Why is my Clear Phone Case Turned Yellow?

Clear cases are a great way to add some extra protection to your iPhone or Android phone without covering up its color and design. However, one problem with some clear cases is they take on a yellow hue over time. Why is that?

It’s Yellow All the Way Down

Clear phone cases don’t actually turn yellow over time, they get more yellow. All clear cases have a natural yellow tint to them. The case makers usually add a small amount of blue dye to offset the yellow, making it appear more crystal clear.

The materials play a big role in this as well. Not all clear cases get as yellow over time. Hard, inflexible clear cases don’t suffer from this nearly as much. It’s the cheap, soft, flexible silicone cases that get the yellowest.

This natural aging process is called “material degradation.” There are several different environmental factors that contribute to it.

Sun and Skin

There are two main offenders that accelerate the aging process of clear phone case materials. The first is ultraviolet light, which you mostly encounter from the sun.

Ultraviolet light is a type of radiation. Over time, it breaks down the various chemical bonds that hold together the long polymer molecule chains that make up the case. This creates many shorter chains, which accentuates the natural yellow color.

Heat also accelerates this process. Heat from the sun and—more likely—heat from your hand. Speaking of hands, your skin is the second offender. More accurately, the natural oils on your skin.

All of the natural oils, sweat, and grease that everyone has on their hands can build up over time. Nothing is truly perfectly clear, so it all adds to the natural yellowing. Even cases that aren’t clear can slightly change in color due to this.

How to Clean a Clear Case That Turned Yellow

Depending on how old the case is, you may be able to return it to its previous “clear” glory. You can clean off all the buildup from the oils, sweat, and grease from your hands, but you can’t reverse the damage of ultraviolet light.

There are three cleaning agents you can try: dish soap, baking soda, and rubbing alcohol.

For dish soap, simply make some warm soapy water and give the case a thorough scrubbing with a toothbrush.

For the baking soda method, sprinkle the powder all over the case, especially any particularly yellow spots. Get a toothbrush wet and use it to scrub the case and make a nice lather. Don’t get the case too wet.

For rubbing alcohol, don’t apply the rubbing alcohol directly to the case. Instead, get a paper towel or cleaning cloth damp and scrub the case with it. Rubbing alcohol can also be damaging to silicone, so don’t overdo it.

At the end of the day, you’re fighting a battle you can’t win. You can stave off the yellowing with some occasional cleaning, but the natural aging process can’t totally be stopped. If you want to avoid the problem completely, you may need to consider going case-less.

Or, you can just buy a new case for your phone. If you’re already using multiple cases, swapping them out will be easy. Take a look at the best cases for iPhones, Samsung phones, and Google Pixel phones.
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