Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Bleach Damage in Breyers

In the last few years, I've been seeing more and more bleach-damaged models popping up on eBay and social media, and I thought it was a worthwhile subject to tackle here since many hobbyists are confused by their appearance. A few unscrupulous sellers have even tried to pass these models off as rare tests or woodgrains because of the striping pattern caused by the bleach damage as seen on the Running Mare below.

Bleach damaged alabaster Running Mare (Photo from eBay)

But why on earth would anyone use bleach on a Breyer? Most hobbyists these days know that putting a yellow model in a sunny window is the best and safest way to whiten it up. In the past however, particularly in the '80s and '90s, many hobbyists soaked their yellow models in a mixture of bleach and water or even bleach and vinegar to brighten them up. (Obligatory PSA: For the love of all that is holy and/or unholy, DO NOT do this. Not only will it ruin your models, the latter mixture creates potentially deadly chlorine gas.) While bleaching models was effective in the short term, many models that were whitened in this fashion began to show damage from the process years later.

This delayed damage takes the form of brown discoloration and long parallel cracks in the top layer of plastic. The cracks usually look like fine, close-set striations, often with a bit of a raised texture. Sometimes these cracks open and the plastic begins to peel back. Some models are discolored and have striations all over from being completely submerged, and some are only partially damaged, indicating they were not bleached on both sides (or at least not for equal amounts of time).

Here is the other side of the Running Mare pictured above. While this side has developed some brown discoloration from bleach damage, it must not have been left floating in the bleach solution as long as the other side.

(Photo from eBay)
 

(Photo from eBay)

The mostly undamaged white stripe down the belly, back, and front of the neck shows the areas of the model that were exposed to the bleach the least while floating in the solution. The close up below gives a better view of the weird striations that are a tell-tale sign of bleach damage. They are absolutely not factory painted stripes.

(Photo from eBay)
 
Bleaching models to whiten them was a delicate game of timing. Collectors who left their models in too long would find the paint stripped from them. In fact, customizers often used bleach baths to deliberately strip OF paint off of models, especially for the creation of faux-OF paint jobs. Unfortunately, washing the model after subjecting it to bleach was not enough to prevent long-term damage. It was already done even if it wasn't apparent right away.

Because the bleach solution also couldn't be effectively rinsed and drained out of the inside of a model through the tiny airholes in the nostril or corner of the mouth, most bleached models, no matter how long they were subjected to the treatment, retained some amount of the damaging liquid inside. The model below was stripped to be repainted as a faux-woodgrain. The plastic is literally crumbling in strips.
 
Extensive bleach damage (Photo courtesy of Lucy Kusluch)

In addition to this weird peeling, some bleached models develop small holes in places where the plastic is thin. These are sometimes present when no other damage is yet apparent. In some cases, especially with models produced in the last 10-15 years which are usually made of softer plastic, bleaching can cause the model to disintegrate into pieces. Bleached models may take years to show the damage, but eventually, they will start to discolor and split or worse.

I hope this post has been helpful!

6 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh!😲. That last photo...how horrible! I had never heard of this. I just learned something new from this article. Thank you, and Merry Christmas!

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  2. Bleach actively DESTROYS cellulose acetate at a molecular level by breaking the polymer chains that hold the chemical structure together. It’s because the damage is done at a molecular level that it remains invisible to the naked eye until it’s extremely well advanced.

    It’s analogous to how radiation destroys the cells of living beings 😩

    Any exposure to bleach/chlorine/swimming pool water, etc etc will damage cellulose acetate: even though that damage is not on a visible level, it finally manifests itself as the plastic literally falls apart.

    If you own Breyers or Stones that have been exposed to bleach, and you wish to be known as a reputable seller, you will either not sell them, or disclose the fact, and sell at a price which reflects the inevitable disintegration of the piece within 5-10 years.

    Avoid bleach AT ALL COSTS.

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    1. Purple Power will also do this. I've actually had it destroy models within a few hours of soaking. I avoid chemical stripping as much as possible now.

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  3. How sad! I’ve seen *beautiful* custom models on eBay that I wished SO MUCH to bid on, but didn’t dare because the artist did admit to bleach-stripping them first. I can’t imagine the new cm finish would halt deterioration as the plastic already absorbed/is now reacting to the bleach.. so eventually the gorgeous refinished model would just be rubbish..?? 💔

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    Replies
    1. Ooh. Definitely sad.💔💔💔

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