How-To Geek

Restore Faded Knobs with Antibiotic Ointment

If you’re looking to put a showroom shine on old electronics knobs, this clever trick will polish up old plastic in no time.

Courtesy of Flickr user Linux-Works:

background: I bought a very old (1960’s or 70’s, roughly) power supply from ebay, in need of rejuvenation.

look at the two red knobs, top group and bottom group. both knobs were removed from the device, very thoroughly cleaned with hot water, soap and a sponge, then air dried. I was hoping that simply cleaning the knobs would be enough. it wasn’t.

so, how did I get the top knob pair to be so nice and shiny?

triple antibiotic ointment!

the stuff that comes out of a small tube that you use on skin cuts before you put a bandage on ;) it has a vaseline like base and this appears to bond (?) to the plastic or somehow refresh it.

its good for when your hands are dry; but apparently its also good for when your 40 year old knobs are dry, too! LOL

just wipe on, let set for a minute or so, then wipe off.

There’s a huge difference between the untreated lower knob and the treated upper knob; we’re definitely filing this one away for future projects.

How to Restore Shine to Faded Knobs [via Boing Boing]

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/17/12

Comments (11)

  1. rocky

    Good to know about the Restore Faded Knobs with Antibiotic Ointment

  2. Chris

    Great trick, but I have to ask, what prompted you to put antibiotic ointment on the knobs? I mean, is this like the guy who :discovered” milk and thought crawling under a cow and sucking on that thing was a good idea?

  3. lizbit

    Ha Ha Chris, great point

  4. Upnorth

    I don’t know if this would work for knobs but faded plastic on motorcycles, atv’s can be restored with the heatgun. Might would work for this too.
    Sure going to give this a try though.

  5. Medical Geek

    Might as well just use vaseline, much cheaper.

  6. Bob

    Let me play the skeptic role. My immediate question was, why was the brand name of the ointment not revealed? I have washed many old plastics before, including knobs. I found that use water only doe snot work. The plastic will revert to look dry after it is dried. However, one can use oil or grease or WD40. Any of those, when rubbed on the plastic, will make the plastic look fresh and new. The problem is that they also dry out, albeit taking much longer than water. When the oil is dried up, the plastic returns to it’s old look. I have not used any antibiotic ointment, but I suspect it is not the antibiotic that was at work but simply the oil in it. The photo looks great, but I suspect before long the knob will return to the old look.

  7. Jerry

    I used to use food safe Silicon spray on my plastic. Looked good, nontoxic but still dried out and reverted the same old dull stuff in the AZ heat.

  8. Rolf

    Have we tried clear nail polish on the plastic knobs, yet?

  9. Damino

    You’ll just need a petroleum based jelly for a quick fix, but as Rolf said clear enamel is your best friend. A light coating and a hair-dryer will have your knobs looking like brand new. The heat from the hair dryer/heat gun will make the enamel smooth and dry fast.

  10. r

    Remove the knobs and wipe them with a very little bit of diluted acetone. If done sparingly, this will leave an immediate natural & even finish (depending on the plastic). Be very careful with any painted areas.

  11. jthelw

    This sounds like a pretty expensive way to go.

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