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I was cleaning up my room when i found a box with old stuff, around 3 year old. I found my old earphones inside; the wires have become really sticky with parts of it "melted".

I did some research and found this which says to keep it in a cool and dry place, but said container (airtight) was, in fact, kept in a cool and dry place, with dehumidifier packets inside.

I'm concerned since I plan to buy a daily-driver earphone and keep a backup earphone stored away.

How can I store rubber for the long-term? Specifically, rubber wires found on earphones (or just earphones in general)?

I'm not sure whether this is the right SE for the question.

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    Hi PNDA, Welcome to Lifehacks. Rubber is probably not the material you want to preserve. There's a better than average chance that the stuff is a kind of plastic. Try contacting the manufacturer (brand name) of your product for their help maintaining it. Before you invest, contact the manufacturer pre-sales representative with a specific question about their replacement policy for premature product failure. I've received replacements by simply asking. – Stan Jun 14 at 2:19
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"Rubber" like that is actually not real rubber, but a plastic mixture to which mineral oil or phthalates have been blended in before the plastic was molded into shape. this oil makes the otherwise stiff plastic soft and flexible but the problem is that with time, the oil diffuses out of the plastic and accumulates on the surface, which makes it become really sticky and goopy- while the rest of the plastic falls apart.

This is an indication of really cheap manufacture, and there's nothing you can do to stop it once it begins. Storing in a cool dry place will not help.

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  • This is the most correct answer, I fully agree: a low quality product will remain a low quality product. Even big brands sometimes use cheap materials like that - I had some Logitech handsfree many years ago (stick-in-the-ear, so no wires) - it transformed into goo while I did not use it. – virolino Jun 19 at 12:35
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There are protectants you can buy & apply to minimize the deterioration of plastics, even after the process has started. Oxidation and UV are the usual culprits. Of course, you had fully protected yours from UV. Oxidation is more insidious; even in a sealed container. That's why the article you referenced proposed the possibility of keeping rubber bands under water (although that's too inconvenient any time, and particularly unhelpful for electronics!).

If you do a web search for 'protect plastic from oxidation uv' you can see more about this. The most common application for these products is on cars, which are subject to the oxidation from pollutants, and UV. Some of these products are designed to protect and restore plastic that has deteriorated. The main problem with this is that almost nobody is going to think that far ahead for most purchases. But for something you really care about, it would be worthwhile.

One of the main sources of oxidation is air pollution. Early on, air pollution was actually measured by the deterioration rubber bands https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10962247.2017.1308890. So, using a protectant might be more useful depending on how the air quality is where you live.

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  • I had things (just like OP) stored in "complete" darkness (a bag in a bag in a box in another box..). The good plastic remained good plastic. Shit became uglier shit. No UV at all to attack the said plastic. And if I have to spend additional money to protect a plastic against oxygen, then that is big problem. Because oxygen is pretty much everywhere. – virolino Jun 19 at 12:39
  • I understand. "Oxygen" and "oxidation" aren't as related as they seem. This explains it better: <simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxidation> Free floating oxygen forms a fairly stable molecule with itself, O2. <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen> Air pollution has much more reactive (a.k.a. nasty) molecules. People who try to eat and take supplements with antioxidants to avoid DNA/RNA damage aren't trying to remove oxygen from their blood streams. – user31643 Jun 19 at 14:17

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