TiPaint Touch-up Kit and iKlear iPod Cleaning Kit

  • Product Name: TiPaint
    Professional Touch-up Kit
  • Company: TiPaint.com
  • URL: http://www.tipaint.com
  • Category: Hardware repair
  • Price:
  • Requirements: Any Titanium
    PowerBook (i.e., all G4 models prior to
    the Aluminium PowerBooks)
  • Rating: 2 bounces

  • Product Name: iKlear
    iPod Cleaning Kit
  • Company: Meridrew Enterprises
  • URL: http://www.iklear.com
  • Category: Hardware repair
  • Price: $19.95
  • Requirements: Any iPod,
    iBook, or PowerBook, also any desktop Mac
    with an LCD screen
  • Rating: 3 bounces – Lustworthy

There is no question that iPods, iBooks, and PowerBooks are among the most beautiful machines that Apple has produced, but why do they have to scratch so easily? The Titanium series of G4 PowerBooks were painted using some sort of metallic enamel that doesn’t stick to the underlying metal and plastic at all well, and practically every example I have seen, including my own, has had some paint abraded from the corners simply by being transported in a laptop case. Much more annoying is the lack of clearance between the keyboard and screen. Take a look at any of this generation of PowerBook and you’ll see grease and dirt that lifts off the keys and onto the screen. In the most severe cases, the keyboard even scratches the screen, permanently damaging it and leaving behind unsightly blemishes as grease and dirt seeps into these scratches. Many PowerBook owners use leather or fabric inserts to prevent the keyboard from touching the screen, despite the fact the PowerBook manual specifically advises against this (in the 1 GHz G4 PowerBook Manual, this statement is on page 94 if you want to see for yourself).

The iBooks and iPods present a different set of problems. Both feature a soft translucent plastic that scratches easily. The small size of the iPods makes any superficial scratches to the plastic much more noticeable, and a huge market has developed to provide iPod owners with wallets and containers to keep their iPods safe. These vary from simple fabric ones through to jellylike plastic and even metal ones, and cost upwards of twenty dollars. If you have $250 to spend, you can even get a Louis Vuitton one fashioned from leather and brass. But many people don’t get these accessories until after they have bought the iPod and used if for a few weeks, assuming that it is not less durable that the average Walkman. It is only once its been rattling around inside a coat pocket for a while that they notice the scratches on the screen and the shiny metal at the back of the device. The iPod may well be the heavyweight champion in the portable music player market, but when it comes to surviving the rigours of real life, the iPod has a glass jaw.

The TiPaint Touch-Up Kit

The TiPaint Professional Touch-up Kit consists of two small bottles of enamel paint, one that matches the titanium paint that covers the main body of the PowerBook and the other for use on the light silver PowerBook trim. Each contains 0.5 fluid ounces and comes with its own brush, built into the cap (so the whole thing looks like a bottle of nail polish). Minimal instructions are supplied on a small card insert that comes with the bottles of paint. Disregarding logos and titles, there are only 85 words of instructions and advice on the card, and you will not find anything more detailed at the TiPaint web site.

Applying the paint is easy enough. The instructions do mention that you need to shake the paint well, in the case of the light silver bottle, for up to three minutes for even colour. The next thing to look out for is that you do not apply too much paint. Actually, this is very difficult to avoid with the included brushes, which are about 4 mm wide, much wider than the average scratch and so practically guaranteeing that you will end up putting on more paint that you need to. It is a good idea to wipe down the brush against a clean cloth or paper towel to remove some of the paint before you use it, but there is always a risk that doing this will put some lint in the pain that will transfer to the patch you are painting on the PowerBook.

Once applied, the paint takes about 4 hours to dry, though if the PowerBook is running and warm to the touch, it seems to go dry much more rapidly. Either way it isn’t a good idea to handle the computer while the paint is drying. If you do make a mistake, the paint is fluid for long enough that a clean lint-free cloth can be used to wipe away the paint without much problem if you do so within a minute of applying it. As with enamel paints generally, even before it is fully dried it becomes sticky and impossible to cleanly remove after a few minutes. But how well does the paint match the original finish of the PowerBook?


Light silver paint
The light silver paint is reasonably
close to the original finish, but not
exactly the same, so while it diminishes
any blemishes, it doesn’t remove them
Titanium Paint
titanium paint works best if brushed
on in miniscule amounts at a time, a
sort of “dry brush” technique where
most of the paint is removed using a clean
cloth. When the paint is slapped straight
on using a “wet brush” approach,
the paint doesn’t go on uniformly, and
replaces the original scratch with a
not-too-subtle blob of paint.

I tested the TiPaint kit on my PowerBook, and found the results to be rather mixed. With the supplied brushes it is impossible to exactly cover only the scratch while leaving the original paint job untouched. Instead, you’re going to wind up with some sort of patch covering the scratch plus a few millimeters of original paintwork in each direction. The colours are close but not exactly the same as the originals, and even with the recommended one minute of shaking for the titanium paint, and three minutes of shaking for the light silver paint, the finish didn’t seem to be very uniform at all.

It’s difficult to say whether the small but dark original scratches are preferably to the larger if more subtle blotches you get once you’ve used the TiPaint Professional Touch-up Kit. For what you are getting, twenty dollars is a lot of money for tiny amounts of paint that may or may not improve the look of your PowerBook, but if used correctly and you apply the paint carefully and work slowly, it is possible to make some modest repairs to your PowerBook’s paint job. But it is all too easy not to do a good job, and that has to be partly down to the wrong sized brushes supplied with the paint and very limited instructions. Bottom line: possibly useful, but approach with caution.

The iKlear Screen Cleaners

It is possible to pick up computer screen cleaners at Office Depot for a few dollars, so why spend 20 bucks on the iKlear kit? Simply put, it does a really good job and comes with a variety of tools to clean all sorts of different things, from your iPod and iBook through to DVDs and camera lenses. Included in the iKlear iPod Cleaning Kit is a 2 oz bottle of the iKlear spray, one large and one small “micro-chamois” cleaning cloth, and three packs of disposable wet-and-dry cloths. These disposable clothes most closely mimic the computer and LCD cleaners that you’ll find at Target and Office Depot, at least to look at, that is, they come with one cloth impregnated with the cleaning agent (the wet cloth) and one soft cloth for drying the screen down afterwards (the dry cloth).

The main advantage to the iKlear kit, according to its manufacturers, is that the solvent used in the cloths and contained in the spray bottle will not harm the plastics used in liquid crystal displays and other computer components. This is a bit difficult to test: like screen burn-in, various stories are told and retold about things like Windex and alcohol making LCD screens brittle and discoloured, but I’ve never seen this happen or spoken to someone who has. I’ve used dilute alcohol on computer screens including those of PowerBooks for years and never seen a problem either. Similarly, paper towels and clean cotton handkerchiefs have always worked for me, but people do say they are rough enough to scratch the screen, and for that reason laptop owners should use optical-quality cloths instead. So “better safe than sorry” rather than experience ends up being the justification for buying specialised cleaning products like the iKlear kit.

Fortunately, this is one time where if not an essential purchase, the iKlear kit is at least a useful one. It does work well, and will clean off grease and other superficial marks from just about anything, and not just the screen. It does a nice job on the metallic finish of my PowerBook, which can get rather grubby around the trackpad, as well as the back of the iPod. The clothes are very soft indeed, and this makes them a sensible choice for use with the iPod and iBook, both of which scratch very easily. Being optical-grade in quality, they can also be used on glass components (like flatbed scanner screens) where even the smallest scratches can cause degrade performance.

The manufacturers also say that apart from being a safe way to clean your iPod or whatever, the iKlear liquid can also help to protect it by adding an anti-static finish. This is a bit difficult to test, but in theory at least should reduce the amount of dust that sticks to the device. Having said this, it won’t do anything about grease from your fingers or physical abrasions; so don’t think of this anti-static coating as in some way an alternative to protecting your iPod or computer with a proper carrying case.

The iKlear iPod Cleaning Kit comes with a detailed instruction leaflet that lays out the best cleaning methods for various types of Apple hardware (iPods, iMacs, PowerBooks, and so on). It also explains how to clean the cloths when required, a nice touch, and obviously something that can help save the user money over the long term. The iKlear web site is also very nice; in contrast to the TiPaint one it has lots of information on how to use their products for best results.


PowerBook Scratches
A close-up view of the scratches on
a PowerBook screen caused by the keyboard
abrading the screen when the computer
is closed. The iKlear cleaning kit was
unable to repair this damage.

However, the iKlear iPod Cleaning Kit does not work miracles. It does not remove scratches from the soft plastic shell of iPods and iBooks, and neither does it remove any damage caused by the keyboard on the LCD screens of PowerBooks. It wasn’t able to clean the grease that had bonded with the scratches in the screen of my PowerBook either. Overall, a good purchase for the cautious Macintosh or iPod owner wanting to take no chances when it comes to cleaning their equipment, but if you want a PowerBook, iPod, or iBook without scratches, prevention rather than cure remains the only solution.

Neale Monks

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