Now, as a collector of home computers of yesteryear, more often than not, I happen to add to my collection a few computers that have yellowed with age to point that they simply look hideous. Even after a good scrub, nothing can shift that yellow discoloration…or so I thought!
Early home computers, especially those that were originally white or beige coloured such at early Commodore’s, Acorn’s & Atari’s are prone to this yellowing. To fire proof these early computer cases, manufacturers would add flame retardant chemicals to the plastics mix which over a long period of time can cause this discolouration.
I first heard about ‘Retr0Bright’ at Retro Reunited in 2009 where, through another friend, happen to get chatting with Dave ‘Merlin’from Amibay who had perfected a product for restoring old computers cases. However, I was initially put off by the chemical ingredients and the difficult process involved to get the correct mixture. In addition, these weren’t off the shelf ingredients and some appeared to be quite hazardous.
Fast forward a couple of years and another chat with a friend and fellow member of the Retro Computer Museum. He’d been experimenting himself and had found a single product that appears to do the same job. Not only this, it’s an off the shelf product and require no gelling agent or booster.
Having been blessed with a weekend of glorious sunshine I thought I’d test this stuff myself.
The actual product is called Jerome Russell Cream Peroxide 40 vol 12%.
One of my prized computers in my collection is my beloved Commodore 128 and like many others, is starting to show quite a bit of yellowing. However, as this is the first time I’ve used this stuff and not wanting to ruin my C128, I’ll be testing this on heavily stained machines I can afford to loose.
I will be using a very yellowed Commodore Vic-20, a heavily stained Commodore 1541 floppy disk drive and an Acorn Electron (which is practically orange!).
First thing is to remove all of the internal electronics, sockets and keyboard membranes. – My friend assured me that lettering on the keys and case logos would be perfectly safe with this product.
With just the plastic cases, I gave them all a good scrub in hot soapy water.
This 1541 Floppy Drive should be as white as the centre logo!
Making sure that they’re dry, I’m ready to begin. You will need, a bowl (for the peroxide), an old paint brush, newspaper, clingfilm, rubber gloves & plenty of sunshine.
This has got to be the ugliest Vic-20 in my collection :-)
Peroxide, as you know is bleach, so try not to get any of it on yourself, clothes or furniture. Use plenty of newspaper to protect tables tops etc.
Here’s me, just about to start ‘painting’ on the peroxide with the brush.
After giving the Vic-20 a good coating, I wrapped the whole case in clingfilm, making sure that all of it was covered. This will prevent the Peroxide from drying out too quickly in the sunshine.
Next up was this very yellowed Acorn Electron.
With all of the cases prepared and wrapped, the next step is to take them outside into the sunshine for a few hours.
Keep checking on them from time to time and occasionally turn them so that all areas have direct sunlight. After an hour or so, you should start to see some of the yellowing begin to fade.
In total, it took my samples about three hours until each case was back to its original color. The last step was to take off the clingfilm and give them another scrub to ensure that all of the Peroxide residue is washed off.
I really pleased with he Electron after just one application. All of the case yellowing has gone and the keys are looking much better. I’ll probably remove the keys and go over them again.
Likewise, the 1541 has really come up clean compared to how it originally looked. To get it spotless, I might give it another coat.
Case now restored to the original color and matches the Commodore logo.
….but the biggest surprise was the Vic-20 which had surpassed my expectations. It’s easily the cleanest looking Vic-20 I have now :-)
Using two of the images above and MS Paint (which reminds me, I really need to install Photoshop on this Netbook!), I’ve created a rather crude before and afterwards composition so that you can see the difference.
O.k, so Retr0Bright might actually be a better product that requires only one application but for ease, I’m sticking with this this method.
My thanks go out to Mike (1200xl) for telling me all about this – Cheers mate!
I’d love to hear about/see your own results if you decide to try this. As always, feel free to post any questions you might have.
Commodore 128 is next!