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Restore discolored computer parts to like-new with Retr0Bright

Retr0Bright (a homemade hydrogen peroxide solution) can be used to remove the yellow discoloration from old, plastic computer parts.

Although his vintage Apple computer worked, the external plastic on James Wages' Macintosh SE/30 had turned a dingy shade of yellow. But using a concoction of household chemicals, nicknamed "Retr0Bright," Wages was restored the plastic on the computer, keyboard, and mouse to like-new condition.

Wages documented the restoration process on his Flickr photostream and graciously allowed TechRepublic to republish the photos. The photo below shows the difference between a restored section of plastic (the back of this Macintosh SE/30) and an untouched section (the front housing around the screen and 20SC hard drive). Click the photo to see the entire gallery.

Photo by James Wages

Photo by James Wages

What is Retr0Bright?

Developed by chemists and vintage computer enthusiasts in 2008, Retr0Bright is a solution of hydrogen peroxide and an "active oxygen" laundry booster. When combined with exposure to UV light, either from a lamp or the sun, this concoction can remove the yellowing from old ABS plastic computer parts. To make a gel version of the solution, you can use a thickening agent, such as Xanthan Gum and Glycerin, cornstarch, or arrowroot.

For a detailed description of how Retr0Bright works and a list of various recipes, check out the Retr0Bright Project Wiki.

Warning! Hydrogen peroxide can be dangerous--particularly in high concentrations. You should always wear appropriate hand and eye protection when making and working with Retr0Bright. Please read and follow the safety instructions listed on the Retr0Bright Wiki.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

17 comments
JDW!
JDW!

Just to clarify, the recipe I used is a very low-concentration H202 mixture that is not dangerous nor costly. Indeed, it uses household Hydrogen Peroxide (3%). This differs from other recipes recommended on the Retrobright Wiki which use 10% and higher concentrations of H202. Highly concentrated H202 costs more and requires special handling. My primary problem was that I currently reside in Japan, and not being a researcher I had no legal way to obtain anything but 3% household H202. Having read a success story about someone else who used very low concentrations of H202 to deyellow, I decided to give it a go myself, using both the liquid and gel forms of RetroBright. Although the addition of the OxiClean does increase the H202 concentration overall (which is why it does it's cleaning work so well), it is still fairly safe when your base H202 is the household 3% kind. I've gotten my recipe on my skin before, and it produces only a tiny burning sensation not unlike getting 409 on your skin. Of course, using rubber gloves will keep it off your skin completely. And since I mixed with a chopstick using my hand (not a high-speed blender), there was no danger of getting the mix in my eyes. (But as a legal disclaimer I of course would need to recommend you wear glasses. Since I deyellowed on a bright day outside, I was wearing my sunglasses.) My complete gel recipe is written in the description under the following photo in my collection: http://www.flickr.com/photos/66071596@N00/3822230561/ Also in that same text description, toward the bottom, you will find links to a 68kMLA forum where we discuss my recipe and other deyellowing techniques more extensively. Thank you, Bill Detwiler, for this story. I hope it serves to inspire others to restore their vintage computing equipment to their original beauty. --James Wages

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

:D "Hydrogen peroxide can be dangerous - particularly in high concentrations." How concentrated is this stuff? Aren't we talking about the same hydrogen peroxide used to clean and disinfect open wounds or as a hair dye?

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Retr0Bright (a homemade hydrogen peroxide solution) can be used to remove the yellow discoloration from old, plastic computer parts. The gallery linked to from this discussion thread's original blog post, describes how one Apple enthusiast used Retr0Bright to restore an old Mac SE/30. Check out the gallery and let me know if you think the process is something you might try on your old, discolored computer equipment. Original post: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=1949 Gallery: http://content.techrepublic.com.com/2346-13625_11-451539.html

robo_dev
robo_dev

The recipe for 'RetroBrite' is OxyClean + Hydrogen peroxide. This makes a wicked brew since hydrogen peroxide liquid is only like 1%, but OxyClean will make it up to something like 20% strength, which is, well, effing dangerous. Beyond the obvious eye/skin/hair issues, concentrated hydrogen peroxide is a bomb ingredient.

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

it's a good deterrent to would be thieves, I wish there was a product available to make the new turn yellow faster ie. in a few weeks time, make that new $2,500.00 custom quad-core box look like the 11 year old $25.00 Celeron-II it's sitting beside

darpoke
darpoke

I've saved the links, don't have any computers that old but I have an old CRT monitor that would really benefit from a good clean. Thanks TR!

robo_dev
robo_dev

So we're mixing Oxyclean and hydrogen-peroxide...rigghhttt. Oxyclean is made of mostly sodium percarbonate (powdered hydrogen peroxide). By adding hydrogen peroxide to powdered hydrogen peroxide, you're just making a stronger hydrogen peroxide. Is this really something you want to recommend that people 'try at home'? Add to the mix the fact that anyone who collects and maintains old computer gear is probably working with a few loose connections to begin with, and we have a recipe for disaster. Concentrated hydrogen peroxide is the main ingredient in most liquid explosives.

gforsythe7
gforsythe7

Hydrogen Peroxide that is sold to the public is of low %, even OxyClean, check the bottles / jug, paying close attention to the percentage per mg.. or whatever scale of measurement is being used. The high potentency stuff, (yes the general public can buy it, but it's harder to get) IS dangerous, and can be used to make things go bang. But you would KNOW it if you were gettnig something that potent...

dawgit
dawgit

Nobody is supposed to know that. ]:)

fiosdave
fiosdave

So are carbon and sulfur. Please get rid of your charcoal briquettes and your hard boiled eggs...

dawgit
dawgit

Who? Certainly not one of us... Nooooo. :0

dawgit
dawgit

tried that over here in Germany too... Needless to say it did attract some attention. The Polizei were on to them, substituted the HO with H2O. :) then waited... The kritters are now 'Guests of the State'. ;\

robo_dev
robo_dev

NEW YORK: An Afghan immigrant who received explosives training from al-Qaida went from one beauty supply store to another, buying up large quantities of hydrogen peroxide and nail-polish remover, in a chilling plot to build bombs for attacks on U.S. soil, authorities charged Thursday. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33002562/38134913

dawgit
dawgit

B-) doesn't pay much, but it sure is fun :p (sometimes, Life Insurance is hard to get though :) ) Glad I'm re-tired (sort of)

santeewelding
santeewelding

All birdshilt (potassium nitrate) from your surroundings, and pay attention to the spray-on stuff that coats ceilings. This, however, is only policy driven by political correctness. You have to pay close attention to purity of your ingredients, I learned at the age of twelve.

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