Classic Rotary Phones Forum

Telephone Identification, Repair & Restoration => Telephone Troubleshooting and Repair => Topic started by: princessphone on March 02, 2018, 11:44:36 AM

Title: Discoloring of Plastic Phones
Post by: princessphone on March 02, 2018, 11:44:36 AM
Hi there,
I've seen a number of topics on remedies on restoring faded and discolored phones. I have a number of Princess phones scattered around the house (just a few, about 12). In the morning and late afternoon some of these Princess are exposed to some intense sunlight. I often cover them with a face cloth for protection but that looks real crappy. I suspect that the damage done to these discolored phones happened when they were young and fresh.
My question is, will these plastic phones still continue to discolor after all these years? My collection consist mostly of the darker colours like black and red. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.
Thanks, John
PS I,m down sizing (past the best before date), and have lots of Princess stuff. If in the area please contact.     
Title: Re: Discoloring of Plastic Phones
Post by: Dan/Panther on March 02, 2018, 01:09:29 PM
Personally I haven't seen any posts about the darker phones changing color.  I'm not saying they don't, but it seems to be the lighter colors that show the discoloration from Nicotine, and other household vapors such as cooking etc. In addition, I've not read anything about what happens when exposed to direct sunlight.  Sun exposure is part of some of the processes used to return phones to original color, when used in conjunction with a chemical coating.

Title: Re: Discoloring of Plastic Phones
Post by: Haf on March 02, 2018, 01:14:13 PM
I believe hard rubber parts like candlestick receivers discolor from sunlight, not noticed by dark ABS plastic so far.

Title: Re: Discoloring of Plastic Phones
Post by: Dan/Panther on March 02, 2018, 01:41:47 PM
The hard rubber/Bakelite phones, radios etc, do fad over time. Many can be brouight back with a little elbow grease and polish. I think some even use hand lotion.

Title: Re: Discoloring of Plastic Phones
Post by: twocvbloke on March 02, 2018, 01:58:01 PM
I think some colours don't obviously exhibit faded colours as well as others due to the nature of their colour, greens and reds mask yellowing well because, well, green fading with yellow, you get green, red fading with yellow, you get red, other colours like blue, beige and white will show it a lot more easily, the number of times I've seen a seriously faded Concorde Blue GPO phone sold as a "Rare single-green" colour is silly, but because the blue fading with yellow turns green, it's very obvious... :)
Title: Re: Discoloring of Plastic Phones
Post by: kleenax on March 02, 2018, 04:20:54 PM
Although not about vintage telephones, this website will tell you the process that 1st causes plastics to discolor, and how to restore it.

I have tried this over the years with great success, but it is rather time-consuming. The single BIGGEST factor to prevent a "blotchy" finished product is to first thoroughly clean the phone plastics with a good, industrial degreaser before any attempt at restoration. This is true with any buffing or polishing as well.

Here are some "recipes" for making the RetroBright Gel. I have to say, that I did NOT make Gel (hated that gooey crap), but instead an aqueous solution and simply immersed my parts in it for a period of time.

One word of caution: the parts will want to float-up because the solution will immediately begin to "bubble" like fresh 7-Up soda, so you will have to figure out just how to keep your plastic components TOTALLY submerged in the solution for several hours for it to work properly.

Retr0Bright Gel
Making the Retr0bright Gel

You are warned that hydrogen peroxide is very nasty stuff and can cause severe chemical burns to skin and can also cause blindness if splashed into the eyes, if handled incorrectly. Usually, you can’t buy stronger than 12% over the counter, as this is the maximum strength sold to the public and is used to bleach hair. If you want to try this, I would strongly suggest that you wear goggles and gloves to protect yourself.

Merlin's Original Recipe

The original magical "Retr0bright" gel mixture that was found to work is:-

1 pint (500ml) Hydrogen Peroxide, 10 to 15% strength (40 vol) (available from hairdressers' supplies, e.g. the 'Sally Beauty' franchise in the UK)
2 heaped tablespoonfuls of Xanthan Gum (available from health food shops or online)
1 level teaspoonful of Glycerine (available from pharmacies)
1/4 teaspoonful of "Oxy" laundry booster

Add the Hydrogen Peroxide and Xanthan Gum to the blender or liquidiser. Mix on high speed for 5 seconds. Add the Glycerine and mix for a further 5 seconds. Let the mixture rest for a minute then mix again for 5 seconds. A smooth, non-drip gel should have formed. This gel can be put into a dark coloured jar or tub (e.g. a coffee jar covered in tape) and stored, as long as you DON’T add the “Oxy” until you are ready to use it.

Lorne's Variant Recipe

Lorne at Vintage Computer Forums prefers to use stronger Hydrogen Peroxide and his variant recipe is below.

1/2 pint (200ml) Hydrogen Peroxide, 30% strength
2 level teaspoons of Xanthan Gum
1 level teaspoon of Glycerine
1/4 teaspoonful of Oxy laundry booster
1 teaspoonful hot (not boiling) water

In a very small ceramic or plastic bowl/dish, dissolve the Oxy in the hot water. Lorne found that the Oxy doesn’t want to dissolve in the paste/gel very well – this premixture of the Oxy fixed that problem. While the Oxy is dissolving, mix the Hydrogen Peroxide and Xanthan gum in the blender for five seconds. Add the Glycerine to that mixture and blend for another five seconds.
Let this mixture sit for five minutes.Blend for another five seconds.

Just before you apply the gel, thoroughly stir in by hand, the dissolved Oxy/water mix.

Tezza's Arrowroot Variant Recipe

Tezza at Vintage Computer Forums came up with a variation of the original recipe, based on another starchy food thickener called Arrowroot. Also, Tezza's recipe doesn't use glycerine. Trials have found the arrowroot-based paste dries out more quickly than the Xanthan gum/glycerine mixture in the recipes above and requires more frequent re-application. However, Arrowroot tends to be easier to find than Xanthan gum and is a workable alternative where this is the case.

The addition of glycerine may held to slow the drying processes but Tezza has not tried this at the time of writing.

Tezza's recipe is listed below. Note that Oxy-Magic could probably be replaced by any "oxy-type" laundry activator.

1/2 pint (200 ml) Hydrogen Peroxide, 6% strength (available from most Pharmacies as a hair bleach or antiseptic)
2 heaped tablespoonfuls of "White Crest" Arrowroot
1/5 teaspoonful of "Oxi-Magic" laundry booster (to be added to the gel just before use, like the original recipe)

If you use Arrowroot, you will need to heat the mixture. Don't worry, this is safe to do. Tezza suggests warming the mixture up in a microwave oven for about 45 seconds, based on a 750 Watt microwave oven, you may need to adjust the timings based on the wattage of your microwave. He strongly suggests that you do this in 15 second bursts and check the consistency after each burst. It's ready when is appears as a gel. Sprinkle in the Oxi-magic and stir vigorously with a spoon. This will also help thin the mixture so it can be brushed on.

Foaming when adding Oxi-Magic is related to how hot the mixture is and the concentration of peroxide. Usually the foaming is mild but if ithe mixture is hot and higher concentrations of peroxide have been used, the reaction can be vigourous. It would pay to let it cool first.

Other Gelling Agents

Other starchy thickeners such as corn starch, guar gum or even wallpaper paste may work. If you find another thickening agent that gives good results for you, let us know via the discussions tab and we will add your recipe to the Wiki.

Other Ingredients

If you decide to try other ingredients which have not been mentioned here, please be aware that you are out on your own and we cannot be held accountable for the results. Hydrogen Peroxide can react violently with some materials and you are strongly advised to do some reading around and research first. The recipes stated above have been thoroughly tested and are safe to prepare as long as the instructions are carefully followed.

If buying hydrogen peroxide from a pharmacy or hairdressers, check to make sure it has no other additives. All you want is diluted hydrogen peroxide (typically 3% to 12%). Additives may lead to unpredicable results. Lorne has tried a hair bleach product and he found that a solvent called terpene was present in the list of ingredients; when this was tried there was some evidence of the product attacking the surface which was particularly visible on dark coloured parts. A picture of the problem is posted in the Problems and pitfalls section
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Using Retr0Bright Gel

To ensure the best results, you are advised to wash the parts first, to remove any polishes or other deposits that may lead to patchy results. Tezza put his parts through a dishwasher on a cool cycle.

Just before you paint the gel onto the parts, add Ľ teaspoonful of any “Oxy” type laundry booster and stir it in throroughly, and then put the parts under a UV lamp or out in the sun.

A day or so later, your parts should be as good as new, wash the gel off and that’s it! It may take another treatment for the worst yellowing to be reversed but in all cases it will eventually be successful. To permanently prevent the yellowing from returning, just coat the parts with a clear acrylic varnish. Alternatively, you could use a protective polish such as Armor-All or Autoglym to provide a UV protectant to the surface.

Merlin sums things up;

“There were an incredible number of people at first that said this was impossible – that was until they saw the pictures, then tried it and proved it for themselves. The usual reaction was ‘No way!’ then ‘WOW!!’.

This has been a truly global effort by retro enthusiasts and has proved to work on Commodore, Atari, Osborne, Apple and other machines and the work still continues on various forums worldwide. As long as you protect yourself against the hydrogen peroxide, this is pretty goof proof and I hope that others get to see the amazing effect we spent so much time working to achieve.”
Title: Re: Discoloring of Plastic Phones
Post by: princessphone on March 02, 2018, 10:44:33 PM
Thanks to all of you who responded to my question. The purpose was more on how to prevent discoloring instead of restoration. Basically   all of my collection have no discoloring issues.
Best regards, John
Title: Re: Discoloring of Plastic Phones
Post by: paul-f on March 03, 2018, 10:42:33 AM
... The purpose was more on how to prevent discoloring instead of restoration. ...
When working in the computer industry, I saw countless light colored cases that were on desks near windows and became seriously sun-tanned. From the shadows on the cases, one could tell the path of the sun. Some were faded from light ivory to a mocha brown. As has been pointed out, the fading happens to all colors, but the change is most noticeable on light colors.

Therefore, the first thing I do with my phones is to try to limit the amount of exposure to direct sunlight and other potential hazards.

My display room is in the basement. The (relatively small) windows are on the northwest and northeast sides of the house, so don't usually admit direct sunlight. They are covered with paper that lets in some indirect light. The phones are on shelves that are either directly under the windows or across the room from the windows.

If the sun comes through your windows, you might research UV-filtering film for the windows and have light blocking curtains or blinds that are normally kept closed.

The phones that I am most concerned with are stored in cardboard boxes in an adjacent storage room that has no windows. When I want to admire one of them, it's easy to pick the box off the shelf, put the phone on a table for a short time, then return it to its box.

Since I have more phones than I can display in the space available, it's important to know where a phone is stored so it can be found quickly when I want to see it.

I also occasionally rotate or rearrange phones on the display shelves, so I don't get bored looking at the same display all the time.
Title: Re: Discoloring of Plastic Phones
Post by: Vacuumlad1650 on March 04, 2018, 07:44:51 PM
From my observation, Nicotine is by far the harshest discoloration. I'm from a family of smokers (I myself do, but NOT in the house...).

My Grandfather smoked 5 packs a day of Unfiltered Camels. All the Old Telephones he gave me are discolored, and sticky from nicotine. No matter what I do, it never really cleans up (Not planning to do RetroBrite). Nobody has smoked in that house for a good 30 years, so any White, or other light colored phones acquired since then seem to have some light discoloration (primarily around the handset cradle), but nothing close to the others.
We still smoke on the screened in front porch from time to time, and man is that phone nasty!

I don't bother covering up my phones. I want to display and use them freely. If the Phone rings, I want to just lift the receiver and hold it to my head. No need to mess with a drop cloth over the top.

I have a handful of light colored phones that show discoloration due to Nicotine, and mildly from sunlight. I will try and take some pictures.
Title: Re: Discoloring of Plastic Phones
Post by: twocvbloke on March 04, 2018, 07:58:08 PM
From my observation, Nicotine is by far the harshest discoloration.

Technically speaking, it's the tar from smoking that causes the discolouration (and the damage to lungs), the nicotine is colourless and doesn't itself stain plastics... :)

All the more reason to not smoke, it saves telephones, and lives too... :)
Title: Re: Discoloring of Plastic Phones
Post by: jsowers on March 04, 2018, 09:43:32 PM
You can tell discoloration from smoke from discoloration from UV by looking inside the handset caps to see if the smoke penetrated through the holes. Also inside the housing will be just as stained as the outside. Anywhere air can get will be stained. By comparison, UV damage will be on the outside only and usually where the sunlight hit, so under the handset will be lighter than the rest of the handset. Or on Princess phones, you see a tell-tale circle where the handset sat and protected the housing.

Recently I saw an auction for a phone that was UV faded and the seller thought the area under the handset had been bleached. Never stopping to think that the rest of the phone was dark from sun exposure. Haven't they ever seen tan lines on a sunbather? It was hard to believe.
Title: Re: Discoloring of Plastic Phones
Post by: WEBellSystemChristian on March 05, 2018, 10:43:58 AM
For reversing discoloration, there are a number of methods that work. I myself use either 40 volume Peroxide Gel combined with UV light, or a soak in bleach, depending on the type of plastic/plastic color/severity of discoloration.

For stopping discoloration, I would recommend 303 Aerospace Protectant. I've used it occasionally for years, but recently began reading up on it. It has the highest level of UV protection in anything available for plastics, rubber, or paint...far more than the Turtle Wax product used by some of our members.
Title: Re: Discoloring of Plastic Phones
Post by: tubaman on March 08, 2018, 08:25:55 AM
... the number of times I've seen a seriously faded Concorde Blue GPO phone sold as a "Rare single-green" colour is silly, but because the blue fading with yellow turns green, it's very obvious... :)

LOL - I know exactly what you mean.
Only the handset caps have gone green on my Concorde Blue 706 - very strange??