Safe way to remove dried super glue from lid of aluminum Macbook?
March 20, 2008 3:03 AM   Subscribe

Help! I had some super glue drip onto the lid of my Macbook Pro. Is acetone based nail remover a wildly dangerous thing to try to use on the aluminum surface of my precious laptop?
posted by CharlieChu to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Probably not. Acetone doesn't dissolve aluminum. But it may dissolve whatever coatings might be on the aluminum.
posted by telstar at 3:36 AM on March 20, 2008

Yes, acetone should be safe to use on an aluminium laptop. It won't damage plain aluminium or anodised aluminium either.

Definitely be careful how you apply it, though, because acetone sure will attack most plastics, fast; drip some on polystyrene packaging foam if you'd like to see a real Alien-blood effect. Even acetone vapour can warp plastic, as people who've thrown a tissue with nail polish remove on it into a plastic wastepaper bin have discovered. You don't want spillage or vapour to leave you with a gooey keyboard.

Note also that superglue - technically referred to as cyanoacrylate or CA - is very slightly water-soluble. This isn't likely to be much use to you here - you could maybe build a clay dam around the glue and fill it with water and leave it overnight, but there probably wouldn't be much effect - but it can still be handy to know. You can, for instance, dissolve a CA bond completely if you boil it in a pot for an hour or two.

The best way to remove CA from many surfaces is mechanically, by shaving it off with a safety razor or scraping it off with one or another abrasive. You'll go nuts if you try to sand a big glue blob off your laptop without damaging the finish, but non-marring tools like popsicle sticks and sugar cubes can be profitably employed to get glue off many delicate surfaces.
posted by dansdata at 3:47 AM on March 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

Also please note - acetone is extremely toxic. Use with care.
posted by watercarrier at 5:02 AM on March 20, 2008

I think "extremely toxic" is a bit of an overstatement. Don't drink it, don't use it around open flame, keep it out of your eyes and use it in a well-ventilated area. After all, under certain circumstances (starvation, diabetes, or the Atkins diet), small amounts of acetone are a natural byproduct of human metabolism. Mostly, it'll give you dry skin if you're not careful.
posted by pullayup at 6:18 AM on March 20, 2008

Yes. And this too from wikipedia -

Acetone is an irritant and inhalation may lead to hepatotoxic effects (causing liver damage). The vapors should be avoided. In no circumstance should it be consumed directly or indirectly. Always use goggles when handling acetone; it can cause permanent eye damage (corneal clouding).

Relatively speaking, acetone is not a very toxic compound; it can, however, damage the mucosa of the mouth and can irritate and damage skin. Accidental intake of large amounts of acetone may lead to unconsciousness and death.

Pregnant women should avoid contact with acetone and acetone fumes in order to avoid the possibility of birth defects, including brain damage.
posted by watercarrier at 6:36 AM on March 20, 2008

Agree with dansdata, blobs of stuff are best removed mechanically. Hit the Menards or Home Depot and pick up a couple of plastic putty knives- they should be able to chip away the glue without wrecking the finish of the aluminum. You want something that's harder than the glue but softer than the aluminum.

Another possibility is to use the "clay" product used for car detailing. It's an abrasive putty that you use with a slippery fluid. It conforms to the surface of the paint and slides over it without abrading it, and then when you rub it back and forth, it "bumps" into the blob and abrades it away. It'll take a while, but might be optimal.

One thing you might want to try is to create another blob of superglue on some other expendable piece of aluminum and test your methods.

Acetone probably wouldn't wreck the aluminum, but it evaporates quickly and likely will wreck any other paint and plastic it might drip on.
posted by gjc at 6:47 AM on March 20, 2008

In practice, acetone is not as toxic as some sites make it sound. Be really sure not to get it in your eyes or on mucus membranes but I wouldn't be concerned with getting it on your skin as long as you wash your hands afterwards. You could dip your hands in a bucket of the stuff for a minute or two and all that would happen is your skin might be slightly dry/irritated. Of course it'd be dumb to expose yourself to any chemical unnecessarily but acetone is nothing to freak out about.

I'd try a combination of the chemical/mechanical techniques. I'd get some pure acetone and put some clay around the spot with the superglue. Then heat the acetone in a water bath (aka not using a direct flame) to 100-110 degrees F or so (heat always improves a solvent's ability to dissolve things), put a little bit on the area, then very very gently use something like a plastic putty knife to work on the superglue while it is covered in the acetone. If at some point it seems like no more superglue is dissolving, blot away the acetone and add more fresh acetone.

Just be careful to not get the acetone on any painted surfaces or on anything other than the aluminum. Also, the heating part might not be necessary - give the room-temperature acetone a try first. However, if there is stubborn residue left or something, I'd be very surprised if you didn't notice a difference with the heat.
posted by david06 at 9:19 AM on March 20, 2008

Fingernails always work for me with superglue blobs.
posted by A189Nut at 10:21 AM on March 20, 2008

I recently got a set of Yellow ScrapeRite plastic razor blades. These things are specifically designed for scraping stuff off of a smooth surface without scratching it.

Since my ScrapeRite arrived, I've removed paint from a plastic headlight lens (about 10 seconds of work), hardened grout off of a formica counter (1 minute), labels off of gadgets, etc. No scratches. Many of those tasks seemed impossible until I tried the scrapeRite. The amount of force it lets you apply to a small edge really breaks up crud.

I can't say for sure if it will work on superglue, but I would guess yes. It seems to work best on hard, brittle blobs attached to smooth surfaces.

I typically use a little water to lubricate the area and wipe the blade frequently to prevent scratching.

ScrapeRite on Amazon
posted by jupiter at 1:17 PM on March 20, 2008

There are solutions specifically designed to remove dried super glue (cyanoacrolate or "CA" glue). Go to a hobby shop and ask for "Jet De-Solv". If that brand isn't available, just ask for CA glue solvent or remover, and the staff should know another. I just tried some I have on an aluminum container; it left no mark. Test it on an inconspicuous location first... as mentioned above, there may be a protective (plastic) coating.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 2:50 PM on March 20, 2008

A little anecdote on the safety of acetone: Once, I had some freshly-installed fake nails (I had put them on the day before.) I bought, at Wal-Mart, a bottle labeled 100% acetone. I spent a lot of time soaking my nails to get the fakes off. It didn't kill me.
posted by IndigoRain at 4:04 PM on March 20, 2008

Based on a MSDS I found online ( I'm pretty sure that "Jet De-Solv" is just very expensive acetone.

I'd be very surprised if you could find any commercially marketed CA removing product that is not just acetone. CA (polymerized ethyl 2-cyanoacrylate) is soluble in a bunch of different organic solvents but all are more toxic than acetone, and acetone is effective enough.
posted by david06 at 8:34 PM on March 20, 2008

Response by poster: Just as a follow-up in case someone else does the same dumb-assed thing: normal nail polish remover from Longs Drugs with Acetone did the trick.

My little Macbook Pro badass was safe and sound.
posted by CharlieChu at 5:50 PM on May 29, 2008

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