Get the Yellow Out of Discolored Vintage Tech For Good

Get the Yellow Out of Discolored Vintage Tech For Good

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Taryn Williford
Jun 27, 2011

Technology moves fast. Some people are constantly trying to keep up with the latest and greatest innovation. But still there are others who, in the name of nostalgia or of extreme thriftiness, elect to hang on to old tech as long as possible. Those people must live in a world of yellowed gadgets—but they don't have to.

Why Did My Old Nintendo Turn Yellow?
The curious souls at Tested were determined to figure out what makes our old beige tech turn yellow or brown, even in homes devoid of cigarette smoke. The results? That yellowing is due to bromine, a flame-retardant chemical that manufacturers traditionally add to the very flammable plastic most device cases are made from:

The problem is that bromine undergoes a reaction when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation — in other words, most sources of light, both natural and artificial. This breaks the bonds that were created during the manufacturing process, and leaves [naturally brown] bromine molecules free to seek out oxygen. This process, also known as oxidation, is responsible for the increasingly brown or yellow appearance of old plastics over time. Nothing — not even the original packaging — can stop it, and added heat and UV light can actually accelerate the rate of discoloration.

There's Still Hope
Even though you can't stop it or slow it down, you can turn back time and remove the yellow discoloration from your vintage tech:

  • First try scrubbing it down with an abrasive cleaner, like a Magic Eraser. If cigarette smoke is really to blame, Tested suggests, this should clean up the mess.
  • If your yellowing is thanks to the bromine/UV ray reaction, you can remove the exposed top layers of plastic with light-grain sandpaper to get back to your gear's original coloring.
  • Or, if you're brave and very careful, try this solution of hydrogen peroxide and other household chemicals, promoted by The Retr0Bright Project. It seems to reverse the yellowing process for the people who've tried it.


via Tested

(Images: Flickr member Twitchris licensed for use under Creative Commons, Flickr member Redbeard Math Pirate licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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