how to restore shine to faded knobs

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    this is an amazing discovery ;)

    background: I bought a very old (1960's or 70's, roughly) power supply from ebay, in need of rejuvenation.

    look at the two red knobs, top group and bottom group. both knobs were removed from the device, very thoroughly cleaned with hot water, soap and a sponge, then air dried. I was hoping that simply cleaning the knobs would be enough. it wasn't.

    so, how did I get the top knob pair to be so nice and shiny?

    triple antibiotic ointment!

    the stuff that comes out of a small tube that you use on skin cuts before you put a bandage on ;) it has a vaseline like base and this appears to bond (?) to the plastic or somehow refresh it.

    its good for when your hands are dry; but apparently its also good for when your 40 year old knobs are dry, too! LOL

    just wipe on, let set for a minute or so, then wipe off.

    and a side benefit: if you ever cut or burn yourself in the lab, just grab for the nearest voltage- or current-adjust knob ;)

    interior shot, with non-printed circuit board:

    lungstruck, lhl, Waifer X, and 15 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    View 12 more comments

    1. Jimworm 35 months ago | reply

      Please, find the ointment's base and use that without the antibiotics. And stop telling others that it's the antibiotics doing the magic, and if it is, just refrain from using it and continue your search. Other people, like those with cuts on their skin, would like their antibiotics to kill bacteria as expected.

    2. realblades 35 months ago | reply

      I think floor waxes would just leave a new plastic surface. It would probably be shiny, but I wouldn't expect it to affect the colour. I might be wrong and it's worth a try. It's nice to see other efforts than retrobright come up.

    3. linux-works 35 months ago | reply

      I'm not "telling" anyone anything. I was not, at all, implying that the antibiotic ingredient was useful here or even desireable. the oily base is what I was interested in and I used what I had on-hand.

    4. johniodice 35 months ago | reply

      I get great results with mineral oil and baby harp seals. It's a lot of fun, and totally rejuvenates old electronics knobs.

      What I do is to get a good solid chunk of wood -- a baseball bat works fine -- and bludgeon the baby seal to death. Then I coat the knob thoroughly with mineral oil, rub it in, and wipe off the excess.

      Remember to wear old clothes, as the oil and blood can leave stains.

    5. linux-works 35 months ago | reply

      only certain kinds of seals will work, though.

      for audio knobs, if you use seals and crofts, the sound becomes very mellow.

      if you are fixing a religious item a seventh seal could be a powerful way to approach the problem.

      navy seals could also get the job done, but the cost and manpower is hardly justified.

    6. ducky9658 35 months ago | reply

      My vote for doing this job correctly is Mineral/Baby Oil. (they're the same product but if the word 'baby' is used they can charge more) Mineral oil is used to make your M&Ms all shiny before they get bagged up. Yumm!. The stuff is also good for bringing a luster to brick fireplaces.

    7. halfracer 35 months ago | reply

      The dull color is because the surface has oxidized. Just like when the finish on a car gets dull and chalky. Oiling or ointment is merely borrowing the sheen of the oily substance much like the "diesel shine" of wiping diesel on olive drab equipment, potentially smelly, temporary, and harmful to the item. Buffing with fine polishing compound or white rouge will remove the oxidized surface.

    8. halfracer 35 months ago | reply

      But battered baby seals sound tasty also.

    9. Evildave1967 35 months ago | reply

      WD40 works very well on faded motorcycle plastic switchgear, i've used it on loads of old bikes that have to sit in teh sun all day and it brings them back 2 black very nicely......

    10. Radiophonic_Fretless 35 months ago | reply

      Suggest it's wiser just to go for clean-and-functional rather than trying to "prettify" a piece of vintage kit by risking premature chemical decay of parts...

    11. linux-works 35 months ago | reply

      the touch and feel and look of the user interface does actually matter to me. the before-hand appearance of the knobs were pretty gross; very unappealing to use gear like that. after the treatment, it looks and feels as new as I can imagine.

      it has survived decades of being in industrial surroundings; I really doubt that petrolium jelly is going to cause it go to unstable in its usable, remaining lifetime.

    12. linux-works 35 months ago | reply

      if I can get another sample of this plastic, I might try buffing or polishing. I'm happy with its appearance, for now; and I'll monitor it over time. if it goes right back to its old look, I'll have to try something different.

    13. nurseferatu 35 months ago | reply

      Well done, great tip - no criticism or editorial added if that is allowed ;)

    14. aftab. 35 months ago | reply

      Antibiotic does magic, as a doctor I know it. But it seems that it can do miracle too. You are a genius, bryan. :P

    15. mattatdoyle1900 35 months ago | reply

      Baby oil works like mineral oil, but makes everything smell like clean diapers.

    16. FauxScot 35 months ago | reply

      Sorry. It's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Plastics differ, solvents differ, surface corruption of the plastic differs. This entire comment stream ignores relevant specifics, and it's surprising to see it on BoingBoing, frankly. Plastics are materials with data sheets and chemical compatibility characteristics. Applying random materials to other random materials in hopes that something beneficial reliably occurs is anecdotal at best, and superstition at worst. Once in a row or once for five minutes doesn't qualify as a general purpose solution. Bakelite, polycarbonate, ABS, catalin, trogamid? Vastly different materials. All of these react to triple antibiotic the same? Alcohol (methyl) on two of these will have severe adverse consequences. Can you name the two?

    17. linux-works 35 months ago | reply

      "Plastics are materials with data sheets and chemical compatibility characteristics."

      yeah, right. lets consult the data sheets for this type of plastic. oh wait, the company is not in business anymore. how will THAT work?

    18. b8be1d75fd848bb7f120c70c62c35e10 35 months ago | reply

      ... straight Vaseline works just as well. Folks who enjoy riding and maintaining older motorcycles have known this for years ... it works ...

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