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Old 27th Jan 2006, 4:28 pm   #1
Station X
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Default How do you clean telephones.

I've just dug my collection of old telephones out of the attic. Mainly 700 and trimphone types including loop disconnect push button variants.

I was wondering how to clean them. In particular an ivory coloured example dated 1972 has turned yellow. This is NOT a result of exposure to tobacco smoke or light. It's been kept in the dark for 20 years or more. I tried Brasso to no avail, so settled for applying silicone floor polish. This imparts a nice shine, but the phone is still yellow.

When I worked for the PO we used Paste Cleaning No. ?? I don't think this was particularly abrasive though. I'm beginning to think the yellowing is due to degradation of the plastic and has some depth to it.

Graham.
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Old 27th Jan 2006, 4:37 pm   #2
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

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Originally Posted by Station X
I'm beginning to think the yellowing is due to degradation of the plastic and has some depth to it.
I think you may be right. I looked in a box of old phones recently and a cream (maybe ivory) coloured 706 that had been in the family for many years and kept in a box for the last 20 or so looks like it's suffering in the same way. Haven't tried cleaning it yet but it really looks like more than a surface effect.

Last edited by Dave Moll; 27th Jun 2007 at 4:34 pm. Reason: correct for username change in quote
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Old 27th Jan 2006, 4:48 pm   #3
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

I'm afraid to say that I think this effect is pretty permanent Most of my ivory 706/746s are similarly affected even though they were pristine when put away.

I think the cuplrit is indeed sunlight, but the effects only appear after the phone has been in the dark for a while. I'm guessing this because the example that lived in the dark hallway isn't too bad, but the one that lived on my desk in a south-facing bay window is awful.

I've also noticed the same effect with old computer monitors and other office equipment.

It's rather like with old pianos which have ivory keys. If they've lived in the sun but you carry on keeping the lid open, the keys will stay a nice creamy white colour. But if the piano's player goes away and the lid is left closed for a few years, the keys will be a nasty yellow colour when its opened up again

As for cleaning, use aerosol foam cleaner followed by aerosol household furniture polish, but don't expect them to change colour (unless they're filthy).

Nick.
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Old 27th Jan 2006, 4:55 pm   #4
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

This is a problem with certain of the 700 series. If the 'phone is clean and it's not baccy smoke or cooking fumes causing the colour change then it's down to plastic degradation or, more specifically, degradation of the pigment. If this is the case there's nothing you can do about it that will restore it to any acceptable degree.

The worst of the 700s for this problem are the ivory, yellow and blue versions. Ivory ones go yellow, yellow ones go a caramel colour and the blue ones end up a sort of slate grey colour. Attached is a pic of my own 'yellow' 746; the camera flash makes it appear more yellow than it actually is - in reality it's now the famous shade of caramel
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Old 27th Jan 2006, 5:27 pm   #5
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

You've all confirmed what I thought. ie the phone cannot be restored to its original colour. The "Ivory" colour has indeed gone yellow in the same way that real ivory does. However the colour change is uniform and not unpleasant, so I'll live with it. I've yet to take the other coloured phones out of their black bags, so I may have more surprises in store.

Incidently the Marketing term for phones originally coloured "Yellow" is "Topaz"

Graham.

Last edited by Station X; 4th Oct 2006 at 10:52 am.
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Old 27th Jan 2006, 5:57 pm   #6
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

When I worked for the "GPO", at the long gone London Test Section in Islington, I recall there was a Materials section that used to subject bits of 700 type phones to all manner of abuse with chemicals, ultra violet light and impact testing to determine the quality and durability of plastics used by the various manufacturers. As this was some 30 years ago, I expect all this work has been lost in the mists of history. . I doubt if cleaning can do much to restore the colour changes that seem to occur with time. A similar problem happens with those U.S. Catalin radios, apparently reds turn brown, blues fade to dark green, and all those yellow and butterscotch colours started out as white! .
Some interesting 700 phone colours here:-

http://www.telephonesuk.co.uk/phones_1960-80.htm

http://web.ukonline.co.uk/freshwater/t706cols.htm

Regards, Mick.
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Old 27th Jan 2006, 6:10 pm   #7
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mickjjo
Some interesting 700 phone colours here:-
This one's a bit special. I suspect the label is non-original
http://www.telephonesuk.co.uk/images/711_saudi.jpg

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Old 27th Jan 2006, 8:40 pm   #8
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

Graham

The cleaning stuff you are thinking of is Paste Polishing No.5. I have an original tube from my days on radio and line transmission in BT (Post Office). Excellent for cleaning plastic and bakelite finishes without scratching, and is available as Bakelite Polish from Old Time Supplies - http://www.oldtimesupplies.co.uk/ 5.50 for a 60g tube, and I also think it's sold under the name Baykobrite. Certainly made a good job of my black 232.

Regards

Mike
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Old 28th Jan 2006, 11:27 am   #9
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

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Graham

The cleaning stuff you are thinking of is Paste Polishing No.5. I have an original tube from my days on radio and line transmission in BT (Post Office). Excellent for cleaning plastic and bakelite finishes without scratching, and is available as Bakelite Polish from Old Time Supplies - http://www.oldtimesupplies.co.uk/ 5.50 for a 60g tube, and I also think it's sold under the name Baykobrite. Certainly made a good job of my black 232.

Regards

Mike
This stiff is fantastic for the Bakelite 200/300 series instruments, but I'd be suprised if it helps much here. But you never know...
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Old 28th Jan 2006, 3:41 pm   #10
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

this is a problem with old computers also, i know of a nintendo n.e.s. which was stored in the box from new and has turned yellow.
it is a chemical reaction of the plastic because at some point they changed the composition to stop this yellowing

mike
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Old 28th Jan 2006, 4:09 pm   #11
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

Quote:
This stiff is fantastic for the Bakelite 200/300 series instruments, but I'd be suprised if it helps much here. But you never know...
I have to agree with Nick. I don't think the paste will be much help in restoring the colour to plastic ivory phones. I've noticed that even the inside of the case has turned yellow, so the degrading is nothing to do with exposure to light.

Graham.
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Old 28th Jan 2006, 7:36 pm   #12
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

Do you think this cleaner would be good for bakelite switches/knobs in a classic car?

Thanks.

Eamonn
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Old 28th Jan 2006, 7:45 pm   #13
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rovereab
Do you think this cleaner would be good for bakelite switches/knobs in a classic car?

Thanks.

Eamonn
Hi Eamonn, it will clean any bakelite and most plastics but on something intricate like a switch top etc it might be better to use something like a stencil brush for applying and finishing the polish


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Old 28th Jan 2006, 7:49 pm   #14
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

I would guess it would work well, yes. I experimented a little when I got my tube and found it worked a treat on a late '50s and a late '30s radio case, the back of a brown 13A plug, the cover of an old round light-switch, and on a Picquot-Ware Duralumin coffee pot. I used a duster and an old toothbrush to apply the polish dependant on the shape of the object, and a duster to buff the polish off.

It is a similar product to Autosol Chrome-Cleaner, but is finer. It is also yellow, and smells nicer than Autosol!

Sam
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Old 28th Jan 2006, 8:26 pm   #15
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

Just had a thought, I wonder if the switch lettering would be removed by this cleaner?

Regards.

Eamonn
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Old 4th Oct 2006, 10:41 am   #16
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

For the BT type 700s and any other phone made of ABS material, you can buy a set of plastic polish. I won't mention the brand name but if you go to www.oldphones.com you'll see it's in three bottles graded for simple polishing, light scratches and discolouration and heavy scratches and discolouration. It works reasonably well and requires some effort and patience. The main downside is that it's only available from the USA (as far as I know) so you'll have to be prepared to wait and pay a bit for postage.

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Old 4th Oct 2006, 11:14 am   #17
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

There was a thread some time ago concerning discolouration of 700 series telephones but I can't find it, so presumably it's been deleted.

I recall the general opinion of said thread was that discolouration is due to plastic degradation and that nothing can be done about it.

As with other members, I too have some telephones which have been stored away in dark corners and these have also become discoloured. The worst seem to be the ivory examples and then the yellow examples; the latter turning first to a deep mustard colour and then to a rather unpleasant shade reminiscent of billiousness.
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Old 4th Oct 2006, 2:28 pm   #18
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

Quote:
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There was a thread some time ago concerning discolouration of 700 series telephones but I can't find it, so presumably it's been deleted.
I think this is the thread darren. Take a look at post 4.
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Old 4th Oct 2006, 4:04 pm   #19
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

Well, if all you're interested in doing is cleaning the surface dirt off, all I do is wash the casing with warm water and dishwashing soap.

I don't bother removing discolourations, however. It's the accumulated crud that makes things look ugly and gross in my opinion. The discolourations are just ... the device's battlescars over the decades. No sense in making it look "new" when it isn't.

Sometimes I give plastic things like that a good wipe-down with Ronsonol, the fuel used for wick-type lighters. That stuff is great for removing stubborn sticky remainders like pricetags or torn labels and it evaporates very quickly, leaving no residue.

P.S.: Don't smoke while using Ronsonol...unless you want to quickly remove your eyebrows.
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Old 4th Oct 2006, 9:49 pm   #20
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Default Re: How do you clean telephones.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Station X View Post
I think this is the thread darren. Take a look at post 4.

Oops Yes it is, serves me right for not paying attention and scrolling back
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Last edited by Dave Moll; 27th Jun 2007 at 4:36 pm. Reason: correct for username change in quote
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