: Knowledgebase

Refurbishing Phones and Computers

For the most part phones and computers are more dependable than ever, but they're always getting dirty since we're always touching them. Pretty much like your car.

There are a ton of phones still out there that were sold in the late 90s. They still work fine, but they look terrible. There are lots of computers, monitors and keyboards that work great but don't look so hot.

The scourge of telephone and computer refurbishing is the "yellowing" of the plastic by UV light. Whether it's the sun or fluorescent lights most plastic is not UV stable, so it yellows eventually.

There's no way to fix UV discoloring except by replacing or painting the plastic. But you can use the innards of a UV discolored device to fix a broken device that's not UV discolored. It will probably have to be cleaned up, but that's cheap and easy!

Telephone and computer manufacturers rode the light-colored plastic trail as far as they could, making a ton of money by refurbishing phones and computers that were yellowed (using new plastic).

Almost all the telephone and computer manufacturers are now selling black, charcoal, or dark gray stuff. They don't look dirty as quickly and don't discolor from UV light, but they don't look very good when they lose their shine and get dirty / oily.

If you're selling phone systems or computers where you take stuff in trade, there's usually a lot of money to be made by reselling the stuff as refurbished.

If you have a bunch of dirty phones and computers on your employees desks you can make your whole office look better for almost nothing by cleaning the computers and phones and replacing the handset cords.

You can't do anything about UV discoloring except to send the phone out to be refurbished by the manufacturer (who replaces the plastics), refurbished by a refurbisher with new plastics, or one of the companies who knows how to paint telephone plastics properly (if done wrong they look and hold up pretty poorly!).

When cleaning phones or computers it's important to use cleaning chemicals, a brush, and towels that won't damage or scratch the plastic. Shiny black is the most easily damaged!

I've spent a lot of nights cleaning used phones I took in trade to sell as refurbished. I test everything on a working system before I sell it. Through the years we've developed the chemicals that are needed to clean the phones without damaging them.

Can you do as good a job with stuff from the hardware store or supermarket? Absolutely, if you figure out which chemicals won't damage the plastics. We've worked with chemists to come up with the products that clean the best, the fastest, and without damaging the plastic.

Almost everything I've ever taken in trade had a sticker on it of some kind. A Tape & Label Remover makes fast work of removing them without damaging the plastic. It's a citrus based product with a lemon scent that works as well for cleaning as it does for removing stickers. That one product with a soft Brush (to get in the grooves) works well for cleaning computers. That's all many of our computer reseller customers use to refurbish the computers.

Telephone Polish does a great job on black and dark colored plastics to make it look like new.

General Telephone Cleaner does a great job cleaning all plastics, without damaging them.

A glass and utility cleaner, that doesn't damage plastics can refurbish just about anything It also works great on plexiglass and even canvas.

Make sure you use a very soft paper towel. Not a scratchy cheap one that will scratch the plastic.

Be very careful not to rub textured plastics to get a sticker off. Let the right chemicals soak the dirt or sticker, then brush or wipe it off. Trying to hurry the process with your fingernail or scrubbing with a towel will damage the plastic.

If you're selling phones, replacing the mounting, handset cords and paper designation strips and plastic desi covers makes more satisfied customers, for not much money on your part.

Here's an example of BEFORE:


And AFTER about 4 minutes:


I sprayed a General Telephone Cleaner on the Butt-Set, let it sit for about 2 minutes, brushed all over and in the grooves and recesses with a Brush (which is soft enough to not scratch plastic), wiped it off with a few paper towels (soft ones so I didn't scratch the plastic) and it looks like new.

Whether you're selling complete systems with service, or individual items on eBay or craigslist, selling an item that looks like new will result in happier customers without a lot of expense on your part.