I have "Alien" sweat!
June 7, 2007 5:54 PM   Subscribe

Help me save my theoretical new MacBook Pro from my Sweat of Doom!

I own a well-loved 12" G4 powerbook. Over two years of heavy use, the wrist-rest portion of the case has slowly but steadily developed severe "pitting" in the areas where I typically rest the heels of my palms. My glasses frames exhibit the same issue over time and my optometrist tells me it's because I have very acidic sweat and there's very little I can do to correct the problem.

Several weeks ago, the pitting finally annoyed me to the point where I decided to buy a Marware Protection Pack (~$15) for my machine to see if the rubber wrist-rest protector would be good quality, cover up the pitting, and prevent further damage. After less than a month of use, the plastic is developing pitting and cracking of its own in the same places -- I'm almost certain it isn't a material defect because the damage only occurs where I rest my wrists!

I plan to buy a shiny new 15" MBP for grad school later this summer, and I want to protect it from this pitting mess, but the idea of ponying up $35 once every few months to replace a Marware Protection Pack wristrest irks me. Does anyone have any ideas less invasive than "wipe down the metal every few minutes during use" to prevent this mess and increase the longevity of the metal or whatever wristrest protectors I use?
posted by Alterscape to Computers & Internet (20 answers total)
Well, one thing you could do would be to keep a USB keyboard and mouse at your desk and plug them in whenever you were using your laptop there. Then your MBP would only be subjected to your killer perspiration when you were actually on the road, which may or may not help depending on how much you planned to be at your desk. If you got a keyboard & mouse for the office and a keyboard & mouse for home, well, that would take care of most of my computer use.

In any case, it would probably help to know where and how often you plan to use the MBP.
posted by crinklebat at 6:00 PM on June 7, 2007

I don't know if I'm in the same boat or not, but I'll share my story anyway.

I sweat. A lot. When I play a round of Halo with friends or something, I almost always end up being embarrassed when I have to pass the controller on, because it's basically drenched.

As for the acidity of my sweat, I couldn't say, but my old Powerbook, I had exactly what you describe - to the left and right of the trackpad the case was basically "pitted" - worn down to a dull sort of grey-black. I was horrified.

I was also very worried that the same thing would happen to my new MBP, which I purchased last April.

Thankfully, I think I've found a solution that works for me. I bought a 'carton' of those damp 'monitor/laptop' wipes from Best Buy and at the start of every week I give the laptop a nice going over - focusing particularly on the wrist pad areas.

So far, after more than a year, I've got no discoloration or anything.

That said, this is just me. I make no promises, but good luck! We who sweat to excess must stick together!
posted by kbanas at 6:03 PM on June 7, 2007

I work a lot on other people's broken powerbooks, and have had a few of my own. I see that all the time on heavily used machines, and I do not think it is because you have particularly acidic sweat. The only thing grosser is the dull brown that develops on a white iBook over time.

I don't know why Apple hasn't solved this with some kind of barrier material, but I have come to think of it like the wearing down of the finish on the neck of a Fender Stratocaster -- it just makes the machine more yours. Learn to love it. Or do what the better classes do and buy a new machine every year.

Wiping the deck of the MBP down with alcohol regularly after use might help, as might keeping a barrier (such as the foam that ships in a new MBP to protect the screen from the keyboard, or just a sheet of paper) over the wrist wrests when you close the screen.
posted by spitbull at 6:19 PM on June 7, 2007

I use an iLap stand for my MBP and my wrists rest on the end of it rather than the machine. Maybe using one would be helpful.
posted by jdl at 6:39 PM on June 7, 2007

I would also suggest an external keyboard—you could even go Bluetooth to cut down on cable clutter and make it easier to jet with the laptop. Assuming you spend a reasonable amount of time at a single location, it also means you can put your laptop up on a stand for a better viewing angle, better ergonomics, etc.
posted by adamrice at 6:40 PM on June 7, 2007

I agree with kbanas. After a couple hours of sweating, you leave your computer to its own devices, but where do you think all the crap on your wristrests go? That's right, they slowly seep into the computer's metal/plastic. Not to get too graphic, but it's much like plaque on your teeth. You have to brush twice a day just to make sure that plaque buildup doesn't get excessive. And then you still go to the dentist twice a year.

Here it's no different. If you care that much about your computer's finish, then you have to wipe down your computer at least 2-3 times a week. It'll take a couple of seconds each time, but will ensure that nothing seeps into your computer.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 6:52 PM on June 7, 2007

You might want to consider a thin set of white gloves but I don't know how comfortable that would be. Perhaps you could find something with an oppoiste ph (baking soda) which would negate the acid in your sweat. Make a simple solution and use it to wipe down your machine every now and then.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:41 PM on June 7, 2007

I have the exact same problem. Eventually, I became so [annoyed | gnarled out] by the black pits on the right hand side of my PowerBook (alas, no MacBook, yet) that I took it in to the Apple store and kvetched. The gist of of my argument is "Laptops should not melt".

The people at the Apple store claimed they had never seen anything like that before (and were a wee bit skeptical) but in the end, they replaced that bezel area. So the solution to your problem is to get Applecare and then complain when the wrist rest starts looking gross enough.
posted by mjbraun at 7:46 PM on June 7, 2007

Wouldn't a bit of strategically placed clear packing tape do the job?
posted by jknecht at 7:56 PM on June 7, 2007

One of my prior aluminum Apple machines succumbed to the pitting problem, and up until recently I went with the clear packing tape solution. This time around, however, I sprung for ApplePeelz and I have to say I'm pretty pleased. It's expensive for what amounts to a die-cut sticker, but it's been very comfortable and durable.

I wouldn't normally advocate an overpriced sticker as a solution for something like this, but I have to say I'm really happy with the result. I picked up the wristguard and trackpad covers and they've been good for several months of continuous use so far. I see the price has come down a bit, too.
posted by majick at 8:03 PM on June 7, 2007

Wow! Someone with the same problem as me! I don't sweat much, I think it's just the natural oils, but the left hand side of the flat section below the keyboard and to the left of the trackpad is all black and pitted through the paint, and the letter S key is worn down black. Same thing.

I wipe down the keyboard and screen every week or two with a chamois and some "approved" cleaner.
posted by luriete at 9:28 PM on June 7, 2007

Covering the pads is the right idea but I'd just go cheaper and replace them as needed. I'd probably try contact paper first which is cheap, adhesive, and will let you a little decorating.

You didn't mention if you're worried about the keys too but if you are you could try an iSkin Protouch. I have one, it works ok and it's washable. I admit though that I don't have mighty alien sweat glands like you do.
posted by chairface at 9:38 PM on June 7, 2007

As a former Apple Retail employee, I'll tell you the same thing I tell anyone else looking to protect any product: Invisible Shield. Invisible Shield, Invisible Shield, Invisible Shield. The stuff is amazing, invincible, lasts forever, and comes with a lifetime guarantee. I use it on my MBP and love it. Here's what you'd want.

Originally designed to protect helicopter blades! Check out the videos.
posted by coolhappysteve at 10:45 PM on June 7, 2007

Contrary to what your optometrist has told you (not sure why they would be giving that kind of advice anyway) you can change the pH balance of your sweat by changing your diet. Some people are naturally more acidic than others but diet plays its role, you can change your body chemistry by chaning what you eat.
Staying away from foods like garlic, onions and spicy food could be a step in the right direction.

Seems to me this would be a long term solution to many of your problems.
posted by missmagenta at 11:27 PM on June 7, 2007

Of course I can't find it now, or remember where I found it... but I was reading recently that these 'sweat stains' are a problem of the covering of your mac, and NOT a problem of too much sweat from the user. I thought apple started using a new covering because people were complaining about this.
posted by philomathoholic at 12:02 AM on June 8, 2007

Oh, it appears that this was last year. Never-mind me.
posted by philomathoholic at 12:04 AM on June 8, 2007

You could try not letting your wrists rest on the machine, isn't this supposed to be ergonomically better? (Never worked for me, but still.)
posted by bluebird at 4:15 AM on June 8, 2007

I get the exact same pitting on my mac laptop, much to the amusement of my colleagues. The pits are /exactly/ and somewhat creepily in the shape of my hands where they rest on the panel of the keyboard. I recently had to have my laptop repaired (broken screen) and Apple threw in a new bevel too.

I'm not particularly sweaty, so I don't think it's a function of that. But I'm delighted to know that I'm not alone!
posted by stamen at 10:49 AM on June 8, 2007

I came in to say the same thing as bluebird -- it's actually healthiest by far to type with your wrists parallel to the keyboard (not resting on the surface). If you got into this habit, it would both help your corrosion problem and help protect your wrists and fingers from cumulative/RSI injury (I know it would take effort to change something like this, but I hope it sounds like something worth experimenting with...).
posted by allterrainbrain at 3:53 PM on June 8, 2007

he, I have the same problem on my MBP and had on my former Powerbook too, so it seems to be common somehow.

I will keep the invisible shield link for the next 'Book, though, it seems like a very good investment. Thanks for the tip!
posted by KimG at 4:10 PM on June 9, 2007

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