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 Post subject: Acetate tool handle breakdown
PostPosted: Oct Sat 24, 2020 7:21 pm 
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Location: Tyler, Texas 75707-4212
I'm sure I'm not the only one here who has been hit with this, but I'm looking for an effective cure, if one exists. I found this recommendation online:

https://hometoolschool.com/why-my-toolb ... asy-steps/

I have many, many screwdrivers from the 60's-70's in particular that I think are the main culprits of the problem in one of my Matco stacks. I will admit neglecting this for some time, but it has gotten to the point that the butyric acid that is outgassing has attacked the drawer catches, which on this set of boxes are some rubber compound at the back of the slides. They are falling apart, crumbling to bits, and obviously not working to hold the drawers closed. I called Matco, even though the box is getting a little age on it (90-something purchase) and even though I offered to pay for a complete set, they insisted on sending me enough replacement catches to do them all. It may have had something to do with my mention of risk of the whole thing tipping forward if too many drawers happened to be out. It's not perfectly level and if a couple are opened, it leans enough to encourage a little creep in others. I told them there were delicate instruments in some drawers (there are) and I would hate to have the thing tip over on me. It would be unpleasant. At that, they became insistent and would not let me pay. I think it may have a lifetime warranty. It ought to. Anyway...

I believe most of the "plastic" handles are Acetate material and I'm sure you've seen that type handle gradually become less translucent and eventually seem to grow a white, mold-like coating. I've experimented with a few different means of cleaning it off, using mild abrasives and warm soapy water to some success. The best result came from what probably is the most risky approach. After a thorough cleaning as above, I have dipped them fairly briefly in a container of Acetone. Too long and it definitely softens the handle, and destroys any fine features such as brand and part number markings. Same thing with multiple dips. Definitely caution is needed not to touch the handle, or attempt to rub the remaining haze or growth from it. It will smear the surface, and leave streaks where it is wiped. Fingerprints become permanent, unless dipped again.

A few days ago I ran across an ad for a product and applicator for clearing fogged headlight lenses that got me thinking about this again. That product was a wipe on, one swipe, application that instantly cleared a very cloudy lens. Years ago I tried that with Acetone and basically had the same issue with streaks and marks. I gathered that whatever cloth being used absorbed most of the solvent and the headlight surface dried too quickly and got hard again. So part of my question may be answered by the gadget sold with the kit I saw advertised. No close-ups, of course, but it appeared roughly to be a sort of HVLP rig that sort of "fogged" either a mist, or at least a cloud of vapor of whatever solvent they were selling. While dipping the handles of screw and nut drivers may work, it's not optimal.

I'm looking for any ideas that you guys have used to address this malady, or thoughts on rigging up some way to expose the Acetate to just the fumes (over a hotplate container maybe), or slow it down with another, colder solvent to allow some wiping and perhaps even polishing on the headlight lens. I feel the two problems are related. At this point, I have removed from all toolboxes any tool with a handle made of a material that could be contributing to this problem. And no, I am not tossing these drivers. They are all name brand, premium quality tools that have much life left in them if I can figure this out. Anyone tried the linked method? Coating them with shellac doesn't seem as durable as perhaps polyethylene. I don't know the compatibility without some experimentation.

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Last edited by Tony Wells on Oct Sat 24, 2020 11:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Acetate tool handle breakdown
PostPosted: Oct Sat 24, 2020 8:21 pm 
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Posts: 528
Location: Bridgman, MI
Tony Wells wrote:
I'm sure I'm not the only one here who has been hit with this, but I'm looking for an effective cure, if one exists. I found this recommendation online:

https://hometoolschool.com/why-my-toolb ... asy-steps/

I have many, many screwdrivers from the 60'd-7-'s in particular that I think are the main culprits of the problem in one of my Matco stacks. I will admit neglecting this for some time, but it has gotten to the point that the butyric acid that is outgassing has attacked the drawer catches, which on this set of boxes are some rubber compound at the back of the slides. They are falling apart, crumbling to bits, and obviously not working to hold the drawers closed. I called Matco, even though the box is getting a little age on it (90-something purchase) and even though I offered to pay for a complete set, they insisted on sending me enough replacement catches to do them all. It may have had something to do with my mention of risk of the whole thing tipping forward if too many drawers happened to be out. It's not perfectly level and if a couple are opened, it leans enough to encourage a little creep in others. I told them there were delicate instruments in some drawers (there are) and I would hate to have the thing tip over on me. It would be unpleasant. At that, they became insistent and would not let me pay. I think it may have a lifetime warranty. It ought to. Anyway...

I believe most of the "plastic" handles are Acetate material and I'm sure you've seen that type handle gradually become less translucent and eventually seem to grow a white, mold-like coating. I've experimented with a few different means of cleaning it off, using mild abrasives and warm soapy water to some success. The best result came from what probably is the most risky approach. After a thorough cleaning as above, I have dipped them fairly briefly in a container of Acetone. Too long and it definitely softens the handle, and destroys any fine features such as brand and part number markings. Same thing with multiple dips. Definitely caution is needed not to touch the handle, or attempt to rub the remaining haze or growth from it. It will smear the surface, and leave streaks where it is wiped. Fingerprints become permanent, unless dipped again.

A few days ago I ran across an ad for a product and applicator for clearing fogged headlight lenses that got me thinking about this again. That product was a wipe on, one swipe, application that instantly cleared a very cloudy lens. Years ago I tried that with Acetone and basically had the same issue with streaks and marks. I gathered that whatever cloth being used absorbed most of the solvent and the headlight surface dried too quickly and got hard again. So part of my question may be answered by the gadget sold with the kit I saw advertised. No close-ups, of course, but it appeared roughly to be a sort of HVLP rig that sort of "fogged" either a mist, or at least a cloud of vapor of whatever solvent they were selling. While dipping the handles of screw and nut drivers may work, it's not optimal.

I'm looking for any ideas that you guys have used to address this malady, or thoughts on rigging up some way to expose the Acetate to just the fumes (over a hotplate container maybe), or slow it down with another, colder solvent to allow some wiping and perhaps even polishing on the headlight lens. I feel the two problems are related. At this point, I have removed from all toolboxes any tool with a handle made of a material that could be contributing to this problem. And no, I am not tossing these drivers. They are all name brand, premium quality tools that have much life left in them if I can figure this out. Anyone tried the linked method? Coating them with shellac doesn't seem as durable as perhaps polyethylene. I don't know the compatibility without some experimentation.


hi.. not sure I understand clearly. Your matco screw driver are getting a white mold looking fuz and you have clear lens on your tool box that it is also effecting? if just the drivers read below

I am no chemist, but impirical chemist, pretty much like my electronics. If you do not have clear foggy case on your tool box and just wondering about you drivers that I believe should be different, not sure understand right? The lens in the car like all plastics are subjected to uv and break down over time.

Not sure just throwing out ideas. Acetone will destroy dissolve most plastics. I have made glue with it for some plastics, but its volatility & low vaper point is to low and drys to fast, not to mention exp and nerve damage (like most solvents) have. Made glue more often in xelone or a blend of that... would have to check notes if I use only it or a mix like mek with it or something else. depends on plastic type. but anyway.

Being you want to preserve the looks of the driver, I wounder if this might help. soak the driver in ammonium for sometime (diluted prob be ok, but strong). Watch the paint - maybe hrs days.. then I wounder if heat would work like in a oven, below the melting point of course. I would guess that the melting point is in the high 200ss-300s degrees but do not know. Heat it thoroughly for some time without destroying it, and let it cool before handling. Now does it need a coating I do not know, nor know if that would work. I would try a driver and see if that helps. The heat needs to be close to melting, but not that high. You might need to do when wife is shopping and degas the house.

Just an idea and random thought. let us know if you fig something out. goodluck
p.s. wash after bath in ammonium & drop or 2 dish det., well with a brush, etc., then bake "just before melting deforming" sorry keep editing.. heat very slowly and bring up temps over time.

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Last edited by ttx450cap on Oct Sat 24, 2020 11:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Acetate tool handle breakdown
PostPosted: Oct Sat 24, 2020 9:37 pm 
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Location: Littleton, MA
Tony Wells wrote:
I'm looking for any ideas that you guys have used to address this malady

A while back, Dawn recommended a few cycles of being dipped in an ultrasonic cleaner. She didn't say what cleaning solution she used, I would guess dish soap and water. Then she dried them with a rinse of alcohol (isopropyl, I guess) followed by some time in a warm oven.
viewtopic.php?p=1699552#p1699552

In another thread: https://antiqueradios.com/forums/viewto ... 82&start=0
OTH said he used 91% isopropyl to clean off the white stuff:
OTH wrote:
When my Xcelite tools start to stink after being unused for a while, especially after being kept in closed toolboxes, I clean them with ordinary 91% rubbing alcohol, if ordinary dish detergent fails. It also cleans up any white powdery residue that may have formed. That works for a while. Acetone really cleans and kills the germs - it also dissolves the surface and leaves tool handles very messy until they dry off; then they are shiny in spots and rounded off a bit, but not pretty. Don't ask me how I know. Us enothing stronger than alcohol that unless you want to refinish the handles with a buffing wheel, etc. ...

Keeping Xcelite and similar tools bone dry, and with plenty of air circulation also helps a lot. High humidity and warmth encourages our bacterial buddies more than I like. I run a dehumidifier near my toolchests and bench due to New Jersey's humid weather.


My Dad's Xcelite nutdrivers from the 1950's had the white crud. I cleaned them up with a toothbrush and electronics-grade (99%) isopropyl alcohol, and so far it hasn't come back.

ETA My newer Xcelite and Vaco drivers haven’t shown the problem at all over the past 20 years.

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 Post subject: Re: Acetate tool handle breakdown
PostPosted: Oct Sun 25, 2020 12:35 am 
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Joined: Oct Sun 18, 2009 5:38 am
Posts: 3417
Location: Tyler, Texas 75707-4212
ttx450cap wrote:
hi.. not sure I understand clearly. Your matco screw driver are getting a white mold looking fuz and you have clear lens on your tool box that it is also effecting? if just the drivers read below

I am no chemist, but impirical chemist, pretty much like my electronics. If you do not have clear foggy case on your tool box and just wondering about you drivers that I believe should be different, not sure understand right? The lens in the car like all plastics are subjected to uv and break down over time.

Not sure just throwing out ideas. Acetone will destroy dissolve most plastics. I have made glue with it for some plastics, but its volatility & low vaper point is to low and drys to fast, not to mention exp and nerve damage (like most solvents) have. Made glue more often in xelone or a blend of that... would have to check notes if I use only it or a mix like mek with it or something else. depends on plastic type. but anyway.

Being you want to preserve the looks of the driver, I wounder if this might help. soak the driver in ammonium for sometime (diluted prob be ok, but strong). Watch the paint - maybe hrs days.. then I wounder if heat would work like in a oven, below the melting point of course. I would guess that the melting point is in the high 200ss-300s degrees but do not know. Heat it thoroughly for some time without destroying it, and let it cool before handling. Now does it need a coating I do not know, nor know if that would work. I would try a driver and see if that helps. The heat needs to be close to melting, but not that high. You might need to do when wife is shopping and degas the house.

Just an idea and random thought. let us know if you fig something out. goodluck
p.s. wash after bath in ammonium & drop or 2 dish det., well with a brush, etc., then bake "just before melting deforming" sorry keep editing.. heat very slowly and bring up temps over time.


I apologize. I mixed two subjects with similar problems because they seem to be related. It may have aided in the confusion.

The Matco box has only a problem with the rubber (or whatever) bumpers/catches that hold the drawers closed. They seem to be affected by the outgassed product in a manner similar to the handles, but perhaps more severely. There are no other issues with the boxes. No clear panels that are fogged up. Those are on some headlights on my vehicles, a common problem. I'm just pondering a solution or variation that might help both. Separate issues though.

Ammonium is a derivative of Ammonia that is probably tough to come by, and I'm not equipped to make here. Did you mean plain Ammonia?

I've heard of people using heat as part of a solution to this problem, but mostly a judicious application of an open flame, much the same as polishing lab glass surfaces after cutting or grinding. There could be some merit in that as part of the solution. I have experimented a little with that, and with measured success.

Thanks for your comments.


Steve, presently I don't have a ultrasonic cleaner. It's on the wish/build list. I imagine it would remove at least part of the white growth, perhaps enough to allow minimal mechanical methods to finish the job. Somehow I have an idea of something like that followed by a gentle walnut shell blast then finished with the Acetone treatment. The main reason I keep coming back to that is I watched one of the "How it's made" type shows, and an Acetone dip was near the last stages of finishing, just prior to filling any engraving molded characters and any painting required. It appeared to leave a perfectly clear, glossy surface. That may be the result of some specific temperature or a chemical additive. As usual, the show did not go into detail on it. I agree that a dip does leave the surface sticky, but that does disappear when the Acetone dries out. I' mot too concerned with that, as long as I keep the exposure time limited.

The variety of brands I am dealing with are Vaco, Xcelite, Proto, Klein (not so much, but they are newer), Snap On and Matco. And Craftsman, naturally.

Thanks for the links to those threads. I will review them.

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I'm right 97% of the time. Who cares about the other 4%!

-.-. --- .-.. -.. / ---.. ----- --...


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 Post subject: Re: Acetate tool handle breakdown
PostPosted: Oct Sun 25, 2020 1:07 am 
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Cleaning up the headlamp lenses seems to require some polishing rather than chemical treatment, I think. Try some rubbing compound or even just soap cleanser like Comet or Ajax before you go drastic.


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 Post subject: Re: Acetate tool handle breakdown
PostPosted: Oct Sun 25, 2020 2:59 am 
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Be careful if you try heating acetone. It is very flammable and the vapors are heavier than air. My brother once set off a sink full of vapor and burned off his eyebrows and some of his hair.

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 Post subject: Re: Acetate tool handle breakdown
PostPosted: Oct Sun 25, 2020 3:47 am 
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That's true, Bob. All the kits for fixing sand pitted and hazed healights start with mechanical action. A good cleaning to remove any grit/dirt/debris that will interfere with the process is removed with soap and water. I've done a couple starting with that and then going from red Scotchbrite all the way to 2000 grit wet or dry, then rubbing compound and polishing compound. It finishes up in the restoration kits with some unknown to me very fine liquid polish and a small square of very soft cloth.. Done by hand it's a labor intensive job if the plastic is really bad. Even then it's not always just a surface issue. There can be yellowing that seems full thickness. And it's a bit aggravating working around the mold sprues which I suppose still serve a purpose during assembly. If you're patient, have the time and elbow grease to spare, a great improvement can be seen with some of the kits. They are not all created equal however. The clear fronts are sonically welded to the chromed reflector, making it s sealed enclosure, save for the opening for the lamp. So far I haven't seen many that are truly watertight though. The moisture inside, once heated up is detrimental to the reflective coating so it's a less than ideal design in my opinion.

I finally gave up on the right side headlight on my Grand Cherokee. Bought an aftermarket replacement. Fit fine and it's still clear. The old one had cracked and collected water so eventually lost much of the reflected light. I'm not sure I still have the old one but I could experiment with it. My daughter's little Toyota is my next candidate for the headlight treatment. But she doesn't drive at night so it's not a priority. I'm more piqued by the screwdrivers.

Jim, I'm accustomed to using it, even warmed up. As long as you stay below the flash point and aren't stupid about ventilation and ignition sources, it's not too bad to work with. Respirator required, however. You do have to work fast though if it is hot, as it tends to vaporize and disappear. That's one reason I was considering adding a retarder that would not totally kill the solvent action.

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 Post subject: Re: Acetate tool handle breakdown
PostPosted: Oct Sun 25, 2020 6:00 am 
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Hello tony,
what great link and yes I think all of us have dealt with that smell and mold that seems to grow on that plastic.


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 Post subject: Re: Acetate tool handle breakdown
PostPosted: Oct Sun 25, 2020 4:32 pm 
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I have toolboxes all over the place and not long ago, I decided to see just what I had collected over the years — too many boxes + too many tools = can't remember them all!
One of my boxes had white powder all in the bottom and the culprit: yep, screwdriver handles. Most of them have a thick coating of white powder; after knocking off the loose powder, very little of the original plastic is even showing!
I cleaned up the box and now need to clean up the drivers. Fortunately, these aren't my better drivers, hence why they went largely forgotten and neglected, so I don't mind losing them. I'll clean up the ones that still have decent tips and give them to relatives.

As for headlights, they start to react to UV after the factory protective coating degrades. People try all kinds of things to prevent a recurrence, but it's fighting a losing battle.
My '96 T-bird headlights have millions of microfractures, so I decided that, even if I could manage to de-yellow them and remove the haze, they're not worth the restoration attempt. I was lucky enough to find NOS OEMs. I haven't installed them yet, and the car needs other attention (I've been putting off a complete suspension rebuild until I move and have a lift at my new place; try doing all that on your back!). At least I can resell them if I get rid of the car before I have the chance to fix her up as she deserves.


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 Post subject: Re: Acetate tool handle breakdown
PostPosted: Oct Mon 26, 2020 1:15 am 
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Quote:
And it's a bit aggravating working around the mold sprues which I suppose still serve a purpose during assembly.

If you're talking about the three bumps on the front of the light, they aren't sprues. They're registration points for one type of headlight aiming device. You'll find them even on the round, glass, sealed beam lights.

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 Post subject: Re: Acetate tool handle breakdown
PostPosted: Oct Mon 26, 2020 4:00 pm 
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I cleaned the white crud from radio knobs using "LA's Awesome Cleaner" from Dollar General. Spray on, wait a few minutes and rinse off. But I had a Craftsman 1/4" socket driver that smelled terrible (no white coating) so I just bought a better Crescent replacement. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B079TPC85J


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 Post subject: Re: Acetate tool handle breakdown
PostPosted: Oct Mon 26, 2020 4:45 pm 
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I have Xcelite among other tools. I get that pizzy smell when I open my toolbox sometimes but no visible decay on any tool handles of any of my tools. I suppose you could clean the handles and then dip them in paint or that black rubber coating or spray on clearcoat of some sort. That might contain the outgassing but as for the long term effects on the tool I have no idea. The black butyl rubber dip for handles is similar to the rubber coat or sleeve you see on some tools but you best do them all at once. Once the can is open it hardens up regardless of the cap on the can in a month or two.

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 Post subject: Re: Acetate tool handle breakdown
PostPosted: Oct Tue 27, 2020 3:56 am 
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Well, I have enough tossers to experiment with, and if I come up with something worth sharing, I'll post it. I'm sure I'll totally ruin a couple, but it will be the junkers I play with. Thanks for the comments.


Jim, I kind of figured those were there for some purpose, but figured installation at the factory or something. Here in TX they don't check headlight alignment as part of the annual vehicle inspection like they used to, but I seem to remember some piece of the aiming equipment attaching to the lights when they needed to be adjusted, but that was the sealed beam style. Never gave much serious thought to them on the plastic "lamp housings" I guess we should call them that we have now.

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 Post subject: Re: Acetate tool handle breakdown
PostPosted: Oct Tue 27, 2020 7:17 pm 
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Location: Santa Clara, CA
I had an Xcelite screwdriver that I neglected to retrieve from a pan that had some brake fluid in the bottom of it. When I found it a couple days later, the side of the handle that was in the fluid had melted almost into a puddle. Looked like it had been laid on a hot stove. I wonder if a wipedown with brake fluid would remove the white haze, followed by a rinse-wipe with alcohol...I don't have any tools with the white coating to try at the moment.


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