This item in your medicine cabinet can make old plastic new again

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London Bridge is falling down
I’ve been picking up old stereo equipment from the ’70s and ’80s at garage and estate sales, and I’ve finally pieced together a pretty nice old-school stereo system. I’ve been cleaning up the components, but I’m having a hard time with some of the old plastic knobs: they’re faded, white, and look super gnarly now that I’ve dusted and wiped down the rest of the plastic and metal.

Can I paint these knobs with something that will cover them well? -Andy

With the right primer, you can paint anything. But I just saw this tip from Lifehacker on using Vasoline to make old plastic gleam.

Has anyone had other experiences with improving the look of dried-out plastics?

Comments on This item in your medicine cabinet can make old plastic new again

  1. A rundown of stuff I’ve done to clean old tuner knobs:
    To generally clean, I use a pretty gentle dish soap and a soft-bristled tooth brush to clean grooves. If there’s a weird waxy buildup on it, I’ve had luck cleaning with powdered dishwasher detergent and hot (not not boiling) water. Before you do any coloring, you’ll need to clean it. 🙂
    If it just needs polishing, polish for as long as you can stand to with a plain cotton t-shirt. You’ll be amazed at how nice that works on plastic!
    In terms of coloring, it definitely deeply depends upon the TYPE of plastic you’re dealing with. Krylon for plastic spray paint seems to work well on a variety of modern plastics, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be fine on YOUR plastic. The bottom line with any chemical on plastic is that you run the risk of ruining it. Now, is that risk worthwhile, considering that it’s already faded? Maybe. If you can, tape up the front of the knob and try the paint on the back side or edges. Leave it to sit for a couple days to see if there’s a reaction. If there’s not one, it SHOULD be fine. However, plastic is tricky. It could break down five years from now!
    Just don’t use sharpies. Bad.
    You can almost always find old fittings on ebay, worst case scenario.

  2. I really have nothing to add to this conversation (no idea about plastics) but I just wanna say that I HAD THAT TOY IN THE PICTURE! I can’t believe I even remember it, but I remember thinking it was pretty darn neat, and now I want to make my own…

  3. Retr0brite. This stuff is like magic, and its easy to make yourself.

    Specifically you’ll want the recipe page:

    and the instruction page:

    Basically, you paint the gel onto the surface, let it sit out in the sun for a day, and then wash the gel off. It’s pretty tough to believe until you see it yourself – the results are impressive, especially for something you can make yourself relatively cheaply.

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