A Way to Deal with Yellowing Doll Bodies?

This was mentioned on Facebook recently as a possible way to get the yellow out of vinyl doll bodies. I haven't tried it but I plan to.  Click on the logo below or the title of the article to go to the original post.

How to deal with the “not-so-mellow yellow” of old computers and consoles

Anyone who has dug their old computer or console out of the cupboard or loft for some retro gaming will probably have noticed that it maybe hasn’t worn too well with the test of time. The plastics these machines were made of is called ABS and to make it flame retardant (just in case it catches fire after a marathon session) the plastics manufacturers added chemicals that caused the plastic turn yellow or, even worse, brown over a long period of time.

It was originally thought that the yellowing was permanent and that the only solution to this was to paint the plastic in its original colour and cover the problem up. However, a chance discovery was made in March 2008, by The CBM Museum at Wuppertal in Germany (http://www.forum64.de), that immersing parts in a solution of Hydrogen Peroxide for a few days could partially reverse the process. This was initially taken up by the Amiga community in Germany (http://www.a1k.org) and the idea eventually found its way to the English Amiga Board (http://eab.abime.net), where a madcap collection of chemists, plastics engineers and retro hackers managed to perfect this concept and put it on steroids, with help from other forums.

Dave Stevenson from Manchester, UK, aka 'Merlin', the chemist behind the project, explains. “I came across the use of peroxide in July 2008 when Kristian95 told us over at EAB about what people like AmigaGTI were doing with it over at a1k.org. I was intrigued by this, as I am a former industrial chemist. I am also a plant Safety Manager by trade and, purely by coincidence, around that time I read about a dust explosion that had occurred in the UK with a chemical called TAED, which is the booster in the ‘active oxygen’ laundry products.”

“This got me thinking, and after some really 'full-on', serious chemistry discussions with other EAB members, like Rkauer in Brazil, who is a plastics Engineer and my good friend Zetr0 from Kings Lynn, Norfolk, UK, who endured endless phone calls from me, we wrote some epic threads on English Amiga Board about the possible causes of the yellowing and eventually we arrived at the theory that it was the Bromine in the flame retardant that was the cause. We also knew that Ultra Violet light was another major factor. Having identified the culprit, the next stage was to try to develop and perfect a means of treating the plastic and reversing the yellowing quicker, without causing damage to the plastic. Being a former industrial chemist helped me tremendously, in understanding what was going on at the molecular level and to develop a treatment process to reverse the effect.”

“The problem was finally cracked in late July 2008 with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, a small amount of an “Oxy” laundry booster as a catalyst and a UV lamp; we believed that this could do the job in hours instead of days. Proof of this concept was demonstrated on EAB by Tonyyeb from Hull, UK, Chiark from Leeds, UK and myself. The original test I did as proof of concept took two hours, as opposed to up to the five days it took for the original tests at CBM and a1k.org. We were on to something!!

You don’t have to be a smoker to know the pain of yellowing hardware. Any beige box of a certain age starts to darken and stain like an Englishman’s teeth, turning beautiful retro hardware into the equivalent of a filthy, leering uncle, something to hide, not flaunt.
The reason? Retards. The ABS used for these old machines was rendered flame-retardant with chemical treatments. These chemicals are the ones which cause this unsightly yellowing and until now the only fix was an equally ugly coat of paint.
Retr0bright to the rescue! In a twisting story that started with German boffins and English Amiga nerds, it was eventually discovered that bromine was the yellowing agent, and UV light didn’t help either. The McGyver-esque answer is a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and a dash of commercial laundry booster "Oxy". Paint this on, stick the old computer out in the sun (or under a UV lamp) and several hours later you have a shiny white machine.
The folks at the Retr0bright project will sell you a gel, but if you actually own old hardware then its likely you’re a tinkerer already, in which case you can make your own. Full instructions are on the Retr0bright wiki, but the short recipe is this: Take a weak (10%) solution of hydrogen peroxide, add a dash of Oxy, apply and leave in the sun for an afternoon. That’s it.



  1. Interesting! I can't wait to see the results!

  2. DollGrrlTrixie2/17/12, 2:44 PM

    amandap has been doing this to her yellow gene dolls & has seemsed to have success with it.

  3. I tried this with a Misaki doll & didn't really see any improvement. It may not be the right kind of "plastic" to work, or I may have done something wrong. It was a big mess though, they don't tell you that the stuff grows while it's under the lights, so I put it on the doll, went away for a while, & when I came back there was a huge mound of foamy stuff LOL. The hardest part was tracking down 100% peroxide. They don't really make it make for hair anymore, it all has some additives so I used food grade peroxide which is supposed to be the same, but who knows, that may be what went wrong.

    1. I've seen peroxide react with blood by "growing.". It's just a release of the oxygen gas. Yours sounds evil. :-)

  4. Tried "Oxy" facewash, which is 10% benzoyl peroxide, on a $3 Gene doll. Not much success. I didn't put in the sun (seemed counter intuitive since ultra violet light is one of the causes of the yellowing. So this time I'll try hydrogene peroxide and ultraviolet light and see what happens.
    Keeping fingers crossed

    Will C.

    1. Oxy Boost is a distinct product. It is not Oxy 10. It's much more powerful. I'm going to get the products and try it on a yellowed doll.

  5. Terri - I have read about this; for bodies, this is great news. But for the heads (and I have a few that have yellowed, I was wondering how this would react with the face paint and the hair?

    1. I would never attempt to put the hair into any product containing bleach but that is an interesting question about the facial paint. Perhaps I when I get the products, I can try it out on a cheap doll head. I will certainly publish the results.

    2. The retrobright process is only for ABS plastic, it's a specific treatment to counter the yellowing from the TBBP-A flame retardant. This is not used in the vinyl (PVC + plasticizer) heads.

  6. i don't know that i'd trust this on a doll body without being at least an amateur chemist, given all the possible things that could go wrong. Also, if people must try this, remember the wiki says 10% peroxide, not 100%. They use Hydrogen Peroxide as a rocket propellant, at 85-98% concentrations. Another point, according to all the stuff I've read on this, (which is a lot, as I'm interested in older computers, and my Amiga is terribly yellowed) is that people are thinking now that the yellowing on the type of equipment this process was developed for was caused by the fire retardant properties of the ABS used on them, and I don't know that that's the problem with doll bodies?

    at any rate, I'm saying, if you try this, please be careful. i don't know that it's appropriate for our uses, and I'd hate to see anyone destroying dolls, or worst of all, getting hurt, trying this.

  7. Mary Arbuthnott xxx@xxx

    4:27 PM (3 minutes ago)

    to me
    I forgot to include one essential ingredient in the message below; I also added some (a half-teaspoon or so??) of dissolved "oxygen pro" (generic oxyclean) to the mix, which was probably a cup of peroxide. I tried it without the oxy pro and it doesn't seem to work, so I think it's a key ingredient. M

    ----- Forwarded Message -----
    From: Mary Arbuthnott
    To: Collecting Fashion Dolls by Terri Gold
    Sent: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 1:03 PM
    Subject: Re: Collecting Fashion Dolls by Terri Gold
    I seem to be getting pretty good results using a combination or 3% hydrogen peroxide and Arm and Hammer 3x whitening gel in full sunlight. (The gel stays fairly damp and I don't have to submerge the dolls in a gallon of peroxide, although that would probably be the best option.)
    Here is my method so far:
    I coat the dolls with gthe tooth gel and peroxide, place them in a plastic pan, and wrap the pan in a plastic shopping bag. After a couple of hours outside in the bright sun, I have restored 2 dolls almost completely.
    I haven't gotten to 100% yet, but I think it's going to work. I can tell how much yellow has been removed because the joints that aren't exposed to the sun are still very yellow, like nicotine-stained fingers.
    Thanks so much for sending the info. I think I'm going to be able to save some very expensive doll bodies.
    I should have taken pictures. Next time I will.

  8. use 40% cream developer from sallys beauty. Wrap the area with saran wrap so the cream wont dry out. Put it out in the sun, rotate and check the doll for even exposure. Good luck!