Friday, July 1, 2011

Tom's Amazing Knitting Machine Transformation

Tom P. from Las Vegas wrote about his new-to-him "Ugly Betty" Knitking 891 knitting machine.  He said it looked terrible, but worked great.

This was a little hard for me to process.  No matter how much a machine yellows, I just don't think of it as ugly, because I gave up a long time ago on finding a way to get the yellowing out of a plastic machine.  If the machine is set up near a window and gets any sunshine at all, exposed parts turn quite yellow.

We talked and talked about this on the online MK lists and at club.  Does anything actually work to whiten the plastic?  If it did work, would it damage the plastic?  I decided to not even attempt to whiten my old machines.
Tom changed my whole way of thinking about this when he sent me pictures of this machine before and after he got the yellowing out of the plastic using his special "recipe."   Wouldn't you like for your old machine to look brand new like this baby does?

As you scroll down these wonderful BEFORE and AFTER pictures, you probably have some of the same questions that I had, so I'll pass along the information that Tom gave me.
I wrote Tom:

"Tom,  I've really been thinking about what you did. For years, I've been a coward about trying to do anything to remove the ugly discoloration that almost all machines get on the plastic.  Do you know if it reduces the strength of the plastic or has any other negative effects? 

Who barely survived Chemistry class"

Tom responded that he did this a couple of years ago with some household plastic appliances, and they are both still fine.  He also said he had checked this out with a friend who has a scientific background, and that fellow assured him that there is no change in the chemical composition or structure of the plastic.  The friend actually laughed...

In my next email, of course I begged for the recipe, and Tom said I can share it. Please notice that Tom took the plastic parts off the bed, and then while it was disassembled, he cleaned and oiled the metal parts thoroughly. 

And here, courtesy of Tom from Las Vegas, is the recipe:
1-Cup 40 Volume Clear Hair Peroxide (you can purchase at a beauty supply "Sally" has it)

1-Tablespoon Xanthan Gum powder (Wal-Mart Super Center has it in the baking aisle) - used by folks who avoid gluten, a thickening agent that does not need heat

½-Teaspoon Glycerin (again Wal-Mart in the vitamin area) - this is optional - it is used to help the solution "stick" to the plastic

1-Teaspoon Oxy Clean - any brand of laundry oxygenator - diluted in 2 tablespoons VERY hot water

In a blender, pour in the peroxide and xanthan, blend for approximately 5- 10 seconds. Add the glycerin (if using) and Oxy Clean, blend another 5 seconds. The mixture is done.

I applied to the surfaces of the plastic using latex gloves (hair peroxide is a much stronger version of the one we use on minor cuts) and a silicone pastry brush. Once all areas were well covered, I either placed them in a zip-lock bag or wrapped them in kitchen plastic wrap (to repent drying). Now for the important in the sun! The UV rays that caused the yellowing will now act as the catalyst to remove the yellowing. After an hour in the sun, the difference was incredible. I check for "dry" spots and reapplied if needed. The "baking" process took 2- 4 hours depending on how yellow the piece was. The items can also be placed under a UV light indoors, not a black light.

There are no harmful vapors or fumes and I did notice two nice "side effects" - my porcelain kitchen sink is white as new and the spot or two I dripped on my white tile (and grout) island turned the grout almost new. So, I spread some around, let it sit then wiped up, new looking!

Las Vegas

I also showed the recipe to my husband John, who is very clever about fixing just about anything, including very old mechanical things.  He agrees that the treatment won't hurt the machine at all.  He and I are very enthusiastic about this.  We plan to buy ingredients and mix up some of the recipe right away!

Ribber Carriage - Before Treatment

Ribber Carriage - After Treatment

Ribber Covers Before Treatment
Ribber Covers with Recipe Applied

Rib Covers After Treatment

Bed Parts Before Treatment

Bed Parts After Treatment

Main Carriage Before Treatment

Main Carriage After Treatment


  1. Very cool. I have two old machines that would benefit from this treatment.

  2. Oh, my gosh! This seems like it can't be true. Please, Diana, let us know what happens when you try it.

  3. Extreme makeover mk style!
    I've read about this on Ravelry but quite "get it" and was afraid of damaging machine parts with rust and residue.
    Great to see it in reality.

    (Someone who hated chemistry and still wishes she had taken home ec. instead!)

  4. Hello Diana, thanks for sharing wonderful treatment

    I wanted to ask where can I buy the Rib Covers
    thank you hello vanda

  5. Mmm, i loved home ec! Of course, I wanted to take auto shop, too, but they didn't let girls in.

    Rib covers are a little hard to find - I got mine on eBay. You have to watch for them, then pounce. Rib covers are very helpful if you don't want to always take your ribber off for main bed work.

    This does seem to be too good to be true, but it's Tom in Las Vegas, a very impressive knitter. These photos made my eyes bug out. I will try to obtain all the ingredients this weekend.

  6. Thank you Diana and Tom for sharing this. :)

  7. Wow! I've always wondered what people were compaining about with the yellowing...I have Singers and the carriages are brown :) But now I wonder if the back plastic part on the bed is supposed to be white....

  8. Diana, thanks for sharing Tom's wonderful recipe. I have an old Brother 840 that is soooo ugly, and can't wait to fix it.

    But you didn't show any photos of the plastic on the actual bed of the machine. Did you do that, also? Will the solution hurt the metal if it gets on it?


  9. Hi Ruth,

    Tom took the plastic pieces off the bed (see 4th from last picture) before treating them to absolutely eliminate the risk of getting goo on the metal.

    While the bed was apart he cleaned and oiled all the metal parts. The 5th from last picture shows how gorgeous the bed parts turned out.

  10. Brilliant Thank you for sharingxBeth

  11. Vanda,

    I purchased my "used" ribber covers (the ones in photo for my std) on eBay, then I found "Newtons Yarn Country" and purchased brand new ribber covers for my Brother Bulky 260-E. Their website is:

    Once on their page click on "accessories" then scroll ½ way down page to "Ribber Accessories and Covers" - they carry them for the standard and bulky machines. Their price was good and shipping cost minimal.

    I discovered Newtons when a fellow eBayer who also lives here in Las Vegas referred them for yarn. Seems every spring (April) they have this HUGE and unbelievable sale on coned yarns. Was going to take a drive as it is only a 4-hour trek for me but, work obligations did not allow it. Hopefully next year.

    Good luck.


  12. The change in colour is amazing, infact I think I would have to wear sunglasses to use it!!!
    Thanks to Tom & Diana for sharing.

  13. If you're afraid of mixing yourself, or just have difficult finding the ingredients, they can be purchased as Retr0Bright.

  14. Hello, I went on the site that I have indicated will not open I register? Thank you for your kindness, good day Vanda

  15. What site, Vanda? None of my pages require registration.

  16. Thank you Diana and Tom for sharing wonderful treatment!!! How possible to know all recepy?
    Vanda, Thank You for beautiful website!

  17. Hello, Diana! I red all information about Tom's recipy on Your site. Thank You both!!!

  18. Hello Diana, Tom directed me to your page for the treatment of yellow machines. First I must say a BIG THANK Tom for sharing this informtion and to you for publishing this. I look forward to using the recipe. Kind Regards, Carol Cochran, Kent, England.

  19. Hi,
    Wow what a change in color. It does make all look new.Thanks to all for the recipe and where to find the ingredients.

    To each their on.. I love the color of the golden age of my older knitting machine. I will keep my aging color; aging is beautiful in the eyes of the beholder.

  20. Hello,
    Just wondering if there is anything to be aware of when removing carriage covers?
    Is there any danger of springs or pieces popping out?

    Thank you,

  21. Hello Diana,
    I am having trouble finding 40 volume clear liquid peroxide here in Australia.
    I have tried SALLY,unfortunately they do not ship to Australia. I can purchase 40 volume CREAM peroxide.
    Will this do the same or do I need the liquid?

    Regards, Trish :)

  22. I wrote Tom and asked him your question about cream peroxide. He has actually tried the recipe with the cream peroxide instead of the liquid, and he says it works fine, just mixes up thicker. If it is too thick, he says you can dilute it with water or use less xanthum gum.

  23. can I use a black light bulb instead of a uv light. i tried the solution without using a light at all and had no results. I'm trying to whiten the front of a 22 year old intercom system that can't be removed from the wall. Tks for your time

  24. From what I've been told, sunlight is required for the process to work. You can try your black light, but you'd probably have better luck with a sunlamp (taking proper precaution for your eyes).

  25. I'm so excited to hear this news! Really tickled!!!! My daughter has a soaking tub that's just awful... sets me off about all the "white plastic" in our homes every time I see it. Well, yippee skippy...I'll get on these projects as soon as Oregon has 2-4 hrs sunshine, lol! Thanks so much! By the way, you can use 40% peroxide to bleach your teeth. Just don't get on your gums or they'll be white for a couple of hours (and sting too). Google it... and I've had several Dentists say "OKAY" basically what we send home w/you for your bleaching tray. I carefully apply to front teeth with a Q tip.

  26. This is a couple of years old, and I'm wondering what the long-term effect has been, on the machines. Not too much of a chance that I will take all of my machines apart, but I've copied this recipe and was just wondering.


  27. It has been a long time, and I have not received a single negative email. I may email Tom and see what his experience has been, but before he ever did this to "Ugly Betty," he had tried it before to an appliance.

  28. If this works, having bright, clean plastic on my machine will make M Knitting even more pleasurable.
    I wouldn't trust just anyone's advice on something like this, but Diane Sullivan's I would. Thanks, Diane, for ALL the valuable knitting info. and tips.

  29. Its 11pm in England, I'm reading this and so excited! Can't wait for the shops to open tomorrow so I can get the ingredients! My beloved knitmaster 700 is going to have a make over! Thank you Diane and Tom!

  30. Hi Diana, I'm in the process of doing this to an ancient toy. Wondering how long you left the solution on before rinsing? It's been on for ~4 hours. May need more sunlight time that there are hours in the day. Is it safe to leave on overnight?

  31. I don't think it will hurt it to leave it on. Other people have had to bring it in overnight, then put it out in the sun the next day because it rained or something.

    I haven't heard of it not working, but the ancient toy may be made of different stuff than our typical modern yellowed plastic.

  32. You can drop all the ingredients except for the hair peroxide. That is the active ingredient. The other components are unnecessary. Just put the peroxide on and wrap it with plastic to keep it from drying out and put it in the sun. The sun is the only other requirement. You will get the same result. Sometimes you can get "blooming" or a blotchy effect if using the sun...a uv lamp is better. Cleaning the part with soap and water before helps too.

  33. Do you think this will work on the white plastic laminate on cupboard doors and drawer fronts? I have cabinets in the bathroom which are still in perfect condition but have yellowed over time to look cream against the white porcelain sink and other sanitary fittings.

  34. As I understand it, it only works if you put the plastic with the goo out in the sun. The process requires UV rays.

  35. This is cute! I'd love to have this.

  36. Thank you so much for this post! I purchased my first knitting machine (Brother KH881) and it suffered from some pretty noticeable discoloration. I followed Tom's directions and the machine looks amazing! I wish I would have taken some pictures, but I was so eager to try it out I completely forgot about taking some. I tried it again on a Brother KH850 ribber carriage and same amazing results. Bonus, I actually remembered to take pictures of the ribber carriage, just wish I knew how to share them with this post.