well, a few years ago somebody found out how to fix the problem.
And I’m going to show you how to do it. The irony is that the solution to the problem
also involves UV light. Back in 2008 it was discovered that a combination of hydrogen
peroxide and UV light could reverse the process, restoring plastics to their original color.
Eventually, retrobright was born. Its not a product that you can buy, rather it is an
online document explaining how to mix and create the product. One of the more difficult
items to obtain is high strength hydrogen peroxide. The stuff you buy at the pharamacy
that’s like 3%, just won’t cut it. It took me a whole, but I finally found some. Not
at radioshack, but Sally Beauty Supply. They carry this stuff called salon care cream.
It comes in different strengths. I bought the strongest one, which is 40. Now, one of
the challenging things about making retrobright is that you have to add some other stuff to
it to make it creamy. Because regular hydrogen peroxide is like water, it would just run
off. And if you were to use it you would need to have so much of it that you could actually
submerge what you wanted to brighten up. Now the problem is, that’s great if it’s a little
bitty thing. But if it’s something big you’re going to need a lot of it. So you want it
to be creamy so that you can apply it to the surface and have it stay there. Now the great
thing about this stuff that I got at the beauty supply store is that its primarily hydrogen
peroxide, but it’s already creamy so you don’t have to add any of the other stuff that retrobright
calls for, in many ways you could say this is retrobright in a bottle already ready to
sell, you just have to know where to find it. So I decided to do a test on this old Apple
II color monitor. It’s a bit yellowed. I decided to perform two tests, one using a bit of oxyclean,
because some people say that this helps. I applied masking tape but that turned out to
be a waste of time as it just soaked into the tape. I left it under the UV light for
about 12 hours. Now, even though the tape did not work, the experiment was still a success
as you can see. There was no different between the area that got hydrogen peroxide and the
oxyclean, versus the area that only got the peroxide. So my next test would be this old
Apple IIe. I started with the top cover as I figured it would be the easiest to do. I
covered it with the cream. Then I covered everything with plastic wrap. Now the purpose
of the plastic wrap is to keep the stuff from evaporating. I left it under the UV light
for 36 hours. I cleaned it off and put it back on the Apple IIe to see how much difference
there was. As you can see, there is quite a difference. So the next thing would be to
do some of the keys. So I popped them off and took an opportunity to clean them because
they were actually pretty dirty along the sides. And then, I put them in the cream.
And then I put them in a ziplock bag. Since it was quite nasty underneath the keys, I
also took this opportunity to blow some of the crud out. After 36 hours of UV treatment,
I cleaned the keys off and started to replace them on the computer. You can clearly see
the keys now look gray instead of the brown that they used to be. I also tried one more test. I know that macbook
palm rests get kind of discolored sometimes. I believe its from people with certain lotions
on their hands that cause it. I tried the same procedure on the macbook keyboard but
there was no change at all. So apparently this does not work on that. So yeah, I’m off to a pretty good start and,
um, I think in order to finish this computer I’m going to need to, uh, totally disassemble
it. So that I can get the plastics off without having to worry about, you know, the motherboard
or anything being exposed to the chemicals and whatnot. But I think its going to look
pretty much original when I’m done with it, which is going to be great. And I’ve got a
lot of other computers that I need to do this to. But, it is a time consuming process. So,
uh, maybe I’ll update you on some of the other ones I do in the future. But so far I’m pretty
confident it is going to turn out fantastic. I would also like to mention you don’t have
to have a UV light. You can use sunlight. And I actually thought about that and one
of the reasons I decided not to is because with the UV light I can position an object
exactly where I get an even amount of light on all of the surfaces. With the sun, you
put it out and the sun is going to change angles throughout the day. And I was afraid
I would wind up with an uneven look to the plastics I was doing. So you could give that
a shot if you don’t have a UV light around. but I chose to go the UV light route. Till