Retr0brighting vintage computer plastics

Monterey k108 teardown

If you’re into vintage computing, you probably would like that the plastics of your beloved old computers and gaming consoles still had their original color, and not that ugly yellowish color. Well, there’s a solution for that and I’m going to talk about it on this post. I used it some time ago to restore the color of some old keycaps that I wanted to use to build HacKeyboard (however, later I found some new, better keycaps to use).

The plastics of the housing of many electronic devices contain a fire-retardant component called Bromine that is responsible for the “yellowing” of the plastics when in contact with light and oxygen. That’s why if you keep your vintage electronics closed in a box they won’t change color as much as if they are exposed to those two components. In a simple way, this component sort of removes oxygen from the plastic to prevent fires and by removing oxygen the plastic changes color.

It turns out that some clever people who love vintage computers came up with a solution to reverse the plastics back to their original color. In a simple way, they found a way of returning the oxygen to the plastic.

There are several variations of the recipe and I have tested one of them with success in some keys from other old keyboards. Here’s what I did:

  • Went to the grocery store to pickup hydrogen peroxide, one of those oxi-detergents and corn starch;
  • (Important!) Put my latex gloves on;
  • Cleaned all the keycaps with a toothbrush and dish washing detergent;
  • Mixed the hydrogen peroxide with the oxi-detergent and corn starch until I had a white paste;
  • Put the keycaps in a plastic tray and poured the white paste over them;
  • Covered the tray with transparent thin film;
  • Put it outside for a few hours so that they were exposed to UV light.
  • After a few hours, cleaned the paste from the keys and observed the result 🙂

The keycaps that I used for this test were only slightly yellow but even so I noticed improvements.

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Since the keycaps are very small I also tried putting them into a transparent water bottle with hydrogen peroxide exposed to UV light for a few days and I also noticed some improvements on the color of the plastic keys.

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I only provided you with a very short description of the process. If you think this step is necessary for your keycaps I recommend you to read this great instructable: Retr0bright, how to turn a yellow Gameboy white again: The EASY way!

Are you going to try it? Feel free to leave your results in the comments section below 🙂


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