De-Yellowing Vintage Action Figures
A recipe for those on a budget.
What you will need:
2x 200ml Bottles of %6 Hydrogen Peroxide
1x Empty coffee jar
Sunshine – if available
Patience – plenty of it
My aim was to use the techniques other collectors have tried but to spend as little money as possible. When you read how other people have done this process they talk about buying food grade Hydrogen Peroxide %35, which as far as I can see can only be bought on line with the smallest bottle costing around £5 plus £5 postage. And to me that already sounded like a lot of money as that is the for cost of one new figure.
I am a UK based collector so I will be talking about shops and brands that are available here.
So I decided to see what I could achieve while spending as little as possible.
I had recently bought ten stormtroopers off ebay that all looked like they were in a sorry state with most being pretty yellow and very dirty. So the first step after receiving them was to give them a good clean in hot soapy water using an old toothbrush to clean the grit out of the hard to reach areas. This straight away made a massive difference to the figures.
On the left are the original figures, on the right the same figures after they have been cleaned.
Then it was of to the chemists to see if they sold Hydrogen Peroxide in one form or another. It turns out they do. In Boots the chemists you can by %6 Hydrogen Peroxide made by Care +. They did ask me what it was for, but I think they have to ask no matter what they are selling you. A 200ml bottle costs £1.01 in boots but I later found it in Sainsburys for £0.93.
I had only ever heard about Hydrogen Peroxide being used for bleaching hair, but apparently it is used as an antiseptic agent which is why the chemists stock it.
From my tests you will need two bottles of this, but it will depend on what sort of jar you use. You need enough to be able to cover the figures.
The process is simple, and this is based on reading up on various sites around the web (listed at the end). Fill your jar with Hydrogen Peroxide, place a few of your figures in the jar, put the lid on and then place on a sunny windowsill. Then you just need to wait.
Because this is a low percentage hydrogen peroxide you need to leave in the sun for a long time, which is where the patience comes in. For the best results I have found that at least 7 days is required. It is also good practice to give the figures a little shake and turn them around a bit during the seven days as they get covered in small bubbles after a few hours.
When I tried my first few figures we ended up with and entire week of rain and clouds but I don't really think it made any difference. Other sites say you need the sun to get results, but in my experience just a bit of cloudy daylight works just as well. It may be that this affects the speed at which the bleaching happens, but that is only a guess.
The plastic the figures are made of seems to make a big difference in the time it takes to De-yellow. I have mainly been working with old Star Wars and Terrahawks figures which have a body made from a hard plastic with the limbs made from a more bendable softer plastic.
The Hard body plastic takes about a week to de-yellow, but the arms seem to be affected differently. Although they are all made of a softer plastic, they change at completely different speeds. Some turn white it just a few days, others take 10 days or more. You just have to keep checking to see how white they have gone as they will go white in the end.
Because of the amount of time it takes for the plastic to turn white it is sometimes hard to remember what the figures looked like originally. So a good idea is to have a colour chart that you can use as a guide. Before you put your figures in to bleach, make a note of which colour they are, then you can compare after a few days.
There are free charts on the web for Teeth whitening, this one is pretty good.
As you put your figures in the bath, make a note of the colour tone they are, then you can check to see how much they have changed over the next few days.
When they are done, and you will just need to judge this. Take them out and give them a good wash. You may find a powdery coating on some of the painted areas once they dry. This can just be wiped off with a cloth.
Overall the results are pretty good. Some of the figures still have a yellow hue about them, but nothing like they did when I got them.
And that is it. Simple really, and there is no need to spend lots of money on this.
Total cost to whiten ten figures £2.02
Sites worth looking at:
Retr0bright - http://retr0bright.wikispaces.com/
Comic Book Bin - http://www.comicbookbin.com/Action_Figure_Yellowing001.html
Exisle - http://www.exisle.net/mb/index.php?/topic/59657-de-yellowing-plastic-the-stain-isnt-permanent-after-all/