Yellowing old consoles - The Solution.

#1
I’ve been discussing this in the SNES collecting thread, and thought I could share my extremely successful version of the technique for fixing this known problem.

Disclaimer - I am not an industrial chemist and do not purport to be. Perhaps one could chime in and assist should they see this thread. I also don’t claim to have invented any of this, though I haven't found anyone else using my exact method (and single commercial ingredient). All my info is based on internet reading and experience.

Did a search and the only thread I could find was this one from 2007(!)

THE PROBLEM

Old plastics yellow over time. It’s especially evident in white and grey plastics, including our beloved 80s and 90s consoles and computers. But it’s true of many coloured plastics as well, they just don’t show it as much. Red and blue items can look ‘tired’ due to the yellowing. Most people assumed the yellowing was ‘ageing’ or tobacco-based damage.

It turns out in most cases it’s caused by bromine, used as flame retardant in the ABS plastic. Over time it forms a stable complex with atmospheric oxygen on the surface of the plastic.
Different batches of plastic for the same device can have different bromine levels, hence the yellowing is often uneven across parts of even the same unit.

The process is accelerated by UV light or heat - hence even the non-UV-exposed inside of consoles can yellow (or even items in unopened packages).

Examples (from the web):

THE HISTORY

It was originally discovered that liquid peroxide combined with UV light (from the sun or a UV bulb) could reverse the process. Originally thought to be bleaching, it’s later been shown that it’s actually just mobilising the bromine on the surface. However, liquid peroxide (and some sort of tank apparatus) is expensive in the large quantities necessary to submerge large plastic parts, and is also fairly messy and potentially dangerous.

Some guys came up with a formula they dubbed ‘retr0bright’ to make a ‘paint on’ paste. It involves liquid hydrogen peroxide, thickeners of some sort, and ‘oxy’ laundry booster as some kind of activator. Retr0bright works, but is tricky, and wasteful (you have t throw out what’s left of an unused batch).

But there’s a much simpler solution, that works even better in my experience, and I haven’t seen it documented on the internet anywhere.

THE SOLUTION (Literally)

Hairdresser hydrogen peroxide developer creme (40vol)

NOTE: NOT liquid, creme developer.

It’s the most concentrated creme developer available, and will burn skin very quickly. USE GLOVES - AND DO NOT GET IT IN YOUR EYES!

But it’s very cheap, easy to get, already a paste, and works perfectly on its own - with no additional ingredients required, and no waste.

THE PROCESS

1) You’ll need sunlight or another UV source, and a safe place to leave the pieces to ‘un-develop’. If not using a UV bulb (I have never tried that), this will obviously need to be done in the daytime.
It works in overcast conditions, but is slower. In hot sunny conditions it works more quickly, but the creme can dry out more easily, and this can cause a ‘blooming’ or 'cloudy' effect on the surface of the plastic, which isn't too bad honestly but you might as well avoid it anyway.

2) Open up your consoles, controllers, cartridges etc. You might need special screwdrivers, google your console for this, you can get them pretty easily online.

3) Remove all electrical and metallic components, and separate all plastic pieces.

4) Put your pieces out, and paint on the creme. I recommend plastic gloves - this stuff will burn your skin pretty quickly. I use a cheap paint brush to apply.

Then just leave them out.

5) Monitor and re-apply more creme every 1-3 hours (depends on weather - basically so it doesn’t dry out) until the yellow is gone.

In colder, more overcast conditions and very yellowed items, this may take multiple days.
In Sydney Australia I found even very yellowed items have only taken six hours max.

6) Carefully wash and dry each piece, making sure to get the creme out of nooks and crannies - screw holes are a common spot.

7) Re-assemble your new-looking console!
RESULTS

Before
After
Before
After
More 'after' shots:

Cover on back not processed, for comparison (please disregard my messy 'workshop' (bedroom):
Colours work great too - I didn't take a clear before of this, but it looked kind of 'old' and 'tired' and had what looked like light brown 'burn marks'
Anecdotally I've been doing this in some capacity for 4 years, and the piece I did first (with the old method - liquid peroxide), an NES dogbone controller, has been in constant use and is still as strong as it ever was, and hasn't re-yellowed either.

I’ve been doing this Hairdresser creme method for a few months, and it’s easily the easiest method.

Anyway, hope this can help retro-lovers out!

Sources:
http://retr0bright.wikispaces.com/
Best write up I could find with convincing chemistry:
http://www.exisle.net/mb/index.php?...g-plastic-the-stain-isnt-permanent-after-all/
 
#13
This method isn't perfect though. It results in them being lighter than the original colour (Almost white in some cases). But I guess it's better than yellow.
I haven't experienced that.
For example, the Wavebird in the images above was still perfectly grey in the battery compartment, so I didn't apply any solution to that part. The final result was a completely even colour, despite some areas not having been processed at all.
 
#17
Thankyou OP thats awesome! my NES/SNES have been in a sealed dark box for years in the loft and when i got them out they had yellowed and i was on the verge of respraying them in a custom colour scheme to hide the horrid yellowing
 
#20
Very nice. Novus plastic polish also does the job pretty well I've noticed.
That would likely be simply removing the top layer of the plastic.
Which can be useful for other things, like scratch removal too.

Check the spelling.

Perfect for the 15 year old yellow Dreamcast I just bought.

Where can that creme be purchased online?
No idea, depending what country you live in it might be restricted, since it's poisonous.

Results on Dreamcasts are SPECTACULAR however. I did one last weekend.

So I just soak my Wii in hydrogen peroxide? That'll do it?
Well, you can, and that's a known working method, but it needs UV light. this creme is much easier.
 
#24
I luckily have no yellowing on any of my consoles, but i have bookmarked this thread.
Btw OP what happens with any lettering etc on the plastics? Is there a chance they will be wiped off?
 
#27
I did something similar with my old wired 360 controller. Looked fantastic. Too bad it died about nine months later, busted cable.

Might try and do it with my 360, that old thing is getting yellower by the day.
 
#28
I was actually reading up on this process after unearthing my sister's old Super NES and seeing it was super yellow'ed. The thing is, every resource I found said that it will just re-yellow over time. :(
 
#30
I knew about bleaching creme being a more simple solution, so it is documented somewhere (don't remember where I read it). As I have a lot of older yellowed electronics, following the development of retrobright was really exciting at the time. Still have to try it myself though.
 
#32
This yellowing process must take more time in cold countries. I have only seen yellowing like that on old (like 80s) macintosh computers (although, I don't own many old consoles atm). Anyway, really fun OP with all the pictures, so props for that.
 
#37
I luckily have no yellowing on any of my consoles, but i have bookmarked this thread.
Btw OP what happens with any lettering etc on the plastics? Is there a chance they will be wiped off?
Lettering has remained intact in every test I've done. The peroxide really seems to not react with anything else. See the NES Advantage above - I didn't cover the paint.

There have been reports of faded lettering (on old mac keyboards etc), but its worth the tradeoff even if it happens.

I was actually reading up on this process after unearthing my sister's old Super NES and seeing it was super yellow'ed. The thing is, every resource I found said that it will just re-yellow over time. :(
May be true, but not yet in my experience. As I said, the first thing I did years ago with liquid is still fine.

And anyway if it does it will likely be more slowly, and the process can be repeated!
 
#43
Also, here's how it looks on my NES before and after...

I scrubbed off years worth of crud and then used creme developer + the sun and it turned out great. If I was a bit more patient, the rest of the case would match the door color, but I only had one day of semi-sun to do it all so it was good enough for me.
 
#44
Retr0bright has been around for a while now.
And is mentioned several times and linked in the OP?

Retrobright isn't as good as this in my experience. And this version comes pre-packaged and ready to go.

Happy to hear others have done the same thing, I got the tip to use creme developer myself off some forum somewhere. But I haven't seen it fully documented, just mentioned.
 
#48
Well, I have a Dreamcast that has a completely yellow lid... just like the photo in the OP. I think it is time to buy some Techno Basic.


I also have a couple old PC towers that are yellow on the plastic parts as well.