Cleaning A MacBook Top Case

The top case on the first generation MacBooks are dirt magnets. While the palm rests on the black models simply become polished with use, the white models gain a disgusting brown patina. Apple’s usual suggestion of a damp cloth does little to nothing to remove the tan stains on the palm rest. Dirt and sweat from your wrists seeps into the tiny pores on the plastic surface, rendering in nearly impossible to remove with traditional cleaning methods.

They key to cleaning the top case is melamine foam. Melamine foam is formed when melamine resin cures under certain conditions. Melamine foam looks like standard open cell foam and is comprised of tiny, extremely hard fibers. These characteristics allows it to scrape away material from extremely small cavities, which is exactly what is needed to clean the top case.

Melamine foam is marketed under the  trade-name Basotect from BASF. Fortunately it is also available to the consumer in the form of the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser from Procter & Gamble.

Here is a before picture of the top case:

The staining does not appear to be that bad, so I’ll use some blue painters tape to mark off a section.

The sponge needs a little bit of water as a lubricant, so submerge the sponge in water and then squeeze out as much water as possible. It’s really important that you remove as much water as possible, you do not want any water dripping into the computer. Once the water is remove just scrub the top case. I also did the keys and track pad because they both had a lot of grime on them.

Shocking isn’t it? I went over the entire top case, and it looked like new. Note: If your track pad is burnished (polished) from use the sponge will not restore it to it’s original matte appearance, you’ll need a new track pad to do that.

A word of warning, do NOT use this on the exterior glossy surfaces. Melamine foam is like super-fine sandpaper, it will not remove scratches from the surface, it will just remove the glossiness of your MacBook. Since the palm rest area is matte you do not notice these microscratches.


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