DIY Retrobright Whitening Solution




About: Inspektor Gadjet is a project for my most experimental music, Live performances, audiovisual installations, DIY hardware and other goodies … The idea behind the project is to make available the information, ...

The information in this page is merely informative. It doesn’t constitute any type of guide or tutorial. Hydrogen peroxide can be dangerous if treated incorrectly. Avoid touching your eyes, drink it, whatch out for Pets and Kids… wear safety goggles and old clothes… And most importantly! Don´t blame me if you damage your enclosure or favorite T-Shirt xD

An introduction to Yellowness:

When it comes to computers and video consoles, you really want to keep the original case, even more, that old school case is one of the reasons why is so cool and nostalgic. But, the brown-yellow ish color you see in many old devices is not nostalgic, is basically a layer of matter that got oxidised with time and UV exposure.

Certain old devices were coated with a substance to make them fire-retardant, as they were made using ABS plastic. This layer gets more or less brown depending in what life the device had… Sun or smoke will make them go yellow in the more exposed areas.

Step 1: Case Cleaning

The first step in restoring an old device to its glory is take it apart and clean it. It doesn’t matter how dirty it look at first, all devices get better after some cleaning with just soapy water and a toothbrush.

Never throw your old toothbrush, this is an amazing little device that will help you in many projects. It´s extremely efficient when cleaning plastic cases with the help of just some warm water and soap. The most dirty parts are normally around the button pads, the speaker holes and any engraving, but brushing in different directions and under running water leaves them perfectly clean of grease and dirt.

Step 2: Soapy Bath and Squatters

Even the machines that look more clean in the outside are surprisingly dirty inside after years of joy, apple juice and crumbs… So it’s never a bad idea to open it up and check, you might find an unexpected squatter.

I personally like to put all the plastic parts of the machine in a container, and leave it there for an hour or 2 with warm water and soap, so al that dirt gets easy to scrape off. To use the Whitening Formula, is necessary to clean perfectly the whole case, and remove any metal parts aswell as any sticker… Stickers and labels might get damaged or bendy so it’s better to simply remove them and clean the glue residue with some alcohol.

Step 3: DIY Retro Bright Solution

I recently came across the need to clean a Gameboy case which was extremely yellowed in some parts. After some research online I found a product called Retro-bright and a very interesting article in their site explaining what basically is made of and how they came with that idea. Very interesting stuff.

As this product is not available in Spain, I decided to go DIY and make myself a version of it, so I will explain here my thoughts and conclusions.

It turned out to be quite simple, Retrobright´s basic solution consist of:

  • Hydrogen Peroxide – 3%
  • OXI Clean

We don´t have Oxi Clean in Spain, but there are some alternatives like “Kalia Oxiaction”. Basically what you need is enough “Hydrogen Peroxide” to cover the parts, and some equivalent to “Kalia Oxi action”.

I say equivalent cause if you buy the normal Supermarkets brand it will cost you half the price and is exactly the same formula.

I used just enough Hydrogen Peroxide to cover the parts. The amount of OXI is very small, I used half a teaspoon and it doesn’t really need to be mixed, the reaction starts quite quick.

I do not recommend using the Hair Dressers choice as it’s much easier to damage your plastics. It might look at first that the stronger the quicker but is more about the UV light.

Step 4: Ultraviolent Light UV

Ultraviolet light is very Utraviolent to the eyes so make sure you protect yourself adecuately.

UV light is the main catalyst of the quemical reaction, that once in contact with the peroxide and Oxiclean detergent, it will start to react and decompose the peroxide in to water basically. The fumes are non toxic.

Everything starts to make bubbles over the plastic surface.

I happen to have a very nice DIY UV exposure unit, that I made a while ago to expose Screen printing Stencils. It’s perfect because it allows a very wide exposure to UV light and in a very concentrated manner. I tried using the SUN but it was summer and extremely hot outside, so I was worried about the plastic melting and took it inside.

So the proportion are not going to be discussed here, as this might change a lot depends on your batch, the temperature, amount of peroxide and concentration, UV light used…

Although is a safe concentration, the mixture is corrosive, so handle carefully or you fingers starts to get white aswell :)

Step 5: Results

Specially in DMG Gameboys this system work amazingly good. The whole process took around 8 hours of UV exposure to get completely clean of yellowness. The price of the whole preparation was around 8 euros, 4 euros the Oxi clean alternative and 4 Euros for a litre of Hydrogen Peroxide.

The Oxiclean Alternative will last you a lot, as you just use half a spoon of it on each clean, but the peroxide gets used and after the 8 hours process looses his properties. In some cases the yellowness wont go completely and in this cases you would have to remake the whole process to achieve proper whitening.

The buttons and color plastic parts, don’t seem to handle it as good, they get completely clean but they show this whitey residue marks of abrasion I guess. Some plastics react different to this mix as it really depends in the kind of coating and finish the machine has.

Step 6: Conclussion

I was quite surprised by the results to be honest but I little bit unsure about the cost and effectiveness of the peroxide use. The problem of this system is that a lot of Hydrogen peroxide just evaporates and gets transformed in to water, so you end up wasting most of the mixture in the process.

The solution to this is to use some sort of gelling product. Xhantam Gum seems to be the right alternative and due to its price the best choice. Is not easy to find but is available online or in local health shops for thickening soups and sauces.

By using this method you end up with a GEL, that you can store in a UV resistant container (A glass jar protected with some aluminium foil will do the job), and apply it just on the surface of objets, so it’s much more efficient with the waste.

To finish the job, I like to coat the Case with some Matt Transparent Lacque to prevent it from whitening again. This laque it’s also good for the plastic color parts, as it bring their normal appearance back by adding a new coated layer. I was happy to see that at the end you can end up with a very elegant look.

Hope you guys find it interenting and usefull!
For more stuff visit my website
Inspektor Gadjet



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    37 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Thank you a oot i also live in Spain and i couldnt find the oxi.

    1 reply

    2 years ago

    If you've played with this before, is the UV light really necessary? The only UV source I have is the sun, and I think a higher concentration of H202 would serve me better (and be far more accessible)


    Are you relying on the UV light to turn the escaping Oxygen into Ozone?

    1 reply
    Inspektor GadjetTreknology

    Reply 2 years ago

    UV light is the catalyst of this reaction like the article says. The reaction occurs because of the two elements interacting, only UV light or peroxide will not do the trick...

    There are plenty of UV lights around just do a google search, lots of DIY options andif not just try and experiment yourself.

    There is no oxigen going to ozone, is bromine releasing and peroxide becoming oxigen, there is only water vapor in the evaporation. Hope it helps.

    My main use is for music making... however I love to play some classics like Tetris, Super Mario... lots of nostalgic fun!!


    3 years ago

    Pese a la mierda, me sigue gustando más el modelo sin restaurar. El otro pierde su originalidad estética. Es como si fuese otro aparato distinto y no una gameboy. Pero gracias por la receta para blanquear el ABS.

    3 replies

    Hey Cuttretop. El tema es que originalmente no era asi, naranja.. Ademas muchas de ellas han tenido pegatinas, y se le ven marcas de pegamento o la forma de donde estaba la pegatina... a mi no me gusta eso para nada! Luego en las fotos se ve que la pantalla mia es gris claro, con luz azul... y los botones son nuevos, con lo que claro que no parece la original!! Se hizo asi a propósito, ese modelo lo llamé "Nordic Boy" :)

    I see you are using 10-volumes hydrogen peroxide. In drugstores in France, I got 135-vol for about the same price, which means you can dilute it in 10 volumes of water and have the same power. Actually, you really want to dilute it...

    It's a nice detail to add the fumes are not toxic. Corrosive, somewhat explosive, but not toxic. You may feel a bit "funny" if you're using a lot of H2O2 in high concentration, as well ;-)

    1 reply

    Hi! Nice detail about diluting the higher concentration of Hydrogen Peroxide. I agree with the H2O2 makes you feel funny if using high amounts, and with the UV light you can get a nice tan too... just like being in the Beach :)


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Terrific Instructable! Great job mentioning the lacquer coating. It's the bromides in the plastic that make it fire resistant. They are what causes the yellowing when exposed to oxygen, heat, and UV. It's unavoidable, but reducing the oxygen exposure should slow the effects considerably. You might also consider storing your device in some sort of enclosure or case to cut down on UV.

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Super hold lacquer hair spray will do the job.I spray it on anything I want to protect from the elements.

    Hello microdot, yes I knew about Br or Bromine, and linked to more scientific posts, but instead with this intructable I intended to use a more understandable languaje :) Anyway thanks for your words! I agree with the lacquer/paint and storage, currently I use a small aluminum flight case for it, and those protectors made of soft black plastic look incredible in black painted units!! :)

    Thanks I plan on using this technique. I was really impressed with the results.