Sunday, October 9, 2011

Plastic Eyeglass Frame Discoloration

A while back, I wrote a rather boring post about the plastic frames on my eyeglasses and how they were discoloring.  They're tortoise shell frames that I bought about ten years ago. It looks like the plastic on them has dried out. But I really like these particular frames, so I've been trying to figure out how to 'fix' them for some time.

Now, if you read here regularly, you already know that I don't do paid ads or promos here - not because I have anything against them, per se - but because sales and advertising are just not my thing. However, my stats tell me that a lot people are finding this mommyblog because of that boring post on those eyeglass frames. Hmmm. I've debated deleting the post, because it's so NOT what this blog is about. Then the (very small) investigator in me got the better of the me and I decided to experiment on my frames and post AGAIN on this dull, but apparently important-to-many-people topic. I'll consider it a public service announcement. But be warned, I'm about to sound a little bit...commercial. Okay, here it goes:

My Paul Smith frames - or spectacles, as they call them - looked like this:

See that white stuff on there? eHow said it was makeup or styling products, but I REALLY doubt it because I almost never wear makeup and I don't use lotion, and I wash my face only with water. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that, actually. But in this case, it might be helpful to point that out. Most likely whatever oils or residues are on these glasses come from my hands. AND, since a lot of the white is on the top of the frames, I suspect they are drying out, not discoloring from chemicals. Finally, I kind of collect glasses - I guess I really like them - and this is the ONLY pair that I own that is discoloring. Admittedly, at 10 years, they are also the oldest pair of plastic frames that I own.


One anonymous commenter said to try WD40 and buffing. I'm going to assume buffing means using a soft cloth and NOT steel wool or sand paper like eHow wanted me to do.  I decided to test the lanolin I was using against the WD40. So, here are the befores and afters:

The lanolin worked better. But now I need to give you some qualifiers:

1) Technique: I rubbed both products in. Not really buffing: more like smearing.
2) Time: I let both products sit on the frames for a long time. Like 48 hours. Not because they needed to sit there that long, but because I got distracted by my other 'job' in the midst of the experiment.
3) Time: I did check on the progress about 15 minutes after application, and at that point, the WD40 was winning.
4) Longevity: I'm not sure which product will do better in the long haul. And THAT is why I did half of the frames with lanolin, and half with WD40.
5) Caution: Plastic is a complicated material; different plastics are made with different chemicals. What is good for one plastic may not necessarily be good for another plastic. A latex, for example, would actually dissolve in oil given enough time. I have no specific knowledge about the plastic in eyeglass frames, except for what the results of this experiment tell me.

So now, I'll go wear the glasses for a few weeks or months or whatever it takes and I'll update you! Or Paul Smith can send me a new pair of spectacles, preferably with my prescription lenses, in that Harrold style. I'll be a contemporary, female Le Corbusier and no longer need these old, discoloring frames.

Who am I kidding? I love having multiples frames to choose from!


Vincent Davis said...

These are great tips for cleaning plastic glasses. Maybe you should get Lexan polycarbonate glasses next time. Or you can get something like mine with carbon fiber frames. It's pricier than normal plastic or metal frames, but it's a price well-spent on since you'll be using your glasses for a lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post my favorite pair of Hugo Boss frames were having the same problem. I will try the lanolin first (even though I have WD40 on hand!), seems safer some how. will let you know how it works.

Sam Times said...

And I thought I was the only one who loved having multiple glasses. These tips are great, and will certainly useful for people who loves glasses.

Anonymous said...

So I'm at work and didn't have either product available, but I did have my Burt's Bees beeswax lip balm... I tried it and so far (10 minutes into it) it seems to have worked great... even better than the photos above!

Anonymous said...

is Lanolin the cream for your breast?

Ann Wyse said...

That's one use. It's also used for breaking in baseball gloves, lubricating propellers, and lip balms.

It's actually wax from sheep.

Tori said...

I washed by glasses frames with soap and water, then used isopropyl alcohol for anything like hairspray or waterproof make up. I then used a really fine-grade steel wool (very gently) to get off some of the rough spots that looked like chips but were actually just imperfections or raised areas. Then I applied the WD-40 and buffed with a microfiber cloth...worked like a charm! hope this helps someone!

Anonymous said...

i have the same problem on my plastic tortoise shell glasses! it's wonderful finding out that others have the same minor issue. haha. the white stuff looks like lamination, maybe. i noticed that the "flaking" worsened when i washed them in water too often or at all. so i stopped doing that and the white stuff seemed to stop showing up though it's still apparent on the ear pieces. i've been using a tiny bit of lotion and unrefined SHEA BUTTER. the shea works really well (as it does on everything) and shows the same results as your lanolin (oh those poor sheep!). i'm not a plastic expert but the cause might be dry lamination? maybe.

Anonymous said...

The discoloration is from chlorine. People thst sit in hot tubs or pools quite a bit and touch the frames or get them wet.

Ann Wyse said...

Hmmm... I'm not a pool or hot tub person AT ALL, so (mostly) the only chlorine that my glasses have been exposed to would be that which is occurring in tap water.

To others who are finding this post, do you feel your glasses/frames chlorine exposure is higher than normal?

Ann Wyse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle said...

Thank you very much for posting this and also for leaving this up. Like many have mentioned, a lot of people experience the same issue and it's so frustrating! Before finding this post, I found somewhere on the internet that antibiotic ointment might get rid of the white marks so I tried using Neosporin. It worked really well to rid my glasses for the white marks but after a few hours, I noticed the marks were back.

I'm wondering if the effects from the Lanolin product you used lasted? Also, what product with Lanolin did you use?

Ann Wyse said...

Hi Michelle, I think I should probably update this post, but in answer to your questions:

1) the first time I used lanolin it lasted about 3 months, if I remember correctly. The second time it last considerably SHORTER - 6 weeks, maybe? The third time it only lasted about a week.

At that point, my experiment was ended because my glasses were lost. I've been waiting for some of my other plastic frames to develop the same problem. Next time I plan to use a combination of steel wool and lanolin. I'm not so keen on the idea of WD40 because there are a lot of additives in it that I suspect could create their own problems.

2) I used Lanosil. It's used for nursing, so its 100% lanolin. (Sheep's wax.) No additives and it's even food safe.

Tomthumbuk said...

Try Back to Black, from the Pound shop.
It is for car interiors but it worked with my specs.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone had any luck getting the "yellowing" out of clear plastic frames? My Oliver Peoples Riley R frames have become noticeably translucent yellow in only a year and a half. They used to be clear as glass, haha! The glasses store that sold them to me thought that it could be due to smoke or sunlight exposure, but they're never exposed to smoke, and their exposures to direct sun are usually very short, like between car and home or work (I don't wear them when I'm doing yardwork, etc),

Ann Wyse said...

Oh, the yellowing of clear frames!! NOT COOL. I haven't had that problem, but I would definitely contact Oliver Peoples if it's only been a year and half. I think they should replace them.

Jennifer said...

Darn, the yellowing of clear frames is what brought me here... thank you for leaving the post and comments up, very helpful and interesting (not boring) to those of us that love our frames.

Anonymous said...

Sweat... Makes plastic frames turn a blurry white. Isopropyl works, I then use clear furniture polish or something called Armor All (something for making your dashboard /car plastics shine.

Anonymous said...

Here's what works; at least it works for me: Bar Keeper's Friend.
Wet some of the powder and rub it into the frames until the white disappears.
It's not instantaneous, it'll take a few minutes. You are essentially rubbing off a layer of the plastic.
Rinse off and dry. Repeat until you're happy.

Anonymous said...

Would love to hear more suggestions about keeping clear frames clear or preventing yellowing from happening.