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Soft touch plastic coatings on devices getting sticky with age

JazzJazz Registered User regular
Stop laughing at the back there.

I wasn't sure whether to post this here or in H/A, but it is technology related, so here it is.

I have a couple of items of computery equipment, specifically an old (c. 2011) laptop and an external DVD-ROM drive of a similar age, that were produced with a "soft touch" rubberised external coating on their plastics. My new laptop has the same thing on its palmrest and deck, and my three year old or so mouse has it too. It's pretty common (I'm sure many of you have devices like this), and it's pleasant to the touch and to use, usually nicer than just bare plastic.

But the coating on these older items seem to be degrading, and specifically, getting sticky; not just to the touch, which is unpleasant enough, but such that lint, or animal hairs, or dust, or whatever is in fact actually sticking to them.

These devices are still perfectly functional in themselves and I'd rather keep them going for a bit longer, for as long as they remain useful. And also, this is likely to happen to my new laptop in due course, I should imagine, and probably long before I'll actually be done with it.

Has anyone got any idea if there's any way I can clean them such that the stickiness goes away? Or even, in the case of the older devices, being able to strip the stuff off altogether, however ugly that would render them? And is there any way of preventing this on my new machine or is it inevitable that this will happen when the coating reaches a certain age?

Jazz on


  • GnomeTankGnomeTank What the what? Portland, OregonRegistered User regular
    edited September 2017
    Try some alcohol wipes, like they use at a hospital or electronics repair shop. You can get them at most pharmacies. If you can't find those, some 70% isopropyl alcohol on a soft (preferably microfiber) cloth. Don't douse it, and don't use super harsh agents (for instance don't mistake 70% with 90% alcohol)...definitely nothing with bleach in it. Once you get the layer of gunk off that's causing it to be "sticky", try and maintain with a damp soft cloth every so often.

    GnomeTank on
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  • JazzJazz Registered User regular
    I actually just tried on the DVD drive (which is naturally less of a worry since it'd be cheap to replace if it came to it) with isopropyl alcohol on a damp cloth to dilute it a little. I'm not actually certain what strength the alcohol is; it's not an over-the-counter item over here that I've found so I've had to get a bottle from my mum's nail place! And it doesn't actually say its strength on the bottle. I'd imagine it's in the 70% region, it usually is I think and it certainly smells the same, but I will double check with them. Anyway, if anything, it seemed to make it stickier, which was rather disheartening.

    Should I just give it another go undiluted (after checking the strength, probably)?

  • LD50LD50 Registered User regular
    It's going to be a hard problem to solve because anything that can remove the stickiness is going to be able to damage the rubber. It's probably oil based, so you'd need something that can break up the oil and dissolve it. Depending on how washable the things are, you might be able to put a bit of cooking oil on them, let it set for 5 minutes or so, and then clean it off with dish soap.

  • FoomyFoomy Registered User regular
    edited September 2017
    soft rubber overmolding just tends to breakdown overtime, and oils in general will speed that up, including skin oils.

    Best temporary fix i've found is to lightly sprinkle with some talc and rub that in. But the stickyness will return.

    Foomy on
    Steam Profile: FoomyFooms
  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    yeah this is prob degradation of the covering due to skin oils and / or exposure to the sun / heat. afaik you can't fix it... you might instead consider stripping the coating off completely and applying a stick-on grip of some sort in its place.

  • dporowskidporowski Registered User regular
    From disgusting experience, the alcohol will make it much, much worse. Your best bet is completely remove it; alcohol will soften it, then it can be carefully scraped like you would adhesive or something.

  • ShadowfireShadowfire Vermont, in the middle of nowhereRegistered User regular
    I'd cover the surface with duct tape and pretend some other grease-and-other-unmentionable-things hands never touched the thing.

    WiiU: Windrunner ; Guild Wars 2: Shadowfire.3940 ; PSN: Bradcopter
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