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Have you ever gone over to your white toys or white collectible figures and wondered how in the world did they get so yellow? Or even notice that some of your toys start to yellow faster than others?
The explanation for this process is a very scientific one and there are three basic reasons why toys turn from white to yellow.
Toys can begin to yellow because of the sun, because of the chemicals used in the toy and also because of heat. If you want to keep your white toys from yellowing you simply have to put them in the freezer (yes this actually works)!
Now I know putting toys into the freezer won’t happen for most people but that avoids two of the main reasons that toys turn yellow, heat and sun.
The UV rays from the sun create a chemical reaction with the toy’s plastic.
Most of the time when you notice your white toys or collectible figures starting to yellow it is a result of being exposed to sun. Whether the toys were sitting on a shelf and received sunlight for a few hours a day, you had them on a ledge in the window, or you sat them on your dashboard, everytime it was exposed to the sun there was a chemical reaction happening.
One of the common elements used in creating the plastic for many white collectible toys is bromine.
Bromine in addition to the sun’s UV rays is the science behind your white collectible toys turning yellow. Bromine is an element that can be found in many day-to-day places and the reason it is used in your white collectible figure is that it helps to keep your white toys flame resistant.
Once the bromine in the toy has been exposed to the UV rays and reacts with the oxygen in the air, it begins a chemical reaction that will slowly start turning your beloved white toy into your beloved yellowing toy. The bromine is also used to help make the toys flexible, brittle, and easy to break.
Thermal oxidation is yet another one of the scientific reasons why your white toys turn yellow.
When your white toys are exposed to oxygen is when the thermal oxidation takes place. This means that thermal oxidation is completely unavoidable unless you have one of those safes that vacuums out the oxygen. The best way to slow down the process of thermal oxidation is to keep the toys out of extreme heat conditions.
The extreme heat will help to speed up the yellowing process.
How Do You Whiten Yellow Toys?
Now that we know the science behind the yellowing of the toys, is there a way to fix the yellowing process?
While your first thought may be bleaching the toys, that is not the best solution. Since the issue is with the plastic itself, it requires a different kind of cleaning agent.
Also, you would have to be extremely careful with where the bleach touches in order to prevent further damage to other colors that are blended with your white toys and collectible figures.
The best option for returning your yellowing toys to their former white glory is with hydrogen peroxide. You simply soak the toys in hydrogen peroxide while they sit in the sun.
Now there are a few more specifics that you should be aware of when trying to whiten your yellowed toys which I will go into more detail about below.
All you need to restore your white collectibles and toys is to get a clear glass jar, like a mason jar, and make a solution of 5-10% hydrogen peroxide and water. Then place your white toys in the jar and let it sit directly in the sun for a few days.
Once you feel the toys are looking pretty good and back to their natural glory, it is time to take them out of the jar. Make sure to wash them off well in order to get off all of the peroxide as it may leave white residue behind.
There are a few things to consider when using the peroxide.
For instance, what solution of peroxide will you use?
The safest option is to use a 5% solution and leave it in the sun for a few days. This allows for easier monitoring on how well the process is working and when to remove the toys. Using a 20% solution runs a bit of risk with how quickly the paint will dissolve and the plastic will weaken.
However, the 20% solution does tend to speed up the whitening process but would need monitoring more often.
A higher concentration of 40% can help to speed up the whitening process even further but would definitely need close monitoring through the process to make sure that your white toys remain safe.
How Do I Keep My Toys/Collectibles From Turning Yellow?
Trying to find the best way to keep your white toys or collectible figures from turning yellow may seem impossible. However, there are a few different ways that you can help to prevent the yellowing process.
To prevent white toys from yellowing you need to keep them out of the sunlight, store them in a cool place, and choose the right protective case.
I will go into more detail about each of these prevention methods below.
Keep your white toys/collectibles directly out of sunlight.
Your first reaction might be to find a nice dark spot to keep your collectible white toys and keep them away from the sun forever. Unfortunately, once the yellowing process has begun and the toys have been exposed to the UV rays, it is hard to reverse the process.
Store your white toys/collectibles in a climate controlled environment.
While keeping the white collectible toys out of direct sunlight is a great start, there is still a bit more to it. It is best to keep the white collectibles stored in a temperature controlled place where there is hardly any fluctuation in the temperature.
Extreme temperatures can further damage your white collectible toys over time. Hot temperatures have a tendency to speed up the yellowing process of the plastic through thermal oxidation. Attics are definitely not the best place to store your white collectibles since heat is known to rise and attics can become overheated in the warmer months.
Do not trust your protective coverings or cases to protect your white toys/collectibles.
Even though it may feel like a great idea to keep your white collectible in a case, it depends on how and where it’s stored. Most cases are made of the same material or even less material than the white collectible toy itself. Trusting a clear plastic case or a cardboard box to keep the white collectible safe is not a safe option.
While it may slow the yellowing process down, the white collectible toy on the inside will still begin to yellow even in its protective casing.
Can Yellowed Plastic Be Whitened?
While the science says that it is practically impossible to keep your white toys from turning yellow, it is possible that your white toys can be whitened. There are a few different ways you can turn that yellow plastic back to white.
There are three basic options when trying to whiten a plastic toy. You can use peroxide, bleach, or sand paper. Of these three the best option for most cases is peroxide.
I will go into a little more detail about each of these below.
As mentioned before, the peroxide method is a great solution to restoring the yellowing toys back to the white color they were when purchased or gifted.
While bleaching may not be one of the best methods, it will still work in turning the plastic back to white. Bleaching requires more precision, time, and safety measures.
You would need gloves to protect your hands from the bleach and in addition, you would need safety goggles as you would be in close proximity with the bleach
making sure not to ruin the other paint on the white toy.
You will need to create the bleach solution by using one part bleach and one part water. Use either a q-tip or paper towel for precision placing of the bleach on your white toy.
Another option to restore your white toys is to take super fine sandpaper over the surface and remove the outer layer of the yellowing toy. When finished, you would just wipe the toy down with a moist cloth to remove any dust and to see if there are any spots that still need sanding.
While each of these methods produce great results in turning your yellowed plastic toy to white again, they each come with the risk of deteriorating the toy over time.
Each cleaning process is stripping the bromine away from the plastic which is what helps to give the toys its strength.
So while you may want to keep your white toys and collectible figures white forever, the science behind toy making makes keeping them white a bit difficult.
However, there are ways to slow down the yellowing process and different methods in restoring the toys to white. It is just a matter of choosing which method is best for you.