How to Clean Old, Yellowed Plastic on Retro Computers and Game Systems

Last Updated: Jan 27, 2024 by

If you’re a fan of retro computers and game systems, you may have noticed that over time, the once bright and vibrant plastic on these devices can become yellowed and discolored. This can be a major eyesore for collectors and enthusiasts, but fear not – there are ways to restore the plastic to its former glory. In this article, we’ll discuss why plastic yellows, and provide some tips and tricks for cleaning and restoring old, yellowed plastic on your favorite retro devices.

Why Does Plastic Yellow?

Before we dive into the cleaning process, it’s important to understand why plastic yellows in the first place. The main culprit is a chemical reaction known as “bromine bloom”. This occurs when the flame retardant chemical, bromine, used in the production of plastic, migrates to the surface over time. This reaction is accelerated by exposure to UV light, heat, and humidity, which is why plastic that has been stored in a dark, cool, and dry environment is less likely to yellow.

The Importance of Cleaning Yellowed Plastic

Aside from being an eyesore, yellowed plastic can also be a sign of degradation and can weaken the structural integrity of the plastic. It can also affect the functionality of the device, as the yellowing can block infrared signals and interfere with sensors. Additionally, yellowed plastic can decrease the value of a collectible item, so it’s important to clean and restore it to maintain its worth.

Cleaning Methods

There are several methods for cleaning yellowed plastic, and the best one for you will depend on the severity of the yellowing and the type of plastic. It’s always a good idea to test a small, inconspicuous area first before attempting to clean the entire device.

Mild Soap and Water

For light yellowing, a simple solution of mild soap and water can do the trick. Use a soft cloth or sponge to gently scrub the plastic, then rinse with clean water and dry thoroughly. This method is best for non-porous plastics, such as ABS or polycarbonate.


For more severe yellowing, many retro computer enthusiasts swear by a homemade cleaning solution known as “retrobrite”. This solution is made by mixing hydrogen peroxide, xanthan gum, and glycerin, and is applied to the plastic and left to sit in the sun for several hours. The UV rays from the sun help to reverse the bromine bloom and restore the plastic to its original color. However, this method can be time-consuming and may not be suitable for all types of plastic.

Magic Eraser

For a quick and easy solution, a magic eraser can be used to gently scrub away surface yellowing. This method is best for light yellowing and should be used with caution, as the abrasive nature of the magic eraser can damage the plastic if used too aggressively.

Retrobrite Alternatives

If you’re not comfortable using retrobrite or don’t have access to the necessary ingredients, there are some alternative products on the market specifically designed for cleaning yellowed plastic. These products, such as “Retr0bright” and “Sunlight”, work similarly to retrobrite but are pre-made and ready to use.

Tips for Preventing Yellowing

While it’s not always possible to prevent yellowing, there are some steps you can take to slow down the process and keep your retro devices looking their best.

Store in a Cool, Dry Place

As mentioned earlier, heat and humidity can accelerate the yellowing process, so it’s important to store your retro devices in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing them in attics, basements, or other areas prone to temperature and humidity fluctuations.

Keep Out of Direct Sunlight

UV rays from the sun can also speed up the yellowing process, so it’s best to keep your retro devices out of direct sunlight. If you must display them in a sunny area, consider using UV-blocking film on windows or investing in a UV-blocking display case.

Regular Cleaning

Regularly cleaning your retro devices can help prevent yellowing by removing any dirt, dust, or oils that can contribute to the chemical reaction. Use a soft cloth and mild soap to gently wipe down the plastic, and avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials.

Restoring Yellowed Controllers

In addition to retro computers, game controllers are also prone to yellowing. The same cleaning methods can be used for controllers, but there are some additional tips to keep in mind.


Before cleaning a yellowed controller, it’s best to disassemble it to ensure all parts are properly cleaned. This also allows for easier access to hard-to-reach areas.

Retrobrite Alternatives

For controllers, it’s best to avoid using retrobrite or other hydrogen peroxide-based solutions, as they can damage the rubber components of the controller. Stick to mild soap and water or a magic eraser for cleaning controllers.

Replacement Parts

If the rubber components of a controller have become discolored, they can be replaced with new parts. This is a more expensive option, but it can restore the controller to its original appearance.


With these tips and tricks, you can restore the plastic on your retro computers and game systems to their former glory. Remember to always test a small area first and use caution when using abrasive materials. By taking preventative measures and regularly cleaning your retro devices, you can help slow down the yellowing process and keep them looking their best for years to come. Happy cleaning!

Gulrukh Ch

About the Author: Gulrukh Ch

Gulrukh Chaudhary, an accomplished digital marketer and technology writer with a passion for exploring the frontiers of innovation. Armed with a Master's degree in Information Technology, Gulrukh seamlessly blends her technical prowess with her creative flair, resulting in captivating insights into the world of emerging technologies. Discover more about her on her LinkedIn profile.