What can you do if your outdoor antenna turns yellow?

A lot of antennas today are clad in white plastic. Over time, that plastic can turn to a dull yellow. Chemicals inside the plastic degrade due to heat and sun exposure and generally over the course of 5-7 years your antenna will begin to look a little old.

This isn’t a new problem.

You might recognize the image at the top of this article. It’s an 80s-era Nintendo game system and it, like millions of others, turned yellow over time. This is true of pretty much every piece of plastic made at that time. The yellowing is natural but it’s accelerated by flame-retardant chemicals put into the plastics. Remember that plastics are made from petroleum which as we all know burns easily. You wouldn’t want your plastic parts catching fire, of course. So chemicals are mixed in to slow or stop that. Unfortunately those chemicals are affected by UV radiation and turn yellow.

You’ll see this problem more in the south.

In the hot southwest corner of our country, things yellow quickly. Yesterday’s newspaper (if you still get one) will look like it’s years old if you leave it in the driveway for just one day. The strong UV radiation that comes through in those areas is damaging to all sorts of things, not the least of all people. But while you personally can put on some sunscreen, you shouldn’t do that for your electronics.

A lot of sunscreen contains little flecks of zinc which block solar radiation. It would block antenna signals too so, don’t put it on your antenna. Not that you would have anyway.

Should you try one of those whitening kits?

You might have heard of a solution called “retr0bright” that is supposed to safely clean the yellow off old electronics. It’s basically hydrogen peroxide in a gel or cream form. If you’re curious there’s a whole article about it here. Hydrogen peroxide is a bleaching agent which is less poisonous than chlorine bleach which is why it’s used in tooth whiteners.

If you are incredibly careful about removing your antenna’s outer cladding then you could potentially use a solution like that. I wouldn’t recommend it, though. Most antennas aren’t designed to be disassembled like that. You don’t want the hydrogen peroxide solution getting to the delicate wiring inside the antenna and you wouldn’t be sure it didn’t unless you disassembled and cleaned everything. As I said your antenna isn’t really designed for that.

Sadly there isn’t really a good answer for this issue. You can’t really keep an antenna out of the sun in most cases. You can’t clean it. Painting it is a bad idea. You don’t know if the paint has any sort of metal flakes in it… most do. Those flakes would block reception.

Unfortunately if you’re really appearance-conscious about your antenna, the best option may simply be to replace it every 5-7 years with one that looks a little nicer. You’ll still be ahead of the game financially since most antennas cost less than one month of cable TV.

If you’re looking for the right antenna, whether it’s to replace a yellow one or just to get dozens of free channels, check out the great selection at Solid Signal.


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.