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Cif accelerates plastic yellowing?


Dec 27, 2010
Santiago, Chile
Cif is a white, creamy household cleaner with mild abrasive properties which I've been using for a long time to clean old computers and gaming systems due to the amazing results that can be achieved.


I swear by this product since I started collecting/restoring old computers and video games mostly because I can go from this:

to this:

Or this:

to this:

(In case you're wondering, no. Cif does not remove CRT burn in. I swapped the picture tube with a good one. :roll:)

It really does magic on textured plastics like the above computers or consoles like the Super Nintendo. Being a mild abrasive it even removes light surface scratches but it's not abrasive enough to degrade the original texture.

In October 2009 I picked up a ratty PS1 at a flea market for next to nothing:

After removing the stickers and using Cif on the plastic parts it ended up like this:

After a month or so of playing I put it away in a totally dark closet for the rest of its days, only to be taken out once in a while when I'm in the mood to play a particular game, then it's back to storage.

Fast forward to last Saturday. I picked up an even rattier PS1 at the same flea market for next to nothing:

Of course I had to give it the Cif treatment:

I took my older PS1 after ~3 years of storage, only to find out that it has yellowed!:

I tried to recreate the same lighting conditions of the picture I took back in 2009, but the truth is that it looks worse in real life.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the same old PS1, back in October 2009 and today:

Since I have photographic evidence (not just my fuzzy memory) that this system was not yellowed before I put it into storage away from any light source, and even in such conditions it has gone yellow after 3 years I'm beginning to worry that cleaning it up with Cif has something to do with it.

Could shaving off a few microns of the surface of the plastic really accelerate the yellowing reaction, even without exposure to light? Was it just an unfortunate coincidence? Most of my systems were already yellowed or starting to yellow before I started cleaning them with Cif, and the most used ones sit in a lit bedroom so I can't tell the difference. I know it can be hard to tell with a sample size of 1 but this old PlayStation has me worried that I might be damaging my systems more than I thought by cleaning them with Cif.


Veteran Member
Apr 24, 2009
Canberra, Australia
AFAIK there are two problems with the type of cleaner you are using. The abrasive element may seem effective in exfoliating a matt surface, but is likely to turn any gloss surface to matt. That type of cleaner also is typically a mildly corrosive alkali. Unless you take further steps to neutralise the alkali, say with a weak solution of vinegar, and thoroughly rinse, then you are likely to be leaving traces of alkali in the surface which has already been roughened by the abrasive. The effect will depend on the chemistry of the particular plastic surface.

For cleaning, these days I use alcohol for glue substances and a laundry spray cleaner with degreasing enzymes that seem to remove any organic or oily matter, without chemically attacking the plastic.

There are many threads on the chemistry of yellowing - search for "Retrobright".


There is a vast collection of threads