Sticky radios: time may be your friend

One thread that’s had a surprisingly long run here on the SWLing Post deals with sticky radios.

A number of portable radios manufactured in the past decade were coated in a rubberized, tactile material that was quite functional when the products were new. With time, however, the coating breaks down and becomes incredibly sticky to the touch. We’ve published a number of articles about how to clean sticky radios–click here to read our archived posts.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Lee Reynolds, who writes with his suggestion:

Gunk on radios – I was the lucky winner of an E1 at one of the ‘fests.

Of course, the coating went bad and it would up looking like the flypaper/Wino of radios.

I made a desultory attempt at cleaning it (using that Purple Power stuff) but it was a nasty, dirty job that I didn’t complete. A disheartening mess.

Fast forward three or four years after that. I had some time on my hands, I took another look at the radio.

I found that the gunk continues to mutate – it had actually lost most of its ability to adhere to the radio’s casing. Now it would rub off with a paper towel and nothing else.

A couple of rolls of paper towels and some Pledge left it something you no longer needed to put gloves on in order to feel comfortable touching.

So – another fix for the gunk – time and patience. No cleaners needed.

Thanks for sharing, Lee. Worth noting: if you gave up on your sticky radio some time ago, perhaps you should pull it back out of storage and see if the coating has deteriorated to the point it might simply rub off? Time might have made the job much easier.

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8 thoughts on “Sticky radios: time may be your friend

  1. Steve Z

    I ran across this blog when I recently took out an Eton portable radio and found it to be a sticky, gunky mess. The radio is probably around 8-10 years old and it’s been a few years since I used it. I didn’t have any of the products mentioned here, but tried a few similar products I already had in my home with varied success:

    * Simple Green: Did nothing. Don’t bother.
    * Goo Gone liquid: Very limited results. Has to scrub a lot for minimal results. Not worth it.
    * Simple Green Grill Cleaner: Worked well. Sprayed a portion of the radio, waited a minute and then cleaned with microfiber cloth. Had to use a little elbow grease, but results were good.
    * Goo Gone Kitchen Cleaner (foaming degreaser): WINNER by far! Easily and quickly cleaned sticky gunk off radio. Sprayed portion and then easily wiped clean with microfiber cloth. No damage to writing or graphics on radio. Whole radio took about 30 minutes. It would have been faster, except there are a lot of dials and nooks and crannies to work around.

  2. HatK

    In case anyone is interested I just tried using a paste made of bicarbonate of soda and a bit of water and it worked like a dream. Hardly any rubbing, used a cotton bud to get into the corners around the aerial, now got a nice shiny radio! Very pleased!

  3. Guy Atkins

    This has been my experience also. I’ve removed the sticky finish on two Eton E1XM radios, and the sticky finish came off much easier than on the newer one.

    Rather than sunlight, I believe it’s widely accepted that the finish breakdown is due to the coating being hydrophilic– it absorbs moisture from the air. I’ve read that the stickiness progresses more rapidly in humid climates.

    The E1XM and its peers were manufactured at a time when spray-on textured coatings were fairly new in the industry. They must not have had the formula for these coatings quite figured out back in the early 1990s.

    Many products will reduce the sticky finish or remove it to some degree; the best I’ve encountered are the citrus-based, non-petroleum products such as the Orange Power product mentioned by Mark. A similar cleaner called “MaxPro Ink/Adhesive Remover” (on Amazon USA) was promoted by John Figliozzi in an earlier SWLing Post article. That’s what I’ve used most recently, and it works superbly without damaging the lettering or painted finish.

  4. Mark Fahey

    For anyone in Australia or New Zealand if you don’t want to put aside the radio and wait for the natural solution (i.e. the great advice in article), then grab a bottle of Planet Ark’s Orange Power from the supermarket (Coles, Woolworths, IGA, New World, Countdown – basically anywhere). You will find this product packaged as all purpose cleaner, bathroom cleaner, kitchen clean etc – it basically the same liquid in different packaging. The cleaner is plant based (citrus – orange fruit rind oil) and is harvested from the orange fruit skins that are left after the fruit is squeezed to make orange juice in Mildura South Australia.
    (I guess the USA will have similar products, maybe originating in California?).

    A wipe over the device and all stickiness just disappears – its like magic! And the stickiness stays away! I use to have quite a few sticky radios, now they are as good as new. I love hearing about how waste get repurposed to something useful – this Sydney Morning Herald has the background story to this wonderful radio sticky remover product.

  5. Mark Phillips

    I find a squirt with some Goo-B-gone or Goo-Off works well. IIRC one can get it at the supermarket. Its in a clear bottle with orange liquid inside. Runs about $5 for a bottle.

  6. Michael Black

    This reminds me if the time I bought a small selection of QSTs from 1947. I get home, and I wouldn’t read them, they smelled of mothballs. Every so often I’d give them a try, no luck. But after a few years, the smell was gone, I could read them and no longer had to keep them away from my other magazines.

    I haven’t noticed the stickiness on my radios yet, but last week I noticed a cheap solar charged LED flashlight is sticky. I thought maybe I’d spilled something sticky on it, but it was still there after a first attempt at cleaning. I’m thinking of leaving it in the garden for a while, maybe enough sunlight would help.


  7. Doug

    Makes sense. I would imagine that setting your radio in direct sunlight when possible – using caution and common sense of course – will accelerate the process.


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